Fall 2022

Phil 4006 Melissa Frankel Scepticism and Dreams in Early Modern Philosophy
Mondays, 11:30-2:30 P.M.
In Descartes’s first Meditation, he famously advances a number of sceptical hypotheses to try to uncover the ground of our knowledge. One of these – the dream hypothesis – seems to undermine our knowledge of the external world by raising a purported problem about distinguishing between dreams and reality.  But what, precisely, is the problem?  Is this really a problem that we ought to take seriously? Did Descartes himself take this problem seriously? And just how concerned was Descartes with scepticism overall?  In this seminar, we will consider early modern sceptical and anti-sceptical philosophies, looking at texts from Descartes, Bayle, Locke, Berkeley, and Shepherd, among others. We will pay special attention, where possible, to the role of dreams; we will consider both views on which dreams pose a genuine problem for knowledge, as well as views on which they pose no problem at all.  Our primary focus will be on epistemological questions, but we will also consider questions about philosophy of mind, perception, and metaphysics.
Phil 4008
Gabriele Contessa
Wednesdays, 2:30-5:30 P.M.
Despite the fact that the word ‘democracy’ is used very frequently in political discourse, there is surprisingly little agreement as to what a democracy is, what the value of democracy is, what legitimises democratic forms of government, or how they differ from similar forms of government such as republics. In this seminar, we will explore some of these questions through some contemporary works in political philosophy.
Phil 4100 Myrto Mylopoulos Philosophy of Skill
Tuesdays, 11:30-2:30 P.M.
Reflection on skilled action in a range of areas, including sports, the performing arts, and everyday life, reveals a number of fascinating questions for philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and even moral psychology. Among the questions we will examine in this advanced seminar are the following: What is the nature of skill, and how does it relate to automaticity, habit, and intentional action more generally? What is the best way to understand the species of “know how” that skilled agents possess, and that novices lack? What is the role, if any, of consciousness, attention, and metacognition in the control of skilled action? Do they simply interfere with the smooth execution of skill as is commonly supposed, or might they be important for skill, and even necessary? Finally, what can be said about the relationship between skill and moral capacities? Can the development of certain of these capacities, such as that for self-control, or virtue more generally, be fruitfully modelled as a form of skill acquisition? We will explore these questions and others through the lens of contemporary philosophy and, where relevant, cognitive psychology and neuroscience

Winter 2023

Phil 4005
Kyla Bruff
Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment
Tuesdays, 11:30-2:30 P.M.
The Dialectic of Enlightenment is a seminal text of the Frankfurt School and critical theory tradition. It sets its own task to discover “why mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism.” This book includes the famous “Culture Industry” essay, in which Adorno and Horkheimer analyze the streamlined creation of needs fulfilled through standardized cultural products, serving to entertain consumers under late capitalism. Through a close reading of the text, we will examine Adorno and Horkheimer’s critical assessments of reason, the Enlightenment project, positivism, liberalism, contemporary forms of domination and violence, administered societies, entertainment culture, and Kantian moral philosophy. We will also explore the relationship between reason and nature, reason and myth, the rational and the irrational. Very short excerpts from relevant texts, ranging from Homer’s Odyssey to works by Kant, Marquis de Sade, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, will accompany weekly readings when helpful.
Phil 4100
Matthew Scarfone
Seminar in Ethics
Tuesdays, 11:30-2:30 P.M.
More often assumed than stated, the guiding thought behind normative ethics is that the function or purpose of moral judgments is ultimately to produce beneficial effects, follow good rules, or develop virtuous characters. But what else might these judgments do? In this seminar we will look at issues related to the purported function of morality. Some of the questions we will be working on are: What are moral judgments? Why have we come to characterize the world in moral terms? Do moral judgments have one function or many functions? Can morality, which is on the surface about doing good, be used to do bad? Can we tease apart descriptive and normative functions of moral judgments? Does learning about the emergence of moral judgments help us understand their current function? Can genealogies of morality have either a vindicatory or else a debunking effect?
Phil 4210
Eros Corazza
“Madagascar” and Madagascar: The Philosophy of Keith Donnellan
Tuesdays, 2:35 P.M. – 5:25 P.M.
“Corruption of names is just as possible as corruption of information” (K. Donnellan 1974: 99).
“Distinctness of the referents will be a sufficient condition for the distinctness of the names” (S. Kripke 1980: 8 fn. 9).
We will discuss these two quotes: Much can be said.
Phil 4220
Joshua Shepherd
The Philosophical Psychology of Agency
Mondays, 11:30-2:30 P.M.
This seminar will explore the notion of ‘agency’ as it figures in the philosophical psychology of several notable philosophers over the past 60 years or so. As agency has many different aspects, the work we will explore is at intersections between philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the philosophy of cognitive science. We will also see how different philosophers emphasize different facets of agency, including consciousness, self-consciousness, rationality, free will, attention, and executive control.