Graduate Seminars for Fall 2013 and Winter 2014
Below is a list of Graduate Seminars for the Fall 2013 term and the Winter 2014 term. Please check back periodically as details will be added from time to time.
Topic: Morality and the Market
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30 Are there some things that should not be for sale? Are certain goods of intrinsic worth, which their commodification negates? What are the moral and political arguments in favour of so-called “blocked exchanges,” or transactions among consenting parties that must nonetheless be prevented due to the nature of the good or service being exchanged for money? And finally, are these arguments persuasive at the level of the state such that blocked exchanges can be legitimately coerced? We will look at the work of Michael Sandel, Michael Walzer, John Rawls, Elizabeth Anderson, David Miller, Debra Satz, and Cecile Fabre.
Topic: Philosophy of Mental Disorder
Time: Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30 In the course, we explore the malfunctioning mind as a way to understanding ordinary mental function. We explore the ideas that mental disorders are diseases, adaptive subtypes, or cultural constructions. We will also look more specifically at disorders, such as autism, psychopathy, schizophrenia, and multiple personality disorder. What is it to have a sense of self as one self? How should we understand delusions? What makes some people maintain that other people are talking inside their heads? Etc.
Time: Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30 Metaphysics has been traditionally regarded as the branch of philosophy that investigates the fundamental structure of the world. However, philosophers have often questioned the very legitimacy of this enterprise. Among the questions raised by the critics of traditional metaphysics are “Are metaphysical disputes substantial or merely verbal?”, “Are there metaphysical truths, and, if so, are they knowable (by us)?”, “Can empirical evidence shed light on metaphysical questions or should metaphysics rely solely on a priori armchair speculation?”, and “Has metaphysics been superseded by science?” In this seminar, we will explore some of these questions and examine some of the arguments for or against traditional metaphysics and its alternatives.
Topic: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Time: Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30 We will do a close reading of all the major parts of Kant’s first Critique, with occasional glances at other works. The course will be centred on summaries of the passage to be discussed toward the end of each seminar followed by a student presentation at the beginning of the next seminar.
Time: Fridays, 3:00
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.
Time: Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30 Mandatory seminar course for all first-year MA students. The topic this year will be philosophical naturalism. As a philosophical movement, naturalism eschews the nonphysical and emphasizes scientifically respectable methods of inquiry. In this seminar we will explore the roots and manifestations of contemporary philosophical naturalism in three main areas: epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of mind. Particular topics to be discussed may include the American origins of contemporary naturalism, the causal closure of the physical domain, intuitions as evidence and the viability of conceptual analysis, the autonomy of normative philosophy, the is-ought problem, the relationship between metaethical realism and naturalism, and reductionist, nonreductionist, and eliminativist forms of physicalism about mental states.
Topic: Having in Mind: the case of proper names
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30 Mill’s well-celebrated claim is that all there is to names is their bearers, viz. that names denote but don’t connote. We’ll explore the view whether there is more to names. We’ll discuss whether on top of denoting, names may also connote and if so how. The question we’ll investigate is how names directly anchor our thought to the external world and, as such, allow us to entertain singular, de re, thoughts and, thus, having someone in mind. We’ll see how names, on top of being tools of direct reference (being tags), may play an important cognitive role in helping us to organize our mental and social life. The philosophical (semantic) tradition has tended to focus on the how question, i.e. on how names relate to their bearers. We’ll try to investigate some related important aspects on the use of proper names and, in so doing focus on the why question, i.e. why do we have proper names to begin with? We’ll thus study the cognitive importance and cognitive motivations of having names. In so doing, we’ll see how names may also conveyors some empathic connections we can bear with their bearer.
Topic: Development Ethics
Time: Mondays, 2:30 – 5:30 This course uses the lens of human development, in what is known as the capabilities approach, to explore moral issues raised by development. Answers to what development is and should be will be explored by examining some of the recent literature in development ethics.
Topic: Rationalism and Empiricism?
Time: Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30 17th and 18th century philosophers are often divided into two categories, namely, the “Rationalists,” and the “Empiricists.” In this seminar we will consider whether or not this categorization is justified, paying special attention to the so-called “British Empiricists:” Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
Topic: The Problem of Universals: from Plato to Spinoza
Time: Tuesdays, 11:30 – 2:30 In this seminar we will study the history of the medieval debate concerning the question of the ontological and epistemological status of universals – that is, in a nutshell, the debate on whether universals have any mind-independent reality. We will thus be reading selections from Boethius, Abelard, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Ockham. However, we will also examine both the historical foundations of this debate in the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Porphyry, and its ramifications in the works of early-modern authors like Suarez, Hobbes, and Spinoza. Related questions will be addressed as we proceed. These include, most notably, the question of the nature of the principle of individuation and the question of the nature of the highest human good.
Time: Fridays, 3:00 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.
Topic: Research Seminar
Time: Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30 Mandatory seminar course for all first-year MA students. Students work by stages towards their MA research proposals. Other topics include: the strengths and weaknesses of different resources for literature search, and characteristics of a good abstract or proposal.