Winter 2016 Courses

Philosophical discussion in the Anscombe Lounge.


Listed below are the courses the Department plans to offer in the Winter 2016 quarter. This course list may change.

The Registrar's office has up to date scheduling information for all University of Chicago graduate and undergraduate courses.

Note: College students may only enroll in courses whose first number is 2 without prior permission from the instructor. A College student who has secured prior permission to sign up for a course from the instructor may, in that case and only in that case, enroll in a course whose first number is larger than 2.

Graduate students may only enroll in courses whose first number is 3 or higher.

Note: Letters A and B refer to undergraduate field designations; Roman numerals I-V refer to graduate field designations.

Click to go directly to:

If you click on the image or link below, you will find an enlargeable image of a chart which perspicuously represents the weekly meeting times of our Winter 2016 Courses. Once the chart has opened in a new window, you can enlarge the image to whatever size you like in order to make it easier to read.

Winter 2016 Courses at a glance - PDF

Open to Undergraduatess

PHIL 21400. Happiness. (=GNDR 25200, HUMA 24900, PLSC 22700) From Plato to the present, notions of happiness have been at the core of heated debate in ethics and politics. Is happiness the ultimate good for human beings, the essence of the good life, or is morality somehow prior to it? Can it be achieved by all, or only by a fortunate few? These are some of the questions that this course engages, with the help of both classic and contemporary texts from philosophy, literature, and the social sciences. This course includes various video presentations and other materials stressing visual culture. (A) B. Schultz.

PHIL 21600. Introduction to Political Philosophy. (=GNDR 21601, PLSC 22600, LLSO 22612) In this class we will investigate what it is for a society to be just. In what sense are the members of a just society equal? What freedoms does a just society protect? Must a just society be a democracy? What economic arrangements are compatible with justice? In the second portion of the class we will consider one pressing injustice in our society in light of our previous philosophical conclusions. Possible candidates include, but are not limited to, racial inequality, economic inequality, and gender hierarchy. Here our goal will be to combine our philosophical theories with empirical evidence in order to identify, diagnose, and effectively respond to actual injustice. (A) B. Laurence.

PHIL 24102/34102. Boredom and Repetition. (= MAPH 36600) Open to MAPH students; third and fourth years by instructor consent. Human life is filled with repetition. Most obviously, we need to eat, drink, and sleep, to urinate and defecate, at regular intervals, and for our entire lives. Recent advances in technology, and changes to the organization -- especially the division -- of labor in the modern economy have only added new kinds of repetition, particularly in what we now call our "working lives.'' These changes have arguably only intensified a necessary feature of human life, indeed, of living as such. But this intensification has arguably also given rise to something new: an experience of profound boredom -- an experience, though, not of having nothing to do (as when a child complains of being bored), but of having, rather, to do (anymore, again) at all. This course is an investigation of the relation between repetition and the experience of (this peculiar kind of) boredom. Readings will be drawn from both philosophy and literature, and may include Heidegger, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Samuel Beckett, and David Foster Wallace. N. Koziolek

PHIL 26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. A survey of the thought of some of th
e most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. B. Callard.

PHIL 27209. Soren Kierkegaard/Johannes Climacus: Concluding Unscientific Postscript. (=FNDL 22616) PQ: For Philosophy and Fundamentals Majors. This seminar will be a close reading of Kierkegaard's text, written under the pseudonym of "Johannes Climacus".  Among the topics to be discussed are: the nature and task of subjectivity, what it is for subjectivity to be truth, irony and humor, what it is for a communication to be successful, ethical versus religious outlooks, the peculiar requirements of being a Christian. J. Lear.

29200-01/29300-01. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: What is Moral Skepticism? Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.Philosophical investigations of morality and ethics are often haunted by the shadowy figure of the ‘moral skeptic’. Who is this person, and what does he want from us?

In fact, there seem to be many different kinds of ‘moral skeptic’, and a clear and comprehensive account of the various different forms of skeptical challenge does not yet exist. In this course, we’ll investigate a number of different doubts about and challenges to morality and ethics. We shall read texts from Plato and Nietzsche, as well as more recent authors such as Susan Wolf and Bernard Williams, to helps us consider the classical skeptical question – why should I be moral? We shall then turn to a more recent incarnation of skepticism, in the form of meta-ethical debates concerning whether or not there are such things as moral facts or properties in the first place, and if so, whether they are independent of our minds. In analyzing all of these texts, we will have in mind three philosophical goals:

1. We shall be attempting to develop a sort of taxonomy of moral skepticisms: we shall try to determine how many different sorts of challenges are being raised, and whether some collapse into others (or perhaps into incoherence).

2. We shall be assessing the relative significance of the different sorts of skeptical challenge: which skeptics pose threats that a moral theory must be able to answer if it is to be successful? Are there any skeptics that we need not answer? Does the internal incoherence of a particular skeptical ‘position’ mean that we can ignore it, or do we still have philosophical work to do in responding to the challenge?

3. We shall try to develop a picture of what sort of answer might be appropriate for each of our various kinds of skeptic. Would it help, for example, to be able to show that morality is in my own interest? Or could we see off certain skeptics by showing morality to be grounded in my autonomy? Should we instead reject the underlying assumptions that lead skeptics to their doubts in the first place? Or is the skeptic really in need of a kind of therapy, rather than philosophical engagement?

At the end of the course, we may not yet be able to answer the moral skeptics that trouble us most, but we should at least have a clearer idea of the nature of the challenge we face, and of where we might look to start constructing such an answer. C. Kirwin.

29200-02/29300-02. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Self Knowledge and Knowledge of Others. Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. Philosophers have long been concerned with understanding the nature of - and even expanding the reach of - self-knowledge. What is it to know oneself, or to be self-conscious? What is the value of self-knowledge? Equally important, though, is the nature of our knowledge of others. To what extent can I know another’s mind? What kind of impingements does another person’s thought make upon my own? In this course we shall investigate the relation between these two kinds of knowledge. We shall attempt to unfold of both (i) their inter-dependence, and (ii) their source in a common ‘principle’: rational self-consciousness. To this end we will be confronting such topics as first person authority, the problem of other minds, individual self-consciousness, second-person thought, the social nature of thought and language. We shall draw both on contemporary work as well as readings from the tradition. R. O'Connell.

29200-03/29300-03. Junior/Senior Tutorial. Topic: Kant and Existentialism. Meets with Jr/Sr section. Pre-requisite: Open only to intensive-track majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements. In this course we will first analyze Kant’s conception of autonomy and then will see how this concept was taken up and transformed by two key philosophers in the existentialist tradition (Nietzsche and de Beauvoir).  Kant thought that the only thing that is good without qualification is the good will, and that the good will is the free or autonomous will: the will that gives itself its own laws.  Though many existentialist philosophers claimed to reject Kant’s moral philosophy, in many ways they can be read as developing and radicalizing some version of his idea of autonomy.  In this course we will read Kant, Nietzsche, and de Beauvoir, in order to grapple with the following questions: how should we understand ‘autonomy’ and what is its value?  Just how free is the will, and how radical is this freedom?  What, if anything, should constrain my freedom and/or my conception of right and wrong?  What role do material conditions or relations with other people play in either constraining or conditioning this freedom?  The aim of the course is a) to foster an understanding of Kant’s practical philosophy, and in particular his concept of autonomy; b) to understand how the idea of autonomy is taken up and transformed in existentialist philosophy; and c) to examine what kind of ethics an “ethics of autonomy” can provide. F. Russell.

29700. Reading Course. Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies; Students are required to submit the college reading & research course form. Staff.

29901-01, 02. Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay.  Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in either the Winter or Spring Quarter. (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar meets all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. K. Davey, Staff.

29902-01, 02. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay.  Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in either the Winter or Spring Quarter. (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar meets all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. K. Davey, Staff.

back to top

Open to Graduates and Undergraduates

PHIL 20210/30210. Kant’s Ethics. In this course we will read, write, and think about Kant's ethics.  After giving careful attention to the arguments in the Second Critique, portions of the Third Critique, the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Metaphysics of Morals, and several other primary texts, we will conclude by working through some contemporary neo-Kantian moral philosophy, paying close attention to work by Christine Korsgaard, David Velleman, Stephen Engstrom, and others. (I) (A) C. Vogler.

PHIL 20506/30506. Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation. (=HIST 25110/35110, CHSS 35110) This lecture-discussion course will trace different theories of explanation in history from the nineteenth century to the present.  We will examine the ideas of Humboldt, Ranke,Dilthey, Collingwood, Braudel, Hempel, Danto, and White.  The considerations will encompass such topics as the nature of the past such that one can explain its features, the role of laws in historical explanation, the use of Verstehen history as a science, the character of narrative explanation,the structure of historical versus other kinds of explanation, and the function of the footnote. (II) (V) R. Richards.

PHIL 21410/31410. Philosophy of Action. What is action? What is it to act? In this introduction to the philosophy of action, we will read classic 20th Century treatments of the subject by Gilbert Ryle, Elizabeth Anscombe and Donald Davidson, as well as more recent work by Jennifer Hornsby, Michael Thompson and others. (I) (A) A. Ford.

PHIL 21580/31580. Libertarianism. PQ: Some background in PHIL & prior familiarity w/the social contract tradition will be helpful. Is capitalism justified on the grounds of natural liberty? Is the legitimate exercise of political power limited by our pre-political rights, especially our property rights? Indeed, is the sole function of a just government to safeguard such rights? We will work towards answers to these questions by evaluating the tradition in political philosophy that has tended to answer them in the affirmative—Libertarianism. We will begin with John Locke, the father of this tradition, devoting several weeks to a close reading of his Second Treatise of Government. We will attend to both his method and his substantive political conclusions. We will consider his distinctive use of a social contract thought experiment involving a moralized conception of practical reason, as well as his defense of private property and limited government. We will then consider the works of contemporary Libertarians such as Robert Nozick and Michael Otsuka who take inspiration from Locke’s method but diverge sharply from one another in their political conclusions. Finally, we will consider contemporary critics of the entire tradition, such as G.A. Cohen, and consider the merits of alternative approaches within the social contract tradition. (A) (I) B. Laurence.

PHIL 23600/33600. Medieval Philosophy. (=JWSC 24600, JWSG 34600, RLST 25900) PQ: PHIL 25000. This course involves a study of the development of philosophy in the West in the first thirteen centuries of the common era with focus on Neoplatonism.  Early Christian philosophical, Islamic Kalam, Jewish philosophy, and Christian philosophical theology.  Readings include works of Plotinus, Augustine, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Maimonides, Averroes, and Thomas Aquinas. (IV) J. Stern.

PHIL 24010/34010. Meaning and Reference. Elem. Logic or equivalent recommended, but not required. Prior courses in philosophy are beneficial. In this course we address one of the central and most fascinating philosophical questions about linguistic meaning: what is the relationship between meaning and reference? We will study a range of classical and contemporary theories about the semantics of referring expressions such as proper names, definite descriptions, and indexicals. Readings will include Frege, Russell, Strawson, Kripke, Donnellan, and Kaplan, among others. Throughout, we will try to reach of a better understanding of how questions about meaning and reference connect with a range of topics that are central to philosophical theorizing, including the connection between propositional attitudes and the explanation of action, the role of the principle of compositionality in formal semantics, the question of whether there is a level of mental experience that is epistemically transparent, the relation between thought and language, the nature of fictional and non-existent objects, and the interaction between semantics and pragmatics. (B) M. Willer.

PHIL 27202/37202. Introduction to Spinoza’s Ethics. (=SCTH XXXXX) Introduction to Spinoza’s Ethics for advanced undergraduate students with background in philosophy and for graduate students.   As we read this work we will be concerned with its place in history of philosophy and we shall engage with some of its contemporary readers. I. Kimhi.

PHIL 29400/39600. Intermediate Logic. (=CHSS 33600, HIPS 20500) In this course, we will prove the soundness and completeness of deductive systems for both sentential and first-order logic. We will also establish related results in elementary model theory, such as the compactness theorem for first-order logic, the Lowenheim-Skolem theorem and Lindstrom’s theorem. (II) (B) A. Vasudevan.

back to top


Open to Graduate Students

49900. Reading & Research. Staff.

PHIL 50100. First Year Seminar. Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students. This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters. A. Vasudevan.

PHIL 50364. Transitions Into, Within, and From Hegel’s Science of Logic. A. Koch   

PHIL 50325. Public Morality and Legal Conservatism. (=LAWS XXXXX) This seminar will study the philosophical background of contemporary legal arguments alluding to the idea of "public morality," in thinkers including Edmund Burke, James Fitzjames Stephen, and Patrick Devlin, and the criticisms of such arguments in thinkers including Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Hart.  We will then study legal arguments on a range of topics, including drugs and alcohol, gambling, nudity, pornography and obscenity, non-standard sex, and marriage.
Non-law students are welcome but need permission of the instructors, since space is limited.  We are aiming for a total enrollment of 30, of which up to 10 can be non-law students (no undergraduates), and the rest will be law students, selected by lottery.  Non-law students should apply to both professors by December 1, 2014, describing relevant background, especially in philosophy. M. Nussbaum, W. Baude.

PHIL 51200. Workshop: Law and Philosophy: (=LAWS 61512, RETH 51301, HMRT 51301, PLSC 51512, GNSE 50101) PQ: Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors.  They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail.  Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students.

The theme for 2015-16 is “Race and Law.”  Speakers will include (in addition to Darby): Elizabeth Anderson (Michigan), Justin Driver (Chicago), Sally Haslanger (MIT), Charles Mills (Northwestern), Michele Moody-Adams (Columbia), Tommie Shelby (Harvard).
This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines.  It admits approximately ten students.  Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance.   The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors.    Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year.  The course satisfies the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement. Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit.
Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors.  They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail by September 20. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. Autumn, Winter, Spring. M. Nussbaum.

PHIL 51650. Death: Some Aspects. (=DVPR 42806) PQ: Consent of instructors. D. Brudney, D. Arnold.

PHIL 51830. Topics in Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy: Etiological/Genealogical Critiques of Concepts, Beliefs and Values (=LAWS 78603). If you had been brought up in a different family, or a different culture, your religious and moral beliefs would likely have been very different than they are—perhaps even your beliefs about the world  around you.  Should this fact bother us?  Should the origin of our beliefs and values make us skeptical about them, or should it lead us to revise them?   Historians and social scientists, from Marvis Harris to Ian Morris, have regularly proferred etiological/explanatory accounts and think they have debunking implications; recently, a number of Anglophone philosophers have begun to address the question, including G.A. Cohen, George Sher, Roger White, and Amia Srinivasan, among others.  But interest in the etiology (or genealogy) of beliefs and values, and its significance, long predates these 20th-century writers.  We will also give extended consideration to at least Herder, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche—time permitting, perhaps some others. M. Forster, B. Leiter.

PHIL 55420. Plato’s Philebus. In this late Platonic dialogue, Socrates offers an extended argument against hedonism.  Its fascinating discussions of metaphysics (causation, relations between parts and wholes, genus and species), philosophical method, the good, pleasure, and the distinction between pure and applied forms of knowledge all had a deep influence on Aristotle.  We will read the dialogue slowly, using some of the latest scholarship as our guide. (IV) G. Lear.

PHIL 56720. Philosophy of Barry Stroud. Barry Stroud has made significant contributions to disparate topics in epistemology, metaphysics and the history of philosophy. His work is nonetheless unified by an overarching concern: to get into view, and take the measure of, the perennial philosophical aspiration to arrive at a completely general understanding of the relationship between the world and our conception of it. This orientation is unusual among philosophers working in the later analytic tradition. In Stroud's case it is combined with a probing exploration of questions about philosophy itself -- about its aims, its nature, and its prospects. A related recurring ambition of his work is to strictly think through the similarities and differences between the empiricist and idealist projects, thereby revealing insights and limitations in each. His work in the history of philosophy takes up these topics in connection with, above all, the following quartet of figures: Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein. It seeks at every point to bring out what is still philosophically alive and important in the thought of each of these authors. Stroud's work in epistemology is marked by one of the most sustained engagements with philosophical skepticism to be found in the analytic tradition, as well as with the writings of those in that tradition who themselves wrestled most with problems of skepticism -- Moore, Austin, Clarke, Cavell. Relatedly, throughout his work in metaphysics, Stroud is especially concerned to explore the nature of those categories of thinking -- such as causality, modality, and value -- that, on the one hand, appear to be essential to human thought as we know it, and yet, on the other hand, seem to be especially difficult to accommodate within a contemporary philosophical view of what ought to be regarded as belonging to the fundamental features of reality. We will read through his major writings, with one eye trained on his particular contributions to understanding these figures and topics, while seeking to uncover the underlying unity of Stroud's own overall conception of the nature and difficulty of philosophy. (III) J. Bridges, J. Conant.

57609. Philosophical Revolutions in the Concept of Form.  (=SCTH 50604, GRMN 57616). Primary readings will be from Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Kant, Hegel, and Wittgenstein. Our topics will include Platonic conceptions of eidetic form and Aristotelian conceptions of hylomorphism, their subsequent inheritance in the philosophical tradition, their transformation into German Idealist conceptions of endogenous (self-determining) form, and their significance for the philosophy of logic, mind, life, and art. Our central secondary readings will be from Gabriel Lear, Aryeh Kosman, John McDowell, Matt Boyle, Stephen Engstrom, Andrea Kern, Thomas Khurana, and Sebastian Rödl, all of whom will be invited to campus to present recent work on these topics and participate in the seminar. J. Conant, R. Pippin, D. Wellbery.

back to top