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Graduate Courses

Submitted by schnell on Fri, 11/22/2013 - 1:46pm

The department offers a selection of graduate-level courses every year. These are taught by permanent faculty and sometimes visting faculty and post-docs. The Graduate Proseminar (Phil 603) is offered every fall and is required of all entering graduate students.  With permission of the Graduate Program Director, students may take a limited number of individual Directed Study courses and courses in other departments.

Previous years' courses:

Detailed outlines for current courses can be found on the Courses page.

Fall 2017

John Baker: Moral Particularism

At its boldest, moral particularism is (1) the metaphysical thesis that the moral normative status of a particular action by a particular person in a particular context is uniquely a function of the configuration of the morally relevant properties of that particular action in that particular context, and correspondingly (2) the epistemological/normative thesis that moral reasoning/deliberation about what some person morally ought or morally must do in some particular context can make at most indirect reference to possibly relevant moral principles. In a nutshell, the attractiveness of particularism comes in part from the recognition that in at least a large variety of kinds of cases what makes an act morally right or morally wrong is the nature of the act in the circumstances and not the attractiveness of some principle or norm viewed as governing the behaviour of people generally.

In this bold form, moral particularist theorizing stands opposed to more traditional generalist/principlist theorizing about both the metaphysical and epistemological/normative issues, more traditional theorizing classically affirming (1) that the moral normative status of a particular act is primarily a function of content of relevantly applicable valid moral principles and correspondingly (2) that an adequate account of moral reasoning will need theory of validity, of relevance, and of weighting of moral principles.

The aim of the course to explore in detail the main strengths and weaknesses of the various accounts of moral particularism given the signal failure of generalist/principlist thus far to provide an adequate account of moral reasoning.

Marc Ereshefsky & Ken Waters: Scientific Metaphysics

Many philosophers believe that metaphysics should be informed by science, and this is usually taken to mean that metaphysics should be informed by the theoretical results of fundamental physics. We will pursue a different approach to scientific metaphysics, one that seeks to inform metaphysics by the nature of successful practices across the sciences. These include practices of theorizing, but also practices of experimentation and manipulation, and practices of classification and individuation.

The seminar will be organized into three parts. The first part will cover different accounts of how metaphysics could be informed by science. These readings will provide a common basis for graduate students to develop research projects about how metaphysics might be informed by the results or practices of science. The contents of the rest of the seminar will be set by graduate student research projects. Students will identify their own topic areas in the first part of the seminar. In the second part, students will select readings in their topic areas for the class to read and discuss as they are developing their individual research projects. In the third part of the course, students will write research papers, drafts of which will be read and discussed by the class.

Ish Haji: Freedom and Obligation

A widely discussed view is that moral responsibility requires freedom. A far less discussed view we will explore in this seminar is that obligation requires freedom. If obligation requires freedom, is this freedom compatible or incompatible with determinism?

Noa Latham: Meditation and Self-Control

An examination of the notions of self and self-control, with particular reference to the kind of control of thoughts and sensations that occurs during meditation, and its implications for understanding and virtue.

Graduate Proseminar (Mandatory)

The aim of this seminar is to sharpen one’s philosophical research and writing skills. We will focus on how to identify
research topics, write research proposals and papers, and prepare research presentations.

Winter 2018

Jack MacIntosh: Science and Religion in the Early Modern Period

Early modern thinkers from Grotius and Chillingworth to Tillotson and Bentley spent a great deal of time and energy defending religion from an atheism which was often held to be fostered by the new scientific outlook of thinkers such as Descartes, Boyle, and Newton. Ironically perhaps, these exponents of the "new philosophy" were among the staunchest believers in a century of strong believers. So what was at issue? —was there any conflict between the two approaches to the world?

Allen Habib: Theory of Environmental Sustainability

Seminar in environmental philosophy focusing on the theory of environmental sustainability. We will cover the history of the concept, from early philosophical foundations in Malthus, Mill and others, to contemporary debates in environmental philosophy. We will also read work in cognate areas, such as economics, political science, ecology and anthropology.

David Liebesman: What is meaning?

It is almost universally accepted that words are meaningful, but just about everything beyond that is controversial. We will survey a number of central issues including whether meanings are structured or unstructured, how linguistic content is related to mental content, and whether there is non-conceptual content.

Richard Zach: Modal Logic

Many logical systems with important applications in philosophy, computer science, and linguistics make use of relational semantics. The course covers the model and proof theory of logics such as alethic, temporal, epistemic logic, intuitionistic logic, dynamic logic, stit logics, logics of counterfactuals, relevant logics, and their applications.

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