Jason Bridges

Jason Bridges
Associate Professor, Climate and Diversity Liaison (2023-24)
Stuart Hall, Room 208
Office Hours: Winter Quarter: by appointment
773.834.8191
University of California, Berkeley PhD (2001); Harvard University, BA, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa (1994)
Teaching at UChicago since 2001
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language

Jason Bridges received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001 and his BA from Harvard University in 1994. His primary research and teaching areas are the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. He also has interests in metaphysics and epistemology, the philosophy of action, the later work of Wittgenstein, and political philosophy. His main current projects are about reasons and rationality, and epistemic and semantic contextualism. He has also written on logical and structural difficulties in the "naturalization" of content, the relationship between content externalism and the rationality-involving character of psychological explanation, and issues concerning the attribution of mental states to animals. He is the director of the Philosophical Perspectives Core in 2021-22.

Selected Publications

The unity of a practical inference.” In Jim Conant and Dawa Ometto (eds.). Practical Reason: Historical and Systematic Perspectives, De Gruyter.

"Rational explanation and the logic of practical reasons." Forthcoming in Engaging Raz: Themes in Normative Philosophy. Brownlee, Enoch and Marmor (eds.), Oxford University Press.

"The Search for 'the Essence of Human Language' in Wittgenstein and Davidson," forthcoming in Wittgenstein and Davidson on Thought and Action, ed. Claudine Verheggen (Cambridge University Press)

"Dispositions and Rational Explanation", forthcoming in The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding, ed. Niko Kolodny and Wai-hung Wong (Oxford University Press)

"Meaning and Understanding", in A Companion to Wittgenstein, ed. John Hyman and Hans-Johann Glock (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017)

"Skepticism and Beyond," Sképsis 7:14 (2016)

"Rule-Following Skepticism, Properly So-Called", in Varieties of Skepticism, ed. James Conant and Andrea Kern (DeGruyter, 2014)

"Wittgenstein vs. Contextualism," in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: A Critical Guide, ed. A. M. Ahmed (Oxford University Press, 2010)

"Rationality, Normativity, and Transparency," Mind 118 (2009): 353-367

"Does Informational Semantics Commit Euthyphro's Fallacy," Nous 60 (2006): 522-547

"Davidson's Transcendental Externalism," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2006): 290-315

"Teleofunctionalism and Psychological Explanation," Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (2006): 403-321

 

Media

Jason Bridges recorded lectures

Recent Courses

PHIL 51725 The Irreducibility of the Mind

(CHSS 51725)

Cognitive science, and much allied work in metaphysics and epistemology, adopts a ‘naturalistic’ orientation to the mind: they treat thought, perception, reasoning, intentional agency, and so on as phenomena tractable to natural-scientific explanation. On the other hand, some of the deepest ideas that emerged from 20th century philosophy stand in apparent opposition to this orientation. In various way, they suggest that a ‘naturalism’ of the mind does not make sense. In this seminar we will do our best to understand and adjudicate this dispute. (II)
 

2023-2024 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 22702 Abortion: Morality, Politics, Philosophy

(BPRO 22700, GNSE 22705, HIPS 22701, HLTH 22700, HMRT 22702)

Abortion is a complex and fraught topic. Morally, a very wide range of individual, familial, and social concerns converge upon it. Politically, longstanding controversies have been given new salience and urgency by the Dobbs decision and the ongoing moves by state legislatures to restrict access to abortion. In terms of moral philosophy, deep issues in ethics merge with equally deep questions about the nature of life, action, and the body. In terms of political philosophy, basic questions are raised about the relationship of religious and moral beliefs to the criminal law of a liberal state. We will seek to understand the topic in all of this complexity. Our approach will be thoroughly intra- and inter-disciplinary, drawing not only on our separate areas of philosophical expertise but on the contributions of a series of guest instructors in law, history, and medicine. (A)

Third or fourth-year standing.

2023-2024 Autumn
Category
Social/Political Philosophy

PHIL 26520/36520 Mind, Brain and Meaning

(NSCI 22520, COGS 20001, LING 26520, PSYC 26520, LING 36520, PSYC 36520)

What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millennia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics, and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer. The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternative models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and computer science. (B) (II)

Jason Bridges, Leslie Kay, Chris Kennedy
2023-2024 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 50100 First-Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2022-2023 Winter

PHIL 29601 Intensive Track Seminar

In this seminar we engage in an in-depth examination of a focused philosophical topic—in a manner akin to that of a graduate seminar. Readings are challenging, but there is no presumption of prior expertise in the course topic.

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

2022-2023 Autumn

PHIL 26520/36520 Mind, Brain and Meaning

(NSCI 22520, COGS 20001, LING 26520, PSYC 26520, LING 36520, PSYC 36520)

What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millenia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer.  The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternatives models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science. (B) (II)

 

Jason Bridges, Leslie Kay, Chris Kennedy
2022-2023 Autumn

PHIL 50100 First-Year Seminar

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

2022-2023 Autumn

PHIL 26520/36520 Mind, Brain and Meaning

(PSYC 26520, LING 26520, LING 36520)

What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millenia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer.  The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternatives models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science. (B) (II)

Jason Bridges, Leslie Kay, Chris Kennedy
2021-2022 Spring

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 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 40120 The Philosophical Investigations

A close reading of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Topics include: meaning, explanation, understanding, inference, sensation, imagination, intentionality, and the nature of philosophy. Supplementary readings will be drawn from other later writings. (III)

2019-2020 Winter

PHIL 29601 Intensive Track Seminar

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.

 

2019-2020 Autumn

PHIL 24004 Language, Meaning, and the Skeptical Denial of Human Knowledge

We will explore the connection between two abiding concerns of Western philosophy, and French philosophy in particular: the nature of linguistic meaning and skeptical worries about the possibility of knowledge.

20th century philosophers had an especially keen interest in language. This orientation was of a piece with the broader intellectual and aesthetic current of “modernism”, in which the means through which human beings engage in communicative and expressive activity becomes the subject matter of that very activity.

In much of the arts and humanities, the modernist drive to scrutinize communicative and expressive media was motivated by misgivings about traditional modes of representing the world and the self, and suspicion of the longstanding cultural confidence in the accuracy and power of these modes. But philosophy was a different case. For philosophy had already been struggling for millennia with doubts about the possibility of accurate representation, just as it had been struggling for that long with puzzles about the possibility of knowledge, and the objectivity of truth, and even the intelligibility of existence itself. Against the backdrop of this difficult history, the message of modernism seemed one of promise. Philosophers thought that attention to the means of human expression, especially to language, could prove the key to dissolving the skeptical puzzles that had heretofore dogged their attempts to achieve a satisfactory understanding of our place in the world as knowers, thinkers, and agents.

We will take as our test case one such skeptical puzzle, perhaps the most famous one. This is the argument of ‘external-world skepticism’, according to which we can know nothing at all about the world around us. Some of the most famous and influential presentations of external-world skepticism are due to two French writers of the early modern period—Montaigne and Descartes—and we will begin by examining their texts.

In the remainder of the course, we will look at three attempts to solve the problem of external-world skepticism through reflection on the nature of language. The first is logical empiricism, which aimed to show that purported statements of skepticism or of other sweeping philosophical doctrines are meaningless. The second is ordinary-language philosophy, according to which arguments for skepticism depend upon distortions of our ordinary practices of offering and assessing claims of knowledge. The third is the contemporary movement of contextualism, which traces the skeptical threat to a failure to grasp the pervasive context-sensitivity of meaning. We will ask in each case whether the claims made about the nature of language can be sustained, and whether they really do have the power to defeat the skeptical challenge.

No philosophical background is presupposed. The texts we read will be challenging (in addition to Montaigne and Descartes, they include Carnap, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell and Laugier), but we will talk carefully through the basic ideas needed to begin to appreciate what these writers might be after. (B)

 

Open to students who have been admitted to the Paris Humanities Program. This course will be taught at the Paris Humanities Program.

 

2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 43113 Causation and Necessity

We examine attempts to achieve a satisfactory philosophical understanding of causation, of necessity, and of their interconnection. One organizing theme of our reflections is the contribution of these categories to the idea of 'the natural world'; another is their bearing on the idea of the will. Readings are both historical and recent, drawn from Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Hobbes, Leibniz, Wittgenstein, Davidson, Anscombe, D. Lewis, and J. Woodward. (II)

 

2018-2019 Winter

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