Course Descriptions – Fall 2011

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (HU)

LEC 403, MW 10:00–10:50, MER 131
LEC 404, MW 12:00–12:50, MER 131
Instructor (403/404): Aaron Schiller,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (LEC 403/404) also requires enrollment in a corresponding discussion section.

This course is an introduction to Western philosophy along two different dimensions: history and topic. Most broadly, the course will be structured about three historical periods: Ancient, Modern, and Contemporary. Within each of these periods, we will focus on three main topics: What is the nature of reality? What is knowledge and how can we attain it? And, What is the best way to live? These questions have been asked since the beginning of philosophy, and, as we will see, the answers given to them have depended on the historical situations of the answerers. This raises the question: In what way are our answers to these questions a result of our historical situation? By the end of the term, students will have a good grounding in the basic periods and topics of Western philosophy, as well an appreciation of the work of the philosopher. Students need not have any background in philosophy to do well in this course.

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics and Issues (HU)

LEC 001, M 6:30 – 9:10, CRT 309
LEC 002, T 6:30 – 9:10, CRT 309
Instructor (001/002): TBA

We will look at a representative selection of topics from the history of philosophy and current philosophical debates: ethics, social and political philosophy, the scope and nature of our knowledge of the world, the nature of the self and mind.

Philosophy 111, Informal Logic: Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 001, MW 8:00 – 9:15, CRT 309
LEC 002, MW 2:00 – 3:15, LAP 260
LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

Logic is reason turned inward: it is the systematic study of correct and incorrect reasoning. As discursive creatures, we humans make assertions and back them up with reasons—we construct arguments. Since this activity is central to all fields of study, the tools that logic develops for identifying and analyzing good and bad arguments are universally applicable; anyone can benefit from a study of logic by becoming a more self-aware reasoner. It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach to the subject abstracts from natural language and deploys sophisticated mathematical tools in the analysis of arguments. This course takes a less formal approach, focusing more on ordinary-language arguments found in everyday reasoning, and giving only a small taste of more formal techniques.

Philosophy 204, Introduction to Asian Religions (HU)

Instructor: Michelle Mahlik,

This course will examine the central themes of the philosophical thought of Asian religious traditions, including the logical, ethical, and metaphysical dimensions of these traditions. We will focus on dualistic and non-dualistic forms of Hinduism, various forms of Buddhism, the principles of Confuscionism, Taoism, as well as other topics of interest. Recurring themes will be the nature of Ultimate Reality, the difference between appearance and reality, the nature of the ‘self’ and the "good" life, and the role of reason in human life. The intent of this course is to acquaint the student with these topics as well as to assist the student in formulating independent opinions and beliefs about these issues. No philosophical background is necessary.

Philosophy 207, Religion and Science (HU)

LEC 001, MW 12:30—1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,

Is it "Science AND Religion" or "Science OR Religion?" The juxtaposition of the two terms, ‘science’, ‘religion’ has often assumed an implacable conflict. But why should these two central areas of human endeavor be taken to be incompatible or to be enemies of one another? What does a closer scrutiny reveal about the relations between the two? Are there further issues that cloud and confuse these debates? What do the terms, ‘science’ and ‘religion’ describe, anyway? Do discussions of the relations between them do justice to the diversity of practices and institutions included under the rubrics of science and religion? In order to examine such questions, we will undertake a series of case studies into some notorious episodes in the history of science and religion, as, the trial of Galileo, the role of religion in the Scientific Revolution, the appearance of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the Scopes trial, and the recent debates about Intelligent Design. We will also explore the emotive underpinnings of such episodes in works of fiction, as Brecht’s Galileo and Lawrence and Lee’s Inherit the Wind.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU)

LEC 401, MW 10:00 – 10:50, AUP 170
LEC 402, MW 12:00 – 12:50, LAP N103
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (LEC 401/402) also requires enrollment in a corresponding discussion section.

The Island of Knights and Knaves is a place where only Knights and Knaves live. A Knight is a person who always tells the truth. Knaves, on the other hand, never tell the truth. Harry, who lives on the island, says: “If I am a Knight, then I’ll eat my hat.” Did you know that you can prove from the above information that Harry will eat his hat? Did you know: 1) Given that Sarah loves either Jim or Tom and that if she loves Jim then she loves Tom, you can prove that she loves Tom? 2) that if everyone loves a lover and there is even one lover in the world, then everyone loves everyone? Learn how to solve these and other puzzles in Philosophy 211, where we will study formal deductive logic -- the science of what follows from what. The concepts and techniques encountered in the study of deductive logic are of central importance to any analysis of argument and inference. They reflect fundamental patterns of proof found in science and mathematics, they underlie the programs that enable computers to “reason” logically, and they provide tools for characterizing the formal structures of language. This is an introductory course intended for students who have had no previous work in logic. There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Personal Identity & the Self (HU)

LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,

What makes each of us a person and why does personhood matter? What makes each of us a particular person with a distinctive individual identity? How is this identity preserved in time? Is the biological death of the body also the death of the person? Does each of us have something as a unique and unified 'self'?

Does personal identity depend on the continuity of memories, beliefs and psychological traits? Or the continuity of a body? Or the persistence of an immortal and immaterial soul? What do we learn about the nature of persons from the investigations of cases of amnesia, brain bisection, multiple personality disorders, and sci-fi thought experiments?

What is death? Should we fear our own death? What would immortality of a person amount to? Is immortality desirable?

Philosophy 237, Technology, Values, and Society (HU)

LEC 002, TR 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 109
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

Technology has an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. We live with laptops, cell phones, and tablets that connect us instantly and constantly to people all around the world and masses of information. At the same time this unprecedented access to people and information can alienate us from our immediate surroundings as we walk through the world with our eyes and fingers glued to our favorite devices. In this course we will start by thinking about how technology changes the way we experience our world. We will focus on the ways technology enhances the human experience, in what ways it alienates us from our selves and our environment, and how it is changing what it means to be a person. The ethical implications of our evolving dependence on technology will be debated and discussed. We will then look at specific moral problems related to technology and its impact on our lives including its effects on privacy and human freedom, the environment, and human health including the potential impact of genetic enhancement and cloning.

Philosophy 241, Introductory Ethics (HU)

LEC 401, MW 11:00 – 11:50, END 107
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Enrollment in Philosophy 241 also requires enrolling in a corresponding discussion section.

We’ll study three basic approaches in moral philosophy: ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of, and contractualism, according to which the correct moral principles are those which would be agreed to by all reasonable beings as a basis for their community. We’ll see how the second approach leads naturally to utilitarianism, while contractualism has important sources in Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. We’ll see how the three basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 242, Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy (HU)

LEC 001, MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,

This course will explore different liberal theories of social justice (including liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, liberal feminism, and civic republicanism). Different conceptions of social justice advance different accounts of the rights and duties of citizens, as well as the distribution of power and property in a just society. Liberalism historically has been concerned primarily with individual liberty. Thus of particular interest will be the understandings of political freedom advanced by different liberal conceptions of social justice. Readings will be from both historical (e.g., Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill) and recent/contemporary (e.g., Berlin, Hayek, Rawls, Nozick, Okin, Pettit) sources.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 007: Cloning - TR 5:00 – 6:15, BOl B87 (9/6-10/8)
LEC 008: Punishment - TR 5:00 – 6:15, BOL B87 (10/10-11/12)
LEC 009: Markets and the Global Economy - TR 5:00 – 6:15, BOL B87 (11/14-12/14)
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

Note: LEC 007, 008, & 009 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

Each section of the course will begin with the presentation of ethical tools that will be useful in our examination and discussion of particular moral problems related to the chosen topics. The goal of the course(s) is to come to a deeper understanding of the issues involved in complex moral problems and too be able to better assess and argue for one’s position with regard to such issues.

243-007 – Cloning: This five-week course will examine moral problems related to cloning. We will address issues related to both therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning with the focus primarily on the latter. We will address the following questions: Do we have a reproductive right to have genetically related children? Does cloning violate the dignity of the individual cloned and/or of the clone? What are the potential abuses of cloning? Does the risk of such abuse make cloning impermissible? Do the potential benefits of human cloning outweigh the risks required to make it possible? If not, is it impermissible to take such risks?

243-008 – Punishment: Punishment by definition involves the deliberate infliction of suffering or deprivation on someone, usually, as the result of wrongdoing. In this five-week class we will address questions that arise about the morality of punishment. For example, on what basis do we justify inflicting suffering on another person? When is punishment justified? What sorts of punishments are permissible for what crimes? Is capital punishment morally justified? If so, when?

243-009 – Markets and the Global Economy: This five-week course will examine moral problems related to Markets and the Global Economy, such as: Do corporations have moral and social responsibilities beyond maximizing profits within the law? If so, what are they? Should fund managers’ responsibility to their clients extend to making sure their money is used in a moral way? What is the moral status of globalization? What are our responsibilities to the poor on a global level?

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 204: Euthanasia - Online Web(9/6-10/8)
LEC 205 Same-Sex Marriage - Online Web(10/10-11/12)
LEC 206: Abortion - Online Web(11/14-12/14)
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

Note: LEC 204, 205, & 206 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

243-204 Euthanasia: The goal of this course is to understand the issue of the morality of euthanasia. Are we ever justified in helping someone die? How can we best understand the relation between the obligation we have to help those in need and the right to autonomy? We believe that people have a right to live as they want. Do they also have a right to end their lives? Why or why not? And when are we justified, if ever, in making this most personal decision for others? Does extreme pain or lack of hope for a dignified life justify “mercy killing”? Is merely being alive valuable? Is the important, moral concept “life” or a “meaningful life”? These are a few of the questions we discuss in this section.

243-205 Same-Sex Marriage: In this five week course we explore the legal, emotional, moral and religious dimensions of one of the most heated social questions of our society. We shall read from the Goodridge legal case as well as George W. Bush’s call for a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage. Then we look at real, first personal accounts of gays and lesbians in order to understand their perspective better. We then turn to some philosophical arguments concerning the concept of marriage and the morality of same-sex marriage. Finally we look at what religion has to say about the morality of same-sex marriage.

243-206 Abortion: Is it morally right to abort a fetus? Does the answer to this question depend on whether or not the fetus is a person? What is a person, anyway? Does a person have a right to life? And what rights does the mother have to determine her life? What does religion have to say about abortion? What does the law say? How is the question to be considered from a moral or ethical point of view? Does feminism have a particular point of view on the question of the morality of abortion? These are a few of the questions we discuss in this section.

Philosophy 244, Ethical Issues in Health Care: Contemporary Problems (HU)

LEC 001, R 6:00 – 8:40, PHY 142
Instructor: Kristin Tym,

This course will provide a general overview of many of the challenging ethical issues faced in health care delivery today. We will begin the course with an introduction of ethical theories and other approaches to moral decision-making. These theories and approaches will then be applied to ethical problems currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. Issues we will consider include informed consent and confidentiality, futility and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, genetics, allocation of scarce resources and research ethics.

Philosophy 250, Philosophy of Religion (HU)

LEC 401, TR 1:00 – 1:50, MIT 191
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,
Enrollment in LEC 401 requires enrolling in a corresponding discussion section.

The vast majority of people when questioned will say they believe in God. In this course we will examine this common belief in depth. Topics covered will include: arguments for God's existence, the rationality of belief in God, the problem of evil, the compatibility of human free will the existence of an all powerful God, and the rationality of religious faith.

Philosophy 253, Philosophy of the Arts (HU)

LEC 001, MW 9:30 – 10:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Michelle Mahlik,

Art differs from nature in being a human creation and as our own creation art has something to say about how we view our selves, our world, and our relationship to the world. An objective of this course is to examine philosophically the nature of art and its relation to individuals and their environment.

How do we distinguish works of art from natural objects? Is art merely an imitation of the natural world? How can we identify or explain the meaning of a work of art? Is the value of a work of art merely a matter of subjective judgment? Are there specific criteria by which to judge works of art? Do we define art in terms of form, expressiveness, artistic intention, or social role? Is there a relationship between beauty and moral goodness?

In this course, we will consider these questions and the answers provided by a variety of philosophers and artists, both ancient and modern. Although an interest in art is recommended, this course requires no previous experience in art history or philosophy.

Philosophy 303, Theory of Knowledge

LEC 001, MW 11:00 – 12:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
Prereq: jr st.; Philos 101(P), 201(P), or 215(P)

This course is an introduction to epistemology, the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge. The course discusses the most fundamental questions about knowledge including the very idea of a theory of knowledge, the problems with the philosophical conception of knowledge, the relation of knowledge to skepticism and varieties in theories of knowledge. We will read both historical as well as contemporary texts.

Philosophy 317, Metaphysics

LEC 001, TR 5:00 – 6:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

In this course we shall raise, discuss, and attempt to answer, the following (inter-related) questions: (1) whether or not it is possible to change the past (and what is meant by the claim that it can, or cannot, be changed); and (2) whether or not the effect can precede its cause, i.e., whether or not there can be such a thing as backward causation. We shall read texts by Aristotle, St. Thomas, Michael Dummett and David Lewis.

Philosophy 324, Philosophy of Science

LEC 001, TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Robert Schwartz,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

This course will explore the nature of scientific inquiry, as well as consider what, if anything, is special about the scientific enterprise. We will start by trying to get a firm understanding of such core notions of scientific methodology as: explanation, cause, laws, and probability. Next we will explore how concepts and hypotheses of science get their empirical meaning. This study will lead us to consider questions about the relation of theoretical terms to "reality" and to problems concerning how science can or cannot test its theories. The last third of the course will focus on recent challenges to both the "objectivity" of science and the "rationality" of scientific practice.

Philosophy 355, Political Philosophy

LEC 001, TR 11:00 – 12:15, CRT 309
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: jr st.; Philos 242(P) or a course in ethics.

What is the state (the polis) and what are its most fundamental functions? What are the basic kinds of states, and which are best, and why? What can justify (if anything) the employment of force by a state against its citizens? What is the fair or just way to distribute the benefits or goods of society among society’s members, and how is the just distribution best determined? What rights and privileges do individuals retain in relation to their government, and which are or can be ceded to the government? Do people always retain the right to revolt against the political order when there are abuses of power? How is the political unit related to other social organizations, such as the civil society and the family? -- In this course we examine these and related questions by reading classic texts in the history of political philosophy (eg., Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau) as well as contemporary political theorists (eg., Rawls, Nozick). We will apply the theories we study to contemporary questions of justice.

Philosophy 360, Philosophy of Perception

LEC 001, TR 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Robert Schwartz,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

Everyday we get up and open our eyes, are convinced we see the world as it is, and think nothing of it. It seems all too obvious that vision puts us in touch with Reality. But our confidence in this claim is misplaced. Questions about the nature of senses and the relationship between them, the distinction between perception and thought, and debates whether perception puts us in direct touch with reality or puts a veil of subjective experience between us and the world have been around since ancient times, and they still plague work in both philosophy and psychology. This course will explore these matters, tracing the controversies and arguments from Aristotle to Berkeley and on to the latest work in computer vision.

Philosophy 430, History of Ancient Philosophy

LEC 001, MW 11:00 – 12:15, HLT 180
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

In the thought of Ancient Greece we uncover a remarkable phenomenon. The Ancient Greeks, starting from an essentially myth-making way of understanding the world and the human place in it, as found in the work of Homer and Hesiod, developed their ideas to a culmination in a theory of the natural world and of human nature and human contact put forward by Aristotle, which dominated human thinking for many hundreds of years and is still said to capture human “common sense” beliefs about the world. How did this transition come about? We will look at the changing questions asked by the Presocratics, Plato and Aristotle, in order to understand how their ideas and theories about the natural world and human nature resulted in the development of natural science, ethics and metaphysics.

Philosophy 511, Symbolic Logic

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Stephen Leeds,
Prereq: jr st, either Philos 212(P) or 6 cr math at the 300-level or above; or grad st.

The main goal of this course is to prove the famous theorem, discovered by Kurt Gödel in the 1930’s, that any consistent set of axioms for mathematics will be unable to prove or disprove certain mathematical claims, among these one such claim is that the set of axioms is consistent. On the way to deriving this, we will review some elementary logic and learn something about computability and about the branch of logic known as model theory. Afterwards, we will branch off into related subjects, including as much set theory as we have time for.

Philosophy 532, Philosophical Problems: Self-Knowledge and Self-Consciousness

LEC 001, T 3:30 – 6:10, CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

How do we know ourselves? In particular, how do we know the contents of our own minds: our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intentions, values? Do we know ourselves in ways different in kind from the ways others know us? And if so, how should we describe those differences? -- Some philosophers have argued that we have “privileged access” to the contents of our own minds, or even that our knowledge of our own minds is indubitable or incorrigible. Other philosophers have denied that self-knowledge (of this sort) enjoys special epistemic status. Some philosophers have claimed that we know ourselves in essentially the same way that others know us. Some philosophers have claimed, in fact, that self-knowledge claims are not only not epistemically privileged, but are rather especially suspect, because we are prone to self-deception about ourselves and can attain “objectivity” in self-description only with great difficulty (if at all). In this seminar, we examine these issues, both on their own account and because inquiry into these questions can illuminate the nature of the self and its relation to others. We will read selections from the following authors (among others): Gilbert Ryle, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Donald Davidson, Tyler Burge, David Armstrong, Sydney Shoemaker, Elizabeth Anscombe, Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Moran, Gareth Evans.

Philosophy 554, Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Kant’s Practical Philosophy

LEC 001, MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr philos; & Philos 432 (R); or cons instr.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is generally regarded as the most important philosopher of the modern period. Certainly one cannot achieve an adequate understanding of developments in nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, whether in metaphysics, epistemology, moral or political philosophy, without a grasp of Kant’s ideas.

The course will focus on Kant's practical philosophy and on Kant's attempts to unify theoretical and practical reason. We'll read The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, extensive selections from The Metaphysics of Morals and Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone, and Kant’s popular political essays. We'll also read shorter selections from Critique of Pure Reason and other theoretical writings, as needed.

Philosophy 562, Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: International Justice

LEC 001, M 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

Liberal political philosophy traditionally has applied its principles of equal treatment of persons (protection of individual liberties, provision of opportunities and resources, etc.) only within the borders of the nation-state. In recent years, however, liberal thinkers have begun to ask how these principles might be understood in the global domain. This course is a critical introduction to recent attempts to develop a theoretical approach to international justice. One topic that we will explore is the nature and extent of liberal tolerance vis-à-vis non-liberal societies. How ought liberal political societies regard non-liberal political societies? What norms of tolerance, if any, should apply here? A related, second topic concerns the nature of human rights. What human rights should be understood as ‘universal' in nature – all of the rights of democratic citizenship or a more restricted set? What political policies are appropriate with respect to states that violate human rights? A third topic we will examine in the course is the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of the nation-state. Should nation-states or ‘peoples' be regarded as moral agents? Is ‘patriotism' a duty, a virtue, or a vice (a case of unjustified ethical parochialism)? A topic closely related to the moral status of nation-states is the scope of our duties of distributive justice. Are (some or all) principles of distributive justice limited in their scope of application to nation-states? How can we understand the wrongness of global poverty? Should we care about global economic inequality, and if so, why? Time permitting, additional topics (e.g., just war theory) may be considered. The course presupposes a basic knowledge of contemporary political philosophy, and will use John Rawls's The Law of Peoples as a springboard for exploring these topics.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: The Philosophy of George Berkeley

SEM 001, MW 3:30—4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,
Prereq: sr st & 12 cr in philos at 300-level or above; or grad st.

George Berkeley has had a long standing but ambiguous reputation. The poet, William Butler Yeats, said that Berkeley expressed the Irish temperament when he “proved all things a dream” but Berkeley’s editor, A. A. Luce said that Berkeley aligned “we Irish” with sturdy common sense. Many have supposed that the claims that Berkeley is most closely associated with—that there is no matter and that the only things that exist are ideas and minds that have them-- must be totally ludicrous. But others have agreed with Berkeley himself that on Berkeley’s principles it is possible to preserve common sense. A final puzzle arises: what exactly are Berkeley’s principles? Berkeley’s most famous claims appear in only two of his works, Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. If the denial of the existence of matter constitutes the main tenet of Berkeleianism, why did Berkeley suppress all mention of it in all but two of his works? We will try to gain answers to these central questions in the interpretation of Berkeley’s thought, by setting his major works in the context, both of Berkeley’s other writings, and in the historical context against which he was working.

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Shared Agency

SEM 001, R 3:30—6:10, CRT 607
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,
Prereq: sr st; declared Philos major; or cons instr.
Undergraduates only.

Many of the things we do, we do together with other agents: from the simple case of 'walking together' to the joint agency in long-term partnerships, corporations, and institutions. This joint agency appears to be different from the collective effects of the mere combinations of individual actions in traffic, markets, or crowds.

What specific kinds of intentions and actions are required for joint agency? Is joint agency reducible to the individual minds and wills of the participants or should we literally speak of a collective agent with its own mind and will? In joint agency, who is the proper subject of the attributions of rationality, intentionality, accountability, and responsibility? And how are these attributions to be apportioned, if at all, between the participants of the collective action? Does joint agency require some radical departures from the traditional accounts of agency, which have been originally developed to deal with individual agency?

Readings from contemporary analytic philosophers. Topics covered in this course are of interest for anyone who wants to understand the nature of collective phenomena not only in ethics and political philosophy, but also in epistemology and in the philosophy of mind.

Philosophy 790, Advanced Topics in Philosophy: Graduate Student Writing Workshop

LEC 001, R 6:30 –9:10, CRT 607
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

In this workshop, graduate students will present their work in progress and receive peer comments on their work and writing. Students will have the opportunity to hone their presentation skills, sharpen their writing, and develop their philosophical ideas.

Philosophy 941, Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Promises, Commands, and Other Normative Powers

SEM 001, T 11:00 – 1:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Andrea Westlund,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

A normative power is, to quote Gary Watson, the power to “create or rescind practical requirements at will” (Watson, “Promises, Reasons, and Normative Powers”). From one angle, it can seem quite mysterious that we should have any such powers at all. How could we possibly change, at will, what we or others have reason to do? And yet, considered from another angle, the exercise of normative powers seems utterly commonplace. For example, we routinely make promises, give consent, and issue commands, and the very point of doing so seems to be to alter what we and/or others are permitted or obligated to do. In this course we will examine the concept of a normative power and engage in a close study of some specific examples thereof – including promises, commands, and more. Readings will include selections from some or all of the following: Stephen Darwall, Niko Kolodny, David Owens, Joseph Raz, T. M. Scanlon, R. Jay Wallace, and Gary Watson.

Philosophy 960, Seminar in Metaphysics: Problem of Universals in the Middle Ages

SEM 001, W 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

A so-called general term — e.g., "horse", "red" — typically applies to a number of particular things: and the things to which it applies are typically (and not implausibly) said to have something in common. Less typically, what they are said to have in common is a so-called universal — e.g., horsehood, redness, — which the general term is taken to refer to. The problem of universals arises when we raise the question (1) of what "have in common" means here, and (2) of what kind of entity a universal is. The problem has been discussed with unparalleled subtlety by the Schoolmen — prominent among them, Abelard, Duns Scotus, and Ockham. This course will be devoted to an analysis of their answers (as well as those of Porphyry and Boethius) to questions (1) and (2) above.