Graduate Seminars for Fall 2016 and Winter 2017

Below is a list of Graduate Seminars for the Fall 2016 term and the Winter 2017 term. Please check back periodically as details will be added from time to time.

Fall 2016

Phil 5600F
Annie Larivée
Title:  The Role of Pleasure in the Flourishing Life from Plato to Epicurus
Time: Mondays, 5:30 – 8:30
Whereas most ancient philosophers agreed on the fact that philosophy, as a way of life, should provide a form of therapy for the soul (psyche), their opinions widely diverged on the specific form such therapy should take. They agreed on the therapeutic goal of philosophy, but offered different methods to reach eudaimonia (flourishing, happiness).
In this seminar, we will focus our attention on one element of the good life about which ancient philosophers were particularly divided as therapists of the soul: hedone (pleasure).  Our trajectory will start with the highly critical and subtle account of the nature and role of pleasure provided by classical philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and will culminate in the celebration of pleasure as the central element of philosophical therapy with Epicurus.
Our inquiry will be centered on the following texts:  Plato (Protagoras, Gorgias, Philebus), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics Books VII and X, 1-6), Epicurus (Diogenes Laertius’ testimony, Epicurus’ letters to Herodotus, to Pythocles, to Meneceus, Principal Maxims), Cicero (De Finibus 1, 2, Seneca (Letters to Lucilius, 9, 18, 21, 24, 25), Martha Nussbaum’s The Therapy of Desire (chapters 4-7 inclusive).
Students will also be invited to read a few pages of Lucretius’ epicurean Poem On the Nature of Things every day as way to integrate the Epicurean principles (whereas the previous readings will be mandatory, this practical experiment will be optional).
Phil 5000F
Katherine Wayne
Topic: Animal Ethics
Time: Thursdays, 5:30 – 8:30
This course involves rethinking fundamental social categories such as friendship, community, culture, and citizenship through an investigation of the ethics of human-animal relationships. Rather than pursuing a broad historical survey of these relationships or revisiting the traditional animal rights literature, in this course we examine contemporary research that reflects the recently rapid progress in animal ethics and politics. More specifically, we focus on the relationship between humans and domesticated animals (typically bred and raised for food, labour/service, or companionship), and consider how humans and domestic animals may contribute to and flourish together in a just moral and political community.
Domesticated animals raise distinctive philosophical and practical questions; their modification at the hands of humans renders them simultaneously profoundly vulnerable to exploitation and cruelty, and valued (sometimes even loved) contributing members of society. In response, some contemporary scholars support what can be broadly labeled the membership model for domestic animals. They argue that humans have a duty of care to domestic animals, and that domestic animals are owed a robust form of membership in society. Others support a strong abolitionist position (sometimes referred to as extinctionism), and claim that because domestic animals have been bred to be dependent on us, their lives are inherently degraded and undesirable.
The first half of the course will provide an overview of contemporary debates and topics in animal ethics and politics. The second half of the course will narrow in on the normative dimensions of the human-domestic animal relationship, and is divided into two parts. First, we will focus on theoretical foundations of this relationship, considering questions like: what kinds of relationships are morally appropriate and desirable between domestic animals and humans? To what extent and in what ways are humans permitted or required to intervene in domestic animals’ lives? Second, we identify and assess how different theoretical approaches to the relationship between humans and domestic animals address concrete issues such as pet ownership, meat and animal product consumption, animal labour, and reproduction regulation.
Phil 5200F
Myrto Mylopoulos
Topic: Skilled Action
Time: Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
This seminar will examine skilled action from several different angles. Among the questions we will explore are the following: What makes someone an expert with respect to a certain skill? Is expertise domain-specific, or is there some common factor underlying expertise among, e.g., artists, musicians, and athletes? How exactly does skilled behaviour differ from non-skilled behaviour? What positive contributions do consciousness, attention, and reflection make to skilled performance? In what ways might they be hindrances? Does the phenomenology of skilled action differ from the phenomenology of non-skilled action? How can we best understand the “know how” often thought to underlie skilled behaviour? In order to tackle these questions, we will appeal to a broad range of theoretical and empirical considerations, both within the classical and contemporary literature.
PHIL 5700
Fall Colloquium
Time: Fridays, 11:30 – 1:30
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
Melissa Frankel
Time: Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Mandatory for first-year MA students.
Students in this seminar will engage with contemporary philosophical research by exploring relations and interactions between two broad fields:  philosophy of mind, language, and knowledge; and moral, social, and political philosophy.  Specific topics will vary from year to year.

Winter 2017

Phil 5000B
Geraldine Finn
Topic: Philosophy and Money
Time: Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
As far back as Heraclitus who said, “All things are an equal exchange for fire and fire for all things, as goods are for gold and gold for goods,” there has been a relationship between philosophy and money. And while it is common for philosophers to appeal to money in order to make a philosophical point – Kant, for instance, in his refutation of the ontological proof for the existence of God, concluded that “we can no more extend our stock of [theoretical] insight by mere ideas, than a merchant can better his position by adding a few noughts to his cash account” – philosophers have shown considerable reluctance to make money the object of their philosophical investigation. We have to wonder why? Why the routine reference to money in philosophy alongside an equally routine reluctance to consider it as an appropriate object for philosophical inquiry? What is money? What is its ontological status? What are its metaphysical and moral presuppositions and implications? What precisely is the relationship between the appearance and reality of money and the appearance and reality of philosophy? And why should we care?
Phil 5200W
Eros Corazza

Topic: LF
Time:  Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30
In Our Knowledge of the External Word Russell claims: “Traditional logic regarded the two propositions ‘Socrates is mortal’ and ‘All men are mortal’ as being of the same form; Peano and Frege showed that they are utterly different in form … the philosophical importance of the advance which they made is impossible to exaggerate.”  We will try to understand and discuss this quote.
Phil 5350X
Gabriele Contessa
Topic: John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism
Time:  Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
John Rawls is arguably the most influential political philosopher in the analytic tradition. In this seminar, we will read two of Rawls’ most important works: A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism.
Phil 5600W
Andrew Brook
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 centered 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.
PHIL 5750W
Winter Colloquium

Time: Fridays, 11:30 – 1:30
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
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.