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 2018
Dorit Bar-On PHIL 5300 ECOM Independent Studies
After an initial organizational meeting on the first Wednesday of classes, we will assign individual or joint projects involving identifying ECOM-related grant and fellowship opportunities and working together on applications. Feel free to bring to class a project of interest. (I will be contacting those registered with some directions before the start of semester, but please feel free to come talk to me about more details.)
Paul Bloomfield, PHIL 5315 Seminar on Moral Philosophy Human Nature and Moral Virtue M 3:30-6
In this seminar, we will investigate the empirical viability of the concept of human nature by reading texts in the philosophy of biology and evolutionary psychology, and move from there to an exploration of whether or not the moral virtues can be understood through human nature.
Marcus Rossberg, Phil 5320 History of Philosophy – Frege
The importance of Frege’s ideas within contemporary analytical philosophy would be hard to exaggerate. He was, simply put, 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. We will start our course by a (relatively) close reading of Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic (1884) [transl. by J.L. Austin; eschew other translations]; followed by the 1891/2 trio of papers on Frege’s famous sense and reference distinction (“Function and Concept”, “On Sense and Reference”, “On Concept and Object”), and the Foreword of Basic Laws of Arithmetic (1893). After this preparation, we will run this seminar as a research seminar, focussing on Frege’s philosophy of logic, truth, and language. We will, inter alia, be reading Frege Logical Investigations and pieces from his Nachlass, as well as secondary literature. The exact course of the course will in part he determined by the interests of the participants.
Dorit Bar-On & Mitch Green PHIL 5331 W 1:30-4 Language & Mind
This is a seminar on pragmatics and semantics from a diachronic perspective. We aim to cover some core, and other soon-to-be-core topics in pragmatics and semantics, but where appropriate bring in a diachronic perspective (construed broadly enough to include both genetic and cultural evolution, as well as recent work on the dynamics of conversation). Among the core topics will be natural versus speaker meaning, speech acts, implicature (both conversational and conventional), presupposition, metaphor, and irony. Among the soon-to-be core topics are forms of meaning “between” natural and speaker meaning (e.g., “organic meaning”, “expressive meaning”), as well as varieties of nonlinguistic communication. This latter topic will pave the way for reading – in the second half of the semester – chapters from Bar-On’s manuscript-in-progress, Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning.
Keith Simmons, Phil 5344: Truth. T 4.00-6.30
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. There are currently two main approaches to truth – deflationism, and some version of the correspondence theory. 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, centrally 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.
Stefan Kaufmann (Linguistics) Stewart Shapiro (Philosophy, Phil 5342 (cross-listed as Linguistics 6420) Modality and Natural Language Metaphysics R 1:00-4:00
Modality has to do with possibilities, obligations, and conditional claims, among many other matters. The study of modal and conditional language touches on a host of fascinating issues: knowledge and uncertainty; causality and (non-)determinism; the dynamics of belief and common ground; and more. In order to develop systems with the expressive power necessary to capture the content of modal propositions, logicians have developed a variety of modal logics and frameworks for related notions such as probability and causality. Standard semantic models for these systems use “possible worlds” to capture how possibilities—‘the way things might be’—can vary from circumstance to circumstance.
English expressions of interest include modal auxiliaries (would, should, can, must), adjectives and adverbs (possible/possibly, plausible/plausibly, supposedly, reportedly), embedding predicates (know, believe, suppose), discourse particles (after all, sure enough), clausal connectives (before, because) and many more, as well as conditional sentences (if…then…) and other expressions of hypothetical or suppositional meaning. And when we extend our interest to other languages, we find even more interesting cases: languages in which modal statements make no distinction between necessity and possibility; languages with extensive evidential marking on all clauses, indicating the type of evidence on which an assertion is based; and more.
Linguists interested in formal semantics have borrowed the tools and techniques from modal logic and the use of semantic models with possible worlds to explore the meanings of utterances like the above. From the other direction, the study of how we talk about such matters, using expressions which have a modal component in their meanings, sometimes sheds new light back on classical arguments among logicians about the meanings of modal statements and conditionals, and about the ontological status and nature of possible worlds—and the semantic status of modal propositions.
In this class, we will first offer a brief introduction to modal logic and to the linguistic treatment of modal expressions. We will then concentrate on some puzzles and arguments concerning modal and conditional expressions. We do not assume that participants have either a background in philosophical logic or formal semantics, though they should have some background in either philosophy or linguistics, and at least some familiarity with basic symbolic logic.
The course has two major goals: First, we aim to tease out how assumptions about natural language modality are used—explicitly or implicitly—by logicians and philosophers to argue for particular positions in the relevant debates. Then, we plan to explore the extent to which supporting ontological claims by appeal to the use and interpretation of modality in natural language involves reasonable assumptions: To what extent does the way we talk about the way things are (or might be) reflect the way they really are? In any case, we expect that this exploration will help us learn to avoid the pitfalls of shallow assumptions concerning what language tells us about the world in which speakers (presumably!) exist.
Len Krimmerman Phil 5397 Philosophy of Education
This course allows students to explore the ways in which the practice of education can be made more democratic and communal. This exploration will occur through interrogation of the concepts that undergird modern notions of education as well as the development of projects which aim to solve problems and produce knowledge with communities rather than for or about them. In terms of philosophical interrogation, the course will tackle such issues as: What is the ultimate purpose of education? What is the relationship between education and the development of virtue? What is the role of the community in education? How should teachers view their role as educators? What is a student? How does education function to alleviate or reinforce oppression? What is the relationship between education and culture? What is the relationship between education and political systems? How are education and freedom connected? Should a classroom be a vehicle by which to serve communities? What is the proper role of dialogue in the education process? In terms of practice, the students will be involved with an ongoing project with the Willimantic community. This project will have two major components. The first will involve working with Grow Windham, a youth development project created by the Windham Regional Community Council (WRCC).
Course participants will partner with the youth at Grow Windham to determine how the program can be expanded as well as begin dialogues with the youth about the processes of learning they encounter at their homes, schools and community engagement activities. The second component will involve discovering how UCONN, Eastern Connecticut University and local community organizations can collaborate to create more dialogue between the various communities and local organization in Willimantic. This will involve students establishing new relationships outside of the ones already formed with WRCC. In addition, students of the course will connect thinkers, activist and educators from around the nation who are working to make education more humane and liberating.
Upcoming Graduate Courses, Fall 2018
Marcus Rossberg Phil 5301: First-Year Proseminar Tues 9:30-12
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 or field, but philosophical writing and the development of analytical and critical skills in general. Course requirements include: two short presentations and writing a short essay each week.
Keith Simmons Phil 5307: First-Year Logic Seminar Wed 1:30-4
We will study propositional and quantified modal logic. I’ll begin at the very beginning. We will study a variety of modal systems from both the semantic and the proof-theoretic points of view. The systems include K, T, D, S4, B, S5. 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: expanding domains; modality and existence; identity and descriptions; intensional objects; counterpart theory).
(ii) applications (possible world semantics; counterfactuals).
(iii) philosophical issues (the problem of interpreting quantified modal logic; the metaphysics of modality: what are possible worlds?; the interpretation of two-dimensional semantics; the epistemology of modality: imagination, conceivability, and possibility).
Our main text is Hughes and Cresswell, A New Introduction to Modal Logic.
William Lycan Seminar on Moral Realism Tues 12:30-3
We will discuss the following topics: Recent antirealist arguments; moral epistemology; the semantics of moral language; the relation between morality and conation; naturalist vs. nonnaturalist realisms; morality and evolution; moral virtue and realism; divine command theories; relativisms taken seriously as such.
Alexus McLeod Seminar in Early Chinese Philosophy Mon 12:30-3
Early Chinese Philosophy—Naturalism, Transcendence, and Substance
In this seminar we will look specifically at the issue of “naturalism” and the controversial topics of transcendence and substance in early Chinese philosophy from the Spring and Autumn period through the Western Han. We will approach these questions specifically in Confucian, Daoist, Mohist, and “Huang-Lao” texts. Readings will include canonical texts in the early Chinese tradition such as the Analects of Confucius, Xunzi, Mozi, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, Huainanzi, and Chunqiu Fanlu, as well as contemporary work on these texts by philosophers such as Roger Ames, Chenyang Li, Franklin Perkins, Brook Ziporyn, May Sim, Jeeloo Liu, and others. We will also be reading chapters of my forthcoming book on the topic (co-authored with Joshua Brown), Transcendence and Substance in Early Chinese Thought.
Susan Schneider Philosophy of Mind Tues 3:30-6
What is the nature of the mind and self? In this class, we explore this question from the vantage point of work in both metaphysics and philosophy of mind. Of special interest will be considering the challenges that the 21st Century will bring to the study of the self and mind, such as the development of superintelligent AI and brain chips (which we shall discuss in the context of the extended mind hypothesis). Metaphysical resources, such as work on the nature of properties, mathematical entities, and substances, will be applied to these issues.
“How Philosophy of Mind can Shape the Future” (Schneider and Mandik, ends a 6 volume history of philosophy of mind). Available at SchneiderWebsite.com
Lynne Tirrell Toxic Speech Thurs 9:30-noon
This is a course in language and politics, with an emphasis on understanding how discursive norms and practices shape individuals, society, even who lives and who dies. The 20th century was a period of notable genocides around the world: Armenians, the Holocaust, Holodomor (Ukrainians), Nanking, Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and more. The 21st century has seen a rise in what Rwandans call “divisionist ideology,” with nationalism and xenophobia becoming increasingly common. Language alone does not create or enact genocide, but studying the role of changing discursive practices in a society that turns genocidal can teach us how everyday practices of speaking about ourselves and others might contribute to enabling the participation of ordinary people in a genocide.
Analyses of speech and harm tend to focus on hate speech, examining how hurled epithets and casual uses of derogatory terms and slurs feed oppressive systems. While studying this literature, we’ll also take a wider angle on the ways speech can be toxic and generate changes to ideology, practice, and action. We’ll consider what sorts of remedies might be possible. The genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda 1994 will be our core (but not exclusive) case. Philosophy of language readings will include Wittgenstein, Austin, Sellars, Lewis, and Brandom, some work on metaphor and euphemisms (Tirrell, Camp), plus work on derogatory terms and slurs (Jeshion, Swanson, Camp, more), including my “Genocidal Language Games” and more recent work. In addition to survivor testimonies and articles about Rwanda, we’ll read Victor Klemperer’s The Language of the Third Reich, Jacques Semelin’s Purify and Destroy, and Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works. To end with hope, we’ll seek constructive remedies to the harmful effects of toxic speech, including challenging (Brandom), blocking (Langton), inoculation (Tirrell, McGuire), and look for clues to moral repair (Carse & Tirrell, Walker). Students will be responsible for regular short essays, maybe on a private class blog, leading a short kick-off discussion for at least one class, and one long seminar paper.