Graduate Courses & Seminars

Fall 2022


Philos 206: Topics in Medieval Philosophy

Instructors: Brian Copenhaver and Calvin Normore
Mondays: 12:00-2:00pm
Location: Royce 306

Picturing Knowledge in Historical Perspective

Whether thought is best understood by analogy with language, with pictorial representation or with both is an issue at least as old as Plato’s Cratylus and as contemporary as 2020 revision of the article on Mental Representation in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This interdisciplinary seminar will attempt to trace from late antiquity into the 17th century, both some of the ways in which pictures were used as tools to create and express knowledge claims and some of the theoretical issues surrounding those uses.

Beginning with an outline of the issues and a discussion of the structure and limits of pictorial representation we will turn to the use of diagrams in late antiquity, to the role of icons in Byzantine thought and to discussions of picturing in Latin Medieval traditions. We will then turn to the dramatic changes in the nature and use of pictorial representation from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries ending with a discussion of Descartes’ use of pictures and diagrams.

The seminar will meet weekly for two hours in a hybrid format and there will be an optional third hour scheduled at participants convenience for preparatory and follow-up meetings. The instructors of record will begin and end the series of classes but most of the classes will be given by experts in the particular subjects being discussed.

Philos C210: Spinoza

Instructor: John Carriero
Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00A-11:50A
Location: Bunche 3150

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 248: Problems in Moral Philosophy

Instructors: Barbara Herman and Seana Shiffrin
Wednesdays: 2:00-5:00pm
Location: Dodd 325

Staying Within the Lines? The directive import of moral and legal norms

Accounts of both moral and legal prescriptions typically involve both the identification and articulation of moral and legal values and the identification and articulation of moral and legal norms (to use a term meant to be neutral between rules, directives, standards, and other norms that connect those values to actions and motives). The seminar will explore the moral significance of having and crafting norms, of the form those norms take, of their articulation and enforcement, and of the attitudes that agents and citizens should have toward the lines these norms draw. Among the topics to be considered include: why there are duties; discretion and imperfect duties; purposive interpretation as a necessary condition of compliance; rules vs standards; underenforcement and overarticulation; supererogation

Philos 257: Philosophy Legal Theory

Instructor: Andrew Currie
Mondays: 4:00-7:00pm
Location: Law 3393

Epistemology & Law

This seminar brings some contemporary work in epistemology to bear on the dual questions of how the law is known (how we work out what the law is) and how the law knows (how the law takes itself to know something). Our focus will be on common law systems of precedent, in which decisions of courts are themselves sources of law. According to some theorists, judicial decisions contribute to the law by giving rise to rules or to reasons; according to others, judicial decisions contribute to the law by forming part of the materials which any theory of law should fit and justify. After considering these theories, we will ask whether we can understand precedent by instead appealing to the notion of abduction or inference to the best explanation. We may turn to Bayesian epistemology, with the aim of understanding the relationship between abduction, Bayesian confirmation theory, and precedent. We will conclude by examining the relationship between legal proof and knowledge.

Philos 283: Seminar: Theory of Knowledge

Instructor: Carlotta Pavese
Mondays: 2:00-4:50pm
Location: Dodd 325

Seminar: Theory of Knowledge

This is a graduate seminar in epistemology, focusing on the relation between knowledge and action. We will start discussing virtue epistemology—an approach to epistemology which aims at understanding knowledge on the model of skilled or virtuous action. We will think about the consequences of thinking of epistemic states on the model of actions and we will ask whether epistemic competences are better thought along the lines of skills, or virtues, or what else. We will discuss whether knowledge plays a normative role vis a vis assertion and action. Then we will look at theories that attempt to understand action, and in particular intentional action, at least in part in terms of knowledge. We will think about Anscombe’s notion of practical knowledge, about what theoretical role it might play vis a vis skilled and intentional action, and about how it ought to be understood if it has to play such theoretical roles. We will discuss whether intelligent action is constitutively related to knowledge. Starting from Aristotle and Ryle, we will read about skills, know-how, and technai, with a glance at the recent literature, and we will think about some outstanding problems facing the so-called intellectualist legend.