Fall 2024

Phil 4007 – Gabriele Contessa  Trust
What is trust? What does it take to trust someone? What does it mean for someone to be trustworthy? Is it possible to trust things as well as people? What is the function of trust? Are there different sorts of trust? Is trust always a good thing? These are some of the questions that we are going to discuss in this seminar, which will explore the way in which the notion of trust is approached in different branches of contemporary analytic philosophy from ethics and social philosophy to epistemology.
Phil 4100 – Jay Drydyk The Capability Approach
Which inequalities matter for social and global justice? Twenty years ago, the policy world and the philosophical world assumed these were inequalities of income and wealth. The capability approach blew up this complacent assumption by reviving the Aristotelian argument that money is not intrinsically valuable, only a means to human well-being and flourishing. What should concern us is that people are unequally free to live well. Around this basic concept the capability approach developed methodologies for measuring unequal capabilities for living well. The main philosophical benefit is that poverty can be understood as a shortfall of freedom. This seminar will focus first on central concepts and methods of the capability approach as developed by Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, and others. Then implications will be considered, e.g. for social justice, global justice, disability, health, and non-human life. Some assignments will examine what capability concepts and methods can add to research on topics of special interest to the students.
Phil 4220 – Josh Redtsone Philosophy of Social Robotics: Theory, Fact, and Fiction
Social robots are human-like artifacts that are, according to social robotics pioneer Cynthia Breazeal, “socially intelligent in a human-like way.” Familiar examples from science fiction – for instance Star Trek’s Mr. Data or R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars – anticipate the social robots that have appeared on the scene in recent decades, such as Breazeal’s Kizmet, ATR’s/Hiroshi Ishiguro Labs’s Geminoid series, Hanson Robotics’s Sophia, Engineered Arts’s Ameca, and Aldebaran’s Pepper, to name a few. These examples – together with the prospect of developing even more advanced social robots – present new opportunities and challenges to roboticists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers alike. In this seminar, we will engage with philosophical questions raised by social robots. Will we ever be capable of creating robots that are truly socially intelligent in a human-like way? If so, ought we do so? What roles can social robots play in society, and what roles ought they play? Can social robots serve as experimental vehicles for learning more about robotics, and about ourselves? Can theoretical or imaginary robots also serve as conceptual vehicles for better understanding humanity? Is the so-called “robot revolution” on the horizon, or merely a pipe dream?
Phil 4330 – Vida Panitch Basic Income and Distributive Justice
The topic of an Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) has recently become one of interest in both the public and political forum, even more so as governments scrambled to respond to rising unemployment during the pandemic. Yet philosophers have been debating the merits of a UBI for decades now, as part of a larger inquiry into the demands of distributive justice. We will be exploring these arguments and evaluating whether the weight of the reasons that have been supplied for a UBI could indeed ground a social policy likely to achieve the considerable goals its proponents endorse. We will explore varied and often competing arguments for a UBI, including those from egalitarian, libertarian, communitarian, feminist, labour, and climate change theorists, and look at basic income experiments both past and present with a special focus on the unintended health related benefits these experiments produced.

Winter 2025

Phil 4100 – TBD TBD
Phil 4220 – Andy Brook Seminar in Philosophy of Mind or Cognition
The seminar will focus on one or two central, difficult topics in the philosophy of mind or cognition such as consciousness, free will, or intentionality, or a major theorist such as Daniel Dennett. Students will be consulted before the final selection of topics.
Phil 4330 – Kyla Bruff
The Politics of German Idealism
This course will explore the political philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Schelling. Key political texts from these thinkers will be read in relation to the changing German political context from 1770-1850. We will explore the development of each thinker’s perspectives on right, the law, citizenship, revolution, religion, and the relationship between the state and the community. We will critically investigate how the law and the state relate to the realization of human freedom, asking: in which political configuration did the classical German philosophers think we would be most free? How did they think we would get there?