Fall 2022

PHIL 5000 Myrto Mylopoulos

Philosophy of Skill
Tuesdays, 11:35 A.M. – 2:25 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
PHIL 5500
Gabriele Contessa
Wednesdays, 2:35 P.M. – 5:25 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 5600
Melissa Frankel
Scepticism and Dreams in Early Modern Philosophy
Mondays, 11:35 A.M – 2:25 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 5701
Nicholas Treanor
Fall 2022 Colloquium
Fridays, 1:05 P.M. – 2:25 P.M.
Students prepare for and attend the departmental colloquium series (typically including 4 to 5 sessions in one term), submitting in writing a critical analysis of some aspect of the presentation or discussion for each colloquium they attend.
PHIL 5850
David Matheson
Proseminar, Philosophical Naturalism
Thursdays, 2:35 P.M. – 5:25 P.M.
As a philosophical movement, naturalism eschews the nonphysical and emphasizes scientifically respectable methods of inquiry. The objective of this seminar is to familiarize you with the roots and guises of contemporary philosophical naturalism and with its presence in three particular areas of philosophy–the philosophy of mind, ethics, and epistemology. Particular topics to be discussed include the American origins of contemporary naturalism, its ontological and methodological commitments, the causal closure of the physical domain, varieties of physicalism about the mental, naturalist challenges to metaethical realism, the autonomy of normative philosophy, and whether a naturalized epistemology vitiates traditional epistemology’s reliance on intuition and the a priori.

Winter 2023

PHIL 5000
Matthew Scarfone
Seminar in Ethics
Thursdays, 11:25 A.M. – 2:25 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 5200A
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 5200B
Joshua Shepherd
The Philosophical Psychology of Agency
Mondays, 11:25 A.M. – 2:25 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.
PHIL 5600
Kyla Bruff
Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment
Tuesdays, 11:35 A.M. – 2:25 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 5751
Nicholas Treanor
Winter 2023 Colloquium
Fridays, 1:05 P.M. – 2:25 P.M.
Students prepare for and attend the departmental colloquium series (typically including 4 to 5 sessions in one term), submitting in writing a critical analysis of some aspect of the presentation or discussion for each colloquium they attend.
PHIL 5900
Christine Koggel
Research Seminar
Thursdays, 2:25 P.M. – 5:25 P.M.
Mandatory seminar course for all first-year MA students. The primary objective of this seminar is to develop topics for theses or research essays. Students will consult with potential supervisors during this process.