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Graduate Course Schedule

For a full list of graduate-level philosophy courses, please see the Graduate School Course Catalog. Listed below are the course offerings for the current and upcoming semesters.

Graduate Course Schedule, Spring 2017


Wednesdays, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Instructor: Dorit Bar-On
Description: This is a graduate-level course listed as ‘independent studies’ (though it’s open to advanced undergrads). The first two parts of this seminar-style course discusses the nature of human language, animal communication and cognition, theory of mind, and evolution of mind and language. In the third part we’ll be studying Michael Tomasello’s new A Natural History of Human Morality (you can see a review here), in preparation for the ECOM conference on Human and Nonhuman Animals: Minds and Morals (May 11-13, featuring Christine Korsgaard, Peter Carruthers, Lori Gruen, Darcia Narvaez, and several other speakers; check out the ECOM website). Note: Given that this course is listed as independent studies, you’ll be able to do more advanced course-related work on your own (or in collaboration).

PHIL 5320: History of Philosophy: Early Chinese Thought: Truth, Persons, and Natural Propensities

Tuesday, 1:00 – 3:30 PM

Instructor: Alexus McLeod
Description: Using the conception of tian li 天理 (Patterns of Nature/Natural Propensities) as a frame, we will investigate the issues of truth, personhood/agency, free will, and conceptualization in Pre-Qin and Han thought, with forays into Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism. We will look at primary source texts including Zhuangzi, Lushi Chunqiu, Huainanzi, Chunqiu Fanlu, and the works of Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming. We will also look at the work of Bo Mou, Brook Ziporyn, Erica Brindley, Roger Ames, Stephen Angle, and others on these issues. We will begin with a background “primer” on key issues in early Chinese philosophy (from the Analects of Confucius through Hanfeizi), and move into the specific issues of debates surrounding the content of nature (天tian), the development of persons, and truth and ideal personhood as constructed through following patterns of nature. We will consider the connection of a variety of theories of truth developed in Pre-Qin and Han texts to the conceptions of personhood advanced in these texts. We will also read key chapters of my manuscript Following the Natural Propensities on these debates in the Pre-Qin and Han periods and their relevance to contemporary work on truth and agency.

PHIL 5330: Truth

Mondays, 3:30 – 6:00 PM

Instructor: Michael P. Lynch
Description: Historically, the concept of truth was taken to play a deep role in our understanding of knowledge, meaning and logic. Moreover, it has typically been seen—both in the philosophical and public imaginations—as an important political value. Yet at the turn of the present century, the concept was widely regarded amongst philosophers working on the topic as doing little explanatory work, or even incoherent, subjective, or politically and epistemically irrelevant.
The major issue of this seminar will be whether these charges are justified.
In particular, the seminar will focus on two clusters of questions. The first cluster concerns the character and point of the concept of truth: Is there a single concept or more than one, what is the function of the concept(s) and should the concept be “re-engineered”? The second concerns the value and politics of truth: why does truth matter, and how? Along the way, we will touch on some of the major and developing theories of the concept in the literature.

Required Reading:

  • Truth, Burgess and Burgess. Princeton U Press 2012
  • Truth, C. Wrenn. Polity, 2014.
  • The Nature of Truth, ed. Lynch. MIT Press. 2001.
  • Truth as One and Many, Lynch. Oxford University Press. 2009.
  • Various papers, Husky CT (Readings by: Beall, Simmons, Ripley, Bar-On, Wright, Tarski, Horwich, Rorty, Sharp, Greenough, Edwards, Pedersen, Field, Quine, Davidson etc.).

PHIL 5331: Philosophy of Mind

Wednesdays, 6:00 – 8:30 PM

Instructor: Dorit Bar-On
Description: (How) do we know our own minds?  We will be surveying major contemporary views of self-knowledge discussing issues at the intersection of philosophy of mind and epistemology, as well as evaluating empirical evidence (from cog sci and social psychology) designed to show that we really do not know our own minds.  We will have 2-3 guest speakers whose work we’ll be studying visiting the seminar; one confirmed speaker is Crispin Wright.

PHIL 5340: Metaphysics: Identity and Aspects

Thursdays, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Instructor: Donald Baxter
Description: The general topic of the seminar will be identity, which will quickly lead us into metaphysical issues about change, becoming, composition, resemblance, universals, instantiation, relative identity, identity in the loose and popular sense, existence, contingency, negative facts, distinctions of reason, infinite divisibility, time, temporal parts, et al., plus issues in the philosophy of language concerning reference, substitution, quantification, and vagueness. We may pay special attention to instantiation–the “non-relational tie” between universals and particulars.

We will begin with a few fundamental problems that will help us understand and keep track of the variety of solutions they have generated. Some readings will be drawn from the history of philosophy with snippets likely from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Suarez, Leibniz, Locke, Butler, Hume, Reid, Frege. Also we will read essays by the likes of Quine, Geach, Chisholm, Lewis, Armstrong, Evans, van Inwagen, as well as a number of other recent and contemporary published and unpublished essays.

I will present and defend my theories of many-one identity (including composition as identity), of aspects, and of instantiation as partial identity. These views are often cited but rarely (and understandably) given more than a cursory refutation, so knowledge of their details may give our students an advantage in some current debates.
Requirements for the seminar will be a 15-20 page research paper, with a topic proposal and rough draft turned in along the way, as well as a seminar presentation.

PHIL 5344: Logic Seminar

Tuesdays, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Instructor: Stewart Shapiro
Description: The problem of logical omniscience arises in a number of philosophical contexts.  One source is in epistemic and doxastic logic.  Many accounts knowledge and belief are formulated in terms of possible worlds.  Worlds are usually taken to be closed under logical consequence, so it follows that an agent knows (believes) all of the logical consequences of what she knows (believes).  It also follows that if an agent knows (or believes) p and if q is logically equivalent to p, then the agent knows (or believes) q.

A related area of concern is in the semantics of terms for just about all propositional attitudes.  The standard accounts of these are also formulated in terms of possible worlds and, so far as I know, there are not many well-worked out alternatives.  All such accounts fail to distinguish logically equivalent propositions.

Finally, accounts of ideal rationality, in formalized epistemology and elsewhere, typically assume logical omniscience, usually explicitly.  The problems arise when we try to draw conclusions about rationality for agents, like normal humans, who are limited in their resources.
In this seminar, we will cover most of the basic literature on logical omniscience, looking to see how viable various solutions are for the various issues.

Reading List:

  • Required
    • Robert Stalnaker, Inquiry, ISBN: 978-0262691130
    • David K. Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, ISBN: 978-0631224266
    • Robert Stalnaker, Ways a World Might Be, ISBN: 978-0199251490
  • Recommended
    • Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity, ISBN: 978-0631128014


Upcoming Graduate Courses (Tentative)

Fall 2017

PHIL 5301: Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy

Instructor: Susan Schneider

Description of course forthcoming


PHIL 5305: Seminar in Aesthetics

Instructor: William Lycan

Description: What is the difference between something that’s funny and something that isn’t funny?  Why is anything funny?  What moral considerations apply to humor?  What is the relation between humor and comedy?  What is theater, and how is it related to other performing arts?  What exactly is acting?  What is or should be the relation of a written play to performance?  Can and should theater instruct?  Finally, what is the relation between theater and philosophy?  Texts may include Ted Cohen, JOKES; D,C, Dennett et al, INSIDE JOKES; Tom Stern, PHILOSOPHY AND THEATRE.


PHIL 5307: Logic

Instructor: David Ripley

Description of course forthcoming


PHIL 5315: Seminar in Moral Philosophy

Instructor: Suzy Killmister

Description: This course will be focused on the philosophy of human rights. The first unit will offer a survey of foundationalist /orthodox theories of human rights, which seek to explain why we have human rights through reference to some inherent feature of human beings. The second unit will introduce students to the contemporary debate between foundationalists and those who propose a political theory of human rights, whereby human rights are understood as a historico-political phenomenon, rather than as pre-institutional moral claims. The final unit will consider objections to the human rights project.


PHIL 5316: Seminar in the Philosophy of Social Science

Instructor: Lewis Gordon

Description: Our aim in this seminar will be to explore and interrogate philosophical problems posed by the idea of social science. We will first examine the conditions of possibility for a social science, its relationship with formal and natural sciences, the status of “logic” in social science, problems of “justification” in social science, and whether social science must be a human science. We will then consider: Do different kinds of social science pose unique problems for philosophy? Is philosophy ultimately a social science despite its location in the humanities? What impact do solutions to problems in the social sciences have on philosophical problems ranging from mind to epistemology to the philosopher’s understanding of reality? We will discuss responses to these questions from a variety of philosophical approaches such as analytical philosophy, phenomenology, pragmatism, hermeneutics, critical theory, Marxism, structuralism, and what have become known as philosophies from the global south (e.g., Africana philosophy, creolization theory, and decolonial thought) and feminist philosophy.


PHIL 5320: Seminar in the History of Philosophy

Instructor: Lionel Shapiro

Description: We will undertake a close study of much of Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, while keeping in mind Locke’s aims and dialectical context.  Among the topics I expect we will discuss: Locke’s theory of ideas and their role in knowledge, his distinction between primary and secondary qualities, his position on substance, the role of mechanism in his philosophy, his account of kinds and their essences, his view of the functioning and philosophical significance of language, and his accounts of personal identity and moral agency.  In recent decades, each of these topics has generated controversy, often informed by different views of Locke’s aims and continuing relevance.  As time allows, we will explore some of this literature.

PHIL 5342: Seminar in the Philosophy of Language

Instructor: Mitch Green

Description of course forthcoming


PHIL 5397 (topic TBA)

Instructor: J.C. Beall

Description of course forthcoming


Spring 2018

  • PHIL 5300: Independent Study (ECOM) with Professor Dorit Bar-On (offered simultaneously with PHIL 3299)
  • PHIL 5312: Philosophy of Science with Professor Thomas Bontly
  • PHIL 5315: Seminar in Moral Philosophy with Professor Paul Bloomfield
  • PHIL 5320: History of Philosophy (Frege) with Professor Marcus Rossberg
  • PHIL 5331: Seminar in Philosophy of Mind with Professor Dorit Bar-On
  • PHIL 5342: Seminar in Philosophy of Language with Visiting Professor Stewart Shapiro
  • PHIL 5344: Seminar in Philosophical Logic with Professor Keith Simmons
  • PHIL 5397: Seminar in Social Epistemology with Visiting Professor William Lycan