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.
Tues. Jan 18, 2022 – Sun. May 8, 2022
PHIL 5320: Seminar in the History of Philosophy | Marcus Rossberg (email@example.com) | Tu 10:30 – 1:00
The “standard narrative” goes something like this: The importance of Frege’s ideas within analytical philosophy would be hard to exaggerate. He was the inventor of modern logic, and the influence he exerted on philosophy of language and logic has been so deep, and felt so pervasively within analytical philosophy at large, that he has a strong case to be regarded as the inventor of that too. While the claim about the de facto historical influence of Frege’s writings is largely correct, we will critically examine the suspicious “genius” narrative. We will start our course by a (relatively) close reading of Frege’s The Foundations of Arithmetic (1884) [transl. by J.L. Austin; eschew other translations]; followed by the 1891/92 trilogy of papers on Frege’s famous sense and reference distinction, and excerpts from magnum opus, Basic Laws of Arithmetic (1893/1903). After this preparation, we will run this seminar as a research seminar, focussing on Frege's context and sources and where his idea were anticipated (and where he “borrowed” some of them). The exact course of the course will in part be determined by the interests of the participants.
Please get hold of a copy of Austin’s translation of Foundations (absolutely eschew other translations) and start reading it before the course starts; all other readings will be provided.
PHIL 5320: Seminar in the History of Philosophy | Lionel Shapiro (firstname.lastname@example.org) | W 6:00-8:30
Topic: John Locke
We'll be undertaking a close study of much of Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Throughout, we'll try to keep in mind Locke’s epistemological aims and the various traditions he’s responding to: Scholastics, Cartesians, and non-Cartesian mechanists. Topics to be discussed include: 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 account 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'll explore some of this literature. Anticipated requirements: weekly written questions, two short papers, a longer paper, and a presentation.
PHIL 5331: Seminar in Philosophy of Mind | Dorit Bar-On (email@example.com) | W 1:30 – 4:00
Some contemporary views concerning what is both distinctive and essential to mature human mentality seem to imply a problematic “continuity skepticism” (Bar-On 2013). This is the claim that there can be no philosophically cogent explanation of the ‘natural history’ of our central psychological, communicative, and moral capacities, since no philosophical sense can be made of the possibility of ‘half-minds’ (e.g. Davidson, 1982 and elsewhere). The Spring 2022 seminar will look at recent work in the philosophy of mind through the lens of the question of origins: How could minds like ours emerge from more ‘basic’ or simpler minds – either in (ontogenetic) development or in (phylogenetic) evolution? We will aim to determine whether given views face the challenge posed by continuity skepticism and evaluate available ways of tackling it. We will be reading works by well-known philosophers such as Sellars, McDowell, Brandom, Evans, Davidson, Burge, and Millikan, as well as recent works by ‘new(er) generation’ philosophers of mind, including Elizabeth Camp, Jacob Beck, Kristina Musholt, and Tad Zadwidzki.
PHIL 5344: Seminar in Philosophical Logic | Keith Simmons (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Tu 5:00 – 7:30
My seminar is on truth. I am at work on a book on truth, and the seminar will explore the major themes from the book, ranging over philosophy of language, philosophical logic and metaphysics. I won’t be presupposing much – I’ll make sure to introduce the views and the issues we’ll be discussing.
The central contemporary debate about truth is between the deflationist and the substantivist. At one end of the spectrum is the deflationist, for whom, roughly speaking, the truth predicate is just a logical device, the concept of truth has no genuine explanatory power, and there is no robust property of truth. At the other end of the spectrum is the pluralist, for whom the concept of truth is a substantive explanatory concept, and there is a plurality of robust truth properties. I’m interested in navigating between deflationism and pluralism.
In critically examining deflationism and pluralism, and exploring a middle position between them, we’ll be looking at a variety of truth-related notions, including meaning, assertion, and truth-aptness. And we’ll also discuss a number of truth-related isms: not just deflationism and pluralism, but also primitivism, realism, anti-realism, and expressivism. We’ll also look at the impact of the semantic paradoxes, crucially the Liar paradox, on the debate about truth.
Readings will include work by Russell, Tarski, Quine, Horwich, Field, Brandom, Wright, Lynch, together with some very recent articles, and drafts of chapters from my book.
PHIL 5397: Seminar: Global Southern Phenomenology | Lewis Gordon (email@example.com) | Tu 2:00 – 4:30
This seminar will focus on developments Global Southern phenomenology through addressing examining ideas from Africana phenomenology, decolonial and postcolonial phenomenology, intersectional and queer phenomenology, and the significance of teleological suspensions in phenomenological philosophical inquiry.
PHIL 5397: Seminar: Political Truth | Michael Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org) | M 3:00 – 6:00
This seminar is devoted to a single question: what, if anything, makes our political judgments true and false? This is a question we must answer if we wish to grapple with the fake news and misinformation eating away at the foundations of democracy and rediscover truth as a democratic value. But it is also a question with deep relevance to democratic theory semantics, and social epistemology.
Interest in truth’s role in democracy has—unsurprisingly—increased throughout the culture in the last several years. Yet in political philosophy, liberal democratic theory has always had a decidedly mixed reaction to the concept. Influential political thinkers John Rawls (and to a lesser extent, Jürgen Habermas) even argued that appeals to truth are antithetical to democratic discourse. And while more recent work has pushed back on this view, and argued that the concepts of truth and knowledge can play an important role in legitimizing democratic political authority, many researchers continue to be wary of truth. They agree it is important, but worry it is out of place in the messy world of real politics. Indeed, as Hannah Arendt famously noted, no one has ever really doubted that truth and politics are on bad terms with one another.
Political authority and democratic theory are deeply important issues; but when it comes to the question of truth and politics, there is a prior question at stake. That question, and the one with which this seminar is ultimately concerned, is whether “political truth” is even coherent in the first place. If it is not, then the ideal that democracies should value truth and related notions like evidence is empty. Students will be asked to do bi-weekly short writing assignments and write a substantive research paper on the topic of the course. Readings will primarily be on HuskyCT.
PHIL 5397: Seminar: The Gendered-Racial Mythologies of Predictive Policing and Knowing Crime | Ayanna Spencer (email@example.com) | Th 2:00 – 4:30
This seminar will explore current debates on big data policing in the US through engagement with Black feminist analyses of the US criminal punishment system. Connecting Feminist Theory, Social and Political Philosophy, Epistemology, and Science and Technology Studies, we will examine how gendered racial mythologies about crime/criminality inform the design and implementation of predictive policing technologies. We will analyze relationships between data used to create these technologies, how these technologies are deployed to create “crime data,” and knowledge production on “crime.” Some required readings include Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete, Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson’s The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and The Future of Law Enforcement, and Predictive Policing and Artificial Intelligence edited by John McDaniel and Ken Pease. Additionally, we will study resistance efforts like Carceral Tech Resistance, Data for Black Lives, and the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab. This seminar may be of interest to scholars who aim to learn more about big data, Black feminisms, anti-carceral literatures, abolition, algorithmic oppression and injustice, epistemic oppression, and US policing.
PHIL 5397: Proposal, Prospectus, and Dissertation Writing Seminar. Monday 11:30-2:00 PM, Heather Battaly
This course is designed to help students who are writing the Proposal, Prospectus, or Dissertation. Students will write and circulate drafts, practice presenting, and get feedback. Philosophy students working on a proposal, prospectus, or dissertation on any topic are encouraged to register. Students working on philosophical theory outside the department are also welcome. This is a 3 credit course (for a grade). The course will count toward overall credits earned at UCONN. It will not count as a seminar ‘content course’ in the Philosophy department.
Mon. Aug 30, 2021 – Sun. Dec 19, 2021
PHIL 5301: Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy | W 5:00 - 7:30 PM | Elena Comay del Junco | In Person
This course focuses not on a specific topic, but on philosophical writing and the development of philosophical skills in general. It is structured around metaphilosophical themes and conceptions, historical and contemporary, such as: (i) the nature of "philosophy"; (ii) the relationship between philosophy and its history; (iii) the practicality of philosophy for politics; (iv) the use of empirical methods in philosophy; (v) philosophical "naturalism"; (vi) philosophy as a way of life; (vii) philosophy and/as literature; (iiiv) the "analytic-continental" divide (its existence, relevance, etc.)
Authors may include some (though perhaps not all) of the following: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Seneca, Spinoza, Marx, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, W.V.O. Quine, John Rawls, Michel Foucault, Bernard Williams, Gilbert Harman, Charles Mills, and Elizabeth Anderson.
Course requirements include (i) at least two short presentations, (ii) short response papers approximately every other week, and (iii) comments on peers' short responses on the other weeks. Presenters will take the initial lead in leading the class discussion.
PHIL 5307: Logic | W 1:30 - 4:00 PM | Keith Simmons | In Person
We’ll study propositional and quantified modal logic. We will study a variety of modal systems from both the semantic and the proof-theoretic points of view. We will also study the metalogic of these systems.
We’ll go on to explore modal logic in three directions:
(i) further topics in quantified modal logic, including modality and existence, identity and descriptions, intensional objects.
(ii) applications, including possible world semantics in the philosophy of language.
(iii) philosophical issues: the problem of interpreting quantified modal logic (‘quantifying in’), the metaphysics of modality (the ontological status of possible worlds), the epistemology of modality (imagination, conceivability, and possibility).
PHIL 5320: Seminar in the History of Philosophy | Tu 10:30 AM - 1:00 PM | Gustavus McLeod | In Person
We will be looking at the indigenous philosophical thought of Mesoamerica (mainly prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century), particularly Maya, Nahua (Aztec), and Ñudzahui (Mixtec) Philosophy. Major topics covered include personhood and identity, essence, time, language, and vision/knowledge. We will use my forthcoming book “Introduction to Mesoamerican Philosophy” as a background frame, and look at a host of other works by scholars such as James Maffie, Sebastian Purcell, Miguel Leon-Portilla, Linda Schele, David Stuart, Gloria Chacón, David Carrasco, among others. We will also read some primary texts in translation, such as the K’iche’ Maya Popol Vuh and parts of the Florentine Codex.
PHIL 5344: Seminar in Philosophical Logic | Th 1:30 - 4:00 PM | Stewart Shapiro| In Person
We focus on two contrasts, one between the finite and the infinite, and the other between the continuous and the discrete.
Aristotle insisted that the actual infinite is incoherent, and that the only sensible notion is that of the potentially infinite, a process that can be continued indefinitely. This Aristotelian theme was echoed throughout the history of philosophy and mathematics, by, for example, Descartes and Leibniz. Today, thanks to the pioneering work of Cantor, the prevailing (but not universal) attitude is almost the diametric opposite, that the potentially infinite only makes sense if there is an actual infinity underlying it. But there are dissenting voices, from the traditional mathematical intuitionists and others.
Aristotle also argues that a continuous thing, such as a line segment (or a stretch of time), is not composed of points (or instants). Indeed, any part of a continuous thing is itself continuous. For Aristotle, points are only the boundaries of line segments (or potential line segments). Points are not parts of lines. This thesis, too, was echoed throughout history, with notable exceptions here and there. Today, the prevailing view is the diametric opposite: a line segment is no more than a set of points. But here, too, there are exceptions, serious theories of continuity that maintain at least some of the Aristotelian intuitions, in some cases at the cost of employing a non-classical logic.
A theme that connects our two contrasts is whether there are extended, infinitesimal line segments. Aristotle insisted that there are not, and this is reflected in Euclid’s Elements. The standard contemporary treatments of the calculus also eschew infinitesimals. Cantor rejected them vehemently. But infinitesimals had an important role in the development of the calculus, and they are alive and well in alternate theories of the continuum—theories that enjoy a solid, rigorous foundation.
The only prerequisite is basic logic. The course will be historical, metaphysical, and logical. We will begin with Zeno’s paradoxes, and Aristotle’s response. After a brief look at some medieval thoughts on the topics, we will turn to the development of the calculus, mostly Descartes, Leibniz, and the trenchant critique of infinitesimals due to Berkeley. Then we will cover some contemporary theories of continuity: the dominant theory, due to Dedekind and Cantor (and others), and some alternatives.
Each enrolled student will write a few (very) short essays on various topics, a seminar paper that they will present to the class, a commentary on another student’s seminar paper, and a medium-sized term paper.
PHIL 5331: Expression | Tu 1:30 - 4:00 PM | Mitchell Green | In Person
The notion of expression has borne theoretical weight in numerous intellectual projects: in understanding emotions and their evolution; in elucidating aspects of normative thought and discourse; in explaining how inanimate objects can have, or seem to have, affective properties; and in addressing features of self-knowledge, among others. Yet compared to other philosophical warhorses such as justification, causation, or action, expression has received comparatively little analysis in its own right. This suggests that there is still innovative research remaining to be done in elucidating the notion of expression.
To that end, this seminar will take a look at the phenomenon of expression from a variety of perspectives: evolutionary, psychological, semantic, meta-ethical, pragmatic, and aesthetic.
Among our questions will be: What is it to express something; what kinds of things can be expressed; and what kinds of things can express? What is the difference between expressing a state S and conveying it in some other way, such as by describing it? Might expression be a form of implicature, albeit one that is neither conversational nor conventional? Can one express oneself in the privacy of one’s thoughts? How is it possible for an inanimate object to possess affective qualities? What role might expressive forms of communication have played in the evolution (both genetic and cultural) of language? In what way does expressive behavior recruit or enable empathic responses from addressees? When a range of discourse seems to raise metaphysical puzzles, do we avoid such puzzles by re-describing such discourse as expressive? Should “charged” language such as slurs be given an expressivist analysis to supplement their semantic characterization?
Readings will be drawn inter alia from Charles Darwin, A.J. Ayer, Rudolph Carnap, Stuart Hampshire, John Searle, Paul Grice, Alan Tormey, Richard Wollheim, Peter Kivy, Steven Davies, Dorit Bar-On, David Kaplan, Robin Jeshion, Deirdre Wilson, Chris Potts, Mitch Green, Alex Silk, Liz Camp, Alex Worsnip, and Seth Yalcin.
PHIL 5397: Seminar | M 4:00 - 6:30 PM | Thomas Bontly | In Person
Global climate change raises difficult questions in numerous areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, ethics and political philosophy. The plan for this seminar is to take on a cross-section of these issues with the precise balance guided in large measure by the interests of the participants. Very roughly, I expect the first part of the course will get us up to speed on climate modeling and some related philosophical concerns (e.g., the role of models and idealizations in science, the confirmation and tuning of models, the sources of uncertainty in climate models). The second part of the seminar will focus on policy-making under uncertainty (expected utility and precautionary principles, valuation of future costs and benefits, etc). The third (and longest?) part of the course will focus on climate ethics and environmental justice (obligations to future generations, principles for allocating the costs of mitigation and adaptation, and the relationship between individual and collective responsibility).
We will read selectively from a few recent monographs (e.g., Winsberg’s Philosophy and Climate Science; Bunzl’s Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change; Broome’s Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World) and anthologies (Kanbur & Shue’s Climate Justice: Integrating Economics and Philosophy; Arnold’s The Ethics of Global Climate Change; Gardiner, Caney, Jamieson & Shue’s Climate Ethics: Essential Readings; French & Wettstein Ethics and Global Climate Change). Required work will include at least two presentations and a final paper.
PHIL 5800: Race in the Formation of the Human Sciences | Th 4:00 - 6:30 PM | Lewis Gordon| In Person
The concept of race and the human sciences emerged out of the theological, epistemological, and political upheavals the consequence of which is the Euromodern world. This course will explore their symbiotic relationship (if any) and the extent to which the question of race offers insight into the continued logic(s) of the human sciences. This approach challenges the presumption that race and racism in the disciplines are results of misapplication of otherwise race-free sciences. We will read a lot of material. The approach will be conversational. The instructor will offer introductory remarks and then different discussion leaders will introduce the readings for critical discussion. We will, in other words, be “reading together” as we critically assess this important historic and philosophical convergence of these seemingly opposed models of inquiry and thought.
PHIL 5320. Aristotle's Natures | W 1:15 - 3:45 PM | Elena Comay del Junco | Distance Learning
Aristotle was not the first ancient Greek thinker to use the term “nature” (phusis), but his account of nature and the natural has had more impact on the subsequent history of philosophy than perhaps any other. This seminar will examine the concept of “nature” as it occurs across Aristotle’s work. After a brief survey of earlier Greek natural philosophy (the so-called “pre-Socratics”) as well as Plato, we will begin with Aristotle’s Physics, where he famously defines nature as an “internal principle of motion and rest.” Then we shall look in more detail at Aristotelian biology (particularly the Parts of Animals) and the role nature plays there, before turning to practical philosophy. In both the Ethics and the Politics, Aristotle appeals to what is natural as a way of explaining how both individual character and social order comes to be. At times, he also appears to rely on something’s being natural as a way of justifying it -- most infamously in the twin cases of slavery and the oppression of women.
Throughout the course, we shall thus consider how Aristotelian nature connects with contemporary themes: whether Aristotle can be considered a forerunner of ethical naturalism, whether he commits the “naturalistic fallacy,” his apparent naturalization of oppressive social practices, and what, if any, resources he offers for thinking about humans’ relation to the natural world. In addition to the works mentioned above, we shall read writing by scholars of ancient philosophy and other authors such as: L. Daston, P. Dubois, P. Foot, M. Heidegger, B. Holmes, R. Hursthouse, I. Kant, D. Keyt, S. Kelsey, L. Irigaray, M. Leunissen, J.S. Mill, S. Monoson, Spinoza etc.
This course does not presuppose background knowledge and will serve as an introduction to doing advanced work in ancient philosophy. Course requirements will be one seminar presentation and one final paper, to be developed in consultation with the instructor. Knowledge of Greek is not required, but I will hold optional additional sessions for students with Greek if there is interest.
PHIL 5325: Seminar: Africana | M 5:00 - 7:30 PM | Lewis Gordon | Distance Learning
Africana philosophy is also called “African diasporic philosophy.” It is a modern form of philosophy addressing problems of what could be called the “underside of Euromodern philosophy,” problems often avoided in Euromodern philosophy and thus paradoxically become more central in significance than many Euromodern philosophers may realize. We will examine these problems, across African American philosophy, Afro-Caribbean philosophy, and African philosophy, through three guiding questions: (1) What does it mean to be human in a world that challenges one’s humanity? (2) What is freedom in a world governed by colonialism, enslavement, exploitation, and other forms of dehumanizing practices? And (3) is reason legitimate or justified in a world that uses it to rationalize injustice and misrepresentations of reality? These questions will be examined through writings from Africana analytical, dialectical, existential, feminist, phenomenological, and pragmatist thought. This class will be distanced learning synchronous.
PHIL 5330. Seminar on Theory of Knowledge | Tu 1:30 - 4:00 PM | Heather Battaly | Distance Learning
Virtue epistemology examines qualities that make us good thinkers—intellectual virtues such as open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and epistemic justice—and the ways that intellectual virtues can contribute to knowledge. The seminar will begin with a brief introduction to virtue epistemology, and focus on readings in three recent additions to the field: (1) vice epistemology, (2) social virtue epistemology, and (3) liberatory virtue epistemology. (1) 20th century virtue epistemology focused on virtues, and had relatively little to say about vices. In contrast, vice epistemology examines qualities that make us bad thinkers—intellectual vices such as closed-mindedness, intellectual servility and arrogance, and epistemic injustice—and the ways they can impede knowledge. Some likely readings include work by: Jason Baehr, Quassim Cassam, Alessandra Tanesini. (2) Virtue epistemology also began with a focus on analyzing the intellectual virtues and vices of individuals and the ways in which those virtues and vices could contribute to or impede an individual’s knowledge. By contrast, the field of social virtue and vice epistemology examines the ways in which intellectual virtues and vices impact and involve groups, institutions, and other individuals. Some likely readings include work by: Mark Alfano, Adam Carter, Miranda Fricker, Heidi Grasswick. (3) 20th century virtue epistemology also had relatively little to say about virtues in ‘non-ideal’ conditions. Whereas, liberatory virtue epistemology explores intellectual qualities that contribute to resisting marginalization and oppression and achieving liberation. Some likely readings include work by: Myisha Cherry, Robin Dillon, Ian Kidd, José Medina, Lisa Tessman.
PHIL 5340. Seminar in Metaphysics | Th 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM | Donald Baxter | Distance Learning
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, internal relations, et al., plus issues in the philosophy of language concerning reference, substitution, quantification, and vagueness. We may explore the metaphysics of the relational self, defended by some thinkers in feminist and Africana philosophy.
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, Bradley, and Frege. Also, we will read essays by the likes of Quine, Moore, Geach, Chisholm, Lewis, Armstrong, Evans, and 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 given more than a cursory attempted 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 5342. Philosophy of Language | Th 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM | Mitchell Green | Distance Learning
A survey of Philosophy of Language suitable for graduate students new to the field as well as advanced undergraduates. We will use the instructor’s new text Philosophy of Language (Oxford, 2020) which covers such topics as theories of linguistic and other kinds of meaning; sense and reference; definite and indefinite descriptions; context-sensitivity; speech acts; expressive communication; conventional and conversational implicature; presupposition; non-ideal philosophy of language (including slurs, silencing and other types of communicative injustice); metaphor, irony and verbal humor. In addition to the primary text, readings will also be drawn from Frege, Russell, Austin, Ayer, Grice, Searle, Davidson, Carston, Marcus, Langton, and Kripke among others.
Students will write a mid-term and final-term paper, and take a final examination.
Pre-requisite: at least one course in symbolic logic, such as Phil 2211Q or equivalent.
PHIL 5350. Seminar in Recent Social and Political Philosophy | Th 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM | Tracy Llanera | Distance Learning
What makes people adopt extremist commitments? What is the link between extremism and authoritarianism? This seminar will examine the existential, psychological, and socio-political roots of extremist commitments. It will also investigate how disengagement from extremism and fanaticism is possible. Seminar readings include the works of religio-mystic philosophers St. Augustine and Simone Weil, medieval political philosopher al-Fârâbî, psychoanalytic and critical theorists Freud, Fromm, and Adorno, Black philosophers du Bois and Fanon, and contemporary philosophers Linda Alcoff on visible identities, L.A. Paul on transformative experience, Quassim Cassam on extremism and radicalization, and my work on apostasy out of hate groups.
PHIL 5301 Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy M 1:00-3:30 PM Bill Lycan
We will study and discuss some recent philosophical articles and chapters, drawn from a wide range of philosophical areas. The focus of the course is not a specific topic, but philosophical writing and the development of analytical skills in general. Course requirements include at least two short presentations, one short essay each week, and one longer essay. Presenters will take the initial lead in the discussion.
PHIL 5307 Logic Th 9:30 AM-12:00 PM Marcus Rossberg
Topic of the course is modal first-order logic. We will study a variety of modal systems from the proof-theoretic as well as semantic perspective. We start with a brief review of standard (non-modal) first-order logic, spend most of the semester getting a firm grasp on modal propositional as well as first-order logic, and investigate specific applications such as deontic, epistemic, and provability logics. Time permitting, we will take a brief look at modal second-order logic.
PHIL 5320 Seminar in the History of Philosophy: Wilfrid Sellars Tu 9:30 AM-12:00 PM Lionel Shapiro
For some of us, Sellars is one of the most rewarding twentieth century philosophers, whose deeply systematic worldview is worked out in dialectical engagement with opposed tendencies of thought (with a keen sensitivity to their history). Several Sellarsian catchphrases and distinctions have become ubiquitous: the “Myth of the Given,” the “manifest” and “scientific images,” the “logical space of reasons,” and linguistic meaning as “fraught with ought.” Besides pioneering conceptual role semantics, functionalism in the philosophy of mind, and the ‘theory theory’ of psychological concepts, Sellars made contributions that can illuminate current debates over expressivism, (anti)representationalism, foundationalism/coherentism and internalism/externalism in epistemology, deflationary approaches to commitment to abstract entities, and pluralism and relativism about truth.
In the first part of the seminar, we’ll read a few of his key papers dating from 1949 to 1963, on language, mind, epistemology and metaphysics. Then, in a second pass, we’ll consider some of his later elaborations. Depending on interest, we may expand our focus to include (always closely related!) topics such as Sellars’s philosophy of science, his theory of sensory consciousness, and his practical philosophy. Time permitting, we may take into account some recent engagements with Sellarsian ideas. Requirements will be three short papers and a longer paper, as well as presentations.
PHIL 5342 Seminar in Philosophy of Language Tu 1:30-4:00 PM Lynne Tirrell
This seminar starts with the classics of "ordinary language philosophy", work by Wittgenstein and J.L. Austin,with attention to Grice, speech act theory, and Inferentialism (Brandom & others). Understanding language games, as social and discursive practices, will be a central theme to help us understand the mechanisms by which language enacts social and political power. After reading the classic texts, we will read and discuss recent work in "non-ideal" philosophy of language addressing issues such as hate speech, propaganda, toxic speech, and more. Some specific topics will be fixed, but some will vary depending on student interests.
PHIL 5397 Seminar: Number W 1:30-4:00 PM Stewart Shapiro
We will look at various conceptions of the concept of number, from a number of different perspectives. The seminar will have different focuses. Here are some:
I. Historical. The role and place of number in Aristotle, Plato, Kant and perhaps a few other central figures.
II. The main programs from the middle of the 20th-Century: logicism, constructivism, various kinds of platonism and anti-realism, etc.
III. The contemporary scene in the philosophy of mathematics, but with a focus on number: neo-logicism, structuralism, etc.
IV. The semantic turn: the semantics of number expressions in natural languages: words like “number”, “one”, “six”, and “third”. Particular attention on the use of arithmetic in order to give semantic accounts of these and other expressions.
V. The development of number concepts in children. How do children acquire number concepts, and the use of number-words? Work on this in cognitive and developmental psychology has revealed a number of fascinating and vexed questions and issues.
Each student taking the course for credit will (i) post a comment or question on the reading for each week, (ii) write and present a seminar paper on one of the topics, (iii) provide a commentary on someone else’s seminar paper, and (iv) write a substantial term paper. Students taking the course pass/fail should do all but (iv); auditors are asked to do (i) and/or (ii).
Presuppositions for the course are minimal. I do not assume familiarity with sophisticated mathematics; basic arithmetic will suffice. Students should have some familiarity with logical notation and concepts.
PHIL 5320 Seminar: Kant Th 9:30 AM-12:00 PM Jessica Tizzard
This seminar will be centered around a close study of Kant’s conception of practical reason, with emphasis on the Critique of Practical Reason, or second Critique. Our aim will be to understand the position that everyday moral concepts occupy within the Kantian system, and reflect upon how this positioning might inform and deepen our grasp of them. To achieve this, we will also spend some time reading the Critique of Pure Reason, or first Critique, building a grasp of Kant’s more general philosophical framework. Thinking about his views on the sources of and limits upon human knowledge more broadly will lead us to discuss the major differences between theoretical and practical knowledge, and why Kant thinks practical reason ultimately has primacy. At the end of the semester, we will focus on the particular implications of Kant’s view for issues like moral psychology, human evil, and the path to virtue, with our study determined in part by student preferences.
PHIL 5330 Seminar: Political Epistemology T 4:00-6:30 PM Michael Lynch
This seminar will focus on the relationship, if any, between truth and politics. The questions we will examine will include whether democracies have a particular interest in promoting true beliefs in their citizens, whether political claims can even be true, and the various alleged threats, technological, political and epistemological, to the value of truth often associated with the idea that we are living in a post-truth culture. Readings will include selections from philosophers such as Arendt, Williamson, Kitcher, Rorty, Talisse, Fricker, Gordon, Tanesini, Battaly, Harcourt, Medina, Rini, Lynch, Price and Blackburn together with some classic essays on the nature of truth. Requirements will include several short writing assignments and a research paper.
PHIL 5342 Seminar in Philosophy of Language W 5:30-8:00 PM Dorit Bar-On
In this seminar we will study recent work on expression, expressive communication, and the origins of meaning (including chapters from Dorit’s forthcoming book, OUP) – examining, among other things, continuities and discontinuities in expressive behavior and communication between humans and nonhuman animals and 'pragmatics-first' approaches to animal communication and language evolution -- as well as expressivism in metaethics and other areas. We will then look at recent work that invokes the notion expression to address puzzles about self-knowledge, including chapters from a manuscript in-progress on expression and self-knowledge co-authored with Prof. Crispin Wright (Stirling, NYU), who will be joining some of the seminar meetings. (Senior grad students working on knowledge of meaning, expressivism, animals’ expressive behavior, and self-knowledge will lead some of the seminar meetings.) Students will be guided toward new research questions in the relevant areas. Seminar requirements will include seminar presentations, a short paper, and a longer final paper.
PHIL 5344 Seminar in Philosophical Logic T 1:00-3:30 PM Keith Simmons
My seminar is on truth. Dorit and I are working on a book on truth, and the seminar will explore the major themes from the book, ranging over philosophy of language, philosophical logic and metaphysics. I won’t be presupposing much – I’ll make sure to introduce the views and the issues we’ll be discussing.
Over the last thirty years or so, the central debate about truth is between the deflaionist and the substantivist. At one end of the spectrum is the deflationist, for whom, roughly speaking, the truth predicate is just a logical device, the concept of truth has no genuine explanatory power, and there is no robust property of truth. At the other end of the spectrum is the pluralist, for whom the concept of truth is a substantive explanatory concept, and there is a plurality of robust truth properties. I’m interested in navigating between deflationism and pluralism.
In critically examining deflationism and pluralism, and exploring a middle position between them, we’ll be looking at a variety of truth-related notions, including meaning, assertion, and truth-aptness. And we’ll also discuss a number of truth-related isms: not just deflationism and pluralism, but also primitivism, realism, anti-realism, and expressivism. And we’ll also look at the impact of the semantic paradoxes, crucially the Liar paradox, on the debate about truth.
Readings will include work by Russell, Tarski, Quine, Horwich, Field, Brandom, Wright, Lynch, together with some very recent articles, and some drafts of chapters from our book.
PHIL 5397 Seminar: Pragmatics W 9:30 AM-12 PM Mitchell Green
Pragmatics is currently the most active area of research in philosophy of language; it also shares territory with linguistics and psychology. This seminar will survey central problems in the field of pragmatics while keeping an eye on open questions that are attractive loci for new research. To that end we will investigate such topics as speaker meaning, expressive behavior, speech acts, implicature (both conversational and conventional), presupposition, conversational dynamics, slurs and other types of pejorative, fictional discourse, and figurative uses of language such as metaphor and irony. We will also address varieties of communicative injustice including those discussed under the rubrics illocutionary silencing and subordinating speech. Students will be expected be active participants in discussion, to make brief presentations, and to write mid-term and final essays.
PHIL 5397 Seminar: Phenomenology M 10:00 AM-12:30 PM Lewis Gordon
Although there are many kinds of phenomenology, we will devote our attention to the line developed from Edmund Husserl via Franz Brentano as it has implications for the various research interests of students conducting doctoral work at UCONN. Thus we will devote attention to phenomenology in the context of metacritique in formal and transcendental logic and then move on to problems in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of social sciences (especially problems of anonymity and social reality), and recent developments in the question of disciplinary formation such as the decolonization of knowledge/philosophy and what could be considered beyond that.
PHIL 5300: ECOM Independent Studies Dorit Bar-On
This course will be linked to activities and events of the Expression, Communication, and Origins of Meaning research group (ECOM -- see ecomresearchgroup.com), as well as to Bar-On’s Mind and Language seminar (W1:30-4). Students will be guided through research and writing on an interdisciplinary ECOM-related topic. Course plan and requirements will be individually tailored. Please contact the instructor for more details.
PHIL 5301 Seminar in Contemporary Philosophy T 10:30-1:00 PM Marcus Rossberg
We will closely study and discuss recent philosophical articles, drawn from a wide range of philosophical areas. The focus of the course is not a specific topic, but philosophical writing and the development of analytical skills in general. Course requirements include two short presentations, writing a short essay each week and one longer essay. Presenters are expected to take the initial lead in the discussion.
PHIL 5307 Seminar on Logic W 4:15-6:45 PM Keith Simmons
Phil 5307 is an introduction to modal logic. We'll study propositional and quantified modal logic. I'll begin at the very beginning. We'll study a variety of modal systems from both the semantic and the proof-theoretic points of view.
We’ll go on to explore modal logic in three directions:
(i) further topics in quantified modal logic
(ii) applications, especially to the philosophy of language
(iii) philosophical issues, including the metaphysics of modality (what are possible worlds?) and the epistemology of modality (exploring the relation between imagination, conceivability, and possibility).
Our main text is Hughes and Cresswell, A New Introduction to Modal Logic.
PHIL 5320 Seminar on Descartes M 12:30-3:00 PM Lionel Shapiro
The seminar will be centered around a close study of the Meditations, paying attention to their argumentative and non-argumentative structure. We’ll also try to work out aspects of the world view Descartes hopes his reader will come away with, by drawing on writings including the Replies, Principles and Passions, and by taking into account recent debates. Among the topics I hope we can focus on: the theory of ideas, including sensory representation; the metaphysics of substance, essence, eternal truths, causation and mind-body union; skepticism and the issue of circularity. We'll all need to have at least Volume II of Philosophical Writings of Descartes (Cambridge).
PHIL 5342/LING 5420 Seminar on Plurals Th 1:30-4:00 PM Stewart Shapiro and Stefan Kaufmann
There are a number of areas of mutual concern to philosophers of language and linguists interested in empirical semantics. For a wide range of topics, such as modals, predicates of personal taste, and propositional attitude reports, there is a fruitful interaction and collaboration between these scholars. One striking exception is the treatment of plurals, with phrases like “the Montague’s and the Capulet’s hate each other” (which has three distinct readings). There is extensive work on plurals by logicians and philosophers of language, and by semanticists. They do regularly cite each other, but there is not much in the way of interaction.
One key difference is that virtually all semanticists are “singularists”, who take it that a plural expression, like “The Montague’s” refers to a single thing, like a set or group. Most philosophers are “pluralists”, who deny this.
The explanation may lie in different interests for the two groups. Plurals were brought into the mainstream of philosophical logic by George Boolos, who suggested that the plural construction can make sense of mathematical cases, where, intuitively, there is no set-like thing to be had (or where assuming that there is one leads to paradox). His example is:
There are some sets such that a given set is one of them just in case it is a member of itself.
Russell’s paradox follows if we assume that there is a set of all such sets.
Most semanticists do not worry about the specter of paradox, following Landman’s Semanticists Bill of Rights: The right to solve Russell’s paradox later shall not be infringed.
In this course, we will look at a wide range of work on plurals, by philosophers such as Boolos, Oliver and Smiley, Linnebo, and Florio, and linguists such as Landman, Carlson, Krifka, Gillon, and Cherchia. On the positive side, we are looking for a modal interpretation that bridges the gap.
The final grade will be based on class participation, a class presentation, a commentary on someone else’s presentation, and a substantial term paper.
PHIL 5380 Seminar on Race & the Human Sciences T 3:00-5:30 PM Lewis Gordon
This course will explore the symbiotic relationship (if any) between race and the formation of the human sciences and the extent to which the question of race offers insight into their continued logic(s). The discussions and readings will thus challenge the presumption that race and racism in the disciplines are results of misapplication of otherwise race-free sciences. Readings will include writings from Bartolome Las Casas, Anténor Firmin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Franz Boas, Frantz Fanon, Stephen J. Gould, Robert Bernasconi, Tommy Lott, Michel-RolphTroillot, Raewyn Connell, Drucilla Cornell, Lisa Lowe, Ellen Feder, Dorothy Roberts, Hortense Spillers, Sylvia Wynter, Robert V. Guthrie, J. Reid Miller, Michael Monahan, and Jane Anna Gordon.
PHIL 5397 Seminar in Philosophy of Religion W 9:30-12:00 PM Jc Beall
This seminar focuses on recent topics in philosophy of religion. The topics are live issues, and so students have the opportunity to engage directly in current debate. But the seminar is also a platform to explore applications of contemporary ideas in metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of logic and beyond. We will first go through Jeff Speaks’ new (and short) monograph /The Greatest Possible Being/, which applies tools from contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of language to argue against the viability of a “greatest possible being” conception of God. We will also briefly examination recent forms of “negative theology” and “analogical theology” (e.g., Dawn Eschenhauer Chow’s work). (If we can’t say anything true of a genuinely transcendent being then…how can we truly say that? And how would we know as much? Etc.) We will also briefly look at “deviant-logic-based” accounts of God (e.g., UConn alum A. J. Cotnoir’s work or perhaps Beall’s work). Other topics will be driven by student/instructor interest. The guiding idea of the seminar is to explore interesting philosophical ideas in a variety of areas (metaphysics, maybe epistemology, language, logic, perhaps more) while using philosophy of religion as a springboard for such exploration.
PHIL 5330 Seminar on Epistemic Vice T 12:30-3:00 Heather Battaly
Epistemic vices, like closed-mindedness, arrogance, and epistemic injustice, are qualities that make us bad thinkers. The seminar will address: (1) what makes a quality an epistemic vice and theoretical issues; (2) analyses of individual epistemic vices; and (3) the draft papers for the forthcoming Vice Epistemology volume (eds. Kidd, Battaly, and Cassam) which will be presented at UConn’s Conference on Epistemic Vice in April. The plan is for students in the seminar to comment on the papers at the conference. (1) On what makes a quality an epistemic vice. Must epistemic vices inhibit knowledge and produce false belief? Must epistemic vices be blameworthy character traits? If bad vision, epistemic injustice, and intellectual arrogance are all epistemic vices, are they so because of features they all share? Or is there more than one type of epistemic vice? Are epistemic vices stealthy—does an agent’s having a vice like closed-mindedness make it difficult for her to detect this vice in herself? What does group epistemic vice look like? Can we rehabilitate epistemic vices? If so, how? (2) On analyses of individual epistemic vices. We are likely to discuss epistemic vices such as: closed-mindedness, intellectual arrogance and servility, epistemic laziness, epistemic injustice, epistemic intemperance and self-indulgence, and epistemic insouciance. In addition to those already mentioned, likely readings include work by Battaly, Bloomfield, Cassam, Crerar, Dillon, Fricker, Kidd, Medina, and Tanesini.
PHIL 5340 Metaphysics: Identity-in-Difference R 9:30-12 Don Baxter
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, Bradley, 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 given more than a cursory refutation, so knowledge of their details may give our students an advantage in some current debates. I will try to show how they contribute to a general theory of "identity-in-difference." 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 5312 Philosophy of Science M 11:30-2 Thomas Bontly
This seminar will investigate epistemological and methodological issues in the philosophy of science, focusing on especially on questions about evidence, values, and uncertainty. According to tradition, science is supposed to be an objective, evidence-driven endeavor free of the distorting influence of political and other non-epistemic values. However, this “value-free ideal” has been challenged on numerous grounds, for instance underdetermination and inductive risk. While not new, these challenges have recently resurfaced and taken on new dimensions in connection with policy-relevant sciences such as climate science and toxicology.
Accordingly, my aim for this seminar is to rethink the relationship between evidence, values, and uncertainty or risk. The plan is to start off with some classics on confirmation theory and theory choice, then dive into some recent debates about evidence and statistical hypothesis testing. In the second half of the semester, we will grapple with recent challenges to the value-free ideal and examine the role of values, both epistemic and non-epistemic. In the third half, finally, I hope to look at how these issues play out in the field of climate modeling. If time allows, we may also think about the bearing of all this on the long-running debate between realists and instrumentalists.
No prior knowledge of science, statistics, or the philosophy of science will be assumed. Readings will be drawn both from the canon (Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, et al) and diverse contemporary sources (Laudan, Sober, Longino, Mayo, Douglas, Winsberg, …). Requirements will include several short discussion papers, a presentation or two, and a longer seminar paper.
PHIL 5397 Alienation & Freedom: Frantz Fanon’s Philosophy of Human Science, Politics, and Liberation
M 5:30-8 Lewis Gordon
Frantz Fanon is now a canonical thinker in a variety of disciplines. The purpose of this course will be to read his past published work in light of and alongside the recently published collection Alienation and Freedom, which includes his dissertation, plays, psychiatric writings, and additional political writings, for a coherent critical portrait of what his thought offers for philosophy, critical theories of human science, political theory, decolonial thought, and theories of liberation. Students will be expected to select a recent critical secondary text on Fanon’s thought in her or his discipline or field to place in conversation with the primary texts.
PHIL 5342 Philosophy of Language: Force and Content W 1:30-3 Lionel Shapiro
Our topic will be the distinction between the "force" and the "content" of speech acts and mental acts. This is widely regarded as one of Frege's great innovations, but both the historical claim and the evaluative one have recently become the subject of debate. After a look at some of the history, we'll examine arguments for and against a force-content distinction. Among the issues to be discussed will be the nature and unity of propositional contents, the nature of assertion, the so-called "Frege-Geach problem" (typically posed as a challenge to versions of expressivism), and the relation between content and self-consciousness. Contemporary readings will be drawn from the "analytic" philosophy of language as well as the German idealist tradition.