Graduate Courses & Seminars

Fall 2020


Philos 220: Seminar: Topics in History of Philosophy

Instructor:Janelle DeWitt
Tuesdays: 3:00PM – 5:50PM
Location: Online

There are certain elements of Kant’s account of the will that have been notoriously difficult to interpret, much less to defend. What is it that makes us free? What does it mean to will spontaneously? Autonomously? Are we really more free, rather than less free, when we restrict our range of actions to those that accord with the demands of morality? If to be free is to be moral, and to be moral is to be rational, then does that mean that no one is responsible for their immoral actions? What do we really mean by happiness? Is it merely the maximal satisfaction of my desires, or is there something more involved? Can I aim to be both moral and happy? Or must I choose morality to the exclusion of my own happiness? The answers Kantians have typically given to these questions have been less than satisfying. I believe the key to more compelling answers lies in a better understanding of the two-wills doctrine underlying Kant’s account of the will and the impact it has on the rest of his moral theory.

Thus, the aim of this class will be to reconsider Kant’s moral psychology in light of the original “two wills” account found in the work of Anselm of Canterbury. In Anselm’s development of this doctrine, we find such key Kantian concepts as moral self-determination/legislation, spontaneity of the will, intellectual evil, the highest good, etc.  But more importantly, we also find a full complement of arguments in support of these concepts and an explanation of how they are intended to fit together—arguments and explanations that are often buried in a mire of theoretical entanglements, assumed as background, or missing altogether in Kant’s own account.

Philos 229: Critical Thinking: History, Theory and Pedagogy

Instructor: Calvin Normore
Wednesdays: 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Location: Online

A graduate level introduction to the history and pedagogy of critical thinking and to current theoretical approaches to the descriptive and normative aspects of reasoning and its role in education more broadly. The ten week course comes in three modules. It begins by examining briefly the relation between dialectic and rhetoric in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, the development of the theory of dialectic and topical argument in medieval Arabic and Latin sources, and the influence of this tradition particularly among women writers in the seventeenth century and American pragmatists such as John Dewey in the twentieth. We then shift gears, looking  to current work on the relation between logic and the psychology of reasoning and the theoretical underpinning of argumentation theory and informal logic. The third module of the course is devoted to the theory and practice of the teaching of critical thinking both in the -K-12 and the tertiary education arenas.

Philos C244B: Responsibility and Free Will: Minds that Matter

Instructor: Pamela Hieronymi 
T/R: 2:00PM – 3:15PM
Location: Online

Please note this “concurrent” course shares lectures with the undergraduate course, Philos C154B. A separate graduate section will be held on Wednesday, 2:00P – 2:50P, and in “group work” graduate students will be grouped together.

Below is the general course description:

In light of the on-line nature of this course, and in lieu of pre-recorded lectures, the course will be organized around the manuscript of my book-in-progress, Minds that Matter. The aim of the manuscript is to unwind the intuitive problem of free will and moral responsibility. The first half concerns the kind of freedom or control that we think both required for responsibility and in some way problematic. It argues for a specific understanding of the apparent problem and offers a solution. However, the solution is not sufficient to ground all forms of responsibility. Addressing that objection is the subject of the second half of the book. We will consider surrounding literature as we make our way through.

Students will be divided into smaller groups to meet during lecture time, to enable more person-to-person interaction in real time, over Zoom. The exact details are to be determined. Reading is likely to be heavier than usual; class time lighter.

Philos C253B: The Methodology of Normative Philosophy

Instructor: Daniela Dover 
Wednesdays: 2:00PM – 4:50PM
Location: Online

This seminar will explore fundamental questions about the aims and methods of philosophical inquiry into morality and politics. What is the point of normative theory? How should we think about the relationships among theory, pedagogy, and everyday moral and political practice? What makes for a good argument? What makes for a good question? What should a piece of philosophical writing do–for the writer, for the reader, and/or for the world at large?

Philos 281:Seminar: Mental Representations

Instructor: Michael Rescorla
Thursdays: 3:00PM – 5:50PM
Location: Online

The representational theory of mind (RTM) holds that the mind is stocked with mental representations: mental items with representational properties. These items can be stored in memory, manipulated during mental activity, and combined to form complex representations. RTM is widely presupposed within cognitive science, which offers many successful theories that posit mental representations. Nevertheless, mental representations are still viewed warily in some scientific and philosophical circles. This course will explore recent literature on RTM, including debates over the existence, nature, individuation, structure, and explanatory role of mental representations. Readings by Camp, Carey, Egan, Fodor, Lewis, Peacocke, Recanati, Schneider, and others.

Philos 287:Seminar: Holism and History

Instructor: Josh Armstrong 
Mondays: 2:00PM – 3:50PM
Location: Online

This seminar will explore recent work in the philosophy of language on the nature of linguistic meaning. Particular topics to be discussed include: motivations for semantic holism, historical constraints on linguistic meaning, the nature and philosophical significance of meaning change, and the intersectional character of linguistic communities. We will begin by considering well-known papers by philosophers such as Quine, Putnam, Burge, Evans, and Millikan and by linguists such as Labov, Sankoff, and Mufwene. We will then turn to a critical discussion of Mark Richard’s recent book *Meanings as Species.*