Courses

Overview

This section of the website contains:

About the Department's Course Structure

The department's course offerings fall into several different areas:

  1. General Education courses that satisfy designated GenEd distribution requirements
  2. Freshman seminars (discussion based seminars for freshmen—application required)
  3. Philosophy tutorials (required for undergraduate concentrators)
  4. Introductory courses (3-99-level courses), generally for undergraduates
  5. Mid-level courses (100-level courses), for graduates and undergraduates
  6. Graduate seminars (200-level courses), for which enrollment is by permission of the instructor
  7. 300-level courses, for graduate students only

Faculty in the Department also offer courses in the General Education Curriculum and Core Curriculum, as well as Freshman Seminars.

For Students in all Programs

All students in the department--whether primary concentrators, joint concentrators, or those in the MBB Track--should check the Program Requirements for their particular program and consult with the appropriate faculty members when selecting their courses.

MBB Students

Students in the MBB Track will want to check the Courses of Instruction page for both Philosophy and Mind, Brain, and Behavior offerings.

Course List

General Education courses

EMREAS 17: Logical Reasoning
Professor: Ned Hall
Meets: MW 1-2:30

The concepts and principles of symbolic logic: valid and invalid arguments, logical relations of statements and their basis in structural features of those statements, the analysis of complex statements of ordinary discourse to uncover their structure, the use of a symbolic language to display logical structure and to facilitate methods for assessing arguments. Analysis of reasoning with truth-functions ("and", "or", "not", "if...then") and with quantifiers ("all", "some"). Special attention will be given to the norms underlying valid reasoning, to applications of formal techniques to “arguments in the wild”, and to the wide variety of non-logical ways that ordinary discourse can succeed at being (illicitly) persuasive.

 

HUMAN 10A: A Humanities Colloquium: From Homer to Garcia Marquez
Professor: Alison Simmons
Meets: T 10-11:30; Section TBA

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10a includes works by Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Descartes, Austen, Douglass, and Garcia Marquez, as well as the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Declaration of Independence. One 90-minute lecture plus a 90-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students also receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to visit cultural venues and attend musical and theatrical events in Cambridge or Boston.

The course is open only to freshmen. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the General Education requirement in Aesthetics and Culture. Students who take both semesters of Humanities 10 fulfill the College Writing Requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies that requirement. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail.

 

PHIL 3: The True and the Good
Professor: Bernhard Nickel
Meets: MWF 11-12

The course introduces students to philosophical argumentation and writing. It is organized around a range of central philosophical questions, concerning the nature of right and wrong, free will and responsibility, the relation between self, mind, and nature, and god and death. We'll pay particular attention to how answers to one question interact with answers to the others. No previous experience with philosophy is required.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Culture and Belief.

 

PHIL 34: Existentialism in Literature and Film

Professor: Sean Kelly
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

What is it to be a human being? How can human beings live meaningful lives? These questions guide our discussion of theistic and atheistic existentialism and their manifestations in literature and film. Material includes philosophical texts from Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre; literature from Dostoevsky, Kafka, Beckett; films from Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Carol Reed.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

PHIL 168: Kant's Ethical Theory
Professor: Christine Korsgaard
Meets: MWF 12-1

A study of Kant's moral philosophy, based primarily on the Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and The Metaphysics of Morals.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

PHIL 174a: Animals and Ethics
Professor: Christine Korsgaard
Meets: MWF 2-3

Do human beings have moral obligations to the other animals? If so, what are they, and why?  Should or could non-human animals have legal rights? Should we treat wild and domestic animals differently? Do human beings have the right to eat the other animals, raise them for that purpose on factory farms, use them in experiments, display them in zoos and circuses, make them race or fight for our entertainment, make them work for us, and keep them as pets? We will examine the work of utilitarian, Kantian, and Aristotelian philosophers, and others who have tried to answer these questions.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

PHIL 177: Educational Justice (Proseminar)
Professor: Regina Schouten
Meets: T 2-4

We subject children to around 18,000 hours of compulsory schooling. This course will explore the kinds of experiences children should have in schools and how those experiences should be distributed. We'll proceed by examining key topics pertaining to educational justice, including competing principles of justice in the distribution of education (egalitarian principles, sufficientarian principles, prioritarian principles, etc.); competing reform agendas; the justifiability and relative priority of different educational aims (education for citizenship, education for career preparation, education for social justice, etc.); the family and its role in educational inequality; and higher education access. In addition to the philosophical contributions to these conversations, we'll read enough of the relevant empirical literature to provide a working understanding of the structure and consequences of schooling in the US. Finally, we'll explore some case studies that look at specific choices that arise in real time for educational decision-makers. These case studies highlight the moral dimensions of decisions about discipline, charter schools, special education, and school districting.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

PHIL 178z: Inequality
Professor: Lucas Stanczyk
Meets: MWF 1-2

Many people believe that growing inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time. In this class, we will examine some of the main problems thought to be raised by inequality through the lens of several systematic ways of thinking about social justice.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

Freshman seminars

FRSEMR 30Q: Death and Immortality
Professor: Cheryl Chen
Meets: W 1-3
In this seminar, we will discuss philosophical questions about death and immortality. What is death? Is there a moral difference between "brain death" and the irreversible loss of consciousness? Is the classification of a person as dead a moral judgment, or is it an entirely scientific matter? Is death a misfortune to the person who dies? How can death be a misfortune if you are no longer around to experience that misfortune? Is it possible to survive after death? What does it mean for you to survive after your death? Is there such a thing as an immaterial soul distinct from your body? Is immortality something you should want in the first place? Even if you do not live forever, is it nevertheless important that humanity continues to exist after your death? By discussing these questions about death, we will hopefully gain insight about the importance and meaning of life.

 

FRSEMR 31D: Nietzsche
Professor: Mathias Risse
Meets: W 7-9
Friedrich Nietzsche addresses some of the big questions of human existence in a profoundly searching but often disturbing manner that continues to resonate with many. Hardly any philosopher (except Karl Marx) has exercised such a far-reaching and penetrating impact on intellectual life in the last 150 years or so. He has influenced thinkers and activists across the political spectrum. Nietzsche has always been of special interest to young people who have often appreciated the irreverence and freshness of his thought, as well as the often very high literary quality of his writing. In this course, we explore Nietzsche's moral and political philosophy with emphasis on the themes he develops in his best-known and most accessible work, The Genealogy of Morality.  The best-known themes from this book include the slave rebellion in morality, ressentiment, bad conscience, and ascetic ideals. However, we also read several other of Nietzsche’s works, and do so chronologically (except that we begin with his auto-biography, Ecce Homo, which Nietzsche wrote briefly before his mental collapse in 1889).  The others works include The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, and The Antichrist. We do not read any secondary literature, though the instructor will recommend such literature as appropriate. The point is to become familiar with Nietzsche’s writings themselves and to engage with his thought.

 

FRSEMR 61N: Language and Politics: Ideology and Society
Professor: Mark Richard
Meets: W 1-3
We will apply tools and techniques from philosophy to analyze the use and abuse of speech in politics and social interactions.  Some of the work we will do involves analysis (what, exactly, is the difference between lying to someone and simply misleading her?), work that is worth doing in part because it will help us in thinking about normative questions (is lying worse than merely misleading in some morally significant way?)  Some of the work we will do involves recovering and analyzing arguments in philosophy and elsewhere about issues concerning speech—for example, arguments for and against the claim that certain sorts of speech (hate speech, pornography) ought to be restricted because of various harms.  And some of the work we'll do will require that we engage important but fairly hairy philosophical questions whether—for example, the (putative) fact that we see the world through one or another ideology makes knowledge impossible, or whether there are (interesting) absolute normative truths.  The course as a whole is an introduction to philosophy that emphasizes philosophy's ability to help us understand and criticize our social situation.

 

FRSEMR 61S: Baseball as Philosophy: God, Beauty, and Morality
Professor: Jeffrey Behrends
Meets: W 3-5
Even seemingly commonplace features of the world offer us a route to inquiring into complex ideas and phenomena. You can think of this seminar as, in part, a sort of existence proof of that claim. Using baseball as a focusing lens, we will endeavor to cover a fairly large swath of philosophical terrain, including a more focused investigation of issues in ethics. We will consider, among other things, how baseball can help us understand: God’s relationship to morality; why a loving God would allow evil; indeterminate concepts; what makes something beautiful, or aesthetically valuable; social justice and income distributions; the moral permissibility of violating rules within a game; and the moral permissibility of biomedical enhancements to humans. Our investigation will put us in close contact with both contemporary scholarly writing on baseball, and canonical philosophical thinkers, starting with Plato. In addition to being the greatest game ever created, baseball offers surprisingly fertile ground for thinking about some of the deepest issues across philosophy.

Philosophy tutorials

PHIL 97 001: Tutorial I: Plato's Political Philosophy
Instructor: Chandler Hatch
Meets: TBA

Course description to follow

 

PHIL 97 002: Tutorial I: Moral Epistemology
Instructor: Sanford Diehl
Meets: T 4-6
All of us reflect at one point or another on matters of right and wrong, justice and injustice, and how to live. This course aims to work out what such answers consist in and how we obtain them. We’ll focus especially on what justifies beliefs about ethics and politics, and on the normative relevance of others’ convictions for one’s own reasoning. Some questions we’ll consider include: How do we come to know right from wrong? When can we rely on our intuitions? If we can’t, what else is there to go on? When, faced with interpersonal disagreement about morality, does sticking to my guns amount to mere arrogance, and when is it an expression of autonomy? When is deferring to accepted moral opinion cowardice, and when is it humility? Can the intuition that one cannot accept moral judgments on testimony alone be reconciled with the fact that we learn most of what we know about right and wrong from others? We’ll consider such questions with the aim of getting clearer about what it is to be one reasoning agent among others responsible for making up one’s own mind.

 

PHIL 98 001: Tutorial II: The Borders of Beauty
Instructor: Ewa Bigaj
Meets: T 2-4
The painter John Constable thought that anything could be beautiful: “There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, — light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.” Many philosophers (most notably, Immanuel Kant) have disagreed, attempting to find a definition of beauty that would allow us to mark out the realm of the beautiful from neighboring domains. In this course, we’ll take Kant’s “marks” of the beautiful as our starting points and explore the domains they exclude: places where aesthetic concerns interact with utility (Is there such a thing as functional beauty?), truth (What about intellectual beauty?), “mere” pleasure (Can tastes be beautiful? What about everyday experiences?), and morality (Is there a relationship between beauty and goodness?). To this end, we’ll read some classic aesthetic texts (Plato, Hume, Kant), as well as contemporary discussions of these contested, quasi-aesthetic domains. The reading will also feature texts by a cast of devoted aesthetes, including John Muir, John Ruskin, Denis Diderot, and Marcel Proust, which I hope will inject a contagious sense of urgency and enthusiasm to the philosophical issues discussed.

 

PHIL 98 002: Tutorial II: Philosophy of the Emotions
Instructor: Rachel Achs
Meets: M 1-3
We spend a lot of time in philosophy talking about reason and rationality, and less time talking about what the faculty of reason is often contrasted with: our human capacities to be sensitive, and to feel emotions. Nevertheless, emotions are just as central to human life as reason is. Without love, humor, or the capacity to empathize with others’ pain, our lives –particularly our moral lives – would be radically different from the way they our now. In this class we will use our reasoning skills, and perhaps a bit of sensitivity too, to study that with which reason is usually contrasted: emotion. Particular questions with which we will be concerned are: What are emotions (and how are they different from, and similar to, judgments and mere sensations)? What does it mean for an emotion to be appropriate or inappropriate? Are people responsible for their emotions? And are emotions really irrational? We will work particularly on the skills of charitable reading and precision in writing, as well as beginning to develop some more advanced philosophical tools, such as identifying the most interesting objections to arguments, and even a bit of positive theory construction.

 

PHIL 99: Tutorial-Senior Year
Professor: Cheryl Chen and members of the department
Meets: TBA
PHIL 99 is a tutorial for senior philosophy concentrators who are pursuing the honors track, and for joint concentrators for whom philosophy is the "primary field." Students meet individually with members of the faculty to prepare their senior thesis, and collectively to discuss and present their work.

Introductory courses

PHIL 3: The True and the Good
Professor: Bernhard Nickel
Meets: MWF 11-12

The course introduces students to philosophical argumentation and writing. It is organized around a range of central philosophical questions, concerning the nature of right and wrong, free will and responsibility, the relation between self, mind, and nature, and god and death. We'll pay particular attention to how answers to one question interact with answers to the others. No previous experience with philosophy is required.

 

PHIL 6: Ancient Ethics and Modern Morality
Professor: James Doyle
Meets: MWF 11-12

An historical introduction to ethics, from the Greeks to, roughly, now. We begin with the concept of virtue in Homer and trace its development through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and Aquinas. In the modern period we look, in a somewhat skeptical spirit, at the rise of the 'moral' as a supposedly sui generis category of reasons, traits, obligations etc, as this is found in Hume, Kant, Mill and others.

 

PHIL 7: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Professor: Jacob Rosen
Meets: MWF 10-11

In this course, we will study some of the major thinkers and movements in the philosophy of the ancient Greek world: the Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism. These thinkers spent a lot of energy on some rather odd questions (for example, ‘Is there more than one thing?’ and ‘Why doesn’t the ground fall?’). But they also introduced many of the enduring, guiding questions of philosophy, such as: What is it to know or understand something, and have we ever succeeded in doing it? What exists at the most fundamental level (if anything)? What should be our highest aim in life? Should we fear death?

 

PHIL 34: Existentialism in Literature and Film

Professor: Sean Kelly
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

What is it to be a human being? How can human beings live meaningful lives? These questions guide our discussion of theistic and atheistic existentialism and their manifestations in literature and film. Material includes philosophical texts from Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre; literature from Dostoevsky, Kafka, Beckett; films from Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Carol Reed.

 

PHIL 91r: Supervised Reading and Research

Professor: Cheryl Chen
Meets: TBA

Graded independent study under faculty supervision. Interested students need approval of head tutor for their topic and must propose a detailed syllabus before the beginning of term.

Mid-level courses

PHIL 107: Plato's Gorgias
Professor: James Doyle
Meets: M 2-4

A detailed study of Plato's third-longest dialogue. Particular attention will be paid to (i) the interaction between the overt philosophical content of the what the characters say and what Plato reveals through the unfolding drama; (ii) Socrates' apparent moving-away from the 'intellectualist' moral psychology presupposed in many shorter 'Socratic' dialogues, in the direction of an acknowledgement of the reality of akrasia and other forms of intrapsychic conflict; and (iii) the vivid and alarming presentation by Callicles of an aggressively skeptical response to Socrates' and the many's conceptions of justice.

 

PHIL 117: Medieval Philosophy
Professor: Jeffrey McDonough
Meets: TTh 10-11:30

This course will examine three great traditions in medieval philosophy (Neoplatonism, Scholastic-Aristotelianism, and Nominalism) through each tradition’s greatest proponent (Augustine, Aquinas, and William of Ockham). Specific topics will include skepticism, knowledge, human nature, divine nature, language, realism, conceptualism, and happiness. Students in the course will acquire a firm understanding of the major currents in one of the most important – if still neglected – periods in western philosophy.

 

PHIL 140: Fundamentals of Logic
Professor: Warren Goldfarb
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

Analysis of the central concepts of logic: validity, satisfiability, implication. Basic elements of model theory: completeness, compactness, Löwenheim-Skolem theorem. Applications to the foundations of mathematics. Attention also to higher-order logic and to non-classical (constructive) logical systems.

 

PHIL 150: Philosophy of Probability
Professor: Susanna Rinard
Meets: TTh 1-2

Probability, remarked Bishop Butler, is "the very guide of life." In this course we will investigate the extent to which probabilistic tools can help answer basic questions like these: How should I choose among my options? What should I believe? How should I revise my beliefs upon acquiring new information? Does it make sense to believe in God? No background in math is necessary; the beginning of the course will cover the essentials of probability theory.

 

PHIL 158a: MBB Proseminar: Memory
Professor: Susanna Siegel
Meets: W 4-6

An examination of philosophical theories of the structure and format of episodic memory.

 

PHIL 164: Metaphysics
Professor: Andrew Graham
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

This course provides an introduction to and survey of metaphysics, the branch of philosophy concerned with the essential problems regarding the nature of reality in its most general aspects. We will examine a variety of topics in metaphysics including identity, change, time and space, persistence, possibility and necessity, causation, universals and particulars, and so on. Our goal will be to understand what these topics are, to understand what kinds of views philosophers (both contemporary and historical) have developed on these topics, and to develop our own abilities to think about and answer metaphysical questions.

 

PHIL 168: Kant's Ethical Theory
Professor: Christine Korsgaard
Meets: MWF 12-1

A study of Kant's moral philosophy, based primarily on the Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and The Metaphysics of Morals.

 

PHIL 174a: Animals and Ethics
Professor: Christine Korsgaard
Meets: MWF 2-3

Do human beings have moral obligations to the other animals? If so, what are they, and why?  Should or could non-human animals have legal rights? Should we treat wild and domestic animals differently? Do human beings have the right to eat the other animals, raise them for that purpose on factory farms, use them in experiments, display them in zoos and circuses, make them race or fight for our entertainment, make them work for us, and keep them as pets? We will examine the work of utilitarian, Kantian, and Aristotelian philosophers, and others who have tried to answer these questions.

 

 
PHIL 177: Educational Justice (Proseminar)
Professor: Regina Schouten
Meets: T 2-4
We subject children to around 18,000 hours of compulsory schooling. This course will explore the kinds of experiences children should have in schools and how those experiences should be distributed. We'll proceed by examining key topics pertaining to educational justice, including competing principles of justice in the distribution of education (egalitarian principles, sufficientarian principles, prioritarian principles, etc.); competing reform agendas; the justifiability and relative priority of different educational aims (education for citizenship, education for career preparation, education for social justice, etc.); the family and its role in educational inequality; and higher education access. In addition to the philosophical contributions to these conversations, we'll read enough of the relevant empirical literature to provide a working understanding of the structure and consequences of schooling in the US. Finally, we'll explore some case studies that look at specific choices that arise in real time for educational decision-makers. These case studies highlight the moral dimensions of decisions about discipline, charter schools, special education, and school districting.

 

PHIL 178z: Inequality
Professor: Lucas Stanczyk
Meets: MWF 1-2

Many people believe that growing inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time. In this class, we will examine some of the main problems thought to be raised by inequality through the lens of several systematic ways of thinking about social justice.

 

Graduate seminars

PHIL 204: Aristotle's De Interpretatione: Greek and Arabic Reception
Professor: Russell Jones and Khaled El-rouayheb
Meets: T 2-4

A close reading of Aristotle’s De Interpretatione, together with select Greek and Arabic commentaries (foremost those of Ammonius and Al-Farabi), with a view to understanding it on its own terms as well as the uses to which it was put by the commentators. All texts are available in English translation

 

PHIL 217: Medieval Philosophy
Professor: Jeffrey McDonough
Meets: TTh 1-2

This graduate-level course will offer an intensive examination of three great traditions in medieval philosophy (Neoplatonism, Scholastic-Aristotelianism, and Nominalism) through each tradition’s greatest proponent (Augustine, Aquinas, and William of Ockham). Specific topics will include skepticism, knowledge, human nature, divine nature, language, realism, conceptualism, and happiness. Students in the course will acquire a firm understanding of the major currents in one of the most important – if still neglected – periods in western philosophy.

 

PHIL 241: Wittgenstein's Tractatus: Seminar
Professor: Warren Goldfarb
Meets: W 4-6
Detailed study of early Wittgenstein's philosophy and its development, from the earliest writings through the Tractatus. Attention to the recent interpretative debates about what "throwing away the ladder" means.

 

PHIL 252: Norms of Belief
Professor: Selim Berker and Susanna Rinard
Meets: W 1-3

Recent work on the norms that govern belief and other doxastic attitudes. Questions to be addressed could include: Are there non-evidential reasons for belief? Is there a distinctively epistemic sense of rationality, and if so, what is its nature? Does belief have an aim, and if so, what is it? Does belief have fittingness conditions, and if so, what are they, and what is their relationship to the question of what one should believe? Can we choose to believe, and what implications does this have (either way) for questions about the norms of belief?

 

PHIL 273a: Utility
Professor: Amartya Sen, Eric Maskin, Barry Mazur
Meets: W 1-3

We will explore different ideas of utility, ranging from the writings of Epicurus and Aristotle in ancient Greece to von Neumann, Ramsey, and Kahneman in the twentieth century. We will examine both predictive and normative issues, as well as comparison and aggregation of utility across individuals.

 

PHIL 276x: Bioethics: Seminar
Professor: Frances Kamm
Meets: W 4-6

The class will focus on philosophical issues about death and dying and their bearing on public policies. Readings will include recent books and articles by philosophers, medical professionals, and lawyers.

 

300-level courses

PHIL 300aa: First Year Colloquium
Professor: Russell Jones, Ned Hall
Meets: M 4-6, Th 2-4
An intensive study of selected problems in contemporary philosophy.

 

PHIL 311: Workshop in Moral and Political Philosophy
Professor: Regina Schouten, Selim Berker
Meets: M 4-6

A forum for the presentation and discussion of work in progress by students in moral and political philosophy. Open only to graduate students in the Philosophy Department or by invitation of the instructors.

 

PHIL 312: Workshop in Metaphysics and Epistemology
Professor: Alison Simmons
Meets: Th 2-4

A forum for the presentation and discussion of work in progress by students in metaphysics and epistemology. Open only to graduate students in the Philosophy Department or by invitation of the instructors.

 

PHIL 315HFA: Instructional Styles in Philosophy
Professor: Bernhard Nickel
Meets: TBA

Course is required for graduate students in their first year of teaching; optional for students in their second year of teaching. Students must complete both parts of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.

 

PHIL 320d: Philosophy in Translation: German
Professor: Jacob Rosen
Meets: TBA

A close reading of selected philosophical texts in German with the aim of developing and improving reading and translation skills.

 

PHIL 320g: Philosophy in Translation: Greek
Professor: James Doyle
Meets: TBA

A close reading of philosophical texts in classical Greek, with the aim of developing reading skills as well as making interpretive progress.

 

PHIL 320l: Philosophy in Translation: Latin
Professor: Jeffrey McDonough
Meets: TBA

A close reading of philosophical texts in their original Latin language, with the aim of developing reading and translation skills.

 

General Education courses

HUMAN 10B: A Humanities Colloquium: From Joyce to Homer
Professor: Ned Hall
Meets: T 10-11:30; Section TBA

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10b is open only to students who completed Humanities 10a in Fall 2017. Humanities 10b includes works by Joyce, Nietzsche, Shelley, Rousseau, More, Machiavelli, Murasaki, Bai Juyi, Augustine, Plato, Sophocles, and Homer. One 90-minute lecture plus a 90-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students continue to receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to visit cultural venues and attend musical and theatrical events in Cambridge or Boston.
The course is open only to freshmen who have completed Humanities 10a. Students who take both semesters of Humanities 10 fulfill the College Writing Requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies that requirement.

Students who take Humanities 10b also meet the General Education divisional requirement in Arts and Humanities. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail.

 

PHIL 17: Feminist Political Philosophy
Professor: Regina Schouten
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

Political philosophy is the project of offering and evaluating answers to normative questions about politics—about how we as a society should get along and share in all the benefits and costs of living cooperatively. The “feminist” in “feminist political philosophy” can be taken to modify different aspects of that project. Unsurprisingly, then, work in feminist political philosophy is extraordinarily diverse. Notwithstanding some in-fighting about the right way to be a feminist political philosopher, this diversity is part of what equips us to make good progress in developing and refining answers to important political questions. Still, we might wonder what unifies these different traditions and methodologies. Many regard “the personal is political” as the unifying insight of contemporary feminist philosophy. This will be the unifying theme for us as well, as we work to better understand that slogan and explore its implications. We will begin by examining foundational work in contemporary political philosophy on theories of justice, as well as feminist challenges to that work. The tradition of liberalism is of particular interest, because the values it celebrates seem at once empowering and problematic from the perspective of feminist political philosophy. Ideals of liberty, individuality, and free choice can be deployed by feminists to critique unjust institutions, but they also appear to shield a great deal of injustice from censure. On the applied side, then, we’ll consider some “hard cases” for liberal feminist political philosophers: prostitution, pornography, and the gendered division of labor. Along the way, we’ll hear from some more radical voices, and we’ll explore intersections between feminism, social class, and race.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

PHIL 171: Well-Being (Proseminar)
Professor: Jeffrey Behrends
Meets: W 1-3

Well-being, or welfare, is a kind of personal value – it is a value for some individual. We say that someone enjoys a high level of well-being when the life that they lead is a good one for them, and that when someone’s life goes poorly for them, their level of well-being is low. We can all probably point to certain kinds of lives that are paradigmatically high or low in well-being. But it is harder to identify what makes it the case that someone has a particular level of well-being, primarily because it is not obvious what things fundamentally contribute to or detract from the value of one’s life. In this seminar, we will consider contemporary approaches to welfare, including recent defenses of monistic theories like hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory, as well as pluralistic theories. Though it will not be the primary focus of the course, we will also consider attempts to measure well-being in the social sciences, with special attention paid to what, if anything, value theorists and social scientists have to learn from one another.

This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning.

 

Freshman seminars

FRSEMR 23C: Exploring the Infinite
Professor: Peter Koellner
Meets: M 4-6

Infinity captivates the imagination. A child stands between two mirrors and sees herself reflected over and over again, smaller and smaller, trailing off to infinity. Does it go on forever?  … Does anything go on forever?  Does life go on forever?  Does time go on forever? Does the universe go on forever?  Is there anything that we can be certain goes on forever? ... It would seem that the counting numbers go on forever, since given any number on can always add one.  But is that the extent of forever? Or are there numbers that go beyond that?  Are there higher and higher levels of infinity?  And, if so, does the totality of all of these levels of infinity itself constitute the highest, most ultimate, level of infinity, the absolutely infinite? In this seminar we will begin our exploration of the infinite with questions like these. We will examine the different senses of the infinite by seeing how the infinite arises in many disciplines, from theology to the arts, from physics to modern mathematics. We will eventually focus on the infinite in mathematics and we will pursue its systematic study. But even here we are beset by difficulties. For there are so-called ``paradoxes of the infinite'', paradoxes that have led some to the conclusion that the concept of infinity is incoherent. We will see, however, that what these paradoxes ultimately show is that the infinite is just quite different than the finite and that by being very careful we can sharpen the concept of infinity so that these paradoxes are transformed into surprising discoveries. We will follow the historical development, starting with the work of Cantor at the end of the nineteenth century, and proceeding up to the present. The study of the infinite has blossomed into a beautiful branch of mathematics. We will get a glimpse of this subject, and the many levels of infinity, and we will see that the infinite is even more magnificent than one might ever have imagined.

 

FRSEMR 61T: Emptiness, Non-attachment, and the Problem of Suffering
Professor: Andrew Graham
Meets: TBA

Some philosophers, considering the suffering that we all naturally face, have recommended non-attachment as a way of overcoming that suffering and living a better life.  Often they defend this stance by appealing to ideas concerning the nature of the world, the nature of ourselves, and the relationship between ourselves and the world. In particular, they emphasize the "emptiness" of these phenomena, and argue that grasping this emptiness can help us eliminate attachments and understand why such elimination is sensible.  In this seminar, we explore these themes, drawing on perspectives found in both the Eastern philosophical tradition and the Western philosophical tradition.  We will begin with a general overview of ideas along these lines from the Eastern tradition, starting with ancient Buddhist philosophy and some of its later developments, including work by Nāgārjuna and other Eastern philosophers.  We will then shift to the Western tradition and consider points of contact with the ideas already discussed.  In particular, we will look at philosophical work on the nature of the ordinary objects that make up the world around us, work on what we can know and should believe about that world, and finally work on our selves, our agency, and our freedom to act in that world.  Our aim in these explorations will be to understand these philosophical notions of emptiness and non-attachment and their application to the problem of suffering.

 

Philosophy tutorials

PHIL 97 001: Tutorial I: Death
Instructor: Michael Rabenberg
Meets: TBA

What is death? Is it the end, or can we come back from it? Suppose death really is the end--when you die, you’re gone forever. Is death (ever) bad? If so, why is it bad (when it is bad), and how bad is it (when it is bad)? Do we have strong moral reasons to prevent others’ deaths? How about the deaths of non-human animals? Is it rational to care a lot about one’s future nonexistence while not caring at all about one’s past nonexistence? Many people want to live forever. But would living forever be a good thing, or would it have to get miserably boring? How important is it that other people go on living after we’ve died? In this tutorial, we shall try to answer these questions. Readings will mostly be by contemporary philosophers. Students will be required to give frequent in-class presentations, and to submit a final paper.

 

PHIL 97 002: Tutorial I: Discrimination
Instructor: Ronni Sadovsky
Meets: TBA
What is discrimination? When is it wrong, and why? How should we intervene to prevent or remedy discrimination, and whose responsibility is it to intervene? This tutorial introduces students to social and political philosophy through a focused examination of discrimination. Students will engage with various philosophical positions on discrimination, applying them to contemporary debates and critically evaluating them.
This topic will be investigated in a collaborative format focusing on student writing. Students will circulate papers to their classmates in advance of each meeting, and class time will be mostly spent discussing the arguments made in these student-authored papers. Students will receive extensive feedback on their writing from peers, both inside and outside of class, and will improve their ability to work collaboratively and to disagree constructively in discussion and in writing.

 

PHIL 97 003: Tutorial I: Ethics in the Arabic World
Instructor: Patricia Marechal
Meets: TBA
In this tutorial, we will explore ethical works by Islamic philosophers from al-Kindī (801-873 CE) to Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 CE). Drawing on Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Galen, philosophers in the Arabic world composed works designed to achieve health in the soul, develop a good character, and attain happiness. We will see that these authors wondered about, and gave different answers to, some of the following questions: What makes our soul healthy? What role, if any, do pleasure and the emotions play in a good life? How can we dispel sorrows? How can we refine our character? [New Paragraph]  We will carefully study these authors’ views, and analyze how their ethical positions relate to concepts and arguments developed in their metaphysical and psychological writings. We will also explore the influence of Greek philosophers and doctors on these writers’ ethical works.

 

PHIL 97 004: Tutorial I: Divine Providence, Freedom, and the Problem of Evil
Instructor: Cheryl Chen
Meets: W 1-3
Theists traditionally believe in divine providence: everything that happens is in accordance with God's plan. This leads to two well-known puzzles. First, if God has already decided what we will do ahead of time, how is it that we do anything freely? Second, if God is perfectly benevolent, why does God's plan involve so much human suffering? We will examine these questions, with a focus on how they intersect.
 
PHIL 98 001: Tutorial II: Spinoza
Instructor: Tran Nguyen
Meets: TBA
Like you, Spinoza was curious about the good life. But perhaps unlike you, Spinoza holds that we cannot understand the good life without first getting clear on God. Accordingly, Spinoza wondered what the nature of God was, how we relate to God and how the universe was created by God. The answers Spinoza arrived at are startling. On Spinoza’s view, God is nature, we are modes of God and the universe was created with a logical necessity. Understanding these claims, Spinoza insists, is critical to pursuing the good life and we will explore why exactly he held this view. Our exploration begins with Spinoza’s metaphysics, as laid out in Parts I and II of his Ethics, and ends on his ethics, as laid out in Parts III, IV and V.

 

PHIL 99: Tutorial-Senior Year
Professor: Cheryl Chen and members of the department
Meets: TBA
PHIL 99 is a tutorial for senior philosophy concentrators who are pursuing the honors track, and for joint concentrators for whom philosophy is the "primary field." Students meet individually with members of the faculty to prepare their senior thesis, and collectively to discuss and present their work.

Introductory courses

PHIL 8: Early Modern Philosophy: Self and World
Professor: Alison Simmons
Meets: MWF 12-1

An introduction to some of the major topics and figures of 17th- and 18th-century Western philosophy, and to the skills of close reading, argument construction, and clear writing.  We will focus on such metaphysical and epistemological topics as the natures of mind, body and self, the equality of the sexes, the existence of the external world and God, the nature and limits of human knowledge, and the changing relationship between science and philosophy.  We will read such philosophers as René Descartes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Margaret Cavendish, John Locke, David Hume, Lady Mary Shepard, and Immanuel Kant.  No pre-requisites. 

 

PHIL 14: Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics
Professor: Jeffrey Behrends
Meets: TTh 1-2:30

You probably want to live the best life for yourself. But what would that look like? Feeling pleasure, and avoiding pain? Having your desires satisfied? Maybe achieving knowledge, or securing fulfilling relationships? You might also care about living a moral life. But what would that look like? What actions are morally right or wrong, and what makes them that way? In this introduction to ethics, we'll begin by looking at three important theories of the good life: the pleasure theory, the desire-satisfaction theory, and the pluralist theory. We'll then turn to moral theories, investigating the relative strengths and weaknesses of those views that focus only on our actions' consequences, and those that reject this approach. In closing, we'll consider questions about the status of morality. What kind of judgment are we making when we say, for example, that something is morally wrong? Are there moral facts awaiting our discovery? If there are, how did they come to be - are they determined by humans and varying across cultures, like facts about the law or etiquette? Or perhaps determined by God? Or could they somehow have not been determined by anyone, standing as fundamental facts about reality?

 

PHIL 17: Feminist Political Philosophy
Professor: Regina Schouten
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

Political philosophy is the project of offering and evaluating answers to normative questions about politics—about how we as a society should get along and share in all the benefits and costs of living cooperatively. The “feminist” in “feminist political philosophy” can be taken to modify different aspects of that project. Unsurprisingly, then, work in feminist political philosophy is extraordinarily diverse. Notwithstanding some in-fighting about the right way to be a feminist political philosopher, this diversity is part of what equips us to make good progress in developing and refining answers to important political questions. Still, we might wonder what unifies these different traditions and methodologies. Many regard “the personal is political” as the unifying insight of contemporary feminist philosophy. This will be the unifying theme for us as well, as we work to better understand that slogan and explore its implications. We will begin by examining foundational work in contemporary political philosophy on theories of justice, as well as feminist challenges to that work. The tradition of liberalism is of particular interest, because the values it celebrates seem at once empowering and problematic from the perspective of feminist political philosophy. Ideals of liberty, individuality, and free choice can be deployed by feminists to critique unjust institutions, but they also appear to shield a great deal of injustice from censure. On the applied side, then, we’ll consider some “hard cases” for liberal feminist political philosophers: prostitution, pornography, and the gendered division of labor. Along the way, we’ll hear from some more radical voices, and we’ll explore intersections between feminism, social class, and race.

 

PHIL 20: Happiness
Professor: Susanna Rinard
Meets: MW 1-2

Should we pursue happiness, and if so, what is the best way to do it? This course will critically assess the answers to these questions given by thinkers from a wide variety of different places, cultures, and times, including Stoicism, Epicureanism, Buddhism, Daoism, and contemporary philosophy, psychology, and economics.

 

 

PHIL 24: Ethics of Climate Change
Professor: Lucas Stanczyk
Meets: TTh 10-11:30

How should governments respond to the problem of climate change? What should happen to the level of greenhouse gas emissions and how quickly? How much can the present generation be expected to sacrifice to improve conditions for future generations? How should the costs of mitigation and adaptation be apportioned between countries? Should significant funds be allocated to the study of geo-engineering? We will consider these and other questions in an effort to understand our responsibilities in respect of climate change, with a special focus on the structure of the analytical frameworks that have long been dominant among policymakers.

 

PHIL 91r: Supervised Reading and Research
Professor: Cheryl Chen
Meets: TBA

Graded independent study under faculty supervision. Interested students need approval of head tutor for their topic and must propose a detailed syllabus before the beginning of term.

 

Mid-level courses

PHIL 108: Aristotle's Ethics and Politics
Professor: Jacob Rosen
Meets: TTh 10-11:30

 

 

PHIL 125: Beyond Dualism: Descartes and His Critics
Professor: Alison Simmons
Meets: T2-4

We will explore Descartes' dualism in its historical context.  After examining the transformation that Descartes brought about in our conceptions of body and mind (and ourselves), we will consider some of the notorious metaphysical problems his dualism gives rise to and some 17th- and 18th- century attempts to push back against it in the figures of Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, Henry More, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Anton Amo.

 

PHIL 137: The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein
Professor: Richard Moran
Meets: MW 2-3

A close reading of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, focusing on its treatments of the topics of meaning, reference, rule-following, cognition, perception, "the private mental realm" knowledge, skepticism, and the nature of philosophy. Attention to Wittgenstein's philosophical methodology, with its claim to dissolve philosophical problems rather than propose solutions to them.

 

PHIL 139: Later Heidegger
Professor: Sean Kelly
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

A close reading of selected texts from Martin Heidegger’s later work, starting from the period after the publication of Being and Time. Heidegger's later work rejects the humanism of his own earlier period as well as the humanist existentialism made famous by Sartre. In doing so, it attempts to gather and preserve meaningful possibilities of existence in our "destitute times." Topics will be chosen from among Heidegger's encounter with various figures in the history of philosophy as well as with such topics as thinking, poetry, gods, works of art, science, technology, and things.

 

PHIL 144: Logic and Philosophy
Professor: Warren Goldfarb
Meets: MWF 10-11

Three philosophically important results of modern logic: Gödel’s incompleteness theorems; Turing’s definition of mechanical computability; Tarski’s theory of truth for formalized languages. Discusses both mathematical content and philosophical significance of these results. Prerequisite: Some knowledge of deductive logic.

 

PHIL 147: Philosophy of Language
Professor: Mark Richard
Meets: TTh 11:30-1

 

 

PHIL 151z: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
Professor: Ned Hall
Meets: MWF 9-10

A crowning achievement of 20th century science, quantum mechanics is also bizarre enough to lead intelligent people to claim that the universe perpetually splits into many copies of itself, that conscious minds can make physical systems “jump” unpredictably, that classical logic must be revised, that there is no objective reality, and much, much more. We will separate the wheat of genuine mystery from the chaff of philosophical confusion. No prior knowledge of quantum mechanics required.

 

PHIL 156: Philosophy of Mind
Professor: Cheryl Chen
Meets: TTh 1-2

An examination of the relation between the mind and the natural world. Topics include: the mind – body problem and proposed solutions to it, consciousness, and the mind’s representation of the world. Readings will consist mostly of influential papers from the latter half of the 20th Century.

 

PHIL 157z: Anscombe's Intention
Professor: James Doyle
Meets: T 2-4

A close reading of Elizabeth Anscombe's short 1957 monograph Intention, a founding text in the philosophy of action, which propounds an anti-Cartesian, non-behaviorist, non-materialist account of intention and related psychological phenomena on the basis of detailed conceptual analysis. 'The most important treatment of action since Aristotle' (Donald Davidson).

 

PHIL 171: Well-Being (Proseminar)
Professor: Jeffrey Behrends
Meets: W 1-3

Well-being, or welfare, is a kind of personal value – it is a value for some individual. We say that someone enjoys a high level of well-being when the life that they lead is a good one for them, and that when someone’s life goes poorly for them, their level of well-being is low. We can all probably point to certain kinds of lives that are paradigmatically high or low in well-being. But it is harder to identify what makes it the case that someone has a particular level of well-being, primarily because it is not obvious what things fundamentally contribute to or detract from the value of one’s life. In this seminar, we will consider contemporary approaches to welfare, including recent defenses of monistic theories like hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory, as well as pluralistic theories. Though it will not be the primary focus of the course, we will also consider attempts to measure well-being in the social sciences, with special attention paid to what, if anything, value theorists and social scientists have to learn from one another.

 

PHIL 173: Metaethics
Professor: Selim Berker
Meets: MWF 12-1

A close examination of three metaethical views that take a deflationary approach toward the moral domain: nihilism, relativism, and expressivism.

 

Graduate seminars

PHIL 225: Foucault
Professor: Sean Kelly
Meets: Th 2-4

A close examination of several of the late College de France lectures by Foucault (c. 1981-84), focused around issues relating to the care of the self.

 

PHIL 243: Philosophy of Mathematics
Professor: Peter Koellner
Meets: T 2-4

This seminar will focus on philosophical issues in contemporary set theory. Topics include: The incompleteness phenomenon, justification and evidence in mathematics, axioms of infinity, axioms of definable determinacy, forcing axioms, and inner model theory.

 

 

PHIL 253x: Oxford Ordinary Language Philosophy
Professor: Warren Goldfarb
Meets: T 2-4

The origins and flowering period of so-called "ordinary language philosophy" in the work of Gilbert Ryle and J. L. Austin and its application in philosophy of mind and epistemology; its eclipse after attacks by Grice and Putnam, and the recent renaissance of interest in it in work of Baz, Bauer and Travis.

 

PHIL 258: Perception
Professor: Susanna Siegel
Meets: Th 2-4

A study of the varieties of determinacy and indeterminacy in perception.

 

PHIL 277a: Graduate Seminar in General Education: Family and Social Justice
Professor: Regina Schouten
Meets: TBA

In this seminar, we’ll work together to design a course that examines the role families play in perpetuating social injustice. Consider the animating problem: We seem to have wide moral prerogative to take special care of those we love, including especially members of our families. But the institution of the family seriously hinders attempts to make society more just, as evidenced by the many ways families transfer advantage across generations. What are we to make of this tension between social justice and the family, and what—if anything—can we do to resolve it? These questions are deeply important for our own lives, and will be deeply important for the lives of the students we go on to explore them with. I hope our group will include participants from different social and disciplinary backgrounds, and correspondingly that the courses we design will incorporate readings and methodologies that reflect our diversity. Most of the readings for our seminar will be scholarship on the central substantive questions outlined above, and each participant will have the opportunity to propose readings for us to consider together. We will engage with the material both as scholarship and as possible content for our subsequent courses, and participants will write regular discussion memos on the readings. Each participant will also read a book on pedagogy or learning theory, and write a precis of the book for the class. The sustained pedagogical project of the course will be to build an understanding of student-centered course design by practicing it in the context of the course we’ll be designing together.

 

PHIL 279: Topics in Political Philosophy
Professor: Lucas Stanczyk
Meets: W 2-4

An examination of selected topics in political philosophy. Topics will vary from year to year. In 2017-18, the seminar will focus on questions of justice in the organization of production, and alternative ways of understanding the significance of inequality for distributive justice.

 

300-level courses

PHIL 300b: First Year Colloquium
Professor: Selim Berker
Meets: M 4-6
A continuation of PHIL 300aa.

 

PHIL 311: Workshop in Moral and Political Philosophy
Professor: Jeffrey Behrends
Meets: M 4-6

A forum for the presentation and discussion of work in progress by students in moral and political philosophy. Open only to graduate students in the Philosophy Department or by invitation of the instructors.

 

PHIL 312: Workshop in Metaphysics and Epistemology
Professor: Susanna Siegel
Meets: W 4-6

A forum for the presentation and discussion of work in progress by students in metaphysics and epistemology. Open only to graduate students in the Philosophy Department or by invitation of the instructors.

 

PHIL 315HFB: Instructional Styles in Philosophy
Professor: Bernhard Nickel
Meets: TBA

Course is required for graduate students in their first year of teaching; optional for students in their second year of teaching. Students must complete both parts of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.

 

PHIL 321f: Philosophy in Translation: French
Professor: Richard Moran
Meets: TBA

A close reading of selected philosophical texts in French with the aim of developing and improving reading and translation skills.

 

PHIL 321g: Philosophy in Translation: Greek
Professor: Russell Jones
Meets: TBA

 

A close reading of philosophical texts in classical Greek, with the aim of developing reading skills as well as making interpretive progress.

 

 

PHIL 321l: Philosophy in Translation: Latin
Professor: Jeffrey McDonough
Meets: TBA

A close reading of philosophical texts in their original Latin language with the aim of developing reading and translation skills.

 

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