David Finkelstein is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the College. He received his A.B. in philosophy and psychology from Harvard and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. Finkelstein works and teaches principally in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind. His book, Expression and the Inner, offers an account of the authority with which we speak about our own thoughts and feelings and of the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental states.
office: Stuart Hall, Room 203
office hours: Spring quarter T, Th 1:30-2:30
office phone: 773/702-1509
PHIL 53910. The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein.This course will have four foci: 1) a close reading of the verba ipsissima of Philosophical Investigations and a handful of closely related writings by Wittgenstein; 2) an overview of the history of the reception of the book and some of the most influential readings it has occasioned; 3) a discussion of a handful of recent debates in the secondary literature on some its most contested sequences of sections – including those on ostensive definition, the critique of Wittgenstein’s early work, the nature of philosophy, rule-following, practices/forms of life, the so-called private language argument, the nature of first-person authority, and the relations between meaning and use, inner and outer, criteria and mental states, sensations and discursive forms of mindedness; 4) an assessment of how best to interpret the overall aims, methods, and teachings that confer unity on the work as a whole, with special attention to the conception of philosophy at work in the Philosophical Investigations . Throughout the course, we will seek to evaluate some of the most influential options put forward in the secondary literature regarding how to read the book, with a special focus on various aspects of the controversy surrounding so-called “quietest” and “anti-quietest” interpretations of the aims and methods of the work. Readings will include texts by Albritton, Anscombe, Baker, Brandom, Browne, Cavell, Child, Cook, Diamond, Goldfarb, Hacker, Kripke, Kuusela, Malcolm, McDowell, Pitcher, Schulte, Stroud, and Wright. With D. Finkelstein. Spring 2015. Syllabus.
PHIL 23020. Agency and Self-Knowledge. (B). Winter 2015.
PHIL 59950: Job Placement Workshop. Graduate students planning to go on the job market in the fall of 2015. Approval of dissertation committee is required. Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter. Pass/Fail.
23010. Knowledge and Freedom. In this course, we'll be concerned with a pair of related topics: (1) If you want to know what I think, feel, imagine, or intend, I'm usually the best person to ask. Why is this? How am I able to speak about my own conscious states of mind so easily, accurately, and authoritatively? What distinguishes a conscious belief, hope, or fear from an unconscious one? (2) What's the differences between free action and unfree action or mere behavior? It seems natural to say that in order to act freely, someone must know what he is doing, and, to a certain extent, what's moving him to do it. What exactly is the connection between self-knowledge and freedom? Can a nonlinguistic animal act freely? (B) Spring 2012.
59950. Job Placement Workshop. This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the fall of 2011. Approval of dissertation committee is required. Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter.
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 J. Bridges. Autumn 2011.
22010/32010. From Sellars to McDowell. Note: Instructor consent no longer required for registration. Wilfrid Sellars comments that, in thinking about knowledge and intentionality, philosophers tend to make "a mistake of a piece with the so-called 'naturalistic fallacy' in ethics." We’ll have this “mistake” in mind as we focus (most of) our attention on two important and difficult twentieth-century texts: Sellars’ "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind” and John McDowell’s Mind and World. Topics of concern to us will include naturalism, the character of perceptual experience, holism in the philosophy of mind, and what Sellars calls “the logical space of reasons.”(B) (III) Autumn 2010
21505. Wonder, Magic, and Skepticism. Open only to College students. In the course of discussing how it is that a philosophical problem arises in the first place, Wittgenstein says, “The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that we thought quite innocent.” This isn’t the only place where Wittgenstein speaks as if being gripped by philosophical problems is a matter of succumbing to illusions--as if a philosophers are magicians who are taken in by their own tricks. In this course, we’ll discuss philosophy and magical performance, with the aim of coming to a deeper understanding of what both are about. We’ll be particularly concerned with Wittgenstein’s picture of what philosophy is and does. Another focus of the course will be the passion of wonder. In the Theatetus, Plato has Socrates say, “The sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.” And when magicians write about their aesthetic aims, they almost always describe themselves as trying to instill wonder in others. Does magic end where philosophy begins? And what becomes of wonder after philosophy is done with it? Spring 2009, Spring 2011
23010. Knowledge and Freedom Open to college students. In this course, we'll be concerned with a pair of related topics: (1) If you want to know what I think, feel, imagine, or intend, I'm usually the best person to ask. Why is this? How am I able to speak about my own conscious states of mind so easily, accurately, and authoritatively? What distinguishes a conscious belief, hope, or fear from an unconscious one? (2) What's the differences between free action and unfree action or mere behavior? It seems natural to say that in order to act freely, someone must know what he is doing, and, to a certain extent, what's moving him to do it. What exactly is the connection between self-knowledge and freedom? Can a nonlinguistic animal act freely? Spring 2004.
50100. First-year SeminarOpen to grad students. Prerequisites: Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students. This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters. Winter 2005, Autumn 2005, Winter 2006, Autumn 2006, Winter 2007, Autumn 2007.
50213. Late Wittgenstein. This course is meant as an introduction to Wittgenstein's later work, with a focus on his Philosophical Investigations. Our central concerns will be: (1) Wittgenstein's metaphilosophy; (2) meaning, rule-following, and intentionality; and (3) sensations and privacy. Enrollment will be limited to philosophy Ph.D. students. Autumn 2008
54100. Philosophical Psychology: Concepts and Consciousness
Open to grad students. How is it that we are able to state our own thoughts and feelings so easily, accurately, and authoritatively? By virtue of what may an intention, fear, or desire rightly be described as conscious rather than unconscious? In this course, we'll discuss these and related questions. Part of what will be at stake is how to understand Wittgenstein when he says such things as: "The statement 'I am expecting a bang at any moment' is an expression of expectation. This verbal reaction is the movement of the pointer, which shows the object of expectation." In addition to selections from Wittgenstein's late writings, we'll be reading work by Bertrand Russell, Crispin Wright, and John McDowell, among others. Spring 2003.
23000. Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology. In this course, you're asked to read and talk about a number of questions concerning what you are and what you're in a position to know. These include the following: (1) Are you more than a brain plus a body? Might you have (or be) an immaterial soul? (2) Are you genuinely responsible for your actions, or is your behavior merely the upshot of events over which you have had no control? (3) Is it possible to know what's going on in someone else's mind--to know, e.g., that another person experiences the color red as you do? (4) Can you know that anything exists outside of your own experience? We begin by discussing Descartes's Meditations (just the first three of them) along with a little book by Simon Blackburn called Think. (You can get a fair idea of the ground we'll be covering by looking over the first few chapters of Think.)
53901. Seminar: Wittgenstein Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Enrollment is limited to graduate students in the Philosophy Ph.D. program. Spring 2006.
54101. Consciousness Open to grad students.When we try to make sense of unconscious states of mind-unconscious fears, desires, beliefs, and the like-we run into some of the same difficulties that we encounter when we think about the minds of young children and non-linguistic animals. Unconscious attitudes can seem to sit awkwardly between the conceptual and the non-conceptual, between the personal and the subpersonal, and between the mental and the non-mental. Relatedly, when a person acts on an unconscious desire, we are inclined to think of her as not-quite-responsible for the activity, but not entirely free of responsibility either. In this seminar, we'll be exploring the connections between consciousness, agency, concepts, and mindedness as such. We'll (probably) read work by Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Donald Davidson, Richard Rorty, Jonathan Lear, Sebastian Gardiner, Marcia Cavell, Daniel Dennett, John McDowell, and Richard Moran. Spring 2007.
54306. Minds, Concepts, and Holism Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Philosophy 50100 (the first-year seminar) OR some familiarity with all of the following: Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," Davidson's "Mental Events," and Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Post-Wittgensteinian philosophy of mind has not been kind to brutes and young children. According to Donald Davidson, a dog cannot so much as believe that a cat has run up a tree, while Richard Rorty-following Wilfrid Sellars-urges us not to "balk at the claim that knowledge, awareness, concepts, ... all descend on the shoulders of the bright child somewhere around the age of four, without having existed in even the most primitive form hitherto." One way to make sense of such views is as arising out of considerations having to do with "the holism of the mental." If a philosopher maintains that in order to have even one concept or belief, a creature must have an entire network of concepts and attitudes that is more or less akin to the network of concepts and attitudes possessed by a normal, adult human being, it will be difficult for him to countenance the mindedness of dogs. The topic of this course will be holism vs. atomism in the philosophy of mind. Our focuses will be: (1) Davidson's holism, (2) Jerry Fodor's atomism, and (3) what might be thought of as a sort of "molecularism" or "piecemeal holism" that Charles Travis finds in Wittgenstein's discussions of language-games. The aim of the course will be to find-or to sketch-a picture of concepts and attitudes that neither makes it impossible to understand brutes as minded nor makes intentionality into a seeming-miracle. *Special Note: In advance of the first class, please review §§13-19 and §§26-38 of Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," and read pp. 182-192 of Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Autumn 2004.
59000. Workshop: Philosophy of Mind Open to grad students. The aim of this workshop is to serve as a focal point at the university for research and discussion in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of psychology. We'll pursue this aim in three ways: (1) by reading and discussing recent texts the exemplify central themes in the contemporary literature; (2) by providing a forum in which graduate students can present and receive feedback on their own work; and (3) by hosting a series of presentations by prominent philosophers of mind, psychologists, and specialists in related fields. Likely topics of conversation include: the relation between concepts and perceptual experience, self-knowledge, mental causation, and naturalism. Autumn 2007.
59900. Workshop: Contemporary Philosophy Open to grad students. Meets over three quarters. Co-taught with Josef Stern . Winter 2006; David Finkelstein Winter 2007, Autumn 2007.