Rory O'Connell

Rory O'Connell
Humanities Teaching Fellow (2018-20)
Rosenwald Hall, Room 216
Office Hours: Winter Quarter,
University of Chicago PhD (2018); Kings College London BA and M.Phil.
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind and Action, Ethics
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind and Action, Ethics


Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of Mind, Ancient Philosophy, Kant


Dissertation Title: “The Efficacy of The Good”

Dissertation Committee: Candace Volger (chair), Jason Bridges, Agnes Callard, Anton Ford, and Matthias Haase


PHIL 23503 Issues in Philosophy of Mind: Consciousness and Self-Consciousness

The imagination of many contemporary intellectuals—including philosophers, physicists, and cognitive scientists of various stripes—is gripped by problems surrounding consciousness. Most notably, philosophers have been entirely stumped by the question of how something like conscious awareness arise in a material world. In this course we shall investigate the assumptions that lie behind this question, in order to penetrate the aura of mystery surrounding it. A central theme of the course shall be that, in order to tackle the puzzles surrounding consciousness, we shall need understand self-consciousness better. (B)

2019-2020 Spring
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 21619 What is Evil?

In this class we shall attempt to get to grips with various philosophical accounts of evil. This will partly involve getting in view how different ethical orientations—both contemporary and historical—entail different kinds of perspectives on what evil is. At the heart of the course will be an attempt to get to grips with two central tendencies in our thinking about evil: First, the idea of evil as somehow a positive force, something with its own distinctive character, and on the other hand, the idea of evil as a mere privation. (A)

2019-2020 Winter

PHIL 24260 Ethical Knowledge

What sort of knowledge do we have when know what we ought to do—where ‘what we ought to do’ is the ethical or moral thing to do? In this course we shall look at different contemporary attempts to answer this question, as well as some of their historical influences. This will involve reading some philosophers who doubt that there is any such thing as ethical knowledge, some who think ethical knowledge is akin to less controversial examples of knowledge, and some who take it to constitute a special form of knowledge. Along the way, we shall aim to get in view both the appeal and the difficulty of the ancient idea that morality can be understood in terms of knowledge. Readings will include: J.L Mackie, John McDowell, Christine Korsgaard, Peter Railton, Peter Geach and others. (A)

2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 23021 Reason and Agency

In this course we shall investigate the kind of rationality that is distinctive of human agency: practical rationality. We shall consider what (if anything) sets practical reasoning apart from theoretical reasoning as a special form of rationality, as well as the relation between the kind of rationality distinctive of agents and the moral character of action. Some of the questions we shall consider are:  What makes an action rational or irrational? Is it irrational to act immorally? If so, what kind of failure of rationality does that involve? Is instrumental reasoning exhaustive of practical reasoning? Is instrumental reasoning itself an ‘amoral’ activity?  We shall read selections from: Bernard Williams, Philippa Foot, Christine Korsgaard, Kieran Setiya, Warren Quinn, David Enoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and others. (A)

2018-2019 Winter