Candace Vogler is the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Philosophy and Professor in the College at the University of Chicago, and Principal Investigator on "Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life," a project funded by the John Templeton Foundation. She has authored two books, John Stuart Mill's Deliberative Landscape: An essay in moral psychology (Routledge, 2001) and Reasonably Vicious (Harvard University Press, 2002), and essays in ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy and literature, cinema, psychoanalysis, gender studies, sexuality studies, and other areas. Her research interests are in practical philosophy (particularly the strand of work in moral philosophy indebted to Elizabeth Anscombe), practical reason, Kant's ethics, Marx, and neo-Aristotelian naturalism.
Candace Vogler's Recorded Interviews and Lectures
Please see my CV (doc) for a complete list of publications.
Candace Vogler's recorded interviews and lectures
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) Winter 2016.
PHIL 21301/31213. Moral Theory. Why be moral? Is there any principled distinction between matters of fact and matters of value? What is the character of obligation? What is a virtue? In this course we will read, think, and write about twentieth century Anglo-North American philosophical attempts to give a systematic account of morality. (I) (A) Spring 2016.
PHIL 20214/30214. Final Ends. By a "final end" we mean any purpose, pursued by a human being, whose attainment is not viewed as instrumental to any further purpose. In the philosophical tradition there have been controversies about a set of issues surrounding that notion, and this class is going to introduce you to the most important ones. 1) Is the pursuit of a final end inevitably determined by your desire and nothing else (as Humeans and preference utilitarians think), or are final ends determined / imposed on us by any objective standard / requirement (as assumed by Kantians and classical utilitarians as well as ancient and medieval philosophers)? 2) Does the teleological structure of human agency imply that there must be a final end, and precisely one? 3) If - as many philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant and Mill, assume - a single overall end is imposed on us by an objective determinant, what is this determinant? Is it represented by a conception of human nature (rationality?), of well-being, happiness, of moral or some other type of perfection? Is it individual or social? Is it state or activity? 4) How can the answer to such questions be known? 5) In what sense can an objective end be "imposed on us", or "binding"? 6) Does the existence of a final end - whether determined by desire or independently of it - imply that all practical reasoning should, at least implicitly, start from a conception of it? Or should you pursue such ends obliquely (Kierkegaard: The door to happiness opens outward)? - The lectures will be complemented by preparatory readings from classical and contemporary texts as well as by your own contributions to the discussion of that vital question: Can we say what we live for? With A. Mueller. Spring 2016.
21225/31225. Critique of Humanism. (=ENGL 12002/34407) This course will provide a rapid-fire survey of the philosophical sources of contemporary literary and critical theory. We will begin with a brief discussion of the sort of humanism at issue in the critique—accounts of human life and thought that treat the individual human being as the primary unit for work in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. This kind of humanism is at the core of contemporary common sense. It is, to that extent, indispensable in our understanding of how to move around in the world and get along with one another. That is why we will conduct critique, rather than plain criticism, in this course: in critique, one remains indebted to the system under critical scrutiny, even while working to understand its failings and limitations. Our tour of thought produced in the service of critique will involve work by Hegel, Marx, Gramsci, Freud, Fanon, Lacan, and Althusser. We will conclude with a couple of pieces of recent work that draws from these sources. The aim of the course is to provide students with an opportunity to engage with some extraordinarily influential work that continues to inform humanistic inquiry. Spring 2014.
21301. Moral Theory. Why be moral? Is there any principled distinction between matters of fact and matters of value? What is the character of obligation? What is a virtue? In this course we will read, think, and write about twentieth century Anglo-North American philosophical attempts to give a systematic account of morality. (A) Winter 2014.
21301/31311. Moral Theory. PQ: one course in ethics or moral philosophy. Twentieth century Anglophone philosophy took a decisive turn with the development of distinctively analytic approaches to philosophical issues. This turn had a profound impact on moral philosophy. The study of thought, logic, language, and the like was intended to carry forward a study of reason as it took shape in the work of Immanuel Kant. Such efforts coincided nicely with philosophical work on knowledge and objects of knowledge, on facts, and so on—topics belonging to so-called theoretical reason. Ethics, however, was somehow about value. How could that subject belong to a study of reason? In what sense was ethics objective rather than subjective? More generally, given widespread dissatisfaction with going accounts of practical (rather than theoretical) reason, what was the connection between reason and morality? The problem was made especially acute by three aspects of distinctively moral philosophy carried forward under the new analytical regime:
The first and second aspects look promising for analytical ethics. The focus on morality in particular, rather than on more general questions about how one should live, looked to undercut the apparent subjective taint of work on value and action. The focus on reasons likewise looked to draw philosophers toward publicly accessible aspects of their topics, because it isn't at all clear that any strictly subjective consideration could ever serve as a reason for acting or for belief. Reasons are inherently communicable and open to public assessment. The third aspect, however—an aspect that seems to belong to any study of matters pertaining to intentional action (for reasons we'll discuss) —looks to force a distinctively "subjective" focus onto moral theory. We will examine a series of philosophical forays into the perilous terrain of making room for moral philosophy in the larger, analytically-inflected field of work on thought, knowledge, and, more generally, reason, in light of these three aspects of moral philosophy. (A) (I) Autumn 2011.
58200. Ethics and Psychoanalysis. Admission requires consent of instructors. This research seminar begins from a point about the power of moral and ethical considerations in our lives: if you convince people that they are unethical or otherwise morally bad, you have done them a kind of damage much worse than you do if you take their money or break their bones, and much worse than if you convince them that they are ugly, or dim, or irrational. People can adjust to being unattractive. They can adjust to being less than reasonable or smart. But once they think that they are bad, it becomes very difficult for them to so much as take in any positive messages you have to give them about themselves. They can grow mean. They can become so abject that they lack even capacity to want more for themselves than what they have got so far. This in turn suggests that the varieties of personal inadequacy marked by winding up on the wrong side of a good/bad divide in the assessment of human beings, human action, and human life more generally are crucial to understanding human flourishing. In this seminar, we will turn to psychoanalytic work to account for this aspect of the place of ethical or moral assessment in human life. Although Sigmund Freud notoriously distanced psychoanalytic work from specific concern with morality, in working from and against Freud, both Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein developed accounts of mental life that turn on how the mind copes with anxiety triggered in brushes against the good/bad divide. We will explore psychoanalytic work with an eye toward developing a philosophical moral psychology centered on the role of ethical or moral assessment of human beings, human life, and human conduct in mental functioning. We hope thereby to provide theoretical underpinnings for our starting observation about the power of moral and ethical considerations. With J. Lear. Spring 2012.
57501. Ethics and Literature: The Strange Case of Edgar A. Poe. (=ENGL 57501) Edgar A. Poe is an improbable moralist. Poe's fiction takes no interest in character, for example. "In the tale proper," he noted, "there is no space for development of character." That's why he wrote tales. If there is no space for character-development, then there is no space for character at all. Instead, his households crumble around masculine figures notable for groundless, but still goal-directed surges of volition, affection and thought. Strange and beautiful women, when in evidence, only come into their own post-mortem. Unsurprisingly, there are almost no children, except a nameless daughter gradually overtaken by whatever is left of her dead mother, Morella. And when we turn from individual and household to civil society, things are no better. Poe's cities—most notably, a London and several Parises that bear striking resemblances to antebellum New York—are scenes of crimes. And so the twin pillars of most morality tales—character and society—will not support the weight of ethical narrative in Poe. Nevertheless, Poe writes morality tales. In this course, we will read, write, and think about those tales with an eye toward understanding what ethics comes to in Poe's corpus, what kind of work the tales do in setting our problems for ethics, and how working on Poe illuminates crucial issues at the intersection of philosophy and literature. With J. Schleusener. Spring 2011.
21000. Introduction to Ethics Open to college students. In this course, we will read, write, and think about central issues in moral philosophy. This survey course is designed to give a rapid introduction to philosophical ethics (largely in the Anglo-North American tradition (although not entirely as a product of Anglo-North American philosophers). We will begin with work by Immanuel Kant and Henry Sidgwick and conclude with important twentieth century work in metaethics and normative ethics (one thing that we will consider is the distinctions between metaethics, normative ethics, and the various fields united under the rubric 'applied ethics'). This course is intended as an introductory course in moral philosophy. Some prior work in philosophy is helpful, but not required. (A) Spring 2005, Spring 2007.
21010/31010. Metaethics Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: PQ: one course in ethics. Why be moral? What sort of account can we give of the bases of ethical judgments? In this course we will read, write and think about foundational accounts of ethics. We will consider arguments to the effect that anyone who acts unethically thereby sins against reason, that a proper understanding of the human being as such shows that ethical life belongs to our nature, that rational agents or reasonable people will be bound by ethical or moral principles as those guides for conduct that might inform a social contract, and that anyone with his wits about him will be drawn toward ethical conduct as a matter of basic temperament. Over the course of our work, we will also encounter many arguments that none of these approaches suffices to provide a substantive foundation for ethics. Spring 2006.
21301. Moral Theory Open to college students. Why be moral? Is there any principled distinction between matters of fact and matters of value? What is the character of obligation? What is a virtue? In this course we will read, think, and write about twentieth century Anglo-North American philosophical attempts to give a systematic account of morality. Winter 2004.
26209. Sex and Ethics. (=BPRO 28200, ENGL 28500, GNDR 28502) PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. Sex is a big problem. How do we think about sex in proximity to considering the ethics of risk, the ethics of harm, the potential for good? Developing an account specifically of an ethics of sex requires thinking about the place of sex and sexual vulnerability in social life with an eye toward understanding what’s good and what might count as abuses, violations, disruptions, or deprivations of specifically good things about sex. In this course, we read, write, and think about sex and ethics in relation to a variety of the rubrics (e.g., act, harm, fantasy, a good, technology, health, disability, love). Probable syllabus contents involve philosophy, cinema, literature, and social science. Co-taught with L. Berlant. Winter 2010.
29600. Intensive Track Seminar. PQ: Open only to students in the Intensive Track. Topics for this small, discussion-oriented seminar vary. Autumn 2009.
31000. Marx Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. Prerequisites: A course in ethics or political philosophy. In this course, we read, write, and think about Marx's social and political philosophy with special emphasis on his materialism, his work on value, his account of forms of social life, and his sporadic treatment of the place of colonization in the development of capitalism. Throughout, we pay attention to accounts of the place of consciousness in Marx's explanations of social life. We consider some twentieth-century Marxist work at the conclusion of the term. Spring 2003.
314. Introduction to Theories of Sex/Gender (=GendSt 214, GS Hum 303, MAPH 365). Feminism and sexuality studies have contributed to work in many different regions of humanistic and social scientific inquiry. Some of the most interesting contributions have involved the development of new theoretical frames in which to formulate questions for disciplinary work. This course is intended as both a survey of some theoretical work on sex and gender, and a sweeping introduction to some of the philosophical roots of feminist and queer theory. We give special attention to nineteenth- and twentieth-century European critiques of humanism.
38209. Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. (=HIPS 28101) PQ: Open to students who are majoring in philosophy with advanced standing. We work with Freud and Lacan, and pay special attention to questions about the status of the unconscious, the role of fantasy in lending shape to some aspects of life, material on the interpretation of dreams and on the senses in which questions about human life and normative authority inform neuroses. Co-taught with J. Lear. (A) Spring 2010.
Agents, Actions, Ends (=GS Hum 308). In this course we read, write, and think about the nature and force of reasons for action. Topics discussed include the peculiarities of agency; the claim that action is only intelligible insofar as it can be made out to aim at the good; the role of pleasure or happiness in understanding human action; the role of conceptions of practical reason in philosophical accounts of the nature of mental states; and the relationship between general principles or practices and particular actions.
41800. Philosophy and Literature. PQ: at least one upper-division or graduate course in literary theory, ethics, or political philosophy. Undergraduates require permission from the instructor to register. Contemporary scholars and theorists of literature are becoming increasingly interested in traditional philosophical questions about ethics, agency, and value. They are joined on the other side of a traditional disciplinary divide by contemporary Anglo-North American philosophers who turn to literature in their work on some of these same questions. In this course, we read and discuss several works of literature (predominantly works of fiction), and both philosophical and literary treatments of those works. We are aided in our efforts by distinguished guest faculty with ongoing interest in the intersections of philosophy and literature.
49700. Preliminary Essay Workshop. Autumn 2009, Spring 2010, Autumn 2010, Spring 2011.
51600. Topics in Contemporary Ethics: Agency & Practical Reason
Open to grad students. In this seminar we will read and discuss two manuscripts, both of which address questions of practical reason, rational agency, and ethics: Christine Korsgaard's Locke Lectures and Michael Thompson's book on practical reason, ethics, and agency. Thompson will pay a visit to discuss his work with us. Spring 2003.
51600. Topics in Contemporary Ethics Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor. Spring 2004.
51601. Topics in Ethics: Action-based work in ethics I Open to grad students. This seminar will be conducted as two courses, focused on recent work in ethics, but grounded in work by Elizabeth Anscombe. In Winter, we will read several of Anscombe's essays and the whole of Intention. We will then turn to more recent work by Philippa Foot, Tom Pink, and Michael Thompson. In Spring, we will consider work by David Velleman, John McDowell, Iris Murdoch, Warren Quinn, Doug Lavin and Rosalind Hursthouse. Throughout, we will be concerned with the fate of one strand of neo-Aristotelian as a foundationalist project in moral philosophy. The Winter term course will serve as a prerequisite for the Spring term course. Winter 2007.
51602. Topics in Ethics: Action-based work in ethics II Open to grad students. This seminar will be conducted as two courses, focused on recent work in ethics, but grounded in work by Elizabeth Anscombe. In Winter, we will read several of Anscombe's essays and the whole of Intention. We will then turn to more recent work by Philippa Foot, Tom Pink, and Michael Thompson. In Spring, we will consider work by David Velleman, John McDowell, Iris Murdoch, Warren Quinn, Doug Lavin and Rosalind Hursthouse. Throughout, we will be concerned with the fate of one strand of neo-Aristotelian as a foundationalist project in moral philosophy. The Winter term course will serve as a prerequisite for the Spring term course. Spring 2007.
51806. Philosophical Literature Open to grad students. Some literary texts are, in an important sense, philosophical - not because they provide examples or otherwise illustrate philosophical themes, but because they engage in a particular kind of philosophical work. We will read, write and think about texts of this kind by Geoffrey Chaucer, Edgar Allen Poe and Flannery O'Connor. We are specifically concerned with the way these writers engage the ethical, since for each of them it is at least a question what might characterize the ethical in the first place. Weekly writing and daily conversation will be essential to the success of the seminar. Permission of the instructors required - contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Co-taught with Jay Schleusener, Dept. of English, and M. Miller . Winter 2005.
59900. Contemporary Philosophy Workshop Open to grad students. This course meets bi-weekly over three quarters. Autumn 2003.