Tentative Seminar Topics – Fall 2022/Winter 2023

Myrto Mylopoulos

Skilled Action
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
Melissa Frankel Dreams and Scepticism in Early Modern Philosophy
Description TBD.

Kyla Bruff
Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment 
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.
Gabriele Contessa Democracy
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.
Joshua Shepherd The Philosophical Psychology of Agency
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.
Eros Corazza Self-Knowledge
We will discuss Descartes’ cogito argument as well as Leibniz’s “I” in the monad. Their conceptions will be compared from the works of contemporary scholars such as Castañeda, Perry, Lewis, etc. Most of the papers of contemporary philosophers we will discuss can be found in Q. Cassam (ed.) 1994. Self-Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
Seminar in Ethics
Instructor, Title and Topic TBD.
PHIL 5700 & PHIL 5750

Nicholas Treanor

Fall/Winter Colloquium
Students prepare for and attend the departmental colloquium series (typically including 10 to 12 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
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.
PHIL 5900

Christine Koggel

Research Seminar
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.