Fall 2023

Phil 4100 Kyla Bruff The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory
Mondays, 11:35am-2:25pm
This course will be based on a critical analysis of the concept of nature in the work of Karl Marx, Georg Lukács, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas. The main course text will be Steven Vogel’s Against Nature, which will help us to directly relate and apply insights and debates in critical theory to the ecological crisis and environmental issues. This text will be supplemented with primary text excerpts from each of the above thinkers as we proceed chronologically, with G.W.F. Hegel occupying a constant presence in the background.
Phil 4300
Jay Drydyk
Justice Without Ideals
Thursdays, 11:35am-2:25pm
Does it make sense to work towards social and global justice if we do not have ideal of justice in mind, clear conceptions of what a fully just society and world would be? Without knowing what justice is ideally, how can we recognize injustices in the actual world? On the other hand, we don’t need to know what heaven is like in order to recognize moral wrong-doing, so why should it be harder to recognize injustice? In this seminar we will consider this question as it has been taken up in recent debates on ideal and non-ideal theorizing about justice, including the thinking of John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Charles Mills, and others.
Phil 4330 Gabriele Contessa Political Power
Wednesdays, 11:35am-2:25pm
What is political power? And how (if at all) can it be justified? In this seminar, we will explore possible answers to these questions from a number of political perspectives, including those of liberals, anarchists, and realists.
PHIL 4220
Josh Redstone
Ethics and A.I.: Challenges and Opportunities
Tuesdays, 2:35pm-5:25pm
Recent years have seen the unprecedented proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) in many areas of human life. While these achievements are arguably impressive, they also raise important questions concerning our relationship with AI, and with technology more generally. In this seminar, we will explore what AI is, and identify and discuss the ethical challenges which it raises. Specifically, we will consider questions such as: what impacts – positive or negative – does AI have on freedom, autonomy, and agency? Can everyone enjoy the benefits of AI, or does it affect the privileged and the marginalized differently? Is the development and use of AI something we can control, or is it autonomous (i.e., with a life of its own)? Is AI fundamentally different in nature than other kinds of technology, and if so, how? Does AI represent an existential threat to humanity, or can it help us to address other existential threats (like war or climate change)?

Winter 2024

Phil 4220
Myrto Mylopoulos
Animal Consciousness
Mondays, 11:35am-2:25pm
In this seminar, we will examine theoretical approaches to consciousness (e.g., higher-order theory, global workspace theory, recurrent processing theory) with an eye towards determining the extent to which they can help us answer the question of how widely distributed consciousness is across nonhuman animal species.
Phil 4320
Marie-Pier Lemay
The Ethics of Social Movements
Tuesdays, 2:35-5:35pm

This course explores contemporary ethical debates and theories on social movements. In a 2016 article published in Philosophy Compass, Avery Kolers deplored the lack of attention philosophers have devoted to social movements. Since then, there has unquestionably been a resurgence of writings in ethics and adjacent philosophical fields on normative insights and theories developed from cases of social movements. In this course, we will explore this burgeoning field together. We will examine philosophers and thinkers who develop normative insights and theories from empirical cases. Of course, civil disobedience and violence are on our agenda, but we will also explore the social ontology of groups, the epistemic dimensions of group representation, the ethics of deference, the morality of ecotage, and insights gained from reading Indigenous thinkers on these questions.
Phil 4005
Melissa Frankel
Causation and Freedom in Early Modern Philosophy
Tuesdays, 11:35am-2:25pm
What are laws of nature? What is the relationship between science and metaphysics? In a law-governed world, is there any room for human freedom? What about a law-governed world created and conserved by a divine Being – can humans be free in such a world, and if so, in what sense?  In this seminar we will look at early modern approaches to answering these and related questions about causation and freedom.  We will be consulting primary texts from such philosophers as Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, and Leibniz, among others.