See below our tentative list of graduate seminars for the 2023-24 academic year! Please note that this list is subject to change, and will be updated closer to the Fall 2023 term.
Justice Without Ideals
Does it make sense to work towards social and global justice if we do not have ideal of justice in mind, clear conceptions of what a fully just society and world would be? Without knowing what justice is ideally, how can we recognize injustices in the actual world? On the other hand, we don’t need to know what heaven is like in order to recognize moral wrong-doing, so why should it be harder to recognize injustice? In this seminar we will consider this question as it has been taken up in recent debates on ideal and non-ideal theorizing about justice, including the thinking of John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Charles Mills, and others.
Mooreanism is the view that sceptical arguments are inferior to particular certainties (or Moorean facts). Ethical Mooreanism, then, is the view that sceptical arguments in ethics are inferior to particular ethical certainties. It is not itself a view about how we know that anything is (e.g.) morally right or wrong, but rather a view about why sceptical arguments in ethics are bound to fail. In this seminar we will begin by going back to G.E. Moore’s initial defences of Mooreanism, before turning to the recent ethical version of the view. We will explore questions like: Can philosophy overturn common sense? Can sceptical challenges change how we should understand ethical matters? Or are certain ethical beliefs immune to revision by philosophical challenges?
The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory
This course will be based on a critical analysis of the concept of nature in the work of Karl Marx, Georg Lukács, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas. The main course text will be Steven Vogel’s Against Nature, which will help us to directly relate and apply insights and debates in critical theory to the ecological crisis and environmental issues. This text will be supplemented with primary text excerpts from each of the above thinkers as we proceed chronologically, with G.W.F. Hegel occupying a constant presence in the background.
Some of the questions we will explore together include: What is the relation between the concepts of nature and society? Can the natural be separated from the social? Are nature, reality, and the “non-identical” the same concept? What challenges does the social character of knowledge pose to a materialist approach to nature and its activity? What is the relation of the domination of nature to class relations and the domination of human beings by one another? How are our interactions with nature, and our considerations of the relation between the natural and the human/the social, normative in the context of environmental ethics?
What is political power? And how (if at all) can it be justified? In this seminar, we will explore possible answers to these questions from a number of political perspectives, including those of liberals, anarchists, and realists.
Fall/Winter 2023/24 Colloquium
Students prepare for and attend the departmental colloquium series (typically including 4 to 5 sessions in one term), submitting in writing a critical analysis of some aspect of the presentation or discussion for each colloquium they attend.
Reference and Singular Thoughts
We’ll discuss how singular terms (proper names, descriptions used referentially and indexicals) refers to objects and how they help classifying singular thoughts, i.e. thoughts about specific objects. The text we’ll read and discuss can be found, mainly, in: Andrea Bianchi, 2015. On Reference. Oxford UP; Robin Jeshion, 2010. New Essays on Singuar Thought. Oxford UP.
Causation and Freedom in Early Modern Philosophy
Mandatory seminar course for all first-year MA students. The primary objective of this seminar is to develop topics for theses or research essays. Students will consult with potential supervisors during this process.
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, varieties of physicalism about the mental, naturalist challenges to metaethical realism, the autonomy of normative philosophy, and whether a naturalized epistemology vitiates traditional epistemology’s reliance on intuition and the a priori.
Seminar on Ethics of AI – Instructor TBD