Graduate Course Descriptions

Spring 2021 Philosophy Graduate Course Descriptions

16:730:524 Philosophy of Literature: Poetic and Philosophical Encounters

Instructor: Prof. Michael G. Levine

The course examines crucial – but also crucially missed -- encounters between poets and philosophers in 20th- and 21st-century European thought. Texts discussed include Heidegger’s seminal readings of Hölderlin, Derrida’s writings on Mallarmé and Celan, Hamacher’s analysis of the famous encounter between Celan and Heidegger at the latter’s hut in the Black Forest, and Celan’s prose poem “Conversation in the Mountains “written in the wake of a missed encounter with Adorno.  Of particular concern will be the political implications of Heidegger’s turn to poetry in the 1930s and Adorno’s famous dictum about the barbarity of writing poetry after Auschwitz.  If one is to continue to write poetry after “that which happened“(Celan), how must it be done differently?  What new relations between poetry and philosophy does this entail? Students are encouraged to read texts in the original French and German but English translations will be provided for all works assigned and discussions will be conducted in English..

16:730:530 Seminar in 17th Ct Philosophy: Early Modern

Instructor: Prof. Martha Bolton

The topic of the seminar is the philosophy of Descartes. The course requirements are participation in Zoom meetings of the course, a short paper (5-7 pages) and a long paper (20-25 pages).

16:730:650 Adv. Topics in Epistemology

Instructors: Prof. Matt McGrath and Prof. Ernie Sosa

In this seminar, we consider how epistemic normativity should be understood within a broad normative framework. We examine issues such as the following: how is what is epistemically appropriate for one to believe related to what one should, all things considered, believe? can there be practical reasons for belief, and if so are epistemic reasons to believe competitors with practical reasons against belief? how should we think of norms of inquiry, as themselves epistemic norms alongside norms on belief itself or as practical norms? what is the relevance of notions of epistemic normativity and epistemic culpability to questions about moral normativity and culpability? Key to our examination of these issues is the distinction between gnoseology and intellectual ethics.

Other topics that will figure in the seminar include judgment, seemings, credences, confidence, belief, and their interrelations. How are reasons important in ethics and in epistemology?  What is basing, and how is it similarly important? How is basing related (if at all) to implicit bias? How is basing related to action, and to deviant causation? One or more of these may recur in the course of the semester, and will be highlighted in the three sessions near the end, before the session(s) for student reports.

We plan to have a number of visitors we will host via Zoom.

16:730:653 Adv. Topics in Metaphysics: Metaphysics of Mind

Instructors: Prof. Karen Bennett and Prof. Jonathan Schaffer

We will discuss metaphysical issues arising with the mind, including prospects for physicalism and for dualism, the nature of consciousness, and the demands of mental causation.  We will look at formulations of physicalism and dualism, discuss ways in which supervenience formulations are apt or inapt, and ways in which notions of grounding may or may not help. And we will examine various arguments that physicalism cannot account for conscious experience as well as various arguments that dualism cannot account for mental causation.

16:730:656 Adv. Topics in Philosophy of Science: 


Instructors: Prof. David Albert and Prof. Barry Loewer

From the manifest image to the scientific image and back. 

The seminar will focus on what is required of a fundamental physical theory of the world. We are especially interested in the following issues: 

1. What is required of a fundamental theory?

2. Proposals for the metaphysics of fundamental laws, fundamental ontology, chances

3. Views about the metaphysics of space and time (time’s arrows)

4. The relation between the scientific image of the world as characterized in fundamental theories and the manifest image especially as characterized in special science laws. Especially interested in the characterization of this relation in terms of supervenience, grounding, emergence, etc..

5. We will discussing some example of proposals for fundamental theories (e.g. classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics)

16:730:684 Adv. Topics in Philosophy of History: Feminist Philosophy

Instructor: Prof. Louise Antony

This seminar will focus on social kinds, with an eye to answering the question whether gender is a social kind (as most feminists believe) or a biological kind (as is being argued by so-called "gender-critical" philosophers).  We'll begin by asking the general question whether there even are such kinds of kinds as social kinds, and if so, what determines their membership, and how is reference to such kinds secured.  We'll then move on to more specific questions and challenges about gender, in particular.  We'll start with some chapters from Ron Mallon's recent book The Construction of Human Kinds, and continue with work by Antony, Ásta, Bettcher, Byrne, Diaz-Leon, Dombroff, Haslanger, Saul, Schroeter, Watson and others. 

16:730:695 Dissertation Seminar

Instructor: Prof. Jill North

We will discuss your dissertation projects, and regularly review drafts of your chapters, with an eye towards three connected goals

1. Successful completion of your dissertation

2.The publication of the material from your dissertation

3. Situating yourself to succeed on the job market