Fall 2017

Phil 5000F
Vida Panitch
Exploitation and Commodification:  The Just Market
Thursdays, 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 5500A
Joshua Shepherd
The Architecture of the Mind:  Cognition and Perception
Mondays, 11:30 – 2:30
This is an advanced course in empirically-oriented philosophy of mind.  We will closely read and discuss key papers that address the following topics: the nature of cognition and thought, the nature of perception, the similarities and differences between the content of cognition and perception, how cognition and perception influence (and perhaps depend upon) each other.  These topics are the source of much recent (and fruitful) debate, and are central to our growing understanding of the nature and structure of the mind.  As such, the papers we will read are on the cutting edge of both the philosophy and sciences of mind.
Phil 5600A
Annie Larivee
Aristotle and the Philosophical Roots of ‘Ableism’ 
Tuesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
The notion of capacity/ability is crucial in the current Western experience of the world. Not only does it play a central role in influential contemporary philosophical trends (such as virtue ethics, or Nussbaum’s capability approach) but, more importantly, it is one of those deep-seated conceptual foundations on which modern Western culture is built. We tend to assign a lot of value to capacities and to see their cultivation as a condition of happiness at the individual and social level. Not possessing, losing or being unable to develop a certain set of basic abilities is often seen as a failure and is likely to create self-loathing, shame and blame. Refusing to develop or giving up on some abilities (trans-ableism) may even have you diagnosed with a mental illness…The work of Aristotle (especially on practical philosophy), with its insistence on the need to develop virtues in order to reach human flourishing is one of main bases in which this orientation of Western culture is anchored. With its strong teleological framework, its emphasis on human function (ergon), its normative understanding of nature, and its (Platonic) emphasis on form, it also seems to provide a rather rigid and narrow view of the specific set of capacities that can and should be developed by different types of individuals. Moreover its perfectionist orientation –with the adoption of the divine as a model of pure and absolute ‘actualization’–places intellectual activity at the top of the hierarchy of values. In the seminar, we will try to gain a better understanding of the ‘ableist’ presuppositions on which Aristotle’s virtue ethics is based. This will enable us to become aware of their pervasiveness in our culture and, possibly, to challenge them in several respects.
Phil 5600B
Andrew Brook
Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Wednesdays, 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 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
Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
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 2018

Phil 5200A
Myrto Mylopoulos
Theories of Consciousness
Tuesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Some background in philosophy of mind is strongly encouraged for those wishing to take this seminar for credit.Over the past few decades, consciousness has become an important subject of inquiry in the philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. In this seminar, we will explore some of the most promising theoretical frameworks that have emerged as a result of this interdisciplinary focus, and evaluate the extent to which advances have been made in our understanding of this all-important mental phenomenon. Theories we examine will include: Representationalism, the Multiple Drafts Model, Higher-Order Theories, and Global Workspace Theory. Along the way, we will engage with current controversies in consciousness studies, including recent debates on the questions of whether consciousness has a function, whether there is indeed such a thing as unconscious perception, and the precise relationship between consciousness and attention.
Phil 5350A
Robert Ware
Democratic Theory
Wednesdays, 2:30 – 5:30
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 5500A
Gabriele Contessa
Science, Values, and Democracy
Wednesdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Science is held by many in high regard as an exemplar of objectivity and a source of knowledge. And yet scientists do not seem to be immune from the influence of personal interests, social prejudices, political ideologies, etc., which, according to critics of science, undermines their ability to be objective. But how can science be objective if scientists are not immune from extra-scientific values and to what extent does science need to be value-free or objective in order for society to rely on it as a source of knowledge? And what should the relationship between science and society be in a democracy? In this seminar, we will explore these and related questions by looking at some contemporary work on the social dimension of science and on the relationship between science and democracy.
Phil 5600A
Melissa Frankel
Causation and Freedom in Early Modern Philosophy
Mondays, 11:30 – 2:30
What are laws of nature? What is the relationship between science and metaphysics? In a law-governed world, is there any room for human freedom? What about a law-governed world created and conserved by a divine Being – can humans be free in such a world, and if so, in what sense?  In this seminar we will look at early modern approaches to answering these and related questions about causation and freedom.  We will be consulting primary texts from such philosophers as Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, and Leibniz, among others.
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
Gordon Davis
Research Seminar
Thursdays, 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.