Departmental Courses

See our searchable database below for Department of Philosophy courses from 2012-13 to 2021-22. 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 2021-22 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 21206 Philosophy of Race and Racism

(CRES 21206)

The idea that there exist different “races” of human beings is something that many—perhaps even most—people in the United States today take for granted. And yet modern notions of “race” and “racial difference” raise deep philosophical problems: What exactly is race? Is race a natural kind (like water) or a social kind (like citizenship)? If race is a social kind—i.e. something human beings have constructed—are there any good reasons to keep using it? According to many philosophers, these questions cannot be properly analyzed in abstraction from the history of modern racism and the liberation struggles racial oppression has given rise to. Together, we’ll read classic and contemporary texts on these themes by authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Charles Mills, Naomi Zack, Chike Jeffers, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Lucius Outlaw. (A)

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Race
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 21207 Ecocentrism and Environmental Racism

(HMRT 21207, PLSC 21207, ENST 21207, MAPH 31207)

The aim of this course is to explore the tensions and convergences between two of the most profoundly important areas of environmental philosophy.  “Ecocentrism” is the view that holistic systems such as ecosystems can be ethically considerable or “count” in a way somewhat comparable to human persons, and such a philosophical perspective has been shared by many prominent forms of environmentalism, from Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic to Deep Ecology to the worldviews of many Native American and Indigenous peoples.  For some prominent environmental philosophers, a commitment to ecocentrism is the defining test of whether one is truly an environmental philosopher.  “Environmental Racism” is one of the defining elements of environmental injustice, the way in which environmental crises and existential threats often reflect systemic discrimination, oppression, and domination in their disproportionate adverse impact on peoples of color, women, the global poor, LGBTQ populations, and Indigenous Peoples.  Although historically, some have claimed that ecocentric organizations such as Greenpeace have neglected the problems of environmental injustice and racism in their quest to, e.g., “save the whales,” a deeper analysis reveals a far more complicated picture, with many affinities and alliances between ecocentrists and activists seeking environmental justice. (A)

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 21423 Introduction to Marx

(FNDL 21805)

This introduction to Marx’s thought will divide into three parts: in the first, we will consider Marx‘s theory of history; in the second, his account of capitalism; and in third, his conception of the state. (A)

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 23951 Introduction to Eastern Philosophy

This course will be an overview of Eastern philosophy, focusing on the historical development of Buddhist and Confucian ideas from their early Indian origins to the present day.

2021-2022 Autumn

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.

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 25102 Aquinas on Justice

(FNDL 24304)

We will work through as much as we can of Aquinas’s so-called Treatise on Justice — Summa theologiae II-II, qq. 57-79 — with the help of other passages from him and from his sources, especially Aristotle. (A)

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. 

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 25503 My Favorite Readings in the History and Philosophy of Science

(HIST 25503, HIPS 29800)

This course introduces some of the most important and influential accounts of science to have been produced in modern times. It provides an opportunity to discover how philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists have grappled with the scientific enterprise, and to assess critically how successful their efforts have been. Authors likely include Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Robert Merton, Steven Shapin, and Bruno Latour. (B)

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 29601 Intensive Track Seminar

Title: Philosophy and Fiction

In this course we will try to make sense of fiction using the techniques of philosophy. What is the ‘logic’ of fictional discourse? What makes a work, a work of fiction? (Is it the intentions of the author?) What is the metaphysical status of fictional characters? How does the making and consuming of fiction relate to other practices in human life—for example, playing games and lying? How can we be emotionally affected by fiction when we know it is fiction? We will read a variety of texts on these subjects, but the focus will be on work in the analytic tradition.

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

2021-2022 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.

2021-2022 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.

2021-2022 Autumn

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.

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Logic

PHIL 21002/31002 Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations

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

In this class we explore the philosophical foundations of human rights, investigating theories of how our shared humanity in the context of an interdependent world gives rise to obligations of justice. Webegin by asking what rights are, how they are distinguished from other part of morality, and what role they play in our social and political life. But rights come in many varieties, and we are interested in human rights in particular. In later weeks, we will ask what makes something a human right, and how are human rights different from other kinds of rights. We will consider a number of contemporary philosophers (and one historian) who attempt to answer this question, including James Griffin, Joseph Raz, John Rawls, John Tasioulas, Samuel Moyn, Jiewuh Song, and Martha Nussbaum. Throughout we will be asking questions such as, “What makes something a human right?” “What role does human dignity play in grounding our human rights?” “Are human rights historical?” “What role does the nation and the individual play in our account of human rights?” “When can one nation legitimately intervene in the affairs of another nation?” “How can we respect the demands of justice while also respecting cultural difference?” “How do human rights relate to global inequality and markets?” (A) (I)

2021-2022 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 Ph.D. 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.

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.

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 22964/32964 Advanced Introduction to Epistemology

This course will be a broad introduction to epistemology—the study of knowledge and rationality. Here are some of the main questions we will discuss:

What is knowledge
What is the best way to acquire knowledge?
How can you be sure that you aren’t dreaming?
What makes a belief rational?
How should you revise your beliefs when you get new evidence? (B) (III)

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 23405/33405 History and Philosophy of Biology

(HIPS 25104, HIST 25104, HIST 35104, CHSS 37402)

This lecture-discussion course will consider the main figures in the history of biology, from the Hippocratics and Aristotle to Darwin and Mendel. The philosophic issues will be the kinds of explanations appropriate to biology versus the other physical sciences, the status of teleological considerations, and the moral consequences for human beings. (B) (II)

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 35707 The Different Senses of Being

(SCTH 35706)

Aristotle states that “being is said in many ways,” we shall seek to understand this statement and to study the history of its interpretations.                                  

Among the modern authors we shall discuss are Franz Brentano, Ernst Tugendhat, Charles Kahn, Aryeh Kosman, Stephen Menn, David Charles.

Undergrads by permission of instructor only.

Irad Kimhi
2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 29110/39110 Plato on Knowledge

This course will examine Plato’s theory of knowledge in his “late” dialogues—especially Plato’s ideas about the philosopher’s pursuit of knowledge in the Sophist, Statesman, and Philebus. We will focus on the method of “dialectic” and its connection to the so-called method of “collection and division” as essential philosophical tools in Plato’s late writing. Topics will include natural kinds, the relationship between natural and social science, and the metaphysical views that form the backdrop of Plato’s methodological writings.  We will also spend some time discussing related dialogues, such as the Theaetetus, Phaedrus, and Timaeus, as well as contemporary work on natural kinds. (B) (IV)

 

John Proios
2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 29905/39905 17th Century Political Philosophy: Hobbes and Spinoza

(FNDL 24305)

An examination of the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and Benedict Spinoza. Each thinker, responding to contemporary political crises, developed theories of the absolute right of states, and connected this absolute right to the absolute power of a state. This course will examine these theories in relation to popular sovereignty, and explore whether either thinker has room for the possibility of radical democracy. Primary literature will focus on Hobbes’s Leviathan and Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise and Political Treatise. Secondary literature will look at the reception of these thinkers around the world, including work by Richard Tuck, Alexandre Matheron, Antonio Negri, and Sandra Leonie Field. (A) (V)

2021-2022 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.

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 51311 Other Minds

The seminar will be a consideration of some problems about what it is to encounter, recognize, and understand the point of view of another subject – to know a mind that is not one’s own.  A guiding concern will be the similarities and differences between knowledge of one’s own mind and knowledge of another mind.  Questions I hope to consider include:

1.            What role, if any, does our understanding of our own minds plays in grounding our understanding of other minds?

2.            In what ways does our knowledge of other persons depend on perception?  What role does perception of bodies play in our awareness of other minds?  Can we perceive the mental states of another person, or must we always make an inference from something exterior and visible to something interior and invisible? 

3.            Does understanding other minds require possession of a “theory of mind”?  To what extent is our understanding of other minds appropriately conceived as a kind of theoretical understanding?

4.            How is our capacity to understand other subjects related to our capacity to stand in relations of “mutual recognition” with other subjects?  Is the idea of another mind fundamentally the idea of a “second person”, a “you” to my “I”?

5.            What is the relation between understanding other minds and feeling concern for other persons?  Is our capacity for shame, empathy, a sense of justice, etc. grounded on our understanding of other minds, or do such forms of concern for others themselves ground our understanding of what another mind could be? (III)

Students not pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy should obtain instructor’s permission before enrolling.

 

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 52002 C.S. Peirce: Logic and Metaphysics

This course will undertake a critical review of the some of the seminal logical and metaphysical writings of the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce made numerous original contributions to the field of mathematical logic, particularly to the fields of relational and quantificational logic, and, in the first part of the course, we will carefully examine some of Peirce's most important writings on the subject. In the second half of the course, we will examine some of Peirce's most characteristic metaphysical doctrines. These include: triadism - the view that all experience may be classified within a tripartite scheme consisting of the categories of "firstness," "secondness," and "thirdness;" tychism - the view that objective chance is an operative feature of the cosmos; haecceitism - the view that individual substances have an essence de re and not merely de dicta; and synechism - the view that the cosmos is fundamentally a continuum, no part of which is fully separate or determinate. (II)

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
American Pragmatism
Logic

PHIL 53025 Philosophy of Animal Rights

(PLSC 53025, RETH 53025)

A close study of some recent philosophical classics about animal ethics and animal rights, including Christine Korsgaard’s Fellow Creatures, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis, and a manuscript of my own, Justice for Animals, that is due at the end of 2021.  We will also read some of the recent work by scientists such as Frans De Waal, Mark Bekoff, and Victoria Braithwaite on animal cognition.

 

Admission by permission of the instructor.  Permission must be sought in writing at least ten days before the beginning of Law School classes, not yet determined.  The class will be offered on the Law School calendar. 

An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation.  Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Political Theory may enroll without permission.

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 55701 The Ethics and Poetics of Mimesis

(SCTH 55701)

In this seminar we will examine the concept of mimesis as a way of thinking about poetry and the arts and also as a way of thinking about human life more generally.  Our focus will be Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics, though we will consider relevant passages from other dialogues and treatises.  What should we make of the fact that Socrates figures both the unjust person and the philosopher-ruler as a mimetic artist? In what way is his critique of mimesis ontological, psychological, and political?  Are there differing explanations of the influence of mimetic speech, sound, and sights? Why do Plato and Aristotle believe that poetic mimesis is a necessary element of moral education?  How does Aristotle’s different, more dynamic account of poetic mimesis reflect a different understanding of the nature poetry and its place in human life?  If time permits, we will briefly consider Epictetus’s idea that we should think of ourselves as actors playing a role in the cosmic drama. (IV)

 

Preference will be given to PhD students.  MA students require permission of the instructor.

 

2021-2022 Autumn
Category
Ancient Philosophy
Medieval Philosophy

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.

2021-2022 Autumn

PHIL 20216 Philosophy of Life and Death

The focus of this course will be how philosophy arises in response to problems in the conditions of human life, especially our mortality and the prevalence of social injustice. Every one of us will die one day; and every one of us suffers from and/or helps perpetuate some form of injustice. These can be sources of alienation, suffering, and bad choices; they can also be sources of conviction, bravery, and wisdom. We will aim to understand how philosophy fits into this picture, and especially how a person can use philosophy to find meaning for their life in relation to both death and injustice. Topics will include Plato’s Socrates, the Buddha, and social injustice in a US context. (A)

 

John Proios
2021-2022 Winter

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)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Ethics
Ethics/Metaethics

PHIL 21400 Happiness

(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)

 

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Ethics

PHIL 22003 Einstein for Everyone

(FNDL 24307, HIPS 22003)

Einstein’s revolutions in physics led to fundamental changes in how we understand the universe. Among other things, we seem to have learned from Einstein about the existence of black holes and gravitational waves, that time is not absolute but relative, that the universe is expanding, that gravity is not a force. But how is someone who doesn't know much physics to figure out if this or that moral really is vindicated by Einstein's work? This course covers just enough of Einstein's work at an elementary level to help answer such questions. High school math is required but we will provide an understanding of special and general relativity at a conceptual level, without calculations or problem sets. (B)

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 23413 An Introduction to Martin Heidegger's Sein and Zeit

(FNDL 24308)

Though unfinished, Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit is one of the most influential contributions to 20th century philosophy. In it, Heidegger proposes nothing less than an exposition (in fact, a restatement) of the question of Being --- a question whose subject matter is inherently intertwined with the concerns and affairs of the inquirer. Systematizing and indeed radicalizing ideas from Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Husserl, Sein und Zeit is at the same a critique of the Western philosophical tradition’s neglect of the Seinsfrage. In this course we will proceed systematically through Sein und Zeit, seeking to understand its basic moves, motivations, and key arguments. (B)

Students do not need to be able to read German.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 24096 Philosophy of Economics

This course introduces students to philosophical debates about the foundations and methodology of economics as a field of study. Together we’ll examine questions such as the following: What exactly is economics and what are its aims? Is the field defined by its subject matter or its methodology? Should positive economics be regarded as a value-neutral enterprise? Or does it inevitably need to make value-laden assumptions—about, for instance, rationality, well-being, distributive justice, etc.—that stand in need of justification? Should there be limits to what can be bought and sold on markets—and, if so, what should those limits be? Readings will include works by philosophers and economists. (A)

 

 

2021-2022 Winter

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.

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
Medieval Philosophy

PHIL 27543 Black and/or Human: On Humanism and Racialized Being

(CRES 27543)

This course explores the relation between racialized being and humanity, with a focus on blackness. The histories of enslavement and colonization have been understood, fundamentally, as processes of dehumanization. The course seeks to address questions such as these: What is the conceptual basis of dehumanization, i.e. what (metaphysical, ethical, psychological, historical) conceptions of “human” act as the standards by which to measure the human deficiency of Black racialized peoples? What are the different meanings of the view that Blackness lacks being, when said by colonialists and when said an anti-racist intellectuals? What, in each case, is the exact argument? Is such an argument descriptive or also prescriptive? If the former, does it describe a mutable sociopolitical situation or a metaphysical truth? If the latter, what forms of conduct does the argument call for? What is an adequate response to dehumanization? Should one claim the status of the human, transform it, or reject it altogether? There are different answers to any of the questions in the literature. This course is a short survey of that literature.

 

Prior coursework on Critical Race Theory or consent of instructor.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 29642 The Science and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

(HIPS 29642)

This course will focus on the history and science of the development of AI from the cybernetics movement, to logic and expert systems GOFI period, recommender systems and deep neural networks (both in their initial and contemporary manifestations). Students will learn how these systems actually work, what tasks they were envisioned to be useful for, and what a study of these systems was and is thought to tell us about cognition, intelligence, and the world. In parallel, students will engage with literature in the philosophy of AI that seeks to interpret and challenge the science and rationale of these systems as well as ask and attempt to answer novel questions concerning the epistemology of deep neural networks. Students will also engage directly and philosophically with actual scientific literature that uses artificial intelligence.

2021-2022 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.

2021-2022 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.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 20506/30506 Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation

(HIPS 25110, HIST 25110, HIST 35110, CHSS 35110, KNOW 31401)

This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events. Among the figures considered are Gibbon, Kant, Humboldt, Ranke, Collingwood, Acton, Fraudel, Furet, Hempel, Danto. (B) (III)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 21508/31508 Enslavement and Recognition

A reading of Hegel’s discussion of the master-slave dialectic against the background of the history of philosophical discussion of slavery. (A) (I)

2021-2022 Winter

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)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 23106/33106 Topics in the Philosophy of Mathematics

In this course, we examine the modern incarnation of the idea that the foundations of mathematics should be understood from the point of view of type theory rather than set theory. We will carefully work through the central ideas of the Curry-Howard correspondence and Martin-L of type theory with a view to understanding some of the central issues involved therein. (B) (II)

 

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Mathematics

PHIL 23210/33210 The Chicago School

Before there was a “Chicago School” of neo-classical economics, the School of Chicago referred to a wide-ranging set of philosophical, psychological, and pedagogical doctrines produced, in collaboration, by such prominent members of the University’s faculty as the philosophers John Dewey and George Herbert Mead, and the psychologist and educator James Angell.  In a 1904 entry in the Psychological Bulletin, William James announced the entrance of the Chicago School onto the American intellectual scene, proclaiming: “Chicago has a School of Thought! a school of thought which, it is safe to predict, will figure in literature as the School of Chicago for years to come… Professor John Dewey, and at least ten of his disciples, have collectively put into the world a statement, homogeneous in spite of so many cooperating minds, of a view of the world, both theoretical and practical, which is so simple, massive, and positive that, in spite of the fact that many parts of it yet need to be worked out, it deserves the title of a new system of philosophy.”

At the core of this system was the simple idea that all thinking, in even its most theoretical guise, must ultimately be viewed a form of practical activity. The abstract theories that are the end products of such thought, are, accordingly, nothing more than cognitive tools deriving their significance entirely from the instrumental role that they play in addressing the concrete needs for which they were devised. Behind this simple conceit lay a more elaborate conception of functionalist psychology and the logic of inquiry, according to which theory and practice, thinking and doing, are not to be viewed as separate spheres of human life. Each is instead to be understood with reference to the service it renders the other so as to effect a “continuous, uninterrupted, free, and fluid passage from ordinary experience to abstract thinking… [One in which] observation passes into development of hypothesis; deductive methods pass to use in description of the particular; inference passes into action with no sense of difficulty save those found in the particular task in question.” Upon such psychological and philosophical foundations, the theorists of the Chicago School attempted to erect a far-reaching  campaign of educational reform, in which the purpose of a university education was not to be conceived as the transmission of knowledge to students, but rather as the sharing of communal social experiences through which young people could be successfully integrated into a deliberative democratic society. 

In this course, we will undertake a critical examination of the psychological, philosophical, and pedagogical writings comprising the work of the Chicago School. The central text for the course will be Studies in Logical Theory, originally published in 1903, which collects together a number essays written by the original members of the faculty of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. (B)

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 24201/34201 The Philosophy of Donald Davidson

This course investigates the philosophical views of one of the most prominent philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century, Donald Davidson.  We will focus on his later work, which is not so widely discussed as his earlier work, and which revolves around the articulation and defence of his triangulation argument, an argument that purports to shed light on the nature and possibility of language and thought.  We will discuss and assess the plausibility of various interpretations of the argument, exploring its implications for how we conceive of the relationship between mind and world.  Readings will include papers by Davidson and responses by his critics. (B) (III)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 24751/34751 Advanced Topics in the Philosophy of Human Rights

(HMRT 24751, HMRT 34751)

In this course we will explore new and cutting edge philosophy of human rights. We will focus on three new books: Allen Buchanon’s The Heart of Human Rights, Andrea Sangiovanni Human Rights without Dignity, and Pablo Gilabert’s Human Rights and Human Dignity. Using these texts we will explore debates about questions like the following: does human dignity really provide the foundation for human rights? What is the relationship of human rights to equality and egalitarianism? What is the role of international human rights law in setting the agenda for the philosophy of human rights? How contextual are human rights norms? How does the theory of human rights relate to the practice of human rights?

Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations.

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 35710 The Essence of Human Freedom

(SCTH 35710)

The essence of freedom, Heidegger claims, is originally not connected with the will or even with the causality of human willing.  Human freedom, therefore, cannot be construed as autonomy. We shall read Heidegger’s seminar “The Essence of Human Freedom” and his essay “On the Essence of Ground” in which these ideas are developed.

Undergrads by permission of instructor only.

Jonathan Lear, Irad Kimhi
2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 28202/38202 Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

(FNDL 23410, SCTH 38003)

Our goal in this course will be to read through and understand the most important chapters of Hegel’s revolutionary book. Main topics will include Hegel’s new conception of philosophy and philosophical methodology, his agreements and disagreements with Kant, the nature of self-consciousness and human mindedness in general, individuality and sociality, and the relation between philosophy and history. (V)

Undergraduates should have some background in philosophy; a knowledge of Kant would be especially helpful.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 43114 Foundations of the Philosophy of Action

In this seminar we will explore a set of interrelated topics in the philosophy of action. These include: the purposive structure of practical reason, the nature of the relationship between means and ends, the idea of ‘practical inference’, and the place of causation in the understanding of intentional agency. Course readings comprise a manuscript by the course instructor in conjunction with a constellation of primarily contemporary writings on these topics. (III)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

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.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 51830 Advanced Topics in Moral, Political & Legal Philosophy: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

(LAWS 53256)

(I)

Michael Forster, Brian Leiter
2021-2022 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Law
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 52400 Modal Logic and its Metaphysical Foundations

This class will begin with a brief introduction to modal logic and possible worlds. We will then move on to philosophical questions connected to modality, focusing on two main issues: 

1. Contingentism and Necessitism.  It is contingent how things are. For example, it is a contingent fact that I have blond hair. I might have had brown hair.  But is it also contingent what things there are?  The obvious answer seems to be 'yes'.  It's not just contingent that I have blond hair; it's contingent whether I exist at all.  Timothy Williamson has famously argued that this is wrong.  He defends necessitism, the view that it is not contingent what things there are. We will spend about half of the class discussing his arguments for this position.  

2. Modal Realism.  David Lewis defends modal realism -- the view that this world is one of a plurality of concrete worlds just like it.  We will spend the second half of the course discussing Lewis's defense of this position in his seminal work On the Plurality of Worlds. (II) (III)

Elementary Logic (PHIL 20100/30000) or its equivalent.

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Logic
Metaphysics
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 53506 Non-Deductive Inference

(CHSS 53506)

This course will examine modern non-Bayesian ways of understanding non-deductive inference. Topics include the problem of induction, Pierce’s theory of abduction, inference to the best explanation, and the general connection between explanation and non-deductive inference. (III)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 55420 Plato’s Philebus

Often considered one of Plato’s most challenging dialogues, the Philebus records some of Plato’s most sophisticated writings on topics in ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. This course will focus on close analysis of the dialogue and contextualizing it in related “late” Platonic dialogues. Topics will include Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology of craft, philosophical dialectic, Plato’s critique of hedonism, and the nature of the good. (IV)

 

John Proios
2021-2022 Winter
Category
Ancient Philosophy

PHIL 56101 The Philosophical Interpretation of Scripture in the Middle Ages: The Problem of Evil and the Book of Job

(BIBL 56101, DVPR 56101 )

One of the major genres of philosophical writing during the Middle Ages was the commentary, both on Aristotle and other canonical philosophers and on Scripture.  This course will examine philosophical discussions of the problem of evil by three medieval philosophers through close reading and analysis of both their discursive expositions of the problem of evil and providence and their commentaries on the Book of Job. The three philosophers will be Saadia Gaon, Moses Maimonides, and Thomas Aquinas. Apart from close analysis of their different conceptions of the problem, their theodicies, and accounts of providence, we will also be concerned with ways in which the thinkers’ ‘straight’ philosophical discursive expositions differ from their commentaries, the sense in which Scripture might be a philosophical text that deserves philosophical commentary, and how the scriptural context influences the philosophy by which it is interpreted? (IV)

2021-2022 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Medieval Philosophy
Metaphysics
Philosophy of Religion

PHIL 59903 Modern Indian Political and Legal Thought

(PLSC 59903, RETH 59903)

India has made important contributions to political and legal thought, most of which are too little-known in the West.  These contributions draw on ancient traditions, Hindu and Buddhist, but transform them, often radically, to fit the needs of an anti-imperial nation aspiring to inclusiveness and equality.  We will study the thought of Rabindranath Tagore (Nationalism, The Religion of Man, selected literary works); Mohandas Gandhi (Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule), Autobiography, and selected speeches); B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution (The Annihilation of Caste, The Buddha and his Dhamma, and selected speeches and interventions in the Constituent Assembly); and, most recently, Amartya Sen, whose The Idea of Justice is rooted, as he describes, both in ancient Indian traditions and in the thought of Tagore.

Students not from Law or Philosophy need instructor's permission.  Undergraduates are not eligible.

2021-2022 Winter

PHIL 20101 Personal Love and Personal Relationships

Contemporary philosophers of love tend to distinguish love as a “deeply personal” form of caring for something for its own sake, and this is often understood in relation to the “personhood” of the lover and/or the beloved. In this course, we will ask: how are we to understand the “personal” nature of love, and what conception of personhood is relevant to an account of personal love? Personal love is sometimes thought to be best understood in connection to personal relationships, and a similar question arises here: how are we to understand the “personal” nature of personal relationships, and what conception of personhood is relevant to such an account?

Philosophers often understand personhood in terms of the possession of some psychological capacity, most notably the capacity for reflective reasoning. It is often this conception of personhood that is thought to be relevant to an understanding of personal love and of personal relationships. But this conception of personhood notably excludes some cognitively disabled humans, infant humans, and non-human animals from the category of “persons”. This raises the question: is this conception of personhood the right one for thinking about personal love and personal relationships? In other words: who can love, and who can be loved?

We will start, in the first part of the course, by reading, discussing, and writing about some influential philosophical accounts of love and its “personal nature”. In the second part of the course we will consider philosophical accounts of the connection between love and personal relationships, and of the implicit notion of the “personal” in philosophical accounts of personal relationships. Finally, in the third part of the course we will draw on contemporary philosophical work, personal memoirs, literature, and film, to apply pressure to the notion of personhood typically employed in accounts of personal love, by reflecting on loving (those who have often been deemed by those accounts) “non-persons”: infants, neonates, and fetuses; the severely cognitively disabled; and non-human animals. (A)

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 20119 Introduction to Wittgenstein

(FNDL 24311)

This course is an introduction to the central ideas of Wittgenstein--in philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics and logic, philosophy of mind, epistemology, philosophy of religion, metaphilosophy, and other areas of the subject. We will attempt to understand, and to evaluate, these ideas. As part of this attempt, we will explore Wittgenstein’s relation to various others figures—among them Hume, Schopenhauer, Frege, and the logical positivists.

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 21204 Philosophy of Private Law

This course will be on the part of the law known as private law — the part that adjudicates disputes between private citizens where one person is alleged to have suffered harm through the wrongdoing of another. Among the questions with which we will be concerned are the following: What constitutes a legal harm in such a context? What, in the eyes of the law, counts as one person being the cause of another person’s suffering? What sort of redress or compensation may one justifiably seek for such suffering? Who has a right to decide such questions? What justifies the use of sanction or force — and when is it justified — in the enforcement of such legal decisions? The first half of this course will present a selective historical genealogy of our contemporary understanding of how to go about answering such questions. The second half of the course will be on contemporary theories of private law.  The historical portion of the course will begin by examining the origins of the modern distinction between private and public law in Aristotle’s ancient distinction between corrective and distributive justice. Next we will briefly consider what private legal adjudication looks like in the absence of the state, first by reading an Icelandic Saga and then by watching John Ford’s classic western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. Most of the first half of the course will be devoted to a careful examination of how, building on Aristotle's distinction, Kant arrives at a systematic theory of the scope and nature of private law. We will focus, in particular, on his derivation of (what he takes to be) the three fundamental forms of private law — property, contract, and agency — as well as on his account of their place within an overall theory of the nature of right. In this connection, we will read the first half of Kant’s The Doctrine of Right, as well as some of the leading contemporary secondary literature on that text. The second half of the course will then be devoted to contemporary theories of private law — including various contemporary attempts to inherit, modify, or altogether repudiate Kant’s theory. We will explore in this connection the writings of Ronald Dworkin, Richard Posner, Arthur Ripstein, Martin Stone, and Ernst Weinrib, among others, focusing especially on issues in the philosophy of tort law.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Law

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)

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Ethics
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 21834 Self-Creation as a Literary and Philosophical Problem

(SIGN 26001)

Can we choose who to be? We tend to feel that we have some ability to influence the kind of people we will become; but the phenomenon of 'self-creation' is fraught with paradox: creation ex nihilo, vicious circularity, infinite regress. In this class, we will read philosophical texts addressing these paradoxes against novels offering illustrations of self-creation.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Action

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)

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 25819 Stoic and Epicurean Ethics

In this course we will devote roughly equal time to these profoundly influential, appealing, and often dueling, philosophical schools.  Our focus will be on their theories of nature, and especially of human nature; their views of pleasure, fear, and their role in human life; their accounts of virtue and of friendship; and, above all, their arguments for their differing conceptions of the human good: pleasure (according to the Epicureans) or “living in agreement with nature” (according to the Stoics).  Readings will include selections from Epicurus, Lucretius, Cicero, and Epictetus. (A)

Humanities Core.

2021-2022 Spring

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.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 29700 Reading and Research

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

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 20115/30115 Freedom, Morality, and the Social World: Kant, Hegel, Marx

This course will provide an advanced introduction to the moral, social, and political philosophies of Kant, Hegel, and Marx. Our guiding theme will be freedom. We will ask: What kind of freedom is required for morality? In what sense, if any, are moral laws self-legislated or laws that we give ourselves? What is the relation between our freedom as individuals and the social world around us? Under what social and psychological conditions are we free, exactly, and under what conditions are we unfree? Are workers in a capitalist society free, for example? And why should we value freedom, anyway? Our main text for the course will be Hegel's Philosophy of Right. (A) (V)

One prior course in ethics, social philosophy, and/or the history of philosophy.

Nicolas Garcia Mills
2021-2022 Spring
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 21901/31900 Feminist Philosophy

(GNSE 29600, GNSE 39600, HMRT 31900, RETH 41000, LAWS 47701, PLSC 51900)

The course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism.  After studying some key historical texts in the Western tradition (Wollstonecraft, Rousseau, J. S. Mill), we examine four types of contemporary philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Susan Moller Okin, Martha Nussbaum), Radical Feminism (Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin), Difference Feminism (Carol Gilligan, Annette Baier, Nel Noddings), and Postmodern "Queer" Gender Theory (Judith Butler, Michael Warner), and recent writing on trans feminism.  After studying each of these approaches, we will focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. (A)

Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor.  Only junior or senior philosophy concentrators are eligible, and you will need a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the Philosophy department who has taught you.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Feminist Philosophy
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 25101/35101 Aristotle’s De Anima with Aquinas’s Commentary

(FNDL 24309)

There is perhaps no better introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas's philosophy of human nature than his commentary on Aristotle's classic treatment of the fundamental principles of earthly life, the De anima. Of course Aquinas also had other sources, as well as some ideas of his own, but the De anima provides him with the basic philosophical terms and framework. His interpretations continue to engage readers of Aristotle; and without some grasp of them, his theological writings on man are hardly intelligible. This course will be a close reading and discussion of the commentary, with occasional references to other works and other thinkers. (B) (IV)

Undergraduates should either be Philosophy majors or obtain the consent of the Professor.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Medieval Philosophy

PHIL 37324 Philosophy and Comedy: Leo Strauss's "Socrates and Aristophanes"

(SCTH 37324, CLAS 37521, PLSC 37324)

Leo Strauss's Socrates and Aristophanes (1966) discusses not only the most important and most influential of all comedies, The Clouds, but also all the other comedies by Aristophanes that have come down to us. The book is the only writing of Strauss's that deals with the whole corpus of a philosopher or poet. And it is the most intense and most demanding interpretation of Aristophanes a philosopher has presented up to now.

In Socrates and Aristophanes Strauss carries on a dialogue with Aristophanes on the wisdom of the poet, on the just and unjust speech, on philosophy and politics, on the diversity of human natures, and on an œuvre that asks the question: quid est deus? what is a god?

 

Open to undergraduates with instructor consent. This course will be taught during the first five weeks of the quarter. 

Heinrich Meier
2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 38100 Whitehead’s Process and Reality

(DVPR 38100)

A close reading of Alfred North Whitehead's seminal work.

Undergraduates must petition to enroll.

Thomas Pashby, Daniel Arnold
2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 29425/39425 Logic for Philosophy

Key contemporary debates in the philosophical literature often rely on formal tools and techniques that go beyond the material taught in an introductory logic class. A robust understanding of these debates---and, accordingly, the ability to meaningfully engage with a good deal of contemporary philosophy---requires a basic grasp of extensions of standard logic such as modal logic, multi-valued logic, and supervaluations, as well as an appreciation of the key philosophical virtues and vices of these extensions. The goal of this course is to provide students with the required logic literacy. While some basic metalogical results will come into view as the quarter proceeds, the course will primarily focus on the scope (and, perhaps, the limits) of logic as an important tool for philosophical theorizing. (B)

Elementary Logic or equivalent.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Logic

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.

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 49900 Reading and Research

Consent of Instructor.

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 50124 Wittgenstein’s Treatment of Rule Following in Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics and Philosophical Investigations

This course will involve a close reading of the sections devoted to the topic of rule following in two of Wittgenstein’s best known later writings, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics and Philosophical Investigations, as well an examination of some of the most influential secondary literature on those sections, including texts by Brandom, Bridges, Diamond, Dummett, Finkelstein, Floyd, Goldfarb, Kripke, McDowell, Stroud, and Wright. (III)

Open only to graduate students.

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 50302 Heidegger’s Ancients

(SCTH 50302)

A graduate seminar that will involve close readings of Heidegger’s texts, mainly from the 1920s and 1930s, about the beginnings of Western philosophy in Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle.

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 53022 Agency and Alienation

A discussion of contemporary action theory and constitutivism against the background of Hegel's and Marx's reflections on alienation. In the class Thompson and neo-Aristotelian naturalism will come up. (I) (III)

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 57351 Locke, Consciousness, and Personal Identity

This would be a graduate-level version of my Memory and the Unity of a Person, which I’ve now taught twice at the undergraduate level. Here’s the description: 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 account of personal identity has puzzled, annoyed, and inspired readers since it was published in the second edition of his Essay, in 1694. One aim of this course will be to find a coherent reading of it, one that considers objections that later writers—most famously Butler and Reid—made to it as well as some recent readings of it. Part of the point of this endeavor will be to see what, if anything, we still can learn from Locke concerning what a person is. A second aim of the course will be to arrive at an understanding of consciousness that makes sense in light of what we’ve learned about persons and personal identity from Locke. (III)

2021-2022 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

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 2022. Approval of dissertation committee is required.

2021-2022 Spring