Skip to main content

2020-2021 Course Descriptions



PHIL 109: Love and Goodness from the Party-hard Bishop to Master Meng

Our lives are filled with questions about what is better and worse:  Would I be a better person if I were a vegetarian? Would it be better to give money to this person, or a charitable organization?  This course isn't about these particular questions, but rather the conception of goodness implicit in them.  In particular, the topic is:  how is goodness related to what I should do?  What draws me to (want to) do good things?  Is it love?  And how is goodness related to what I am as a person?  

Our readings address these questions directly to differing degrees, but they all touch on one or another of them.  We'll explore several philosophical traditions:  from Augustine (the Party-hard Bishop) in Roman Tunisia, to the Akan in Ghana, to Damaris Masham in Restoration England, to Mencius (Master Meng) in Warring-states China. 

PHIL 109: The Market and Its Limits

The market pervades every aspect of our lives, and yet its workings are in some sense hidden from view. This perhaps helps to explain the persistence of Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand" to describe how the market works. Our aim in this course is to make the invisible hand a bit more visible. What does the market do well? What does it do badly? Are there any goods, like sex or human organs, that should not be exchanged on the market? What alternatives are there to the market system? In trying to answer these questions, we will explore texts from economists, historians, and journalists as well as from philosophers.

PHIL 109: What is Democracy?

In this seminar, we will examine some of the fundamental ideas and questions behind democracy and provide a reading of their "inventors". Some of the questions are: What is democracy? Is it a form of government, a value, an ideal, a political system, a form of life, a bit of all this? Is democracy always the best political solution (in wartime? general starvation?)? Why should the whole of the people decide and not the specialists in the respective questions? Are all democratically taken decisions automatically legitimate (what about minorities\' rights?)? How should all citizens in a democracy participate in politics? By direct self-government of the people or by voting representatives? Is everything democratically decidable or does the individual have unalterable rights? Is tolerance and/or free speech necessary for democracy and how far can it go?

PHIL 109: Truth, Lies and Deception

This course will explore a variety of philosophical and ethical questions about lies and other forms of deception. For instance: When is it acceptable to lie? And when it is wrong, how should we understand the nature of that wrong? Is there such a thing as a right to the truth—even when the truth might be harmful? Is it possible to forfeit one's right to the truth? Is there an ethical difference between lying to someone and merely telling misleading truths? How should a democratic society that is committed to free speech handle lies and other sorts of dishonesty? Can fiction be honest or dishonest? Is it possible to lie to oneself?

PHIL 109: Propaganda

Democracy works when people are able to make conscientious, informed decisions about the kind of society they want to live in. Thinkers from antiquity to the present have been concerned with the various ways that this ability can be undermined by propaganda, both in purported democracies and in explicitly authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, many radical thinkers have suggested that propaganda isn't always bad, and is perhaps a necessary component of liberatory social and political movements. In this course we will be asking three central questions: What is propaganda? How does propaganda function in the world today? And finally, how can a just society deal with propaganda's negative effects?

PHIL 109: Plato

In this seminar we will read in detail Plato's Republic. We will identify the main challenge Socrates wants to answer in this text, and his arguments in defense of the importance of living a just life and contributing to a just state. We will explore Plato's ethical, political, psychological, epistemological and metaphysical views, and we will reflect on how these different ideas relate to each other in the philosophical system of this author.

PHIL 109: The Self

In this course, we will discuss philosophical questions about the nature of the self, raised and answered in readings from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical writings, as well as some artistic representations. Thus we may discuss questions such as: Is self-awareness necessary or sufficient for selfhood? What guarantees the continuity of personal identity over time? To what degree is the self-constituted by its social context? Are there good or bad (authentic/inauthentic, alienated, unified, etc.) ways to be a self? As with any first-year seminar, the course will also involve frequent writing assignments, including both informal exercises and formal argumentative papers.

PHIL 150: Introduction to Logic

Subtle mistakes in reasoning can get us into trouble, especially in philosophy where reasoning can be very intricate. Logic symbolizes arguments to make subtle mistakes easier to spot, and intricate arguments easier to follow. In this class we will first learn how to use symbols to represent certain natural language sentences. The symbolization allows us to give step-by-step reconstructions of arguments. When these step-by-step symbolized arguments have a certain profile, they represent good arguments. When they don't have that profile, the corresponding arguments can go wrong---and we can devise examples of when they go wrong! Throughout we'll address some concepts (such as truth and existence) that are deployed in philosophy, and how logical techniques can help us sort the good uses from the bad.

PHIL 110: Introduction to Philosophy

In this course we will be exploring several traditional topics within philosophy. These include knowledge and reality, free will, the existence of God, personal identity, ethics and social issues, and the (in)significance of death.

PHIL 210-1: History of Philosophy: Ancient

This course will introduce you to some of the greatest thinkers and movements of the ancient Greek world. We will focus on these thinkers' conceptions of the human soul, the capacity for knowledge, the good life, their views on women, and their conceptions of social justice. We will discuss the views of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and examine their answers to enduring questions such as: What are the fundamental constituents of reality? What is knowledge, and how do we come to have it? How can we be happy? What makes for a just society? We will then move to the Hellenistic period and examine Epicurean and Stoic conceptions of how we should live our lives and why philosophy can help us flourish. Our emphasis will be on analyzing these philosophers' views, and their reasons and arguments for holding these positions.

PHIL 210-3: History of Philosophy: Modern

The transition from the Medieval to the Modern era in philosophy began, roughly, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and ended, again roughly, in the late 18th century. New methods of acquiring knowledge, along with a radically different conception of the world, permanently transformed the philosophical enterprise and the broader culture. In this course we will examine the views of some of the most important modern philosophers—especially Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Bayle, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume—on the nature of God, causation, substance, mind, knowledge, and the material world. Additional readings will be drawn from Elizabeth, Galileo, Masham, Boyle, Shepherd, and Du Châtelet.

PHIL 216: Introduction of Pragmatism

Classics of Pragmatist Thought

Pragmatism is probably the first, but certainly the most important genuinely North American philosophical tradition. The classical writings of Peirce, James, Dewey set the stage for a completely new orientation in epistemology, moral and political theory, psychology and many other fields. Basic to all Pragmatist writers is the belief that the active and interactive human being in its natural and social environment has to stand at the center of reflection. They thus emphasize volitional, procedural, social, and evolutionary aspects of knowledge of any kind. Given this focus on practically involved intelligent agents, political pragmatists like Dewey, Addams, Locke explore the natural origins, revisability and legitimacy of moral and political norms. They develop the idea of a critical use of knowledge and its connection to non-violent democratic conduct. Neopragmatists (Rorty and Putnam) explore the philosophical and political implications of critical thinking.

PHIL 219: Introduction to Existentialism

This class is an introduction to existentialism through discussing texts by some of its central theorists: Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Sartre and de Beauvoir. We will focus on existentialist theories of value and claims concerning human freedom and their implications. We will explore existentialist conceptions of absurdity, alienation, anxiety, authenticity, and affliction.

PHIL 220: Introduction to Critical Theory

In this class, we will focus on the foundations of critical theory in the works of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, paying particular attention to their understanding of the origins and explanation of inequality, domination, morality, good and evil, "ressentiment", repression, guilt and shame, rights, legality, and revolution, and the opposition between justice and injustice. Lectures will primarily involve a close analysis and discussion of the readings.

PHIL 221: Gender, Politics, and Philosophy

This class introduces students to a variety of philosophical problems concerning gender and politics. Together, we'll read classic and contemporary texts that examine questions such as: what is gender -- and how, if it all, does it relate to or differ from sex? What does it really mean to be a woman or a man -- and are these categories we're born into or categories that we become or inhabit through living in a particular way under specific conditions? Human history all the way up to the present seems to be rife with asymmetrical relations of power that relegate those marked out as women to a subordinate position -- what explains this? What would it mean to overturn this state of affairs -- and which strategies are most likely to accomplish this task? And to what extent is it possible to grapple with all of the above questions -- questions of gender, sex, and sexuality -- without also, at the very same time, thinking about how they relate to questions of class and race? Readings will include selections from Simone de Beauvoir, Iris Marion Young, Sandra Bartky, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Judith Butler, Talia Bettcher, and others.

PHIL 224: Philosophy, Race & Racism

Race powerfully shapes our identities and how we are treated by others. But does race really exist? Is it racist to think that it does? Can we fight racism without the concept of race? In this course we will explore philosophical questions about the nature of race and racial oppression. We begin with what race is - the ontology of race - and whether it is biological or socially constructed. If race is socially constructed, how does it acquire its power? Can, or should, we eliminate this concept or hold onto it? We then examine the lived experience of racial oppression. Is racism primarily psychological or structural? How does racism intersect with other forms of oppression? How can we create a more just society? Readings will include Appiah, Du Bois, Zack, Fanon, Alcoff, Crenshaw, and Mills.

PHIL 250: Logic II

This second course in logic explores ways to extend, reduce, and think about classical logic to meet various philosophical challenges. Some questions to be addressed are: are there minimal conditions for the acceptability of a logical system? Can we formulate logics suited to vagueness? Or an anti-realist metaphysics? Or talk of necessity and possibility? Or talk of things true "for all properties"? To address these we will examine: the notions of soundness and completeness, many-valued logics, intuitionistic logic, modal logic, and second-order logic.

PHIL 253: Introduction to the Philosophy of Language

In this introduction to the philosophical study of language, we will ask questions like: What is language anyway? What is meaning? And how does the meaning carried by language vary (if it does) from the sort of meaning we attribute to natural phenomena when we say, for instance, "smoke means fire" or "those rings mean that this tree is 106 years old"? We will also touch on the role that the study of language has sometimes been thought to play in philosophical inquiry broadly, and on the connection between the philosophy of language and the empirical investigation of language in other disciplines.

PHIL 254: Introduction to Philosophy of Natural Sciences

The course will introduce students to deep philosophical issues raised by modern natural science of metaphysical and epistemological nature. From a reflection on methodological questions, it will approach the question of realism. We will be guided by nested "what does it take"-questions. For example: What does it take for a system of sentences to count as a good scientific theory? What does it take for a scientific theory to be testable by observational and experimental data? What does it take for certain series of experiences to count as data or observations, or evidence? What does it take for a given theory to be better supported by the available evidence than its competitors? What does it take for a given theory to yield an understanding of known phenomena in an area of knowledge? What does it take for such an explanatory scientific theory to be credited with reference to underlying structures of reality? We will begin with a discussion of scientific norms that allow rejecting theories as pseudoscientific, and to resist science-denialism. We will then elaborate these norms by looking back at the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17 th century and the treatment of certain problems in the contemporary literature, like the problem of induction, the problem of the underdetermination of theory choice by the available data, the problem of rationality and conceptual change, and (perhaps) the problem of realism.

PHIL 260: Introduction to Moral Philosophy

This course will introduce students to some perennial questions in the philosophy of morality. We will be concerned with questions about (1) the nature of morality: For instance, are there universal, objective truths about right and wrong? Or is morality ultimately a subjective or relative matter? (2) The substance of morality: Are there certain actions that are absolutely forbidden, no matter what the consequences? When evaluating a person's action, in what way do his or her motives matter? And (3) the importance of morality: Should we really care whether or not we do the right thing?

PHIL 261: Introduction to Political Philosophy

An introduction to some of the core problems of political philosophy through a study of major historical and contemporary figures. Topics to be discussed include: the sources and limits of legitimate political authority; the meaning of central political values like liberty, equality, and solidarity; and the sources of political stability in a multicultural society.

PHIL 262: Ethical Problems/Public Issues

A study of ethical problems arising in public policy, as well as philosophical approaches to addressing these problems. Topics to be discussed include punishment, immigration, climate change, and global distributive justice.

PHIL 273-1: The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Life

This is the first in a sequence of three courses required of sophomores in the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life. Our topic, the good life, will be explored by reading and discussing several recent books, as well as authors of antiquity (Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius). We will ask: Are there objective truths about what is valuable - or about anything? Does life have a point or meaning? What should one try to get out of life? How should we think about death? Is each person the final judge of what is good for that individual, or is it possible to be mistaken about where one\'s good lies? What is the relationship between living well and being moral? How important is pleasure? Since more good is better than less, should we aim at all times to promote "the greatest happiness of the greatest number"?

PHIL 273-2: The Brady Scholars Program: The Moral Life

What does morality require of us? Does acting morally amount to consistently bringing about the best consequences that we can? Or are there other important considerations that we should take into account when thinking about how to act well? When we are trying to figure out how to act, what questions should we be asking ourselves? Drawing on both classic and contemporary readings in philosophy, as well as our own experiences, we will ask what it means to live a moral life in different spheres and situations. Do we have, or can we justify, special obligations to our friends and family? Do our professional and other roles shape what we have reason to do? How do we understand our obligations towards strangers? Is there some unified way to understand the reasons that should guide us in all of these spheres, or do they operate independently?

PHIL 273-3: The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Society

In this course we will focus on the tradition of social contract theory that informs much of our modern political life. Our central questions will be the following. What is the purpose of politics? Does political community contain our selfish motives, or express our sociability? What is the relationship between the individual and society? Can we be good in a bad society? Free in an unjust society? What makes a government legitimate, and do we ever have a duty to resist the government? We will also explore challenges to the social contract tradition from Marxist, feminist, and anti-racist perspectives. Can a capitalist society be a good society? Does the model of a social contract conceal structures of domination? Readings will include Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Pateman, and Mills.

Courses for Undergraduate and Graduate Students


PHIL 310: Studies in Ancient Philosophy

In this course, we will explore Ancient Greek views on pleasure and its role in a good life. Some of the questions we will address in this class are: What is pleasure? Does pleasure come in different kinds? What is the relationship between pleasure and the good? What role, if any, does pleasure play in a life well lived? We will carefully study and analyze Plato and Aristotle's answers to these questions, and how their ideas relate to the concepts and arguments developed in their psychological and ethical writings. First, we will look at Plato's discussions of pleasure in the Republic and the Philebus. In these texts, we find a particular account of the nature of pleasure and its ethical implications. Then, we will read portions of Aristotle's De Anima and Nicomachean Ethics. Our goal will be to understand whether, and how, pleasure fits into Aristotle's psychology, philosophy of action, and ethics.

PHIL 312: Studies in Modern Philosophy

In this course, we will study some of the classics of conservative political philosophy from critics of the French Revolution, like Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre to more recent figures like Friedrich Hayek and Roger Scruton. We will spend particular attention to the relationship between conservatism and liberalism.

PHIL 313: Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' I: the Analytic

This course provides a thorough reading of the conception of empirical knowledge laid out in the first part of Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (the Analytic). The seminar will also relate Kant's arguments to issues in more recent philosophical debates. Kant qualified his philosophy as "transcendental idealism and empirical realism". According to Kant, it evades the choice between saying that we must have an unconceptualized access to reality in itself in order to have factual knowledge on the one hand, and saying that the reality our factual knowledge represents is determined by our concepts (so that it is hard to say in what way reality is a mind-independent constraint on belief). Kant suggests that this is a non-issue if there is only one universal set of concepts constitutive of all (genuinely fact-enabling) human experience. But the course of scientific progress since reveals this as a big (and unfulfilled) IF: in light of the diversity of experience and of the sciences, it is not easy to insist that there is only one set of forms of all possible objects of experience, one set of categories to form judgments, one set of principles to form natural laws. But the problem confronted in Kant's epistemological analysis persists --for each of the variegated forms. Can Kant's conception of experience and empirical knowledge still help us understand how we can claim to know mind-independent reality despite the shaping of our knowledge by our cognitive apparatus? Also, contemporary philosophy of mind centers on the questions of consciousness and of the relation between mind and reality. E.g.: how can a world-independent mind cognitively access or refer to a mind-independent reality (as opposed to either only accessing it as its own construct or merely supposing that the contents of the mind represent non-mental reality)? Kant's account of empirical knowledge criticizes all attempts at articulating a special source for self-knowledge by saying that the contentfulness of inner representations presupposes experience with outer reality while self-consciousness is nothing but awareness of a unified cognitive agency. But Kant also dismisses all attempts at knowledge of reality in itself as forgetting the constitutive influence of cognitive structures on such knowledge, which have their origin in the self. He thus argues that much of the problems of mind and reality depend on mistaken conceptions of both: reality as such and a directly present foundational 'inner' self, he demonstrates, can't be objects of knowledge at all (=are non-objects). But does this dissolve the problems (as Kant thought) or rather make them cognitively insolvable (as many of Kant's critics thought: he ends up saying, they thought, that reality is nothing but the construct of our representations, and thus denying mind-independent reality as a fiction)?

PHIL 315: Studies in French Philosophy

This course offers an overview of the work of one of the most influential late-twentieth-century French philosophers, Michel Foucault. Focusing on his studies of madness, sex, the medical gaze, prisons and other disciplinary institutions, the search for truth, knowledge, and liberation, students will gain an understanding of Foucault's most important concepts - concepts that over the last four decades have become central categories of inquiry and critique in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. These include archaeology, discipline, biopolitics, power-knowledge, resistance, governmentality, and genealogy. The course is reading intensive. In addition to weekly excerpts, you should plan to read two of Foucault's major texts throughout the quarter.

PHIL 318: Studies in Contemporary Philosophy: Epistemic Injustice

In this course we will explore how social oppression bears on knowledge: who has it, who can claim it, how we respond to such claims, and how this in turn affects subsequent social relations between (groups of) people. We will focus on this through the lens of the notion of epistemic injustice, as proposed by Miranda Fricker and as subsequently developed by Jose Medina.

PHIL 325: Philosophy of Mind

In this course we will explore some of the main themes in the philosophy of mind, with special attention to (i) the relationship between mind and body, (ii) perception and the senses, and (iii) the nature of the emotions.

PHIL 328: Classics of Analytic Philosophy

This course will trace the major preoccupations of analytic philosophy from its beginnings in the late 19th century up until the present moment, with readings by central figures such as Frege, Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Quine, Grice, Evans, Lewis and Kripke, as well as by prominent historians of the tradition. We will also consider some challenges to contemporary analytic philosophy's inherited sets of priorities and methodologies.

PHIL 350: Advanced Logic

This course concerns the limitations of certain logical theories, and how those interact with questions of knowledge, truth, and certainty. Arithmetic seems like knowledge as certain as any. And yet, as we will establish, an arithmetic theory that is robust, correct, and tractable cannot validate some intuitions about a priori knowledge, etc. In this course we will use the tools of logic to describe arithmetic theories, and make precise what might be meant by "robust", "correct", and "tractable". We'll develop the theory of recursive functions in arithmetic so as to prove Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems, as well as the other limitative theorems of Tarski and Church on truth and decidability (respectively). As time allows we will explore further related questions, with attention to their philosophical significance.

PHIL 353:  Philosophy of Language: Language in Context

In this course we will focus on philosophical questions about the way that meaning is shaped by the context in which language is used. Things we may touch on include indexicality, the semantics/ pragmatics distinction, implicature, relevance, and the nature of context itself.

PHIL 361:  Topics in Social and Political Philosophy

The United States is currently home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners. With more than 2.3 million people under the control of the American criminal legal system, the United States has more total incarcerated people than any other country in the world. Moreover, the United States has one of the most punitive approaches to criminal justice, imposing lengthy prison sentences, forcing people who are incarcerated to spend years—sometimes even decades—in solitary confinement, and providing very few educational, vocational, and recreational programs in prisons. Punishment and incarceration also disproportionately impact people of color. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. While African Americans and Hispanics make up about 32% of the US population, they constitute 56% of the incarcerated population. This course will use a philosophical lens to examine the causes and consequences of this crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, along with possible solutions to it, with a particular emphasis on the theories of punishment grounding our criminal legal system and, thus, our prisons. The course will be small and will have a seminar-style format. Enrollment will be limited to 10–12 Northwestern students from our Evanston campus and 10–12 incarcerated students who have been admitted into the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP students). Because of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the NPEP students will participate via written correspondence.

PHIL 362:  Studies in the History of Ethical & Political Theory

This class will explore the Social Contract tradition in Western political philosophy, as represented in the works of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. We will critically examine the different ways the idea of a social contract has been used to address central questions in political philosophy: What is the basis of political authority? When do states have the right to use force against their citizens, and what limits are there to the legitimate exercise of state power? What are the legitimate aims of government? What is the good of living in organized political communities?

PHIL 364:  Business and Professional Ethics

Do corporations have moral obligations that extend beyond mere compliance with law? Or is business ethics a contradiction in terms, as some have argued? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions. We will survey the major contemporary theories of business ethics, and we will apply these frameworks to issues such as climate change and worker's rights. Readings will be drawn from economics and organizational theory as well as philosophy.

PHIL 373-1:  The Civically Engaged Life: The Good Work

Brady Scholars in their senior year will meet frequently throughout the quarter to move ahead with the collaborative project they have chosen as their service to the Evanston community.

PHIL 373-2:  The Civically Engaged Life

This is the second of a two-quarter sequence for 4th year Brady Scholars.


PHIL 380: Philosophy of Art

In this course, we will investigate negative aesthetics of various kinds. We will focus first on the one that has been historically most discussed: the sublime, the experience of large, powerful objects that transcend human beings - beyond our power, beyond our comprehension - and therefore inspire a response of fear or pain, together with some sort of thrill. Because experiences of these threatening objects are in some sense unpleasant, philosophers aim to understand the attraction to having them. We will read the two most important philosophical accounts of the sublime - those of Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant - as well as some contemporary reflections on the sublime in art and nature. We will also investigate the character and (possible) appeal of ugliness, disgust, and horror, to reflect on their ever-increasing importance in modern and postmodern art. We will consider questions such as: what is the ugly, does it have a stable, identifiable character? Are the effects or underlying motivations of an attraction to horror (frightful, gory, awful works) ethical? Can the disgusting ever be pleasurable?


PHIL 390: Philosophy of Law

 This course gives students an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about the nature of law and legal systems.  Are legal rules real or just a cloak for power?  What if anything does law have to do with justice?  What do the major theories of law—in particular, “legal positivism” and “natural law”—mean for law in practice?  How do the different departments of law (e.g., contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law) fit together into coherent and distinct subdivisions?  And is the life of a lawyer a good life or merely a profitable one?  In examining these questions, our approach will not be pure conceptual analysis; rather, our subject matter is a set of philosophical concepts of law together with the actualization of those concepts in law as a form of social life.  Thus the assigned readings and class discussion will be primarily philosophical but will also include some practical exposure to real legal cases, providing students with, among other things, a taste of what law school would be like. 



PHIL 415: Studies in French Philosophy

This course offers an introduction to biopolitics, "necropolitics" and "thanatopolitics" as intersectional terms in contemporary critical theory. In this context, intersectional takes on two meanings. On the one hand, it refers to the interrelations of race, gender, sexuality, class, poverty, health, immigration status, ability, and national "exceptionalism". On the other, it refers to the intersections of forms of power: including sovereign, disciplinary, governmental, securitizing, negative, unproductive, bio-, necro- and thanato-political. A prerequisite of the course is a basic foundation in Foucauldian theory, in particular Discipline and Punish and the first volume of History of Sexuality. Through one third of the course, students will consolidate this foundation through study of a group of Foucault's College de France lecture relevant to this period:, reading excerpts from Society Must Be Defended, Security, Territory, Population, Psychiatric Power, and Abnormal. The remainder of the course is devoted to the critical engagement with, and transformation of the biopolitical problematic in a range of contemporary critical theorists working in race, gender and sexuality studies, including Mbembe, Hartman, Wright, and Puar.

PHIL 420: Knowledge, Persuasion, and Power in Ancient Philosophy and Contemporary Social and Critical Epistemology

This seminar will explore the ways in which epistemology and politics are inseparable for Ancient Greek thinkers. We will put in conversation Ancient texts concerning the relationship between knowledge, experience, persuasion, and power with contemporary texts on critical and social epistemology.

Our main ancient authors will be Plato and Aristotle. We will read substantial sections from Plato's Apology, Meno, Gorgias, and Republic, as well as Aristotle's Rhetoric and Politics. We will pair the ancient sources with texts by Elizabeth Anderson, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Audre Lorde, José Medina, Amia Srinivasaan, and others.


PHIL 422: Studies in Modern Philosophy

This course will cover some central figures, texts, and questions in eighteenth-century British aesthetics, focusing on the "subjective" character of taste or beauty and an aesthetics-based theory of art.

PHIL 423: Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy

In this course we will discuss new work on higher-order evidence and higher-order defeat.

PHIL 460: Seminar in Ethical Theory

This seminar will cover recent work on moral responsibility, with particular emphasis on the question of whether a certain degree of moral competence is a condition of responsibility.

PHIL 488: Professional Skills

We will prepare for success in the job market by putting together all of the major elements of the dossier and by practicing the skills needed for interviewing and presenting one’s work. 

PHIL 401-1: 1st Year Proseminar

In this course, we will study three great proponents of the metaphysical theory of art in the German philosophical tradition. The first of these is Arthur Schopenhauer, who viewed aesthetic experience as a release from empirical, individuated identity. The second is Friedrich Nietzsche, who in his earlier writings characterized art as the true metaphysical activity of man, and as offering the only true justification of existence, but who eventually rejected the philosophical presuppositions of this view. And the last is Martin Heidegger, who saw art as the becoming and happening of truth. The focus of the class will be on the complicated relationship between art and metaphysical truth.


PHIL 402: 2nd Year Proseminar

 In this class we will consider the uses, and possible abuses, of ideal theory in moral and political philosophy. When we do ideal theory we approach a normatively significant question by first idealizing along some dimension. We assume for the sake of theory construction, eg, that everyone will operate according to the principles that a view recommends, or that we are not in a situation of massive scarcity, or that there are no significant historical injustices for which we need to correct. Proponents of ideal theory do not believe that it answers the normatively significant questions that we have about our non-ideal circumstances. But they do generally believe that ideal theory makes a necessary contribution to our understanding of these issues. We will consider examples of approaches to particular moral and political questions that treat ideal theory as prior to non-ideal theory, methodological debates about the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory, and related issues about how we should address pressing normative questions in the real, highly non-ideal, world. We will read, among others, John Rawls, Liam Murphy, Tamar Schapiro, Elizabeth Anderson and Charles Mills.

Back to top