Graduate Seminars for Fall 2015 and Winter 2016

Below is a list of Graduate Seminars for the Fall 2015 term and the Winter 2016 term. Please check back periodically as details will be added from time to time.

Fall 2015

Phil 5000F
Vida Panitch
Topic: Commodification and Exploitation
Time: Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Should the sale of certain goods be impermissible? If so, is this because their exchange for money corrupts or degrades them in some sense, or is it because their sale inevitably involves the exploitation of vulnerable agents? This seminar will explore and evaluate recent philosophical work on commodification and exploitation, specifically as it pertains to the sale of the human body and body parts.
Phil 5250F
Gabriele Contessa
Topic: The Ontology of Mathematics
Time: Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Mathematical sentences appear to refer to and quantify over (putative) mathematical entities, such as numbers, sets, and points. But are there really mathematical entities? If so, what are they? If not, how are we to understand mathematical discourse and how are we to explain the extraordinary effectiveness of mathematics? In this seminar, we will explore some of these questions (and related ones).
Phil 5600F
Annie Larivée
Topic: The Stoics on Emotions
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Being self-controlled to the point of being impassible, insensitive, cold and emotionless is part of the caricature of the perfect ‘Stoic’ that remains a prominent ethical paradigm in Western culture to this day. In the seminar we will explore the cognitive understanding of emotions that characterized the Stoic approach. This exploration will enable us to go beyond the caricature of the hard-hearted Stoic and to challenge our own (platonic) understanding of the conflict between emotions and reason.
Phil 5600X
Melissa Frankel
Topic: Women and Early Modern Philosophy
Time: Mondays, 11:30 – 2:30
In this seminar we will reconsider the standard early modern canon in two different ways.  First, we will examine feminist critiques of canonical figures in early modern philosophy, and also responses to those critiques.  This may also involve looking at some of the ways in which early modern philosophers might have presaged later feminist thought in their work. Second, we will consider whether the canon might be limited and limiting: we will look at some of the writings of early modern women philosophers to think about the ways in which their work might have contributed to significant philosophical debates in the period.
PHIL 5700
Fall Colloquium
Time: Fridays, 12:00
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
David Matheson
Topic: Proseminar:  Philosophical Naturalism
Time: Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
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, reductionist, nonreductionist, and eliminativist forms of physicalism about the mental, the relationship between metaethical realism and naturalism, the autonomy of normative philosophy, and whether a naturalized epistemology vitiates traditional epistemology’s reliance on intuition and the _a priori_.

Winter 2016

Phil 5000B
Geraldine Finn
Topic: Philosophy and Sex
Time: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30
Is there such a thing as ‘sex’? If so, what kind of a thing is it? What is its ontological status? How have philosophers conceptualized sex? Have philosophers conceptualized sex? What is the specificity of the concept? How does it function as a meaningful element in philosophical discourse? Does it function as a meaningful element in philosophical discourse? And if not why not?
What exactly is the relationship between sex and philosophy? This course will explore these questions through a detailed study of Plato and Sex by Stella Sandford (Polity Press, 2010) as well as other readings yet to be determined.
Phil 5200B
Myrto Mylopoulos

Topic: Consciousness and Agency
Time:  Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
In both folk psychology and more formal theorizing, consciousness and action are often assumed to be importantly related. In this course, we will question and examine different aspects of this purported relationship. We will start by laying down some groundwork and surveying leading philosophical theories of consciousness and action. We will then proceed to address the following questions, among others: What role, if any, does consciousness play in action control? What psychological mechanisms underlie our “sense of agency,” that is, one’s conscious awareness of oneself as the source of one’s actions? How can we make sense of certain pathological conditions in which such awareness seems to break down? Is consciousness required for free will and moral responsibility, as some have recently argued? We will tackle these questions by appeal to both theoretical considerations and a range of empirical results from the cognitive sciences.
Phil 4320/5320
Pragati Sahni
Topic: Buddhist Ethics
Time:  Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:20
Moral themes are considered an integral part of Buddhism.  This seminar intends to explore textual evidence to understand the nature of moral reflection in Buddhism. Selections from primary Pali texts in translation will be copiously read along with recent views and expositions of scholars of Buddhist studies to trace the framework of morality. Metaphysical and soteriological issues will be discussed as they arise in relation to ethics. The seminar will examine and assess the application of Buddhist morality to some modern day ethical dilemmas. The challenges of applying ancient principles to contemporary issues will be reflected upon.
Phil 5200W
Eros Corazza
Topic: “Is”
Time: Mondays, 2:30 – 5:30
The verb “to be” appears in many linguistic constructions: “St. Anne is Jesus’ grand-mother”, “Clark Kent is Superman”, “Water is H2O”, “Sue is called Sue”, “The book is on the taable”, “The wheal is a mammal”, “Robyn Fenty is now called Rhianna”, “This is a book”, etc.
Through logics, linguistics, semantics, and pragmatics we’ll investigate the various functions of “is” in variegated linguistic construals and whether a unified theory can be proposed. Questions pertaining to identity (e.g. Leibnitz’s law), the subject/predicate distinction, etc. will be touched.
Phil 5350X
Robert Ware
Topic: Democratic Theory
Time: Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
After a general introduction to concepts of democracy, we will critically assess several of the most influential theories of democracy, including its liberal, representative, participatory, and deliberative forms. Close to half of the course will then investigate conundrums and crises, including collective and individual conflicts and other issues to be determined by the interests of the group.
PHIL 5750
Winter Colloquium

Time: Fridays, 12:00
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.