Graduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2020 Philosophy Graduate Course Descriptions

16:730:526 Greatest Hits of Medieval Philosophical Theology

Instructor: Prof. Brian Leftow

We should not discriminate against our colleagues merely because they happen to be dead.  The dead like sushi. (Ask any Shinto priest.) They also like conversation.  Boethius, Anselm, Avicenna, Aquinas, Scotus and Ockham would like to talk to you about philosophy of religion.  I will serve as facilitating medium.  Issues covered will include arguments for God’s existence, theories of God’s nature, of divine attributes and of religious language, the nature of human freedom and the freedom/foreknowledge problem.  We will also discuss some associated metaphysical issues- at the least, the metaphysics of modality.  Looking at it pragmatically, if you might want to offer a course in philosophy of religion someday, this term’s dialogues with the dead will give you everything you need to give it a thick historical component.  The living and the dead are welcome.  Zombies are not.  One must draw the line somewhere.

16:730:583 Seminar in Social & Political Philosophy: Rights

Instructors: Prof. Alex Guerrero & Prof. Frances Kamm

This course will focus on what rights are and what entities have them.  We will begin by considering conceptual issues distinguishing rights from other aspects of morality and then examine theories relating rights to duties to oneself, to social recognition, to procedural rules, and to issues arising in a pandemic.  A large part of the class will focus on the moral status of animals and whether they are rights-bearers.  Readings are drawn from contemporary analytic philosophy and Native American philosophy, including work by Derrick Darby, Ronald Dworkin, Alexander Guerrero, Shelly Kagan, Frances Kamm, Christine Korsgaard, Tom Regan, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Wub-e-ke-niew.  Professor Kagan and Professor Korsgaard will join as guest professors to respond to questions about their recent work in separate virtual visits to the regular class meeting.

16:730:595 Pro-Seminar in Philosophy

Instructors:  Prof. Ted Sider & Prof. Paul Pietroski

Philosophy proseminar, restricted to first-year Ph.D. students in philosophy at Rutgers.  We will study some twentieth century classics, centered on questions about language.  

16:730:670 Advanced topics in Phil of Language: Semantics and Pragmatics-Underdeterminism

Instructors: Prof. Thony Gillies and Prof. Jeff King

An overarching theme of this seminar will be various ways in which we communicate in the face of underdetermination. That is, we will look at various cases in which expressions in sentences and the sentences themselves have underdetermined semantic values relative to parameters and yet in which communication succeeds. Along the way, we’ll touch on a variety of topics in the philosophy of language including an expression having a semantic value at a context/index pair, vagueness, projected content, presupposition, modals of various flavors, conditionals, and preferences. We take the course to be self-contained: you don’t need prior coursework in philosophy of language and you don’t need prior coursework in semantics and pragmatics.

16:730:679 Topics in Philosophy: Philosophical Logic- Paradoxes, funny logics, and everything

Instructor: Prof. Michael Glanzberg 

In this seminar, we will explore the nature of logic, though the lens of well-known paradoxes.  We will look at the familiar Liar paradox and Russell's paradox.  These put pressure on some basic logical principles, and they also raise challenges to the coherence of quantifying over 'absolutely everything'. We will look at various ways to respond to the challenges these puzzles pose. We will look at some non-classical logics, that work to answer the challenges by examining some of the most basic ideas about logic.  We will also look at classical responses to these proposals.  One of the most important is to invoke the resources of higher order logics.  Higher order logics turn out to be as difficult to understand as some of the most radical non-classical logics. We will examine them, and see what they tell us about the challenges from paradoxes and about the nature of logic.

16:730:691 Third-Year Seminar in Philosophy

Instructor: Prof. Frankie Egan

The goal of the seminar is to produce a paper that is publishable in a leading peer-reviewed journal. Each week we will discuss and provide constructive feedback on a student’s oral presentation or written draft. You will practice giving talks, commenting on talks, and writing comments in the style of a referee report. We will also spend some time at each meeting discussing issues in the profession (for example, preparing a handout, teaching, refereeing a journal article, time management, preparing a CV, etc.).   The seminar will meet Thursday mornings (10-1) by Zoom.