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Winter 2022 Class Schedule

Winter 2022 Class Schedule

Course Title Instructor Day/Time Discussion Sections
PHIL 109-20 First-year Seminar: Hume and Nietzsche on Morality Mark Alznauer TTh 12:30-1:50pm
PHIL 109-21 First-year Seminar: The Self Rachel Zuckert TTh 11:00am-12:20pm
PHIL 110 Introduction to Philosophy Sanford Goldberg MW 9:30-10:50am Required
PHIL 220 Introduction to Critical Theory Penelope Deutscher TTh 6:30-7:50pm Required
PHIL 224 Philosophy, Race & Racism José Medina TTh 11:00-12:20am Required
PHIL 250 Logic II Sean Ebels-Duggan MWF 9:00-9:50am Required
PHIL 254 Introduction to Philosophy of Natural Science Axel Mueller MW 11:00am-12:20pm Required
PHIL 261 Introduction to Political Philosophy Chad Horne TTh 9:30-10:50am Required
PHIL 262 Ethical Problems/Public Issues Chad Horne TTh 12:30-1:50pm Required
PHIL 266 Philosophy of Religion Mark Alznauer MW 2:00-3:20pm Required
PHIL 273-2 Brady Scholars Program: The Moral Life Kyla Ebels-Duggan TTh 2:00-3:20pm Required - Thurs 4:00-4:50pm
PHIL 310 Studies in Ancient Philosophy Guiseppe Cumella MW 3:30-4:50pm
PHIL 313 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason Axel Mueller MW 3:30-4:50pm Required
PHIL 357 Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology Sanford Goldberg MW 2:00-3:20pm
PHIL 373-2 Brady Scholars Program: The Civically Engaged Life Richard Kraut M 3:30-4:50pm
PHIL 380 Philosophy of Art David Johnson TTh 9:30-10:50am
PHIL 402-2 2nd-Year Proseminar José Medina W 4:00-6:50pm
PHIL 414 Seminar in German Philosophy: Heidegger's Hermeneutics and the Possibility of Critique Cristina Lafont T 2:00-4:50pm
PHIL 422 Seminar in Modern Philosophy Rachel Zuckert Th 3:00-5:50pm


Winter 2022 Course Descriptions

PHIL 109-20: First-year Seminar: Hume and Nietzsche on the Origin of Morality

In this class, we will read two short classics of modern moral philosophy which share the aim of providing a naturalistic account of morality. The first is David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morality (1777), which Hume considered the best thing he ever wrote, and which is now considered a masterpiece of philosophical prose. In that work, Hume argues that the object of morality are mental qualities that are useful or agreeable to ourselves or others. The second is Friedrich Nietzsche’s late work Twilight of the Idols (1888), which is written in a highly polished aphoristic style, and serves as a kind of epitome of Nietzsche’s critique of morality as opposed to nature and hostile to life. We will engage in close reading of both texts, which are short enough that we should be able to read and discuss them in their entirety.

PHIL 109-21: First-year Seminar: 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 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 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.

PHIL 224: Philosophy, Race & Racism

This course provides a broad overview of philosophical discussions of race and racism in American culture. In this overview, we will focus on phenomenological issues concerning the experience of race (especially in the US), epistemological issues concerning racial distortions and racial ignorance, and ethical and political issues concerning racial oppression. Some of the central questions that we will address are: How should we understand the concept of race and the processes of racialization through which people come to see themselves as having a racial identity? What are the different kinds of racial injustice that we can identify, and the different kinds of exclusion, subordination, marginalization and stigmatization that can be part of racial oppression? How should racial oppression be resisted? How should racial violence be stopped? How should we build racial solidarity and fight for racial justice? We will also explore the connections between race and other identity categories such as gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, religion, and nationality.

PHIL 250: Elementary Logic II

Elementary Logic II Introduction to variations of classical logic, and their application to philosophical topics, among them necessity and possibility, obligation and permission, knowledge and truth. Second quarter of 150/250/350 sequence.

PHIL 254: Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural Science

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 (and, by the way: what does it take for certain series of experiences to count as data or observations?)? 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 explain the known phenomena in an area of knowledge? What does it take for an explanatory scientific theory to be credited with reference to underlying structures of reality? We will begin with a brief overview of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17 th century, and then turn to 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, the problem of realism.

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 266: Philosophy of Religion

In this course, we will examine some classic texts on the philosophy of religion, from antiquity to the present. Issues covered will include the nature of religious experience, the existence of God, and the relation of reason and faith.

PHIL 273-2: The Brady 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 310: Studies in Ancient Philosophy

This course offers a critical study of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Like Plato in the Republic, Aristotle is concerned with the question, what is the best possible sort of life? In defending his response to this question, Aristotle offers a close analysis of happiness, human action, character, moral knowledge, the virtues, pleasure, weakness of will, friendship, and other related topics. Much of what Aristotle has to say on these topics is significant and of continued importance for contemporary debates in ethics and moral psychology. The course will study the work in detail.

PHIL 313: Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

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. E.g.: 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 order to have factual knowledge (so that it is hard to say how we as concept-using knowers can know reality at all) 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 impasse 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? Another example: Much of contemporary philosophy of mind centers on the question of the relation between mind and reality. Kant criticized all such attempts at founding factual knowledge on self-knowledge (which lead into "paralogisms") or knowledge of unconceptualised reality in itself (which lead to "antinomies"). His arguments compel realizing that both (reality as such and a directly present foundational 'inner' self) can't be objects of knowledge at all (=are non-objects). Does this dissolve the problems of mind and reality or rather make them cognitively insolvable?

PHIL 357: Topics in Metaphysics & Epistemology: The Philosophy of Humor

In this course we will explore humor from a philosophical point of view. Our questions will be these: What is humor? What makes a joke or scene funny? What (if anything) does this tell us about the nature of the human mind? Is it ever wrong to laugh at a joke? Why does it often (typically? always?) seem improper to respond to another's criticism of something we said by saying "It was only a joke!"? How should we think about humor that denigrates a person or group of people?

PHIL 373-2: Brady: The Civically Engaged Life

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

PHIL 380: Philosophy of Art

This course interrogates the relationship between aesthetics and authoritarianism. We will begin with an examination of the nature of authoritarianism, which we will consider as a species of political regime, a form of social dynamism, and a personality type. We will next turn to the aesthetics of authoritarianism—the ways in which sensation is invested by authoritarian forces through propaganda, mass culture, and imperial style. The final section of the course will explore possibilities for an anti-authoritarian aesthetics. Readings will largely, though not entirely, be drawn from the continental philosophical tradition, focusing especially on the Frankfurt School and recent French philosophy.

PHIL 414: Seminar in German Philosophy: Heidegger's Hermeneutics and the Possibility of Critique

In this course, we will examine the main features of the philosophical paradigm of hermeneutics that Heidegger articulates in Being and Time. The key to Heidegger’s paradigm shift is the generalization of hermeneutics from a method of textual interpretation to a way of understanding human identity. The hermeneutic paradigm offers a radically different understanding of what is distinctive about human beings: to be human is not primarily to be a rational animal, but first and foremost to be a self-interpreting animal. In order to assess the explanatory power of hermeneutic philosophy and its limits, our seminar will undertake three tasks. First, we will analyze Being and Time’s hermeneutic conception of human identity and its main philosophical consequences. To get a sense of the full explanatory potential of Heidegger’s hermeneutics we will then analyze Gadamer’s dialogical model of interpretation as elaborated in his Truth and Method as well as contemporary accounts that engage with the hermeneutic approach, like those of Miranda Fricker, Ronald Dworkin, Danielle Allen, and Robert Brandom. Third, we will explore the potential limits of the hermeneutic paradigm through an analysis of challenging approaches such as ideology critique and critical race theory, and the possibilities of articulating a critical hermeneutics along the lines of Habermas’s ‘democratic turn’ in critical theory.

PHIL 422: Studies in Modern Philosophy

In this seminar, we will read some of Kant’s works concerning human history and human nature. We will be concerned to understand and investigate Kant’s defense of teleological explanation in biology – organic nature should be understood as organized purposively, parts or aspects of beings as directed towards ends – as well as his various claims concerning the nature of human history. For example: does history have a purpose, and if so, which, and how could we know of it? What kind of description, knowledge, understanding is appropriate to history as an object (are there laws of history, for example)? We will also investigate the relationship among these doctrines: given Kant’s use of biological terminology in his history writings, on his view is historical investigation strongly akin to biological explanation, or based upon biological premises? Or does human freedom or rationality disrupt biology, rendering history distinct from nature? All of these doctrines intersect with Kant’s well-known racism: he develops his biological theory of race while working on his philosophy of biology, and his racist claims in that context are connected to historical views concerning human cultural and moral development. Thus, we will also investigate whether or Kant’s concept of race is a teleological-biological or historical concept (or both), and to what degree or how this concept, and Kant’s racist commitments, are integral to his thinking concerning biology and history.

PHIL 402-2: 2nd year Proseminar

A continuation of PHIL 402-1. Students meet several times with the instructor as they work on drafts of the paper due at the end of the course.