Benjamin Callard

Benjamin Callard
Instructional Professor
Rosenwald Hall, Room 218-A
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter:
773.834.9934
University of California, Berkeley PhD (2007); Tufts University MA (1998); Brandeis University BA, with highest honors (1993)
Teaching at UChicago since 2008
Research Interests: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Benjamin Callard is an Instructional Professor in Philosophy. He received his BA from Brandeis, his MA from Tufts, and his PhD (2007) from Berkeley. Ben’s areas of specialization are ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. He also has strong interests in the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. 

 

Selected Publications

Papers:

“Can Math Move Matter?” Inquiry, October 2018

“The Conceivability of Platonism,” Philosophia Mathematica 15, no. 3 (October 2007): 347-356

Recent News

Ben debated Jason Bridges on the question "Do Minds Exist" in the 2018 Night Owls event series, and gave a talk, "The Value of Freedom," at the 2017 Humanities Day Conference.

Recent Courses

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)

2024-2025 Spring
Category
Ethics
Ethics/Metaethics

PHIL 21114/31114 Philosophy of Logic

Logic is, and always has been, a branch of philosophy. Why? What is logic? In this course we will explore the nature of logic, and how it relates to thought; to reasoning; to ordinary language; to mathematics; and to philosophy. We will read texts on the subject of logic by Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Black, Prior, Gödel, Kripke, Dummett, Boolos, Putnam, Benacerraf, Harman, Williamson, Priest, and others. The course will be completely non-technical: we will be trying to make philosophical sense of logic. (B)

2024-2025 Spring
Category
Logic

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)

2024-2025 Winter
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 28010 Introduction to Philosophy of Language

An introduction to philosophical thought about the nature of language. The questions we will address include: What is meaning? What is truth? How does language relate to thought? How do languages relate to each other? What is metaphor? What is fiction? The focus will be on classic work in the analytic tradition (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Tarski, Quine, Austin, Grice, Davidson, Donnellan, Putnam, Searle, Kaplan, Kripke) but we will also read, and relate to this modern work, some current work in the philosophical literature and some seminal discussions of language in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. (B)

2024-2025 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Language

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)

2023-2024 Spring
Category
Epistemology
Metaphysics

PHIL 23001 Paradoxes

Paradoxes are conflicts in our own thought. Many of the most fundamental, frustrating, disturbing, and exciting concerns in philosophy and the sciences are to be found where paradoxes arise. In this course we will investigate paradoxes in logic, in metaphysics, in ethics, in action theory, in epistemology, and elsewhere. We will also try to understand the nature and sources of paradox—since the very possibility of paradoxes is, itself, a paradox. (B)

2023-2024 Spring

PHIL 25120 Introduction to Philosophy of Religion

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)

2023-2024 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Religion

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.

2023-2024 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)

2022-2023 Spring
Category
Ethics
Ethics/Metaethics

PHIL 21214 The Philosophy of Art

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of aesthetics, with a focus on art and art objects. With respect to art, our questions will include: What is art? What is the point of making art? What is it to appreciate art? (Does discursive knowledge (of the technique, the history of the painting or its subjects, the artist’s life, etc.) help or hinder this appreciation?) What is the metaphysical character of art objects (symphonies, paintings, novels, etc.)? What is the ethical status of art? (Were Plato’s ethical suspicions about art warranted?) With respect to aesthetics more generally, our questions will include: is beauty in the eye of the beholder? (What is it for something to be in the eye of the beholder?) Does beauty track (or even constitute) scientific truth? If so: why? If not, why have so many mathematicians, physicists, and biologists been preoccupied with the beauty of their theories?

2022-2023 Spring

PHIL 21726 The Mind/Body Problem

What are minds, what are bodies, and what is the relation between minds and bodies? The reason these questions represent a problem is that a. the questions are of fundamental significance but that b. no answer to them is easy to defend. In this course we will try to understand this problem, and to arrive at some answers. To help us toward this goal we will read important philosophical work on the subject--some older writings (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume), but with a focus on work in the last eighty years (including Wittgenstein, Ryle, Anscombe, Davidson, Smart, Place, Armstrong, Kripke, Putnam, Searle, Lewis, Nagel, Dennett, Dretske, The Churchlands, Jackson, McGinn, Block, Kim, Chalmers).

2022-2023 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 28010 Introduction to Philosophy of Language

An introduction to philosophical thought about the nature of language. The questions we will address include: What is meaning? What is truth? How does language relate to thought? How do languages relate to each other? What is metaphor? What is fiction? The focus will be on classic work in the analytic tradition (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Tarski, Quine, Austin, Grice, Davidson, Donnellan, Putnam, Searle, Kaplan, Kripke) but we will also read, and relate to this modern work, some current work in the philosophical literature and some seminal discussions of language in the writings of Plato and Aristotle.

2022-2023 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Language

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. (B)

2021-2022 Spring

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 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 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 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 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 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

For full list of Ben Callard's courses back to the 2012-13 academic year, see our searchable course database.