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.

Spring 2020

PHIL 5315 Seminar: Ethics            M 4:40-7:10 PM           Paul Bloomfield

We will spend the semester studying the cardinal moral virtues: courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom.

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.

Fall 2019

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.

Spring 2019

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.