Graduate Seminars for Fall 2014 and Winter 2015

Below is a list of Graduate Seminars for the Fall 2014 term and the Winter 2015 term. Please check back periodically as details will be added from time to time.

Fall 2014

Phil 5000F
Vida Panitch
Topic: Justice and Equality Part 1
Time: Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Contract Theories In this course we will examine the contractualist debate on the nature of distributive justice generated by the publication of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. We will look at the various arguments, critiques, and developments proposed by Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, GA Cohen, Philippe Van Parijs, Elizabeth Anderson, Michael Walzer and others. Part 2 of the course, to be taught by Jay Drydyk in the winter term, will explore non-contractualist approaches to justice and equality, specifically in a global context.
Phil 5350F
Geraldine Finn
Topic: The Politics of Philosophy / The Philosophy of Politics
Time: Fridays, 8:30 – 11:30
This course will explore the relationship between philosophy and politics through a close reading of selected writings by Hannah Arendt. The course will be run as a seminar with individual students assuming responsibility for introducing each of the weekly readings. Evaluation will be based on seminar participation and presentation, take-home exam and a final essay on a topic of your choice. Required texts include The Promise of Politics by Hannah Arendt (edited with an introduction by Jerome Kohn) plus others to be determined.
Phil 5600F
Annie Larivée
Topic: Ancient and Contemporary Reflections on the Self
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30
In this seminar, we will examine texts devoted to issues related to the self in both ancient and contemporary philosophy. The texts we will work on will include Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Aurelius, Plotinus, as well as Charles Taylor (Sources of the Self), Anthony Appiah (The Ethics of Authenticity), Richard Sorabji (Self. Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life, and Death), and Christine Korsgaard (Self-Constitution. Agency, Identity, and Integrity).
Phil 5600X
Erik Stephenson
Topic: Spinoza’s Political Philosophy
Time: Tuesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
In this seminar, we will undertake a close, historically-informed reading of Spinoza’s two major works of political philosophy: namely, his Theological-Political Treatise and Political Treatise.  These works were widely condemned after their publication for the revolutionary positions they argued for on such issues as: the freedom of thought, expression, and worship; the proper relation between secular and sacred authorities; the relation between right and power; the nature, origins, and rightful limits of State-power; the nature of God, miracles, providence, and salvation; the authorship and status of the Hebrew Bible; and so on.  But despite varying attempts to vilify and suppress them, these writings were – as Jonathan Israel has recently shown – the principal source of the most radical strands of political thought in the European Enlightenment.  As such, they arguably continue to influence present-day debates and practices.  Our primary aim will be to understand Spinoza’s political thought, but we will be aided in this endeavour by keeping in mind the historical context in which he was writing, as well as some of the ways his works were received by later thinkers.
PHIL 5700
Fall Colloquium
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.
Phil 5850F
Gabriele Contessa
Topic: Proseminar
Time: Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Traditionally, conceptual analysis was taken to be a central component of analytic philosophy. Analytic philosophers tried to analyze philosophically interesting concepts such as knowledge, causation, justice, or freedom  in the hope to gain some insight into their nature. In the last few decades, this traditional picture has come under increasing scrutiny and, today, most analytic philosophers would deny that conceptual analysis does or should play a major role in philosophy. On the one hand, philosophical realists argue that philosophy aims at uncovering truths about the world not about our way of thinking or talking about it. On the other hand, philosophical naturalists have argued that philosophy cannot and should not be conducted in a purely a priori fashion but should be guided by philosophically significant insights coming from the empirical sciences and incorporate them in a coherent world-picture. Finally, in recent years, experimental philosophers have cast doubts on the reliability and universality of the very intuitions that drive traditional philosophical analysis. This seminar will investigate some of these themes and aims at familiarizing students with some of the main methodological issues in and approaches to contemporary analytic philosophy by focusing on three relatively recent books.

Winter 2015

Phil 5200W
Eros Corazza
Topic: Reference and Proper Names
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Names are wonderful tools we use to individuate, track, and cumulate information, mainly about people and places. We also use names for pets, events, etc. Although we may have many individuals sharing a name, a name is essentially used to single out a specific individual, be it a person, a place, an event, or what have you. They are proper names. In discussing how names work in language and in mind we’ll touch at notions such as:  memory, mental files, singular reference/thought.
Phil 5300W
Gordon Davis
Topic: Meta-ethics and the aims of moral theory
Time: Fridays, 8:30 – 11:30
What would it mean for there to be a ‘single true moral theory’?  In what ways can moral claims be ‘true’ or ‘false’?  Is the search for a ‘unified moral theory’ more or less justified than the search for a ‘grand unified theory’ in the sciences?  If there were such a thing in ethics, how much practical guidance could it be expected to offer in our actual ethical deliberations?  How can more general theories inform these problems (e.g. theories of normative reasons, or in a very different vein, critical theory and the genealogy of ideology)?  We will explore these meta-ethical questions, by considering both the background to early attempts at unified theories (in Kant and in classical utilitarianism), and recent work in meta-ethics by such writers as Christine Korsgaard, Michael Smith, Derek Parfit and Jonathan Dancy.
Phil 5350X
Jay Drydyk
Topic: Justice and Equality Part 2:  From Contracts to Capabilities
Time: Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
This is a sequel to the Special Topic Seminar Justice and Equality Part 1: Contract Theories, which is recommended but not required as a prerequisite. We will begin with problematic limitations of the social contract tradition as discussed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. We will also consider what the capability approach might put in its place, along with challenges to the capability approach.
PHIL 5600W
Melissa Frankel
Topic: God in Early Modern Philosophy
Time: Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Discussions of the existence and nature of God play a central role in early modern philosophy.  In this course we’ll consider some of the ways in which God figures in the philosophical arguments of the 17th and 18th centuries.  We will be consulting primary texts from philosophers including Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, and Leibniz, and looking at such diverse topics as proofs of the existence of God, God and the possibility of human free will, God and the problem of evil, God’s role in perception, God’s causal role, and God and the laws of nature.
PHIL 5750
Winter Colloquium
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.
Phil 5900W
Christine Koggel
Topic: Research Seminar
Time: Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Mandatory seminar course for all first-year MA students. The primary objective of this seminar is to develop topics for theses or research essays. This will be done in the following stages:

  • presenting an extended search for literature on the topic of a paper you have written previously, prioritizing what you find;
  • presenting to the class one paper or chapter, to identify a possible research topic;
  • presenting a few other key articles or chapters, situating your view in relation to these;
  • presenting a short seminar paper beginning to develop and defend that position;
  • writing an abstract to propose how the short paper will be developed into a full paper, in light of discussion and comments received;
  • writing an MA research proposal, consisting of a bibliography and 1000 word statement of the subject matter and aims of thesis or research essay, towards the Thesis and Research Essay Approval Form;
  • writing the longer paper, aiming either for a writing sample or part of a first thesis chapter.

Students will consult with potential supervisors during this process.