Graduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2021 Philosophy Graduate Course Descriptions

:16:730:513 Seminar in Logic and Natural Languages: Semantic and Pragmatic interfaces

Wednesdays 1-4pm, Synchronous    Instructors:  Prof. Michael Glanberg & Prof.  Jeff King

The general theme for this course is how expressions in language get their meanings. We will focus on three more specific questions about this theme. First, what kinds of expressions get what kinds of meanings? Are there special categories that go with special words? And if expressions are hard to see in a sentence, do they get special treatment?  Also, what sorts of meanings are appropriate for sentences?  Are these meanings propositions, or otherwise the same as intuitive semantic contents?  Second, how do larger expressions get their meanings from smaller ones? In effect, how do we implement reasonable compositionality constraints? We will focus on what compositionally principles are appropriate for which sorts of expressions, and how this helps us to understand what kinds of semantic contents various expressions must have. Third, what metasemantic processes determine how expressions get their meanings? This especially pressing for supplementives, where pragmatics helps fix semantic values. What pragmatic mechanisms do that, and how do they generalize?

16:730:583 Seminar in Social & Political Philosophy: Identity Politics

Tuesday 1-4 pm, Synchronous

Instructor: Derrick Darby

Henry Rutgers Professor of Philosophy

We use many labels to describe who we are: black, Latinx, female, lesbian, Catholic, Republican, jazz musician, Mets fan, military veteran, union member, prison abolitionist, and Scarlet Knight. Not only do these social identities give meaning to our lives, ethically, they also impact our social and political projects. Holding representatives accountable for collective projects is an important ideal of democracy. It pertains to partisan politics as well as participation in social movements and organizations. Working from this ideal we ask, are social identities bad for democracy? Identity skeptics such as Francis Fukuyama say they are while identity optimists such as Stacey Abrams disagree. Here are questions we will resolve to pick a side: what are social identities and what purposes do they serve?, how should we account for identity heterogeneity and its challenges?, how are social identities related to democratic representation?, and what have skeptics said against them and optimists said in defense?. In addition to theoretical work by Anthony Appiah, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Iris Young, we will read empirical research in political science, psychology, sociology, and ethnic studies to tackle these questions.

 16:730:595 Pro-Seminar in Philosophy

Thursdays 9 am-12pm, Synchronous

Instructors: Prof. Paul Pietroski & Prof. Susanna Schellenberg

Philosophy pro-seminar, restricted to first-year Ph.D. students in philosophy at Rutgers. The course will be organized around a series of important papers that provide critical background for current debates in philosophy about perception, thought, and language.

16:730:670 Adv Topics in Philosophy of Language: Linguistics and Philosophy of Pejorative Language

Mondays 5-8 pm, Synchronous (possible Hybrid)

Instructors:  Prof. Ernie Lepore and Prof. Una Stojnic (Princeton)

Pejorative language provides powerful linguistic weapons; it is prone to provoke an offensive sting, but what is the nature and source of this offense? The predominant assumption has been that pejorative language is offensive because of some aspect of meaning - either semantically encoded or pragmatically conveyed. In this seminar, we will reconsider this widespread blessing reading, and defend an alternative: the source of a pejorative effect is neither meaning nor even language.

16:730:680 Adv. Topics in Ethics: Topics in Moral Theory

Mondays 1-4 pm, Converged

Instructors: Prof. Larry Temkin & Prof. Michael Otsuka

 This course will cover a number of the most interesting and important topics of contemporary moral philosophy, including, among others:  issues related to saving the greater number; prioritarianism versus egalitarianism; narrow-person affecting views, the no difference view, and individual complaints; expected utility theory; imperceptible harms and benefits; additive aggregation and anti-additive aggregation; intransitivity; models for assessing the goodness of outcomes; competing conceptions of the good (the internal aspects view of ideals versus the essentially comparative view of ideals); and how to be good in a world of need (effective altruism being one of the positions assessed).  The first half of the class will be mostly led by Mike Otsuka, and the second half of the class will be mostly led by Larry Temkin.  The class will largely focus on works by Otsuka and Temkin, but other authors whose works may be read, or discussed, include Taurek, Anscombe, Scanlon, Kamm, Parfit, Kagan, Singer, and Deaton.  We are hoping that many members of the class will be able to meet in person, but some, including Otsuka, will be participating via Zoom.  This will be Otsuka’s first class at Rutgers, and Temkin’s last, and we deeply hope, and fully expect, that this will be a fantastic, and memorable, class.