Joshua Fox received both his BA and his PhD from the University of Chicago. His research focuses on human well-being, a topic he pursues by exploring historical debates about life's value. In his dissertation, he investigated aesthetic value's importance by working through the different pessimisms confronted by Mill, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.
PHIL 21517 Compassion: For and Against
Compassion, direct concern for the suffering of another, was the subject of a lively debate in German philosophy. In this course, we will engage with two of compassion’s sharpest critics and one of its greatest defenders. We will begin with a close reading of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, considering his claim that actions only have moral worth when motivated by respect for the moral law. We will then turn to the critique of Kant developed in Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality, a text which argues that actions only have moral worth when motivated by compassion. Finally, we will discuss the critique of Schopenhauer developed by Nietzsche, working through a variety of texts where Nietzsche argues that compassion makes it harder to value our lives. (A)
PHIL 21201 The Ethics of John Stuart Mill
According to John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism has two essential parts: a moral claim and a “theory of life”. The moral claim tells us that happiness must be promoted. The “theory of life” tells us what happiness is like. In this class, we will discuss both Mill’s defense of utilitarian morality, and his distinctive account of the happiness this morality asks us to promote. (A)
PHIL 22822 Nietzsche’s Gay Science
Nietzsche describes The Gay Science as a distinctively affirmative work. Although still offering sharp challenges to rival views, the book also introduces many of Nietzsche’s own ideas about how life can be embraced. We will read the Gay Science from beginning to end, giving special attention to the affirmative aspects of Nietzsche’s thought. (A)
PHIL 20217 Pessimism
Pessimism is often seen more as an attitude than a philosophy. It is the disposition of the complainer, the one who fails to appreciate life’s silver linings. In this course, we will consider the work of several thinkers who saw pessimism quite differently. For these thinkers, pessimism was a serious philosophical problem, perhaps even the most serious philosophical problem of all: namely, the problem of life’s value to the one who lives it. Our discussion will focus on Schopenhauer, Mill, Camus, Unamuno, and their contemporary successors. Each of these thinkers confronted a different set of worries about life’s value. We will try to understand and assess these worries. In the process, we will develop tools to productively think about what makes life worth living. (A)
PHIL 29200-03/29300-03 Junior/Senior Tutorial
Topic: Pessimism and Compassion: Schopenhauer on Value
This course will consist in a close reading of Schopenhauer’s work on ethics. Discussion will center around Schopenhauer’s two most distinctive ethical claims: 1) that compassion, direct concern for the suffering of another, is the only genuine moral incentive; and 2) that human life is inevitably a life of suffering, and thus worse to have than to lack. The second half of Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality and the fourth book of his The World as Will and Representation I will be our main texts. Relevant portions of Parerga and Paralipomena and The World as Will and Representation II will also be considered.
Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.