Departmental Courses

See our searchable database below for Department of Philosophy courses from 2012-13 to 2020-21. Feel free to browse the database by academic year, subfield category of course, level of course (graduate, undergraduate, crosslisted), quarter(s) of course, or instructor to find more specific information about our course offerings, including course descriptions.

As for levels of courses: 20000-level courses are for undergraduates only; courses with both 20000 and 30000 numbers can be taken by either undergraduates or graduates; and courses with 30000, 40000, or 50000 numbers are open only to graduate students, with very few exceptions. Current students should visit my.UChicago.edu to see up-to-date scheduling information for all University of Chicago undergraduate and graduate courses and to register for courses. The "Courses at a Glance" links on the right-hand column of this page will show you the Philosophy schedule as a whole for each quarter for the 2020-21 academic year.

Searchable Course Database

Click into the dropdowns to find the courses about which you want to learn and then hit "Apply." Descriptions for those courses will appear below! (Note: the default for the database shows the current year's courses.)

PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

(CLCV 22700)

An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 20004 Thomas Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics

(FNDL 20004 )

In the Physics, Aristotle lays out the basic concepts and principles governing his thought about physical reality.  His approach is both philosophically sophisticated and quite different from that of modern science.  We will work through substantial selections, especially from Books I-IV and Book VIII, with the help of Aquinas’s expositions, which make them more digestible without diluting them.  Topics to be treated include the principles of change, matter and form, the concept of nature, causality, teleology, motion, the infinite, place, time, the duration of the physical world, and the primary mover. (B)

Students with majors other than Philosophy and Fundamentals need the permission of the instructor.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 21506 Memory and Unity of a Person

In one of his most widely read pieces of writing—the chapter of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding called “Of Identity and Diversity”—John Locke writes: “[S]ince consciousness always accompanies thinking, and ‘tis that, that makes every one to be, what he calls self; and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things, in this alone consists personal Identity, i.e. the sameness of rational Being: And as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past Action or Thought, so far reaches the Identity of that Person…”  Locke’s theory of personal identity has puzzled, annoyed, and inspired readers since it was published in the second edition of his Essay, in 1694. The main aim of this course will be to arrive at a reading of it that (1) situates it in the context of earlier philosophers’ writings about selves and souls, (2) is informed by an understanding of Locke’s own views concerning consciousness and memory, among other things, and (3) carefully considers objections that later writers—most famously Butler and Reid—made to Locke’s theory. In this endeavor, we’ll be aided by two excellent recent books: Udo Theil’s The Early Modern Subject (2011) and Galen Strawson’s Locke on Personal Identity (2011). Along the way, we’ll devote some time to considering one or two recent neo-Lockean accounts of personal identity. (B)

One prior philosophy course.

 

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 21609 Topics in Medical Ethics

(BIOS 29314, BPRO 22612, HIPS 21609, HLTH 21609)

Decisions about medical treatment, medical research and medical policy often have profound moral implications.  Taught by a philosopher, three physicians, and a medical lawyer, this course will examine such issues as paternalism, autonomy, assisted suicide, abortion, organ markets, research ethics, and distributive justice in health care. (A)

Third or fourth year standing. This course does not meet requirements for the Biological Sciences major.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ethics

PHIL 22209 Philosophies of Environmentalism and Sustainability

(ENST 22209, HMRT 22201, PLSC 22202)

Many of the toughest ethical and political challenges confronting the world today are related to environmental issues: for example, climate change, loss of biodiversity, the unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution and toxic waste, and other threats to the well-being of both present and future generations.  Using both classic and contemporary works, this course will highlight some of the fundamental and unavoidable philosophical questions presented by such environmental issues. Does the environmental crisis demand radically new forms of ethical and political philosophizing and practice?  Must an environmental ethic reject anthropocentrism?  If so, what are the most plausible non-anthropocentric alternatives?  What counts as the proper ethical treatment of non-human animals, living organisms, or ecosystems?  What do the terms “nature” and “wilderness” even mean, and should “natural” environments as such have ethical and/or legal standing?  What fundamental ethical and political perspectives inform such approaches as the “Land Ethic,” ecofeminism, and deep ecology?  Is there a plausible account of environmental justice applicable to both present and future generations?  Are we now in the Anthropocene, and if so, is “adaptation” the best strategy at this historical juncture?  How can the wild, the rural, and the urban all contribute to a better future for Planet Earth? (A)

Field trips, guest speakers, and special projects will help us philosophize about the fate of the earth by connecting the local and the global.  Please be patient with the flexible course organization!  Some rescheduling may be necessary in order to accommodate guest speakers and the weather!

 

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ethics
Philosophy of Science
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 24800 Foucault and the History of Sexuality

(GNSE 23100, HIPS 24300, CMLT 25001, FNDL 22001, KNOW 27002, RLST 24800)

This course centers on a close reading of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, with some attention to his writings on the history of ancient conceptualizations of sex. How should a history of sexuality take into account scientific theories, social relations of power, and different experiences of the self? We discuss the contrasting descriptions and conceptions of sexual behavior before and after the emergence of a science of sexuality. Other writers influenced by and critical of Foucault are also discussed.

One prior philosophy course is strongly recommended.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Continental Philosophy
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Define ‘definition’: Socratic definition and its subject-matter

Socratic philosophy consists in defining things like “courage,” “virtue,” and “love.” We will ask about this practice in general; what is Socrates doing when he asks people ‘what is’ questions? What is the subject-matter of his questioning? How do he and his interlocutors pursue their common goal? We will focus first on the “what is” question as it appears in the early dialogues. Socrates asks his questions, which he insists are prior to his interlocutors' concerns, with great urgency. But why should Socrates’ questions override other questions? Is socratic questioning about “courage,” “virtue” or “justice” prior to other questions we ask or simply different? Modern readers of Plato often accuse Socratic philosophy of moving indiscriminately between questions about terms in ordinary language, what a word signifies, and the real essence of what is so signified, the object of scientific study. Has Socrates failed to distinguish between what is prior for us and what is prior by nature? In the second part of the course we will continue to ask about definition and its object by reading parts of dialogues from the middle and later period. Our focus in this part of the course will be on the method of collection and division as a way of defining things. We will focus on the unity of definition, its relationship to forms, and the difference between scientific taxonomy and the philosophical need to comprehend the unity of beings by defining.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Hegel's Science of Logic

Hegel's Science Of Logic is a philosophical work of rare ambition. A presuppositionless exposition of the  basic categories of thought, the text at once provides a critique of the concepts foundational to philosophical thought before Hegel, as well as the principles for the philosophical cognition of the realm of nature as well as the sphere of human freedom. In this class we will focus on the third part of Hegel's Logic in order to understand Hegel's sustained account of the nature of concepts, judgment, inference, objecthood and causation. At the same time we will try to formulate answers to the exegetical and philosophical questions that have been prominent in Hegel scholarship: What does it mean for this text to both be a work of logic as well as one of metaphysics? What do we make of Hegel's insights in light of developments in formal logic and the natural sciences since Hegel's time?

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29200-03/29300-03 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Kant on Causation

The concept of causation is fundamental to the world and our cognition of it, Kant claims. Saying that experience itself would not be possible without that concept, Kant rejects Hume's claim that causation is not warranted by experience. That is to say, Kant argues that the concept of causation is constitutive to our mind in experiencing the world. However, having defended the concept of causality to be fundamental to world and mind, Kant faces the problem of determinism. This problem can be put in the following way: if everything that happens has a cause in nature from which it follows with necessity, then everything that happens is caused by that cause in nature and cannot be caused by an act of the mind like a decision. Moreover, it may seem that everything that will happen is already determined to happen in a certain way. Kant addresses this problem by showing that it rests on a misunderstanding about causation–namely, that the fundamentality of natural causation does not actually entail that everything that will happen is already determined. Seeing this furthermore makes available the position that there being a cause in nature to everything that happens does not exclude there being a different form of causation like in decisions.

In this seminar we will engage in a close reading of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason centered around the concept of causation. In the first part, we will retrace Kant's argument for the fundamentality of causation to the world and our mind. To that end, we will read the introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason and select parts from the transcendental aesthetic and the transcendental analytic. In the second part of the seminar, we will engage with the issue of determinism as treated by Kant in the antinomies of reason. Centering the discussion around the concept of causation allows for a substantial engagement with a centerpiece of Kant's philosophy that is doable in one quarter.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29601 Intensive Track Seminar

Title: Internalism and Externalism about Meaning

This seminar will explore an advanced topic in philosophy. It is required as part of the intensive track of the Philosophy Major.

Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive track program.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29700 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students are required to submit the college reading and research course form.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29901 Senior Seminar I

Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in the Autumn Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in the Winter Quarter. The Senior Seminar meets for two quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.

Consent of Director of Undergraduate Studies. Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.

PHIL 29904 Ethics in the Digital Age

(SIGN 26071 )

An investigation of the applied ethics of technology in the 21st century. Fundamental debates in applied ethics are paired with recent technological case studies. Topics covered include moral dilemmas, privacy, consent, human enhancement, distributed responsibility, and technological risks. Case studies include self-driving cars, geo-engineering, Internet privacy, genetic enhancement, Twitter, autonomous warfare, nuclear war, and the Matrix. (A)

 

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ethics

PHIL 20100/30000 Elementary Logic

(HIPS 20700, LING 20102, CHSS 33500)

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.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Logic

PHIL 20405/30405 Further Topics in Logic

This course will closely examine the concept of quantification in logic, with special attention being given to alternatives to first-order quantification - e.g., second order quantification, higher order quantification, and substitutional quantification. Is there something fundamental about first order quantification as presented by Frege? Quine answers this question affirmatively, while others have answered negatively. We examine this debate. If time permits, we will also look at the conception of quantification implicit in modern category theory and the theory of types. (B) (II)

Students will be assumed to have a grasp of the basic theory of first order logic. Some exposure to undergraduate level mathematics will also be helpful.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Logic

PHIL 20610/30610 Goethe: Literature, Philosophy, Science

(HIST 25304, HIST 35304, GRMN 25304, GRMN 35304, HIPS 26701, CHSS 31202, FNDL 25315)

This course will examine Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of Young Werther through the final states of Faust. Along the way, we will read a selection of Goethe's plays, poetry, and travel literature. We will also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we will discuss Goethe's coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter's third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling's transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe will be unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in "the eternal feminine."

German would be helpful, but it is not required.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 21002/31002 Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations

(HMRT 21002, HMRT 31002, HIST 29319, HIST 39319, LLSO 21002, INRE 31602, MAPH 42002, LAWS 97119)

Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide. (A) (I)

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 31414 MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

(MAPH 31414)

This course is designed to provide MAPH students – especially those interested in pursuing a PhD in Philosophy – with an introduction to some recent debates between philosophers working in the analytic tradition. The course is, however, neither a history of analytic philosophy nor an overview of the discipline as it currently stands. The point of the course is primarily to introduce the distinctive style and method – or styles and methods – of philosophizing in the analytic tradition, through brief explorations of some currently hotly debated topics in the field. The course will be divided into six units; with the exception of the first unit, all of the topics discussed in this course can be seen as primarily located in epistemology, the theory of knowledge. Yet in the course we will also be thinking about topics in such areas as metaphysics, ethics, and philosophy of language.

The first unit of the course will focus on the nature of analytic philosophy and the idea of analysis. This will be followed by units on the analysis of knowledge, the propagation of knowledge through testimony, practical versus theoretical knowledge, the propagation of practical knowledge, and justice and injustice in epistemology.

The course will be run as a mixture of lecture and discussion. All students should come to class having done the assigned reading and prepared to engage in a productive discussion. Students will write three short papers (6-8 pages) and provide discussion prompts on the Canvas site for the course.

 

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.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 22000/32000 Introduction to Philosophy of Science

(HIPS 22000, HIST 25109, CHSS 33300, HIST 35109)

We will begin by trying to explicate the manner in which science is a rational response to observational facts. This will involve a discussion of inductivism, Popper's deductivism, Lakatos and Kuhn. After this, we will briefly survey some other important topics in the philosophy of science, including underdetermination, theories of evidence, Bayesianism, the problem of induction, explanation, and laws of nature. (B) (II)

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 35708 Wittgenstein: Early and Late

(SCTH 35708)

The course is devoted to the unity and the disunity in the evolution of Wittgenstein's philosophy. We shall question the prevalent view that the later work radically breaks with the earlier. In accord with Wittgenstein's own advice we shall study the Philosophical Investigations in light of the Tractatus, and the Tractatus from the perspective of the Philosophical Investigations. We shall also look at some of Wittgenstein's writing from the thirties (e.g., The Big Typescript).

Irad Kimhi
2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 26004/36004 Early Modern Philosophy Beyond the Canon

The period from 1600 to 1800 saw an explosion of new philosophical positions in Europe. This period has a tendency to be studied not on its own terms, but rather through later historical reconstructions. It is particularly common to focus only on “rationalists” and “empiricists” while neglecting anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into these constructed categories. This course aims to come to a deeper understanding of early modern philosophy through a study of non-canonical thinkers and neglected texts by canonical thinkers. Our particular focus will be different conceptions of the proper method of philosophy. There will also be a focus on the thought of early modern women. Thinkers covered may include Petrus Ramus, Francis Bacon, Francisco Suarez, Thomas Hobbes, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Mary Astell, John Norris, George Berkeley, Anton Amo, and Mary Shepherd. (B) (V)

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Early Modern

PHIL 29908/39908 Free Will

The ‘problem of free will’ is to reconcile our perception of ourselves as free agents with ideas about the structure of reality, and our place within it, that appear to belie that perception. The problem is old, of perennial interest, and, it would seem, wholly intransigent. We shall try to get as close as we can to understanding the root of the problem’s seeming intransigence. Our readings will be both historical and recent. Authors include Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Anscombe, Strawson, and Frankfurt. Topics include logical necessity, time’s arrow, causation, natural law, motivation, compulsion, and moral responsibility. (A) (I)

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 49701 Topical Workshop

This is a workshop for 3rd year philosophy graduate students, in which students prepare and workshop materials for their Topical Exam.

A two-quarter (Autumn, Winter) workshop for all and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 50100 First-Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 50119 Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript by Johannes Climacus

(SCTH 41604)

This seminar will engage in a close reading of Concluding Unscientific Postscript.  The aim will be to develop an understanding of topics such as: living in clichés without realizing it, subjectivity and objectivity, ethics, eternal happiness, guilt, humor, irony and different manners of being religious.  We shall also consider the meaning of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship. 

This will be a seminar that requires active participation.  Students please come to the first session having read up to page 43 of the Alastair Hannay translation (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). Registration by permission of Instructor.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 50250 Tragedy and Philosophy

(CLAS 42020, PLSC 42020, RETH 50250, LAWS 96303)

Ancient Greek tragedy has been of continuous interest to philosophers, whether they love it or hate it.  But they do not agree about what it is and does, or about what insights it offers.  This seminar will study the tragic festivals and a select number of tragedies, also consulting some modern studies of ancient Greek tragedy.  Then we shall turn to philosophical accounts of the tragic genre, including those of Plato, Aristotle, the Greek and Roman Stoics (especially Seneca), Lessing, Schlegel, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Iris Murdoch, Sartre, and Bernard Williams.  If we have time we will include some study of ancient Greek comedy and its philosophical significance. 

Admission by permission of the instructor.  Permission must be sought in writing by September 15. 

An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation, plus my permission.  This is a 500 level course.  Ph.D. students in Philosophy, Classics, and Political Theory may enroll without permission.  Law students with ample philosophical background are welcome to enroll but should ask me first.  Undergraduates may not enroll.

 

 

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 51721 Topics in Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

(SCTH 51721)

A close reading of the Nicomachean Ethics, with particular emphasis on his theory of moral virtue, moral education. (I)

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Ethics

PHIL 54790 Transparency and Reflection

This will be a seminar on the instructor’s book manuscript, the topic of which is our capacity to know our own minds (especially via what I call “reflection”) and its relation our capacity to know the non-mental world (a posture of mind in which our own mental states are not in view, but rather “transparent”).  Themes will include: the scope and basis of privileged self-knowledge, the nature of rationality, the structure of self-awareness and its connection with the capacity for first person thought, the nature of bodily awareness, the extent to which it is possible to do psychology “from an armchair”, the question of how to interpret failures of self-knowledge and self-understanding, the value of self-knowledge in a human life.  In the background will be still grander concerns about the sense in which a human being might be a being whose being is an issue for it in its being (!). 

We will read chapters from the instructor’s manuscript, but also contemporary sources representing a variety of views on these topics.  The seminar could serve as an opinionated, graduate-level introduction to contemporary debates about self-consciousness and self-knowledge. (III)

 

Graduate students from other departments must have instructor’s consent to enroll.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 55110 Reading Religion from a Philosophical Point of View

(DVPR 55110 )

We will examine the question of what it means to read religious texts and practices from a philosophical point of view.

Enrollment requires the consent of the instructor and the course is only open to advanced graduate students who are writing a thesis or preparing comprehensive exams. For more information contact the instructor.

2020-2021 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Religion

PHIL 56707 Tim Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits

A close reading of Timothy Williamson’s “Knowledge and its Limits,” along with some response articles from “Williamson on Knowledge.”

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 59950 Job Placement Workshop

Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter.

This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the Autumn of 2020. Approval of dissertation committee is required.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 21000 Introduction to Ethics

(HIPS 21000, FNDL 23107)

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)

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Ethics
Ethics/Metaethics

PHIL 21499 Philosophy and Philanthropy

(PLSC 21499, HMRT 21499, MAPH 31499)

Perhaps it is better to give than to receive, but exactly how much giving ought one to engage in and to whom or what?  Recent ethical and philosophical developments such as the effective altruism movement suggest that relatively affluent individuals are ethically bound to donate a very large percentage of their resources to worthy causes—for example, saving as many lives as they possibly can, wherever in the world those lives may be.  And charitable giving or philanthropy is not only a matter of individual giving, but also of giving by foundations, corporations, non-profits, non-governmental and various governmental agencies, and other organizational entities that play a very significant role in the modern world. How, for example, does an institution like the University of Chicago engage in and justify its philanthropic activities? Can one generalize about the various rationales for philanthropy, whether individual or institutional? Why do individuals or organizations engage in philanthropy, and do they do so well or badly, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no coherent reasons?

This course will afford a broad, critical philosophical and historical overview of philanthropy, examining its various contexts and justifications, and contrasting charitable giving with other ethical demands, particularly the demands of justice. How do charity and justice relate to each other?  Would charity even be needed in a fully just world?  And does philanthropy in its current forms aid or hinder the pursuit of social justice, in both local and global contexts?  This course will feature a number of guest speakers and be developed in active conversation with the work of the UChicago Civic Knowledge Project and Office of Civic Engagement.  Students will also be presented with some practical opportunities to engage reflectively in deciding whether, why and how to donate a certain limited amount of (course provided) funding. (A)

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Ethics
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 21606 Justice at Work

(HMRT 22210)

In this class we will explore questions of justice that arise in and around work. We will consider concepts such as exploitation and domination as they apply to workers under capitalism. We will explore the foundation of the right to strike, and the right to form a union. We will consider the merits of different justifications for workplace democracy and worker control. We will explore the role of domestic injustice in sustaining wage inequality for women, and consider the relationship of race to capitalism. We explore these topics through a variety of normative lenses, drawing on cutting edge work in the liberal, neo-republican, Marxist, feminist, and human rights traditions. (A)

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 24803 Political Philosophy: Hume and Rousseau

In this course we will look at central texts by Hume and Rousseau.  We will be trying to understand them in their own terms, not as precursors to, say, Kant.  We will connect these writers to other intellectual movements of their time, reading works of fiction along with the philosophical texts.  Writers to be read include Butler, Diderot, Hume, Rousseau and Austen.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 25120 Introduction to Philosophy of Religion

(RLST 25125)

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, Nietszche, and Freud, as well as some recent texts. (B)

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Religion

PHIL 25405 Feminist Political Philosophy

(GNSE 20108)

This course focuses on three interrelated themes in contemporary feminist political philosophy: objectification; the relation of gender oppression to the economic structure of society; and the problem of “intersectionality,” that is, the problem of how to construct adequate theories of gender injustice given that gender “intersects” with other axes of oppression, e.g. race and class. Authors we’ll read include (but are not limited to) the following: Martha Nussbaum, Sandra Bartky, Iris Marion Young, Nancy Fraser, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Serene Khader and Tithi Bhattacharya. (A)

 

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Feminist Philosophy
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 26000 History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

(HIPS 26000, MDVL 26000)

A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of the period from the fall of Rome to the Scottish Enlightenment. The course will begin with an examination of the medieval hylomorphism of Aquinas and Ockham and then consider its rejection and transformation in the early modern period. Three distinct early modern approaches to philosophy will be discussed in relation to their medieval antecedents: the method of doubt, the principle of sufficient reason, and empiricism. Figures covered may include Ockham, Aquinas, Descartes, Avicenna, Princess Elizabeth, Émilie du Châtelet, Spinoza, Leibniz, Abelard, Berkeley, Hume, and al-Ghazali.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
Medieval Philosophy

PHIL 27379 Reparations

(CRES 27379)

This course focuses on growing philosophical literature on reparations, with special emphasis on the legacy of racialized slavery in the United States. As we’ll see, the debate over reparations raises a number of complex philosophical problems: what does it mean today to atone for hundreds of years of slavery, given that those who enslaved other human beings and those who were enslaved are now long dead? Indeed, who today has an obligation to atone for it? What must they do in order to atone for it? And who should have the authority to decide what a successful atonement or rectification would look like? These questions cannot be answered decisively without a precise account of the wrongs intrinsic to the institution of slavery, on the one hand, and its various afterlives, on the other. Some of the authors we’ll read include: Bernard Boxill, Angela Davis, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Charles Mills, Robert Nozick and Jeremy Waldron. (A)

 

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Philosophy of Animal Minds from Descartes to Kant

In the past decade, there has been a growing interest among philosophers in the question of animal minds. However, philosophers have been thinking seriously about animal minds throughout history. This course will trace the development of the philosophical debate on the existence and nature of animal minds in the early modern period up until the end of the 18th century. We will closely examine writings on the subject by Descartes, Malebranche, Cavendish, Leibniz, Bayle, Locke, Willis, La Mettrie, Condillac, Hume, Rousseau, Herder, and Kant. Apart from considering the views and arguments of these philosophers, we will pay particular attention to the conceptual and methodological implications of the problem of animal minds for the disciplines of philosophy of mind and history of philosophy.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

Hegel regarded his Phenomenology of Spirit as both the introduction to his entire philosophical system as a well as its first part. In this remarkable text, Hegel offers a radically unique account of the nature of human subjectivity as such (or ‘spirit’), presenting this subjectivity as at once absolute and self-determining yet at the same time essentially the product of its own ongoing history. In a dramatic progression through numerous ‘shapes of consciousness,’ Hegel develops a conceptual reconstruction of what he considers to be necessary stages in the nature of spirit and its own historical self-understanding. From his famous ‘Master-Slave dialectic’ to his critique of Romantic Irony and the clash of ‘Beautiful Souls’, Hegel attempts to display the evolution of spirit as the result of certain necessary and decisive crises within these ‘shapes of consciousness.’ According to Hegel, it is precisely in the confrontation and resolution of its own contradictions that spirit is capable of realizing that freedom and self-consciousness which he calls ‘Absolute Knowing’. The course will consist of a close reading of this exciting and enormously influential text.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29200-03/29300-03 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Plato’s Theaetetus

Plato’s Theaetetus asks the question “What is knowledge?” and examines three definitions, none of which survives Socrates’ refutation. In this class, we will be reading Plato’s text closely, aiming to understand what those definitions propose and why they fail. This text is a crucial source for Platonic epistemology and has been central in debates about the development of Plato’s thought on issues that range from the Theory of Forms to the philosophy of mind. The dialogue’s focus on our perceptual faculty gives it a place in contemporary philosophical debates about the role perception plays in the intellectual life of a human being. Some such debates that we will touch on in this class pertain to the rationality of the body, the nature of empirical cognition, and the possibility of objectivity. The dialogue’s discussion of propositional unity recalls the philosophy of logical atomism prevalent in the early 20th ce., a comparison which we will explore directly. The Theaetetus is also home to Plato’s infamous argument on the impossibility of false judgment and the comparison of the Socratic method to the craft of midwifery, as well as the image of the mind as aviary. Readings in secondary literature will draw from the philosophy of perception, particularly in its relation to judgment in the 20th and 21st centuries and, more generally, from topics in the philosophy of mind (include: McDowell, Stroud, Anscombe, Kern, Ryle); and from scholarship in ancient philosophy (include: Burnyeat, Fine, Cooper, McDowell, Lee, Nussbaum, Owen, Ryle). Interestingly, some of our authors belong in both categories. Officially about knowledge, in substance about human reason, a little bit about mathematics, and – perhaps – ultimately about ethics, the Theaetetus is one of Plato’s most puzzling and fascinating dialogues!

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29700 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students are required to submit the college reading and research course form.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29902 Senior Seminar II

Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in the Autumn Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in the Winter Quarter. The Senior Seminar meets for two quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout.

Consent of Director of Undergraduate Studies. Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 20100/30000 Elementary Logic

(HIPS 20700, LING 20102, CHSS 33500)

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.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Logic

PHIL 23015/33015 Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man"

(HIST 24905, HIST 34905, HIPS 24901, CHSS 38400, FNDL 24905)

This class will focus on a close reading of Darwin's two classic texts. An initial class or two will explore the state of biology prior to Darwin's Beagle voyage, and then consider the development of his theories before 1859. Then we will turn to his two books. Among the topics of central concern will be the logical, epistemological, and rhetorical status of Darwin's several theories, especially his evolutionary ethics; the religious foundations of his ideas and the religious reaction to them; and the social-political consequences of his accomplishment. The year 2019 was the 210th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 160th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. (B) (II)

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 24015/34015 Modality

(LING 24015, LING 34015)

Modal information—information conveyed by sentences such as ‘Mary might be at home’ or ‘Charles ought to give to the poor’—play an outstanding role in everyday discourse and reasoning. The goal of this class is to explain and evaluate contemporary semantic theories of modality by discussing a wide range of linguistic phenomena from the perspective of these theories. After introducing possible worlds semantics for modality developed in modal logic, we will consider current theories of modal semantics within linguistics as well as the most important empirical areas of research. Throughout, we will keep an eye on the relation between modality and other topics that are prominent in linguists and philosophy, including tense, conditionals, and discourse meaning. (B)

Knowledge of first-order logic with identity strongly recommended. Students will benefit most if they have taken classes in semantics or philosophy of language before.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 25110/35110 Maimonides and Hume on Religion

(JWSC 26100, RLST 25110, FNDL 25110, MDVL 25110, HIJD 35200)

This course will study in alternation chapters from Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed and David Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, two major philosophical works whose literary forms are at least as important as their contents. Topics will include human knowledge of the existence and nature of God, anthropomorphism and idolatry, religious language, and the problem of evil. Time permitting, we shall also read other short works by these two authors on related themes. (B) (III)

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 35709 Anxiety and Nothingness

(SCTH 35709)

Anxiety is discussed in modern philosophy as a mood which by contrast to fear is not directed to an object and thus reveals the "nothing" which dominates our engagement with beings. The class will be devoted to the modern philosophical discourse on "anxiety" and "nothing."

Among the texts that we shall study are: Kierkegaard's The Concept of Anxiety, Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics, and Sartre's Being and Nothingness. We shall also compare the philosophical concern with anxiety/nothing with the discussion of anxiety in psychoanalysis, especially in Lacan's Seminar Anxiety, (i.e., Seminar 10).

Irad Kimhi
2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 29400/39600 Intermediate Logic

(HIPS 20500, CHSS 33600)

This course provides a first introduction to mathematical logic for students of philosophy. In this course we will prove the soundness and completeness of deductive systems for both propositional and first-order predicate logic. (B) (II)

Elementary Logic (PHIL 20100) or its equivalent.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Logic

PHIL 41815 Political Philosophy: Hume, Rousseau, the 1844 Marx

Kant is a watershed in political philosophy (as he is everywhere).  This often means that earlier work gets read as “pre-Kantian.”  In this course we will look at central texts by Hume and Rousseau in order to understand them in their own terms.  We will connect these writers to another non-Kantian, the early Marx.  The goal is to find, develop and assess ways of thinking of the tasks of political philosophy that do not presuppose a Kantian framework.

 

 

 

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 49701 Topical Workshop

This is a workshop for 3rd year philosophy graduate students, in which students prepare and workshop materials for their Topical Exam.

 A two-quarter (Autumn, Winter) workshop for all and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 50100 First-Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 51404 Global Inequality

(PLSC 51404, RETH 51404, LAWS 53294)

Global income and wealth are highly concentrated. The richest 2% of the population own about half of the global assets. Per capita income in the United States is around $47,000 and in Europe it is around $30,500, while in India it is $3,400 and in Congo, it is $329. There are equally unsettling inequalities in longevity, health, and education.

In this interdisciplinary seminar, we ask what duties nations and individuals have to address these inequalities and what are the best strategies for doing so. What role must each country play in helping itself? What is the role of international agreements and agencies, of NGOs, of political institutions, and of corporations in addressing global poverty? How do we weigh policies that emphasize growth against policies that emphasize within-country equality, health, or education?

In seeking answers to these questions, the class will combine readings on the law and economics of global development with readings on the philosophy of global justice. A particular focus will be on the role that legal institutions, both domestic and international, play in discharging these duties. For, example, we might focus on how a nation with natural resources can design legal institutions to ensure they are exploited for the benefit of the citizens of the country.

Students will be expected to write a paper, which may qualify for substantial writing credit. This is a seminar scheduled through the Law School, but we are happy to admit by permission about ten non-law students. 

Martha C. Nussbaum, David Weisbach
2020-2021 Winter
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 51830 Advanced Topics in Moral, Political & Legal Philosophy: Social & Political Philosophy of Hegel and Marx

(LAWS 53256)

We will focus on Hegel’s philosophy of history and its influence on Marx’s historical materialism; and on Hegel’s critique of Christianity in the Early Theological Writings and also in the Phenomenology and its relation to Marx’s early theory of human nature in the 1840s and his critique of ideology. (I)

Michael Forster, Brian Leiter
2020-2021 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Law
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 53361 The Philosophy of Modern Orthodox Judaism: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

(DVPR 53361, HIJD 53361)

The thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is the philosophical foundation of Modern Orthodox Judaism. In this course, we will examine R. Soloveitchik's conception of halakhic method, his elaboration of the notion of masorah (tradition), and his idea of halakhic morality. The most significant subsequent development of the philosophy of Modern Orthodox Judaism can be found in the writings of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. Among other topics, we may consider R. Lichtenstein's views on the relation between religion and morality, his discussion of character refinement, his conception of serving God and his analysis of the meaning of "mitzvah" as well his response to critiques of Modern Orthodox Judaism.

The course will aim to provide a detailed philosophical and theological characterization of Modern Orthodox Judaism, and we will draw some contrasts with both Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Reform Judaism.

All students interested in enrolling in this course should send an application to jbarbaro@uchicago.edu by 12/11/2020. Applications should be no longer than one page and should include name, email address, phone number, and department or committee. Applicants should briefly describe their background and explain their interest in, and their reasons for applying to, this course. Advanced undergraduates may also apply.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 53601 The Problem of Evil and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of Job in Medieval Philosophy: Saadia, Maimonides, Aquinas

(NEHC 33601, DVPR 53601)

This seminar will examine medieval philosophers’ discussions of evil and suffering, natural, bodily, and mental, in their philosophical treatises and in their commentaries on the Book of Job. We will be concerned both with standard topics such as theodicies or justifications for evil, providence and natural evils, and what exactly ‘the' problem of evil is as well as with the question whether and how the genre in which one pursues these questions makes a difference. In particular, did the commentary form, especially on a book like Job with its enigmatic literary form, enable medieval thinkers to articulate philosophical issues they could not in their philosophical treatises using discursive argumentation? (IV)

 

Knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin is not required, but it can’t hurt.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Medieval Philosophy
Metaphysics

PHIL 54123 Intentionality in Mind and Action

This will be a seminar on the philosophical notion of intentionality as it bears on questions about our ability to represent the world, on the one hand, and to change it, on the other.  Brentano famously suggested that “intentionality” – the power of our minds to be “directed at” objects, in a way that allows it to be in states that are “of” or “about” those objects – is the fundamental mark of the mental as such.  Brentano’s work inspired a phenomenological tradition that sought to investigate the various faculties of the mind by investigating the distinctive kinds of “objects” at which they are directed and the distinctive manners in which they present these objects.  Our aim will be, first, to survey some key contributions to this tradition, with particular attention to their claim that the fundamental way to investigate the mind is by investigating its several forms of intentionality, and second, to think about the continuing relevance of this idea to contemporary problems about mind and action.  The course will begin historically, with readings from Brentano, Husserl, and Sartre. We will then turn to the reception, development, and criticism of this tradition within analytic philosophy by such figures as Chisholm, Kenny, Anscombe, Geach, Quine, Searle, Davidson, McDowell, Travis, and Crane. In the latter part of the course, we will divide our time roughly equally between topics in practical and theoretical philosophy. (III)

Graduate students in fields other than Philosophy must have instructor’s permission to enroll.

 

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Action
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 54806 Heidegger’s Concept of Metaphysics

(SCTH 50300 )

The two basic texts of the course will be Heidegger’s 1929-30 lecture course, “Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics,” and his 1935 course (published in 1953), “Introduction to Metaphysics.” Both texts amount to a radical critique of all Western metaphysics, and an equally radical proposal for a new beginning, another sort of “first philosophy.” He wants to claim that the finitude of all a priori reflection, when properly appreciated, can inaugurate a proper interrogation of the fundamental question in philosophy: the meaning of being. To familiarize ourselves with Heidegger’s overall project, we will begin by reading selections from his 1927 Marburg lectures, “The Basic Problems of Phenomenology.”

The course is designed for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines, but some undergraduates with a sufficient background in the history of philosophy will be admitted. Undergraduates with permission of the instructor.

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Metaphysics
Phenomenology

PHIL 56704 Descartes’s Meditations in its Medieval Context

Descartes’s Meditations is often regarded as a masterpiece which begins the era of distinctively modern philosophy. However, it is also deeply indebted to the medieval tradition. Early criticisms of the Meditations swing between criticizing its radical novelty and criticizing Descartes for simply repackaging existing debates. In this course, we will try to get a grip on the Meditations by reading it in relation to a variety of medieval thinkers. Primary sources covered will include Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Teresa of Avila, Francisco Sanches, Francisco Suarez, and Descartes and his objectors. Secondary sources will include, among others, works by Christia Mercer, Tad Schmaltz, John Carriero, Helen Hattab, Paul Hoffman, and Anat Schechtman. (V)

Undergraduate with permission of instructor.

2020-2021 Winter

PHIL 21203 Introduction to Philosophy of Law

This course will be an introduction to selected topics in the philosophy of law.  The first part of the course will cover some historical classics: Plato's Crito, selections from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and selections from Kant's Doctrine of Right.  The second part of the course will cover some classics of postwar Anglo-American jurisprudence, including selections from the most influential writings of H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, Richard Posner, and Ernest Weinrib.  These authors make salient such questions as the following: how is a legal system different from other kinds of systems of rules?  What is the purpose of law?  Can we make sense of the idea that law exists for the sake of certain ends that only law can achieve?

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Law

PHIL 21400 Happiness

(GNSE 25200, HUMA 24900, PLSC 22700)

From Plato to the present, notions of happiness have been at the core of heated debates in ethics and politics.  What is happiness?  Is it subjective or objective?  Is it a matter of pleasure or enjoyment?  Of getting what one most wants?  Of flourishing through the development of one’s human capabilities?  Of being satisfied with how one’s life is going overall?  Is happiness the ultimate good for human beings, the essence of the good life and tied up with virtue, or is morality somehow prior to it?  Can it be achieved by all, or only by a fortunate few?  Can it be measured, and perhaps made the basis of a science?  Should it be the aim of education?  What causes happiness?   Does the wrong notion of happiness lend itself to a politics of manipulation and surveillance?   What critical perspectives pose the deepest challenges to the idea that happiness matters?  These are some of the questions that this course addresses, with the help of both classic and contemporary texts from philosophy, literature, and the social sciences.  The approach will involve a lot of more or less Socratic questioning, which may or may not contribute your personal happiness. (A)

 

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Ethics

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)

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 23004 Aristotle’s Practical Philosophy

(FNDL 23004)

This course will survey Aristotle’s ethics and politics with a view to understanding their relation to one another.  

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 23005 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.

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Ethics/Metaethics
Metaphysics

PHIL 23402 Augustine’s Confessions and Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy

(FNDL 23404 )

We will work through these two writings, focusing chiefly on the philosophical thought present in them. (A)

Students with majors other than Philosophy and Fundamentals need the permission of the instructor.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 25000 History of Philosophy I: Ancient Philosophy

(CLCV 22700)

An examination of ancient Greek philosophical texts that are foundational for Western philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. Topics will include: the nature and possibility of knowledge and its role in human life; the nature of the soul; virtue; happiness and the human good.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 27000 History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century

The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant's “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy.  We will trace the effects of this revolution and the responses to it, focusing on the changing conception of what philosophical ethics might hope to achieve.  We will begin with a consideration of Kant's famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in which the project of grounding all ethical obligations in the very idea of rational freedom is announced.  We will then consider Hegel's radicalization of this project in his Philosophy of Right, which seeks to derive from the idea of rational freedom, not just formal constraints on right action, but a substantive conception of the proper organization of our social and political lives.  We will conclude by examining some important critics of the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical theory: Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglass, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

 

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 28011 Gut Feelings and Fake News

In this course, we will examine the psychological bases of knowledge and inquire into their wider epistemological significance. Our guiding aim is to understand
some of the ways in which our reliance on intuition, heuristics, and gut feelings shape our attitudes toward “fake news”—or deliberate misinformation and manipulation—in its many guises. Three questions will guide our investigation. First, how should insights about the rationality (or lack thereof) of gut feelings inform the way we think about fundamental issues in epistemology? We will consider, for example, justification, the nature of evidence, the reliability of testimony, and intellectual virtues and
vices. Second, might some of the reasoning biases that are typically deemed irrational be, at least in some contexts, rational? Third, insofar as our gut feelings do produce irrational behavior, what lessons should we draw about our own thinking and the ways in which we evaluate and engage in discourse? What normative principles might we adopt that both (a) give due place to our deep dependence upon gut feelings and (b) help mitigate their potentially pernicious effects? (B)

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Epistemology

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: A Life of One’s Own: Autonomy, Meaning and Selfhood

What does it mean to say that my life is my own, or that I am living my own life? The concept of autonomy bears directly on this issue: put very generally, if I am autonomous, I am the source of my reasons and actions. I am “my own person,” I live my life in a way that is up to me and is not distorted or manipulated by others. In this course, we will investigate what it means to be autonomous, as it bears on my ability to be “my own person” and to live “my own life.” Does the idea that my life, or my actions are my own, depend on my having a self? What does it mean for reasons and motives to be “my own”? How do I decide for myself how I should live? How should I understand the influence of others on who I am and what I decide to do? Do the demands of morality place inappropriate restrictions on my ability to decide how I should live? What, if anything, do I aim at in determining how I should live a life which is genuinely my own? We will begin by reading two accounts of agency and selfhood which explain human selves and human action interdependently, in terms of autonomy: a Humean account, by Harry Frankfurt, and a Kantian account, by Christine Korsgaard.  For both, the self is characterized structurally: what it is to be a self is for one’s beliefs, desires and intentions to be organized in a certain way. We will then explore issues that arise when we consider what it is to live one’s own life, including the nature and value of authenticity, the demandingness of morality, “selfishness” and self-effacement, and the pursuit of meaning in life. Finally, we will consider the psychoanalytic critique of morality, which will offer another perspective on these issues. Psychoanalysis emphasizes the ways in which who we are is not up to us, and that we must live with parts of ourselves we did not choose. What can psychoanalytic theory teach us about what it is to live one’s own life? Readings will be drawn from contemporary ethical theory, as well as psychoanalysis.

 
 

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Autonomy and Liberation

This course explores and compares two determinations of the concept of freedom in the history of philosophy. In the first half of the course, we examine Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the German Idealists’ idea that to be free is to be autonomous, obeying only those laws that one has legislated for oneself. In the second half, we turn to the radical philosophies of anticapitalist Karl Marx and feminist Catharine MacKinnon. For Marx and MacKinnon, the central question of freedom is not autonomy but rather liberation: How can we transition from an unfree world to a free one? Philosophers from both halves of the course conceive of freedom as in some sense self-grounding. We will think deeply about what this means and thereby discover two potential challenges. (1) If all freedom and authority derives from autonomy, how can we make sense of autonomy itself? It seems it would need to create itself. (2) If liberation must come from ourselves, then it cannot depend on anything outside of the social world that already exists. But this means that the tools of liberation must come from the very systems that make us unfree. How is this possible? We will evaluate and compare these two challenges and see whether the philosophers can offer satisfying answers. 

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 29640 Tutorial: Mathematics in the History of Philosophy

(HIPS 29640)

What is the object of mathematics? Where does mathematics derive its certainty from? Does it originate from the pure intellect or from empirical experience? Why is mathematics miraculously efficacious” in its application to nature? What is lost and gained in the development of mathematics and how does it shape our worldview? These have been central issues that philosophers since the Antiquity have occupied themselves with, and in many ways, they have shaped the trajectory of the history of philosophy. Philosophers’ answers to these questions have constantly evolved in light of the development of the mathematical sciences as well as the intellectual context of each generation. This course introduces classical texts and debates on the above-mentioned epistemological issues, including the writings of Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Helmholtz, Frege, Husserl, and beyond.

Biying Ling
2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 29700 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor & Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students are required to submit the college reading and research course form.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 21102/31102 Opera as Idea and As Performance

(MUSI 24416, MUSI 30716, LAWS 43264)

Is opera an archaic and exotic pageant for fanciers of overweight canaries, or a relevant art form of great subtlety and complexity that has the power to be revelatory? In this course of eight sessions, jointly taught by Professor Martha Nussbaum and Anthony Freud, General Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, we explore the multi-disciplinary nature of this elusive and much-maligned art form, with its four hundred-year-old European roots, discussing both historic and philosophical contexts and the practicalities of interpretation and production in a very un-European, twenty-first century city.

Anchoring each session around a different opera, we will be joined by a variety of guest experts, one each week, including a director, a conductor, a designer and two singers, to enable us to explore different perspectives.

The list of operas to be discussed include Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppaea, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Verdi's Don Carlos, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Wagner's Die Meistersinger, Strauss's Elektra, and Britten's Billy Budd. (A) (I)

REMARK: Students do not need to be able to read music, but some antecedent familiarity with opera in performance or through recordings would be extremely helpful.

ASSIGNMENTS: In general, for each week we will require you to listen carefully to the opera of that week. Multiple copies of the recommended recordings will be available in the library. But you should feel free to use your own recordings, or to buy them if you prefer. There will also be brief written materials assigned, and posted on the course canvas site. No books are required for purchase. Because listening is the main thing, we will try to keep readings brief and to make recommendations for further reading should you want to do more.

CLASS STRUCTURE: In general we will each make remarks for about twenty minutes each, then interview the guest of the week, with ample room for discussion.

REQUIREMENTS: Ph.D. students and law students will write one long paper at the end (20-25 pages), based on a prospectus submitted earlier. Other students will write one shorter paper (5-7 pages) and one longer paper (12-15 pages), the former due in week 4 and the latter during reading period.

NOTE: Ph.D. students in the Philosophy Department and the Music Department and all law students (both J. D. and LL.M.) may enroll without permission. All other students will be selected by lottery up to the number feasible given CA arrangements.

Martha C. Nussbaum, Anthony Freud
2020-2021 Spring
Category
Aesthetics

PHIL 21225/31225 Critique of Humanism

(ENGL 12002, ENGL 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. (A) (I)

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Continental Philosophy

PHIL 22220/32220 Marx’s Capital, Volume I

(FNDL 22220)

We will study the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital, attempting to understand the book on its own terms and with minimal reference to secondary literature. (A) (I)

 

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 22962/32962 The Epistemology of Deep Learning

Philosophers have long drawn inspiration for their views about the nature of human cognition, the structure of language, and the foundations of knowledge, from developments in the field of artificial intelligence. In recent years, the study of artificial intelligence has undergone a remarkable resurgence, in large part owing to the invention of so-called “deep” neural networks, which attempt to instantiate models of cognitive neurological development in a computational setting. Deep neural networks have been successfully deployed to perform a wide variety of machine learning tasks, including image recognition, natural language processing, financial fraud detection, social network filtering, drug discovery, and cancer diagnoses, to name just a few. While, at present, the ethical implications of these new and powerful systems are a topic of much philosophical scrutiny, the epistemological significance of deep learning has garnered significantly less attention.

In this course, we will attempt to understand and assess some of the bold epistemological claims that have been made on behalf of deep neural networks. To what extent can deep learning be represented within the framework of existing theories of statistical and causal inference, and to what extent does it represent a new epistemological paradigm? Are deep neural networks genuinely theory-neutral, as it is sometimes claimed, or does the underlying architecture of these systems encode substantive theoretical assumptions and biases? Without the aid of a background theory or statistical model, how can we, the users of a deep neural network, be in a position to trust the reliability of its predictions? In principle, are there any cognitive tasks with respect to which deep neural networks are incapable of outperforming human expertise? Do recent developments in artificial intelligence shed any new light on traditional philosophical questions about the capacity of machines to act intelligently, or the computational and mechanistic bases of human cognition? (B) (II)

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Epistemology

PHIL 27213/37213 The Philosophy of Stanley Cavell

(FNDL 27213)

The aim of this first course will be to offer a careful reading of three quarters of Stanley Cavell’s major philosophical work, The Claim of Reason. The course will concentrate on Parts I, II, & IV of the book (with only very cursory discussion of Part III). We will look at other writings by Cavell insofar as they directly assist in an understanding of this central work of his. In particular, we will focus on Cavell’s treatment of the following topics: criteria, skepticism, agreement in judgment, speaking inside and outside language games, the distinction between specific and generic objects, the relation between meaning and use, our knowledge of the external world, our knowledge of other minds, the concept of a non-claim context, the distinction between knowledge and acknowledgment, and the relation between literary form and philosophical content. We will read background articles by authors whose work Cavell himself discusses in the book, as well as related articles by Cavell. We will also discuss several of the better pieces of secondary literature on the book to have appeared over the course of the last three decades. Though no separate time will be given over to an independent study of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, we will take the required time to understand those particular passages from Wittgenstein to which Cavell himself devotes extended attention in his book and upon which he builds his argument. The Claim of Reason is dedicated to J. L. Austin and Thompson Clarke and its treatment of skepticism seeks to steer a middle course between that found in the writings of these two authors. We will therefore also need to read the work of these two authors carefully.  The final two meetings of the course will focus on issues in Part IV of the book which set the stage for a broader consideration of Cavell’s views on topics in philosophical aesthetics and the relation between philosophy and literature.

One previous course in philosophy.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 37323 Leo Strauss and Lucretius On the Nature of Things

(SCTH 37323, CLAS 36720, PLSC 37323)

I shall discuss Leo Strauss’s “Notes on Lucretius” (1968) and Lucretius’ De rerum natura with a special focus on the relation of philosophy and poetry.

Open to undergrads by consent only. This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter.

Heinrich Meier
2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 49702 Revision Workshop

This is a workshop for 2nd year philosophy graduate students, in which students revise a piece of work to satisfy the PhD program requirements.

All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 51416 Envy, Gratitude, Depression and Evasions: The "Contemporary Kleinians"

(SCTH 51415)

In this seminar we shall consider contemporary psychoanalytic thinking on fundamental aspects of human being: envy and gratitude, the capacity to learn from experience, mourning and depression, Oedipal struggles, the structure of the I, the superego and other forms of defense.  We shall also consider relevant clinical concepts such as projective identification, splitting, internal objects, the paranoid-schizoid position, the depressive position, and attacks on linking. The seminar will focus on a group of psychoanalytic thinkers who have come to be known as the Contemporary Kleinians.  Their work develops the traditions of thinking that flow from the works of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein -- and we shall consider their writings as well when appropriate.  Readings from Betty Joseph, Edna O'Shaughnessy, Wilfrid Bion, Hanna Segal, Elizabeth Spillius, John Steiner, Ronald Britton, Michael Feldman, Irma Brenman Pick and others.

Registration by permission of instructor. 

Jonathan Lear, Dr. Kay Long
2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 51489 The Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe

One of the most important English philosophers of her generation, G. E. M. Anscombe (1919-2001) was a colorful figure who drove her seven children around in a retired London taxi cab, wore a monocle, smoked cigars, and was fond of swearing in her famously mellifluous voice.  She brought Ludwig Wittgenstein to public knowledge with her translations of his later works—crucially, Philosophical Investigations (1953).  She almost single-handedly invented contemporary action theory with her 1957 monograph, Intention, and changed the course of 20th century Anglophone ethics with her seminal essay, "Modern Moral Philosophy" in 1958.   She made important, controversial contributions to a wide variety of topics in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.  In this seminar, we will read, talk, write, and think about Anscombe’s philosophical work.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 51702 Heidegger’s Critique of German Idealism

(SCTH 50301 )

The texts we will read: Heidegger’s 1929 book, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, his 1935 course, published as the book What is a Thing, the critique of Hegel published in 1957, Identity and Difference, and the 1942/43 lectures published as Hegel’s Concept of Experience.  We will conclude with a discussion of Heidegger’s 1936 lectures, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom.

The topic of the course: finitude.

Students who have taken the winter quarter seminar on Heidegger will be given priority, but that is not a necessary condition of admission to the seminar. Grad students only.

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Metaphysics

PHIL 57213 The Philosophy of Cora Diamond

The first third of this course will focus on Cora Diamond’s contributions to the philosophy of logic (what a logical notation is, what logical nonsense is, wherein logical necessity consists) and the history of analytic philosophy (especially the interpretation of Frege, the Tractatus, and Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations), the second third on her contributions to ethics (especially about the role of argument in ethics, about the ethics of eating animals, and the relation between philosophy and literature), and the final third to her understanding of the connections as well as differences between philosophical logic and philosophical ethics (and why a proper appreciation of wherein these lie has implications for a proper philosophical comprehension of formal notions such as truth and human being, as well as for a proper account of the parallels between logical propositions such as those of the form “This is something that cannot be thought” and ethical statements such as those of the form “This is something that one must not do.”)

By admission by the instructor.

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 59109 Plato

This will be a course on Plato's Gorgias. (IV)

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 59950 Job Placement Workshop

Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter.

This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the Autumn of 2021. Approval of dissertation committee is required.

2020-2021 Spring