Benjamin Callard

Benjamin Callard is a Lecturer in Philosophy. He received his B.A. from Brandeis, his M.A. from Tufts, and his Ph.D. (2007) from Berkeley. Ben’s areas of specialization are ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. He also has strong interests in the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. 

 

 

 

 

 

CV (DOC)


Contact

office: Rosenwald 218A
office hours: Autumn Quarter, Tuesdays: 12:30 - 1:30 pm and by appointment
office phone: 773/834-9934
email: bcallard@uchicago.edu

Recent News

  • Ben gave the talk “Rising Above Nature” at the Fall 2015 Humanities Day Conference; the Keynote Address, "A Solution to the Paradox of Perfection", at the Tenth Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Club Conference, Spring 2016; and the talk "What is a Man?" at the Fall 2016 Humanities Day Conference.

Selected Publications

  • "The Conceivability of Platonism," Philosophia Mathematica, October 2007, Vol. 15, No. 3 PDF

Recent and Upcoming Courses

PHIL 23000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. In this course we will explore some of the central questions in epistemology and metaphysics. In epistemology, these questions will include: What is knowledge? What facts or states justify a belief? How can the threat of skepticism be adequately answered? How do we know what we (seem to) know about mathematics and morality? In metaphysics, these questions will include: What is time? What is the best account of personal identity across time? Do we have free will? We will also discuss how the construction of a theory of knowledge ought to relate to the construction of a metaphysical theory-roughly speaking, what comes first, epistemology or metaphysics? (B) Spring 2018

PHIL 25120. Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. This course explores the Western philosophical tradition of reasoned reflection on religious belief. Our questions will include: what are the most important arguments for, and against, belief in God? How does religious belief relate to the deliverances of the sciences, in particular to evolutionary theory? How can we reconcile religious belief with the existence of evil? What is the relationship between religion and morality? In attempting to answer these questions we will read work by Plato, Augustine, Anselm, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud, as well as 20th century discussions in the 20th Century analytic tradition. (B) Spring 2018

PHIL 26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. (=HIPS 26000) A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. Winter 2018

PHIL 23501. Philosophy of Mind. (=HIPS 20401) This is a survey of some of the central questions in the philosophy of mind. These questions include: What is consciousness? How can mental states represent things in the world? How do our minds relate to our bodies? Do we have free will? Can we blame someone for the beliefs or desires she has? What are the emotions? To help us with these questions, we will focus on 20th century analytic work (by Putnam, Nagel, Searle, Jackson, Dennett, Chalmers, Block, Dretske, and others), but we will also read important historical texts on the nature of the mind by Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume. Autumn 2017

PHIL 21601. Introduction to Analytic Philosophy. This course is an exploration of the analytic tradition in philosophy. We will have three goals. First and foremost, we will philosophize in the analytic style. Second, we will try to get a sense of the history of the tradition, beginning with Frege, Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein, continuing through the logical positivist and ordinary language movements and the subsequent repudiation of these movements (by Strawson, Rawls, Searle, Nagel, Kripke, Lewis, and many others), and ending with a review of the current state of play. Third (and drawing on the history), we will try to answer these meta-questions: what is distinctive about analytic philosophy? How does it relate to the history of the subject? (Was Descartes an analytic philosopher? If not, why not?) What in the philosophy of Hegel, Bradley and others were Moore and Russell reacting to? What is the difference between analytic and continental philosophy? (Why was Husserl a continental philosopher while Frege--his interlocutor--was not?)Spring 2017.

PHIL 26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. (=HIPS 26000) A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. (V) Winter 2017

PHIL 23005/33005. Metaphysics and Ethics of Death. What is death, and what is its significance for our lives and how we lead them? In this course we will tack back and forth between the metaphysics of death (What is nonexistence? Are death and pre-birth metaphysically symmetrical?) and the ethical questions raised by death (Is death a misfortune-something we should fear or lament? Should we be glad not to be immortal? How should we understand the ethics of abortion and capital punishment?) Our exploration of these issues will take us through the work of many figures in the Western philosophical tradition (Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger), but we will be concentrating on the recent and dramatic flowering of work on the subject. Winter 2017.

PHIL 23000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. In this course we will explore some of the central questions in epistemology and metaphysics. In epistemology, these questions will include: What is knowledge? What facts or states justify a belief? How can the threat of skepticism be adequately answered? How do we know what we (seem to) know about mathematics and morality? In metaphysics, these questions will include: What is time? What is the best account of personal identity across time? Do we have free will? We will also discuss how the construction of a theory of knowledge ought to relate to the construction of a metaphysical theory-roughly speaking, what comes first, epistemology or metaphysics? (B) Autumn 2016

PHIL 21420/31420. The Problem of Free Will. The problem of free will stands at the crossroads of many of the central issues in philosophy, including the theory of reasons, causation, moral responsibility, the mind-body problem, and modality. In this course we will draw on ancient, early  modern, and current work to try to understand, and gather the materials of a solution to, the problem. Spring 2016.

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 the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Winter 2016.

PHIL 20105/30100. Naturalism. Naturalism is a view that many philosophers say they accept. The view seems to have a bearing on virtually every area of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, and ethics. What is the view? What is to be said for, or against, it? Autumn 2015.

PHIL 21000. Introduction to Ethics. (=FNDL 23107, HIPS 21000) An exploration of some of the central questions in metaethics, moral theory, and applied ethics. These questions include the following: are there objective moral truths, as there are (as it seems) objective scientific truths? If so, how can we come to know these truths? Should we make the world as good as we can, or are there moral constraints on what we can do that are not a function of the consequences of our actions? Is the best life a maximally moral life? What distribution of goods in a society satisfies the demands of justice? Can beliefs and desires be immoral, or only actions? What is “moral luck”? What is courage? (A) Autumn 2015.

PHIL 21000. Introduction to Ethics. (=FNDL 23107) In this course, we will read, write, think, and talk about moral philosophy, focusing on two classic texts, Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.  We will work through both texts carefully, and have a look at influential criticisms of utilitarianism and of Kant's ethics in the concluding weeks of the term. This course is intended as an introductory course in moral philosophy. Some prior work in philosophy is helpful, but not required.  (A) Spring 2015.

PHIL 23005/33005. Metaphysics and Ethics of Death. What is death, and what is its significance for our lives and how we lead them? In this course we will tack back and forth between the metaphysics of death (What is nonexistence? Are death and pre-birth metaphysically symmetrical?) and the ethical questions raised by death (Is death a misfortune—something we should fear or lament? Should we be glad not to be immortal? How should we understand the ethics of abortion and capital punishment?) Our exploration of these issues will take us through the work of many figures in the Western philosophical tradition (Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger), but we will be concentrating on the recent and dramatic flowering of work on the subject. Spring 2015.

PHIL 26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. (=HIPS 26000) PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Winter 2015.

PHIL 28010/38010. Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. An introduction to philosophical thought about the nature of language. The questions we will address include: What is meaning? What is truth? How does language relate to thought? How do languages relate to each other? What is metaphor? What is fiction? The focus will be on classic work in the analytic tradition (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Tarski, Quine, Austin, Grice, Davidson, Donnellan, Putnam, Searle, Kaplan, Kripke) but we will also read, and relate to this modern work, some current work in the philosophical literature and some seminal discussions of language in the writings of Plato and Aristotle.  (II) Autumn 2014.

PHIL 23000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. In this course we will explore some of the central questions in epistemology and metaphysics. In epistemology, these questions will include: What is knowledge? What facts or states justify a belief? How can the threat of skepticism be adequately answered? How do we know what we (seem to) know about mathematics and morality? In metaphysics, these questions will include: What is time? What is the best account of personal identity across time? Do we have free will? We will also discuss how the construction of a theory of knowledge ought to relate to the construction of a metaphysical theory—roughly speaking, what comes first, epistemology or metaphysics? (B) Autumn 2014.

20000. Introduction to Philosophy of Science. An introductory exploration of some of the central questions in the philosophy of science. These will include: what is (the definition of) a science--such that the natural, formal, and social sciences all count as sciences, but (for example) philosophy and literary criticism do not? How, in the natural sciences, do theory-building and observation relate to each other? Can some of the sciences be reduced to other sciences? (What is reduction of this kind supposed to involve?) What is evidence? What are the old and new problems of induction? What is a scientific (or indeed any other form of) explanation? What is a law of nature? Do the sciences make real progress? (B)Winter 2014.

31414. MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. PQ: This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy are strongly urged to take this course. A survey of some of the central concerns in various areas of philosophy, pursued from the perspective of the analytic tradition. In epistemology, our topics will include the definition of knowledge, the challenge of skepticism, and the nature of justification. In the philosophy of mind, we will explore the mind-body problem and the nature and structure of intentional states. In the philosophy of language, we will address theories of truth and of speech acts, the sense/reference distinction, and the semantics of names and descriptions. In ethics, we will focus on the debate between utilitarians and Kantians. Autumn 2013.

51109. Skepticism. Do we know, or at least have reason to believe, anything about the world we live in? A powerful form of argument, familiar to the ancient Greeks and most famously presented by Descartes, concludes that we do not. In this seminar we will explore and assess some important putative refutations of the skeptic by Fred Dretske, Hilary Putnam, David Chalmers, and others. Winter 2010.

History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. This course is a survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Winter 2010.

Theory of Punishment. In this seminar we will examine the central accounts of punishment, with a special emphasis on retributive accounts. Drawing on historical and current philosophical writings on the subject, we will try to answer the following questions (among others): what is punishment? What is the purpose of punishment? What justifies punishment? Does punishment violate the principle that "two wrongs don't make a right"? What if anything is wrong with vigilantism? What special concerns attach to capital punishment? We will also read and assess some recent work on the theories of desert and moral responsibility.

Philosophy/MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. A survey of some of the central concerns in various areas of philosophy, pursued from the perspective of the analytic tradition. In epistemology, our topics will include the definition of knowledge, the challenge of skepticism, and the nature of justification. In the philosophy of mind, we will explore the mind-body problem and the nature and structure of intentional states. In the philosophy of language, we will address theories of truth and of speech acts, the sense/reference distinction, and the semantics of names and descriptions. In ethics, we will focus on the debate between utilitarians and Kantians.This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to PhD programs in Philosophy are strongly urged to take this course.

30099: Topics in Metaphysics. In this course we will grapple with a number of the main questions in metaphysics. These questions include: the nature of time; the nature of identity across time, especially the identity of persons; the problem of nonexistent objects; causation; the proper account of modality; our conception of God; the arguments for and against Platonism; and the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. This course is open to advanced undergraduates, MAPH students, and PhD students.

29901. Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay. The senior essay peer review workshop meets in all three quarters but students register for senior seminar in only two quarters. Students register for Senior Seminar I in either Autumn or Winter Quarter. NOTE: Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter. Autumn, Winter.

29902. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Required of fourth-year students who are writing a senior essay.  The senior essay peer review workshop meets in all three quarters but students register for senior seminar in only two quarters. Students register for Senior Seminar II in either Winter or Spring Quarter. NOTE: Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter. Winter, Spring.