Dept. of Philosophy Workshops

Faculty and graduate students in the Philosophy Department serve, often in close collaboration with  faculty and graduate students from at least one other department, as primary sponsors for each of the following twelve workshops:

Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Workshop

Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop

Contemporary Philosophy Workshop

Early Modern Philosophy Workshop

German Philosophy Workshop

Human Nature Workshop

Human Rights Workshop

Law and Philosophy Workshop

Linguistics and Philosophy Workshop

Philosophy of Mind Workshop

Practical Philosophy Workshop

Wittgenstein Workshop

If you are primarily interested in getting more information about one of these workshops, then you should click on the relevant link immediately above. If you have no prior familiarity with any Philosophy Department workshop and want first to learn more about the intellectual character, logistical format, or overall role in the life of the Department of our workshops, then you should keep reading below, before perusing the descriptions of the individual workshops.

In spring 2014, Winfried "Anselm" Müller, Chicago Moral Philosophy Seminar Visiting Professor, will lead a joint Philosophy faculty and Philosophy doctoral student reading group, "The Good and Other Formal Objects".

Workshops at the University of Chicago

Workshops are a distinctive institution of the University of Chicago. Like seminars, they are organized around a single topic. Unlike seminars, they have a continued existence throughout the academic year and well beyond, from one year to the next. Some have been in existence for decades. And they go in and out of existence, depending upon intellectual interest and demand. Like a colloquium series, they have their own dedicated budget and can bring in outside speakers and organize events. Unlike a colloquium series, many of the sessions revolve around presentations by graduate students. One of their primary purposes is to provide a high-powered academic forum in which graduate students can present relatively finished material from their dissertations, recieve feedback on that material, and learn to hone their oral presentation and discussion skills.

Regardless of whether the outside speaker is a faculty member or a graduate student, every session of a workshop is devoted to intensive discussion among the participants. Workshops typically meet on either a weekly or a biweekly basis throughout the year. The format of workshops varies a great deal from one to the next. One format is just to have the paper presented, as at a formal colloquium. Another particularly common format is to have the paper circulated in advance, to begin with a few opening remarks by the presenter, and then to move immediately on to general discussion of the paper.

Workshops are funded by the Council for Advanced Studies. For more information about workshops at the University of Chicago and how to start one, visit their website, http://cas.uchicago.edu/. For a complete list of the workshops currently funded by the Council for Advanced Studies, go to: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/

The Function of Workshops in the Philosophy Department

Workshops serve three important functions within the life of the Philosophy Department: (1) All advanced philosophy graduate students who have finished their coursework are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one workshop, and preferably two at a time, over the course of a given academic year. (2) They provide the primary financial and logistical vehicle through which leading philosophers from other universities are brought to the University of Chicago, guaranteeing in each case that there will an interested, informed, and well-prepared audience for such visiting speakers. (3) Each workshop provides a forum specially designed to promote a targeted form of interdisciplinarity, allowing graduate students from certain departments or units in the university to come together with members of the Philosophy Department in a common intellectual conversation. The remainder of this section will describe each of these four functions in a bit more detail.

The most important function of the workshop system as a whole is to provide a venue in which advanced graduate students can present dissertation material, get helpful feedback, and thereby avoid becoming intellectually isolated in their final years of graduate school, while engaging in the often lonely work of completing a dissertation in philosophy. We find that the workshop system generally serves this purpose best, however, when the workshop serves not merely as a forum for the presentation of graduate student work, but also has a sort of independent momentum that can be achieved only when the participants are united by some broader sense of intellectual purpose. Thus each workshop is devoted to a particular area of philosophy. This allows for an ongoing philosophical conversation already to be underway prior to each presentation, in which a core constituency of faculty and graduate student participants then alternate in their respective roles as presenters and discussants. The presence of such a structure not only helps to secure the regular participation of a lively cohort of faculty and graduate student interlocutors, but it also guarantees the availability of an informed and critical audience, ready to provide feedback on any graduate student presentation that engages relevant topics or figures in philosophy.

If you look at the Philosophy Departments Calendar of Events, you will notice a bevy of talks every week on a variety of philosophical topics. This extraordinary plethora of of offerings is largely due to the lively workshop culture in the Department. Apart from the presentations by local faculty and graduate students, a considerable number of these talks are by distinguished philosophers from around the world, whose visits to the university have often been financed at least in part by one of the workshops, often working in concert with another entity at the university. A number of these outside speakers are also jointly hosted by a pair of workshops working together, thus doubling the interested audience for the event. Finally, workshops often fund extended visits by philosophers of interest who come to the university or the city as invited conference speakers. These extended visits allow the speakers in question to stay on and address the members of a workshop for a separately scheduled session, or sometimes even for a series of talks over the course of a week or two.

Last but not least, workshops play a crucial role in fostering interdisciplinary research and establishing intellectual exchange between members of the Philosophy Department and members of other departments at the University of Chicago. There is no single formula for how this works. Some workshops which have an apparently narrow focus (such as the Formal Philosophy Workshop, or the Wittgenstein Workshop), in fact, draw their participating members from a wide range of departments across the university. Some of the other workshops listed below do have a comparatively focused target audience, representing primarily a joint venture between members of the Philosophy Department and those of one other department (as is the case, for example, with the Ancient Greek & Roman Philosophy Workshop which is jointly run with the Classics Department, the German Philosophy Workshop which is jointly conducted with the Department of Germanic Studies, the Semantics & Philosophy of Language Workshop which is run together with the Linguistics Department, or the Law and Philosophy Workshop run together with the Law School). Certain other workshops might appear to be of this sort (for example, the Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop, or the Literature & Philosophy Workshop), perhaps because they are, as a matter of fact, run jointly by a faculty member from the Philosophy Department along with a faculty member from another department, whereas they are in reality not of this sort at all, and are actually eager to encourage participating members from departments beyond the two represented by their faculty sponsors

The Format of Workshops in the Philosophy Department

Workshops differ greatly differ from one another not only in the scope and character of their target audiences, but also in their format. Almost all workshops invite some outside speakers. But they differ greatly in how much of an emphasis they place on this, as opposed to, say, on presentations by graduate students of their work in progress, or, say, on discussion of selected readings of common interest to the participants. They differ also in whether work to be discussed is first presented by the author in the workshop prior to discussion thereof or whether the paper to be discussed is read by the participating members in advance so that the workshop can begin immediately with discussion. Some workshops assign commentators to each paper to be discussed and begin with the commentator's remarks and a reply by the presenter. Some workshops request that speakers assign background readings in addition to their own papers and these are discussed as well. And some workshops have a variable format, involving an alternation between some or all of the aforementioned possibilities. Most workshops, but not all, meet every other week throughout the academic year.

The choice of which workshops to participate in is often dictated not only by a participant's particular areas of philosophical interest but also by preferences of format. Some people find some formats to be more stimulating and congenial than others. Each workshop has evolved its own particular format to suit the preferences of its present core constituency. For more information about each of our workshops, please read the descriptions below. If you wish to gain a richer sense not only of the topics and figures covered by a particular workshop, but also about their structure and format, then you will want to consult the website of that workshop, also listed below.  

Every workshop listed below has one graduate student coordinator and at least two faculty sponsors; and at least (and often at most) one of the latter is a faculty member in the Philosophy Department. Questions about the character or schedule of the workshop, along with requests to schedule a presentation to the workshop, should be directed to the graduate student coordinator.  Note: In any given academic year, several of the workshops listed below are likely to be on hiatus, while one of the faculty faculty sponsors is on sabbatical for the year.  Before directing any questions or requests, you may want to check below to make sure that the workshop in which you are interested is in session.

 

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Descriptions of Workshops in the Philosophy Department

The Philosophy Department currently is home to the twelve ongoing workshops listed below, about ten of which are likely to be in active session in a given year. Due to limitations on the number of faculty available to sponsor our present battery of workshops, not every workshop is able to meet every year. Thus, in any given academic year, usually about two of the workshops listed below will be on hiatus and will resume again in the following year. If a particular workshop listed below is on hiatus during the current academic year then this information is provided below right after the workshop description.

Also provided in this location is a link to the workshop website, as well as to email address of the graduate student coordinator of each workshop. If you would like more information about a given workshop, you should consult its website. If you are interested in participating in a workshop, then you should be in touch with the graduate student coordinator and provide them with your email address. Note: The rules and requirements for enrolling in a workshop for credit vary from workshop to workshop.

 

Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Workshop

A weekly forum for the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Sessions are divided among discussion of graduate student work in progress, translation and discussion of a selected ancient text in Greek or Latin, and talks by outside speakers. Participation in the workshop is required for students in either the Department of Philosophy or the Department of Classics who are enrolled in The Joint Program in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. Participants from outside the Departments of Classics and Philosophy are welcome. See our website for a schedule of the workshop's meetings and more information about the workshop's activities. Funded 2012-13 and renewable.

Faculty contact: Gabriel Lear, Elizabeth Asmis

Graduate student coordinator: Dhananjay Jagannathan

Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/agarp/

 

Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop

The Contemporary European Philosophy Workshop seeks to foster a space of ongoing and interdisciplinary dialogue among students and faculty from across the humanities and social sciences working with and within Continental philosophical traditions.
The aim of the workshop is twofold: First, to give students the opportunity to present and receive feedback on their work in the context of a supportive conversation with colleagues and peers; second, to have a regular occasion to meet and discuss European philosophy in its historical and contemporary development, its relationship to other philosophical traditions, and the central theoretical role it has come to play in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences.
Our format for the Autumn will consist of an initial introduction and plenary meeting, followed by a second meeting in which our three faculty advisors lead the group in reading a relevant philosophical text from the 20th-century Continental tradition. From the third meeting on, the workshop will be wholly devoted to graduate student presentations, and beginning in the Winter quarter we will also host invited guest speakers from other institutions in Chicago and elsewhere.  The CEPW sessions typically take one of three forms: 1) a presentation of a graduate student paper, and commentary from a colleague, 2) discussion of a text by a major European thinker, or 3) a talk given by an invited guest speaker.  Possible figures to be discussed include: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Gadamer, Hadot, Heidegger, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Kristeva, Irigaray, and Fanon, amongst others.
If you are interested in presenting, or in being added to the listserv, please contact one of the graduate student coordinators (below).
Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/conteurophil/

Faculty Sponsors:  Sarah Hammerschlag (Divinity) and Raoul Moati (Philosophy)
Faculty  Advisor: Arnold Davidson (Philosophy)

Graduate Student coordinators: Daniel Wyche (Divinity) and Francey Russell (Philosophy).

Contemporary Philosophy Workshop

A bi-weekly forum for graduate students to present current work in Contemporary Philosophy. The format of the workshop is one in which there are two primary discussants: a presenter and a commentator. The paper to be discussed is distributed in advance with the expectation that all participants will come to the workshop having read it. The workshop begins with the remarks of the commentator. After the comment is delivered, the presenter is given a chance to respond and some time is given over to a brief back-and-forth between the presenter and the commentator. The discussion is then opened up to the entire workshop for other comments, criticisms, and suggestions reagrding the assigned paper. The aim of the discussion is not merely to explore the philosophical ideas contained in the paper, but also to discuss as constructively as possible how it could be improved as a piece of philosophical writing. In a normal year, the workshop is led by a faculty member who attends every meeting of the workshop and helps to direct the discussion. The workshop is an especially helpful forum in which for graduate students to present dissertation work and mock job talks. Such sessions are often additonally attended by Philosophy faculty who are members of the presenter's dissertation committee.

Visiting scholars, Visiting graduate students, joint-PhD students in Philosophy, Philosophy-affiliated Harper-Schmidt Fellows, and other members of the wider Philosophy community at the University of Chicago are encouraged to initiate their involvement in the Philosophy Department by participating in the Contemporary Philosophy Workshop.

Website: http://humanities.uchicago.edu/blogs/contemporaryworkshop/

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Early Modern Philosophy Workshop

This workshop provides a forum for graduate students and faculty interested in the history of philosophy from Descartes to Kant. Workshop sessions include presentations from graduate students as well as from prominent Modern Philosophy scholars. Presenters at the workshop often focus on Descartes, Kant, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Rousseau, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and other figures. They can also examine post-Kantian German idealism, twentieth-century Kantianism, and approaches in contemporary ethical theory and moral and political philosophy that take one of the Modern Philosophy figures or conceptions as their point of departure.

2012-13 and renewable.

Faculty sponsors: Anat Schechtman and Jean-Luc Marion

Graduate student coordinator:

Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/earlymodernphil/

 

German Philosophy Workshop

This is the newest workshop in the Philosophy Department. It began life in the Fall of 2010. It is a biweekly forum for the study of German philosophy. The workshop operates with a very broad understanding of the concept of German Philosophy, which encompasses all of the following six dimensions of the concept: (1) German Idealism and its precursors (with a special emphasis on the close reading of Kant's and Hegel's major works), (2) 19h-century Germany philosophy (especially Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, neo-Kantianism, neo-Hegelianism, and Marxism), (3) 20th-century German philosophy (especially the phenomoneological and hermeneutic traditions), (4) the elucidation and development within the Anglophone tradition of central concepts, methods, and concerns from the German tradition (such as transcendental argument, genealogical critique, phenomenological method, etc.), (5) the German tradition in analytic philosophy (from its roots in Frege, through the Vienna Circle, up until the present), and, last but not least, (6) cutting-edge work by contemporary German philosophers on topics in all areas of philosophy. In the latter connection, the workshop will invite a number of contemporary German philosophers each year to present their work to us. Sessions will be divided among discussion of graduate student work in progress, translation and discussion of a selected text, and talks by outside speakers working in one of the six aforementioned areas.

Participation in the workshop is required for students in either the Department of Philosophy or the Department of Germanic Studies who are enrolled in The Joint Program in German Philosophy. Participants from outside the Departments of Germanic Studies and Philosophy are welcome. See our website for a schedule of the workshop's meetings and more information about the workshop's activities.
Funded 2012-2014

Faculty sponsors: Christopher Frey, James Conant (on leave 2012-13), Robert Pippin (on leave 2012-13)

Student coordinator: Ben Pierce

Website:http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/germanphilosophy/

 

Human Nature Workshop

The Human Nature workshop discusses the efforts of philosophers and scientists to conceptualize the essential character of human beings.  In the workshop we investigate the work of thinkers from Aristotle to the present, with a focus on the nineteenth- and twentieth-centurys.  Since the advent of evolutionary and anthropological sciences in the late 19th century, the major difficulty in establishing any stable conception of human nature has been the rejection of essentialistic thinking.  Evolutionary theory and modern genetics are firmly based on population thinking, which appears antithetic to any efforts to formulate a reliable conception of a stable and universal human nature.  Contemporary anthropology also stresses the diversity of human character.  We will inquire if any notions of human nature can yet be justified in light of contemporary science.  A subsidiary issue will be whether scientific naturalism (which deals with the realm of causes) or philosophical mentalism (the realm of reason) should dominate the analysis in dealing with the question of human nature.  Meetings will occur on alternate Wednesday at noon (when the literature is discussed), with visiting guests on staggered Fridays at noon.  For further information contact Robert J. Richards (r-richards@uchicago.edu) or Maria Kronfeldner (mkronfeldner@uchicago.edu).

 

Human Rights Workshop


This interdisciplinary workshop is affiliated with the Human Rights Program and features visiting and local speakers working on topics at the intersection of History, Law, and Philosophy, exploring questions of human rights. All meetings are held on Tuesdays from 12:00 - 1:30 pm in the John Hope Franklin Room (SSRB 224), unless otherwise announced.
Faculty contact: Daniel Brudney, John Kelly (Anthropology), Jennifer Pitts (Political Science)

Workshop Coordinator: John MacCallom

website: http://humanrights.uchicago.edu/workshopsCurrent.shtml

 

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Law and Philosophy Workshop

PQ: Extends over more than one quarter. Continuing students only. Theme: Life and Death. (=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.  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.   There are approximately four meetings in each of the three quarters.  Students must therefore enroll for all three quarters. Autumn, Winter, Spring. M. Nussbaum, S. Conly.

Anyone who wants to be on the email list for the papers, and also if they want to read a particular paper,should contact Lorrie Wehrs at lragland@uchicago.edu.

Website: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/workshops/lawandphilosophy

 

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Linguistics and Philosophy Workshop

The subject of meaning in natural language is currently investigated both by philosophers and linguists. While they have different foci, methods, concerns, and goals, both groups can profit from cross-disciplinary discussions and mutual understanding of their different questions, methods and results. The topic of the workshop in 2014–2015 is “information sensitivity.”

The workshop is a primary site of intellectual exchange between members of the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Linguistics.

Faculty sponsors: Malte Willer and Chris Kennedy (Linguistics)

Graduate student coordinator: Matt Teichman

Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/semantics/

 

Philosophy of Mind Workshop

A workshop in contemporary philosophy of mind. It consists of a biweekly reading group supplemented by graduate student presentations and lectures from visiting faculty. This workshop is on hiatus.

Website: http://mindworkshop.blogspot.com

Practical Philosophy Workshop

This is one of the most recent workshops in the Philosophy Department, having begun its first year in the Fall of 2009. It is a forum for those interested in ethics, conceived broadly to include normative moral philosophy, meta-ethics, action theory, moral psychology, political philosophy, and the theory of practical reason. Our activities are divided between graduate student presentations of dissertation chapters, the hosting of outside speakers, and faculty presentations of their own work in progress. The workshop hopes, over time, to build a campus-wide community of scholars who are interested in the following pair of questions as well as their relationship to one another: What is it to act? What is it to act well?.

Faculty sponsors: Daniel Brudney, Ben Laurence

Student Co-ordinator: Claire Kirwin

Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/practicalphilosophy/

 

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Wittgenstein Workshop

Wittgenstein’s work is of interest to people working in diverse fields—technical fields (formal logic, the foundations of mathematics, the conceptual foundations of physics, and the history of science), fields concerned with the study of the nature of language and society (especially linguistics, anthropology, and sociology), and a variety of humanistic disciplines (in recent years, most notably, jurisprudence, the theory of art, the study of religion, and the development of post-war German and especially Austrian literature). The Wittgenstein Workshop aims to foster a variety of forms of research that take their point of departure from this shared interdisciplinary interest in Wittgenstein's intellectual achievement.The workshop seeks to provide a forum in which the following three activities can be pursued in conjunction with one another: (1) the careful study of Wittgenstein's contributions to both philosophy and other disciplines, (2) the discussion of current research by graduate students with related interests, and (3) the presentation of work by (and the opportunity for graduate students to come into contact and discussion with) some of the leading contemporary scholars at work in these areas. The individual sessions of the workshop tend to have one of the following two formats: (i) various background readings are assigned, a paper is presented in the workshop which draws on or takes issue with the assigned readings, and the presented paper is then discussed along with the background readings, or (ii) a paper is circulated in advance, the presenter opens the session by summarizing the paper and making some additional remarks about it, and the paper is then discussed.

Website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/wittgenstein/

Faculty sponsors: Michael Kremer, David Finkelstein, James Conant (on leave 2012-13)

Graduate student coordinators: Gilad Nir

 

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