Graduate Courses & Seminars

Winter 2021


Philos 206: Topics in Medieval Philosophy

Instructor: Peter King
Tuesday: 3:00P – 5:50P
Location: Dodd 325

Augustine and Post-Classical Philosophy

Augustine (354-430ce) wrote his Confessions (roughly 397-401ce) as a philosophical treatise on ethics.  It is a manifesto of `post-classical’ philosophy, meant to show how the doctrines of mainstream Christianity provide better philosophical answers to philosophical problems than do the various schools of classical antiquity.  It is cast as a direct address to God with the events of Augustine’s life providing the framework in which he takes up philosophical problems as various as human happiness (and how to find it), the nature of the mind, the paradox of inquiry, the Socratic dismissal of weakness of the will, the Supreme Good, the relation between high culture and popular culture, friendship, the soul’s ascent to wisdom, the epistemic status of testimony, human perversity, the nature of time, the paradox of commitment, and skepticism.  We’ll read parts of the `autobiographical’ sections (Books 1-9) closely, and if possible the `treatise on memory’ (Book 10) and the `treatise on time’ (Book 11); there will be associated background readings in ancient philosophy along the way.

The focus of the seminar will be philosophical rather than theological, literary, spiritual, polemical, or historical.  (Knowledge of Latin or Greek isn’t necessary but is welcome.)

Philos C210: Spinonza

Instructor: John Carriero
Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00A-11:50A
Location: Royce 154

Interested students should contact Prof. Carriero for more information. Please note, this is a concurrent graduate section for an undergraduate course, Philos C110, and does not satisfy the requirement for a graduate seminar in history.

Philos 220: Seminar: Topics in History of Philosophy

Instructor: Daniela Dover
Mondays: 2:00P – 4:50P
Location: Dodd 325

Left Existentialism: Beauvoir, Fanon, Thảo, Foucault

Existentialism, like its more explicitly political cousin anarchism, is a politically ambiguous tradition that has appealed to reactionary as well as revolutionary thinkers. This seminar will explore the left wing of the existentialist tradition, considering the influence of existentialist themes on Marxist, anarchist, feminist, post-colonial, and post-structuralist thought, with a particular focus on Simone de Beauvoir, Franz Fanon, Trần Đức Thảo, and Michel Foucault.

Philos C225: Probability and Inductive Logic

Instructor: Michael Rescorla
Tuesdays, Thursday: 12:30P – 1:45P
Location: Dodd 78

Bayesian decision theory is the standard theoretical framework for studying reasoning and decision-making under uncertain conditions. It plays a large role in epistemology, statistics, artificial intelligence (including robotics), cognitive science, and many other disciplines. We will discuss the Bayesian paradigm and its philosophical underpinnings. We will begin by explaining the probability calculus. We will then discuss how to formalize Bayesian decision theory using the probability calculus. Throughout the course, we will discuss foundational issues raised by the Bayesian paradigm, including: the nature of subjective probability; conditional probability; Conditionalization and other dynamic Bayesian norms; Dutch book arguments; and the principle of indifference.

Interested students should contact directly to Professor Rescorla

Please note, this is a concurrent graduate section for an undergraduate course, Philos C133B

Philos 246: Seminar: Ethical Theory

Instructor: A.J. Julius
Thursday: 2:00P – 4:50P
Location: Dodd 325

We’ll talk through the rough draft of a new book on labor and its liberation from capital. Along the way we’ll work on several of the texts it’s working on: some Marx, for sure; probably some Hegel, Ricardo, Lukacs, and I.I. Rubin; possibly some E.B. Pashukanis, J.-P. Sartre, Lucio Colletti, Amilcar Cabral, Lise Vogel, Barbara Fields.

Philos 254A: Legal Theory Workshop

Instructor: Seana Shiffrin
Thursdays: 5:00P – 7:00P
Location: Law 1314

The seminar is structured around the Legal Theory Workshop which brings leading scholars from around the world to discuss their works in progress with graduate students, law students,  faculty. All the papers will address legal issues from a theoretically informed perspective or theoretical issues relevant to the understanding of law. The seminar will involve biweekly discussions with leading scholars, with intervening preparatory weeks. In the preparatory weeks, students gain relevant background but we also focus on how to develop a good philosophical question and what makes for a good philosophical conversation.  Students will be expected to attend all sessions, participate regularly, write a handful of short reaction papers (1-2 pages) and complete a longer analytical paper involving little research (12-15 pages) at the end of the term about one of the subjects covered in class.

This year’s program includes a highly distinguished list of speakers whose work addresses the formation of trust relationships between criminals, criminal law, freedom of speech, property, the justification of the state and judicial review. The list of speakers is available at

No prior background is necessary, but students should be open to in-depth investigation of theoretical arguments about legal issues and legal structure. All philosophy students are welcome and have the relevant preparation. Background will be supplied in the weeks in between speaker visits.

Philos M257: Philosophy Legal Theory

Instructor: Samuele Chilovi
Mondays: 5:30P – 7:30P
Location: Law 2473

The Nature of Law: Ground, Essence, and Analysis

Legal philosophers are interested in the questions of what law is, and what makes it what it is. But how are we to understand such questions, and how do they relate to one another? Do they concern the essence of law, or rather our concept of it? Do they look for features and determinants that law has whenever and wherever it exists? If so, can anything meaningful be said in answering them? Our aim in this course is to tackle these questions, and to do so with the aid of key conceptual tools and notions developed within contemporary metaphysics. We will first look at the way in which debates on “the nature of law” have been conducted within contemporary legal philosophy, and at how first-order theories within them have traditionally been presented. Then, we will examine core notions drawn from interlevel metaphysics that play a key role within these (and related) views and debates: supervenience, conceptual analysis, constitutive determination (aka “grounding”), essence, and reduction. Much of the course will be devoted to exploring classic and contemporary readings on these topics (by, e.g., K. Fine, F. Jackson, D. Lewis, K. Miller, G. Rosen, and A. Thomasson). This investigation will be used to provide a better understanding of the underlying issues, of the space of theoretical options on them, and of the ways in which these options can be comparatively assessed. Finally, we will focus on how the question of what law is relates to the question of what the law (on a particular issue) is. In doing so, we will scrutinize R. Dworkin’s famous conception of jurisprudence as “the general part of adjudication, silent prologue to any decision at law” (Law’s Empire, p. 90).

Please note, this course meets on the law school’s Spring 2022 Semester calendar, with the first class meeting on Monday, January 24th and the final class meeting on Tuesday, April 26th.

Philos 281: Seminar: Philosophy of Mind

Instructor: Gabriel Greenberg
Wednesdays: 2:00P – 4:50P
Location: Dodd 325

Emotions and their Expression

This course will investigate the nature of the emotions and how they are expressed.  The first half of the seminar will focus on the emotions themselves, from the perspective of neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy, and feminist theory.   The second half of the seminar will focus on the expression of emotions in faces, emoji, emotive language, music, and art.