Fall 2018

Phil 5200F Myrto Mylopoulos Self-Control, Weakness of Will, and Addiction
Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
This course will examine the topic of self-control and its loss, in cases of weakness of will and addiction, through the lens of contemporary philosophy, and where relevant, cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Among questions to be addressed are the following: What is the best way to understand self-control and its exercise? What is the connection between self-control and willpower, and how ought we to understand this latter capacity? What is the best account of weakness of will? Is it acting against one’s better judgement that is at the heart of this phenomenon, or is it the failure to stick to one’s resolutions? Is weakness of will even possible? If so, is it always irrational? Is it a natural kind? How does addiction differ from weakness of will? Is addictive behaviour always the result of compulsion? Are addicts morally responsible for their addictive behavior?
Phil 5300F Gordon Davis Realism, Anti-Realism and Non-Realism in Metaethics & Metaphilosophy
Mondays, 11:30 – 2:30
Though grounded in some general themes in ethical theory, this course will cover a cross-section of various areas in philosophy, in some cases guided by students’ research interests. It will do so (a) in terms of issues concerning the nature of normativity, and (b) in terms of some parallels between reflection on normativity and reflection on the nature of philosophical argument. A central theme will be the realism/anti-realism debate; we will also consider whether it makes sense to speak of a so-called third option, e.g. ‘non-realism’. It is arguably a central issue in philosophy whether any normative claims can sustain a realist interpretation (not just ethical ones); this course may thus be of interest to some students with more interest in metaphysics and epistemology than in ethics.  Roughly the first half of the course will focus on this issue, mainly as it applies to ethics and the general theory of value. In the second half, students will have an opportunity to draw connections between the metaethical context and other relevant areas in philosophy that may interest them (e.g. logic, critical theory, epistemology, aesthetics).
Phil 5500F Josh Shepherd Advanced Philosophy of Agency
Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
The philosophy of agency investigates a range of topics relevant to our understanding of agents and their place in the world. Since agency is bound up in discussions of moral and criminal responsibility, selfhood, rationality, knowledge, and the nature of the mind, this area of philosophy has wide ramifications. In this seminar we will closely read and examine recent cutting edge work on four topics central to any understanding of agency: the nature of intentional action, the nature of agency, the nature of skill, and the nature of an agent’s knowledge of her own action.
PHIL 5700 Fall Colloquium
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
David Matheson
Proseminar, Philosophical Naturalism
Tuesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
(Mandatory for first year MA students.)
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 2019

Phil 5000W Vida Panitch Exploitation
Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
What does it mean to exploit someone? Typically, this concept is cashed out in terms of unfair advantage taking. But when is it the case that someone plays for advantage, and is this always wrongful? Can exploitation be mutually advantageous? Is exploitation a transactional concept, a feature of individual contracts that ought to be regulated or prevented? Or is it a systemic concept, and thus an inevitable feature of social or economic systems that ought themselves be re-imagined? In this seminar we will explore both systemic and transactional accounts of exploitation through the work of Alan Wertheimer, Iris Marion Young, Robert Goodin, Richard Arneson, Ruth Sample, Charles Mills, Elizabeth Anderson, and others.
Phil 5200W Eros Corazza Themes from Frege
Mondays, 2:30 – 5:30
A careful reading of some of Frege’s work, as well as some relevant commentaries, e.g. Michel Dummett’s Frege Philosophy of Lanugage (OUP) and The Interpetation of Frege Philsoophy (OUP). We’ll also read John Perry Frege’s Detour (forthcoming OUP). Among the topics to discuss there is: identity, co-reference, functions, etc.
Phil 5350W Jay Drydyk Sufficiency and Social/Global Justice
Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Would equality be morally unimportant if everyone just had enough? If so, what is enough? Harry Frankfurt began raising these questions in 1987, and the debate continues to this day. Readings in this seminar address questions like the following. Where do we draw the line, in principle, between what is enough and what is not? Is this a low threshold, below which life is bad? Or is it a high threshold, above which no one can reasonably complain about what they have? What is the right moral attitude towards having enough? Should it be a priority concern, or is it the only concern – making equality irrelevant? Critical discussion of Frankfurt’s arguments will be followed by weekly discussions of subsequent debates. By the end of the course, students will (a) formulate a research question pertaining to an issues raised in this debate; (b) carry out a thorough literature review on that question; and (c) develop an initial answer to that question, assessing its strengths and weaknesses. Discussion of the latter (c) will take the form of a short seminar paper presented to the class, and, building on this, a more complete final essay.
Phil 5500W Gabriele Contessa Egalitarianism
Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
‘Egalitarianism’ is a label applied to a family of views about distributive justice that value equality among individuals. In this seminar, we will explore some of the main contemporary debates about egalitarianism. Questions that may be discussed: What should be equal among individuals? Is equality intrinsically valuable, is it only instrumentally, or is it only valuable insofar as it is the product of the promotion of some other value? What role, if any, should notions such as desert, choice, and luck play in an egalitarian society?
PHIL 5750W
Winter Colloquium
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
Tuesdays, 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.