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.

Fall 2023:

Kyla Bruff
PHIL 5000 – 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?

Jay Drydyk
PHIL 5300 – 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.

Gabriele Contessa
PHIL 5350 – Political Power
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.

Josh Redstone
PHIL 5200 – Ethics and A.I.: Challenges and Opportunities

Recent years have seen the unprecedented proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) in many areas of human life. While these achievements are arguably impressive, they also raise important questions concerning our relationship with AI, and with technology more generally. In this seminar, we will explore what AI is, and identify and discuss the ethical challenges which it raises. Specifically, we will consider questions such as: what impacts – positive or negative – does AI have on freedom, autonomy, and agency? Can everyone enjoy the benefits of AI, or does it affect the privileged and the marginalized differently? Is the development and use of AI something we can control, or is it autonomous (i.e., with a life of its own)? Is AI fundamentally different in nature than other kinds of technology, and if so, how? Does AI represent an existential threat to humanity, or can it help us to address other existential threats (like war or climate change)?

David Matheson
PHIL 5850 – Proseminar (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, 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.

Kyla Bruff
PHIL 5751 – Fall 2023 Colloquium
Students attend each talk in the departmental colloquium series, preparing by doing mandatory background readings, and submit in writing a critical analysis of some aspect of the presentation.

Winter 2024:

Melissa Frankel
PHIL 4005 –  Causation and Freedom in Early Modern Philosophy
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.

Myrto Mylopoulos
PHIL 5200 – Animal Consciousness
In this seminar, we will examine theoretical approaches to consciousness (e.g., higher-order theory, global workspace theory, recurrent processing theory) with an eye towards determining the extent to which they can help us answer the question of how widely distributed consciousness is across nonhuman animal species.

Marie-Pier Lemay
PHIL 5350 – The Ethics of Social MovementsThis course explores contemporary ethical debates and theories on social movements. In a 2016 article published in Philosophy Compass, Avery Kolers deplored the lack of attention philosophers have devoted to social movements. Since then, there has unquestionably been a resurgence of writings in ethics and adjacent philosophical fields on normative insights and theories developed from cases of social movements. In this course, we will explore this burgeoning field together. We will examine philosophers and thinkers who develop normative insights and theories from empirical cases. Of course, civil disobedience and violence are on our agenda, but we will also explore the social ontology of groups, the epistemic dimensions of group representation, the ethics of deference, the morality of ecotage, and insights gained from reading Indigenous thinkers on these questions.

Christine Koggel
PHIL 5900 – Research Seminar (MA students)
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.

Kyla Bruff
PHIL 5751 – Winter 2024 Colloquium
Students attend each talk in the departmental colloquium series, preparing by doing mandatory background readings, and submit in writing a critical analysis of some aspect of the presentation.