Jason Bridges received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001 and his B.A. from Harvard University in 1994. His primary research and teaching areas are the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. He also has interests in metaphysics and epistemology, the philosophy of action, the later work of Wittgenstein, and political philosophy. His main current projects are about reasons and rationality, and epistemic and semantic contextualism. He has also written on logical and structural difficulties in the 'naturalization' of content, the relationship between content externalism and the rationality-involving character of psychological explanation, and issues concerning the attribution of mental states to animals.
Jason Bridges' recorded lecture(s).
Jason Bridges on Elucidations (podcast series)
Jason Bridges on Academia
office: Stuart Hall 222
On leave Winter and Spring 2017
office phone: 773/834-8191
email: bridges at uchicago
Please see http://home.uchicago.edu/~bridges/ for a complete list of publications and CV.
PHIL 29601. Intensive Track Seminar. Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive track program. Autumn 2016.
PHIL 40101. Naturalism. Contemporary philosophy is preoccupied with the problem of "naturalism". Across the spectrum of fields and subfields, philosophers represent themselves as striving to show how their chosen subject matter can be fit into a "naturalistic" conception of the world. What is it to conceive the world in this way? Can we make satisfactory sense of what we are after, or think we are after, here? Why should it be thought the burden of philosophy to show that such a conception is attainable? How does this vision of philosopher's purpose differ, if at all, from others at work in past traditions of philosophical practice? We will explore these questions through a wide range of readings, mostly drawn from the philosophy of mind, with a bit of meta-ethics at the end of the course. Autumn 2016.
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) With J. Conant. Winter 2016.
PHIL 20120/30120. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. (=FNDL 20120) PQ: At least one Philosophy course. A close reading of Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, justification, rule following, inference, sensation, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics and other later writings. (III) (B) Autumn 2015.
PHIL 43111. Mental Causation. In this seminar, we will address questions about the role and nature of causation in constituting the structure of mind and its relationships to the world. Readings will be mostly contemporary, and drawn both from the governing empiricist tradition in the philosophy of mind and from more heterodox sources. (III) Winter 2015. Syllabus
PHIL 50100. First Year Seminar. PQ: Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students. Open to grad students. This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.
PHIL 29601. Intensive Track Seminar: Language and Skepticism. In this course we will examine attempts to solve the problem of philosophical skepticism through reflection on the nature of linguistic meaning. We will focus on three such attempts: early 20th century logical empiricism, mid-20th century ordinary language philosophy, and the contemporary movement of epistemological contextualism. In each case, we will ask whether the claims advanced about the nature of language can be sustained, and whether they really do have the power to defeat the skeptical challenge. Autumn 2014. Syllabus
PHIL 20120/30120. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. (=FNDL 20120) PQ: At least one previous Philosophy course. A close reading of Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, justification, rule following, inference, sensation, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics and other later writings. (B) (III). Winter 2014.
43110. Reasons. In this seminar we will address questions about the nature of reasons and normativity, with a particular eye toward the difficulties philosophy has encountered in attempting to locate our responsiveness to normativity in the casual order. Readings will be drawn from a manuscript in progress as well as a range of work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of action, skewing toward contemporary sources. (III). Autumn 2013.
51511. Deliberation and Self-Knowledge. Deliberation is conscious, reflective activity aimed at making up one's mind. This seminar focuses on questions about the relationship between deliberation and self-knowledge, with a view toward three central issues: 1) the form of self-knowledge exhibited in deliberation, 2) the extent to which deliberative self-knowledge can serve as a model for self-knowledge more generally, and 3) the bearing of deliberative self-knowledge on practical self-knowledge. Readings are drawn primarily from contemporary sources. with D. Finkelstein. Autumn 2011.
52010. Practical Determinants of Thought and Meaning. Our practical interests and aims help determine the contents of our thoughts and utterances. That is true at least in the obvious respect that our interests and aims help determine what we attend to, what we expend energy thinking about, and what we find worth mentioning. Is it true in any deeper or more philosophically significant respect? From early American pragmatism to contemporary “contextualism”, philosophers have defended versions of a positive answer to this question. We will focus our engagement with this question by concentrating on a related series of views about the nature of concepts and knowledge. Readings will be drawn from work by Wittgenstein, Grice, Wiggins, Cavell, Keith DeRose, Mark Wilson, Jason Stanley, Robert Brandom, Charles Travis, and Sober and Wilson. Autumn 2010. (III) Syllabus
50100. First Year Seminar. Autumn 2009, Autumn 2013, Winter 2014.
55000 Contextualism. This seminar examines contextualism, understood as the thesis that the content of an utterance is shaped in far-reaching and unobvious ways by the context in which it is uttered. Contextualism has recently become one of the most widely discussed views in contemporary philosophy of language, as well as in the philosophy of mind and epistemology. Among other things, contextualists have argued: that contextualism spells the doom of truth-conditional semantics (as exemplified by Davidsonian theories of meaning and related formal approaches such as Montague semantics), that demonstrating the truth of contextualism was one of the central preoccupations of the later Wittgenstein, and that contextualism resolves, or at least sheds significant light on, fundamental and long-standing metaphysical and epistemological puzzles. We will discuss all three of these claims. Spring 2009. Syllabus
23705/33705 Rationality In one sense of the term, “rationality” stands for the capacity—perhaps possessed by human beings alone among animals—to recognize and be moved by reasons. In another sense, “rationality” names an achievement, understood variously as consisting in coherence, freedom from bias, judiciousness, dispassion, etc. This course explores both concepts, and their joint role in structuring our attempts to understand and explain the thoughts and activities of other people and ourselves. Topics include: the appropriateness of viewing non-human animals as rational, the role of rules or principles in thinking, the role of consistency as an ideal, the assumptions of decision theory, the structure of deliberative reflection, and the nature of irrationality. Spring 2009. Syllabus
21410/31410. Philosophy of Action Open to college and grad students. In this course we address a group of related philosophical questions about human agency. What is the ontological relationship between actions and bodily movements---between, e.g., my moving my arm and my arm's moving? What distinguishes between cases of bodily movement in which there is an action on the part of the person and cases in which there is not? Is our everyday practice of explaining people's actions in terms of their beliefs and aims threatened by the possibility of physical explanations of the motions of their bodies? How, if at all, do the concepts of reason and rationality structure our explanations of human activity? How is weakness of the will possible? What is the relationship between the concepts of agency and freedom? Readings are drawn from a wide variety of contemporary sources. Autumn 2003. Syllabus
23401/33401. Philosophy of Mind: Thought, Community, EnvironmentOpen to college and grad students. It seems natural to think of the mind as an autonomous object: subject to causal influence from the world outside, but possessed, like a clock or other physical mechanism, of its own self-standing internal constitution. Over the last half-century, however, a number of philosophers have articulated and defended views in radical conflict with that conception. According to such views, our minds are not merely in causal contact with the world; rather, the very existence and identity of our thoughts and beliefs are partially constituted by our relationships to the physical and social environment. In this course, we critically examine the most influential arguments of this kind in the analytic tradition, and consider the philosophical fall-out from the 'externalist' revolution for issues of self-knowledge, skepticism, language, and naturalism. Readings will be drawn from Davidson, Dretske, Evans, Fodor, McDowell, Putnam, Wittgenstein and others. Syllabus
29600. Junior Seminar Open to college students. Prerequisites: Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive concentration program. . Topics for this small, discussion-oriented seminar vary. Autumn 2004.
29901, 29902. Senior Seminar I, Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. 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 will in fact meet in all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. with B. Callard. Autumn 2010, 2011, Winter 2011, 2012, Spring 2011, 2012.
54003. Moral Psychology Open to grad students. This seminar addresses topics at the intersection of ethics and the philosophy of mind. It draws on readings from both the early modern and contemporary period. The key early modern figures are Hobbes and Hume: we will look closely at their conceptions of reason and of its relationship to ethics. Contemporary ethicists and philosophers of action often claim a kinship between their views and those of these earlier figures, especially Hume; we will evaluate these claims and also consider the contemporary views on their own terms. Central issues include the idea of a reason for action, the question of whether moral principles play a distinctive role in the motivation of action, and the nature of akrasia (weakness of the will). Spring 2005. Syllabus
20100/30000. Elementary Logic Basic knowledge of concepts and principles of symbolic logic. Course not for field credit. An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic. We learn the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order quantificational logic, and apply the resultant conceptual framework to the analysis of valid and invalid arguments, the structure of formal languages, and logical relations among sentences of ordinary discourse. Occasionally we will venture into topics in philosophy of language and philosophical logic, but our primary focus is on acquiring a facility with symbolic logic as such. Autumn 2002, Autumn 2005, Autumn 2006. Autumn 2009.
54300. Advanced Topics in the Philosophy of Mind. Semantic naturalism, the doctrine that facts about the contents of our thoughts and beliefs reduce to physical facts about our brains, is the guiding principle of much current work on mental content. In the first half of this course, we will examine in detail the three most thoroughgoing and influential versions of semantic naturalism, due respectively to Fodor, Dretske and Millikan. In the second half, we will address questions about the semantic naturalist's project more generally, taking it as a test case for the 'naturalism' that dominates contemporary American philosophy of mind. What motivates the project, and is that motivation one we should endorse? What is the notion of reduction at stake, and can it be differentiated from traditional ideas of 'conceptual analysis'? Some critics, notably McDowell and Davidson, suggest we have reason for doubting that the semantic naturalist's project--indeed, that any project in the philosophy of mind with comparable reductive ambitions--will be possible to execute. Is their pessimism well founded? Syllabus
Philosophy of Mind. A survey of contemporary answers to centralquestions in the philosophy of mind. What is the relation between the mind and the brain?What is the relation between the mind and behavior? Can talk about mental phenomena bereduced to talk about purely physical happenings? To what extent does the computerprovide a useful analogy for thinking about mental processes? Are the contents of ourthoughts and experiences determined just by what is going on inside us or by thephysical and social environment as well? Are there reasons for doubting the commonsensebelief that our thoughts and intentions can causally influence events in the physical world?What is the role of the concept of rationality in shaping our understanding of mental life?Readings will draw on an array of contemporary sources, including: Burge, Davidson, Dennett, Dretske, Fodor, Kim, McDowell, Nagel and Putnam.