Courses (2021-2022)

The 2021-22 Graduate Course listings have been posted below.

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About our Graduate Courses

Students who are not graduate students in the Department of Philosophy must secure an instructor’s approval before taking a graduate-level philosophy course. This level of approval will be sufficient for students of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) who are seeking to enrol in a course with a faculty member cross-appointed to IHPST and for Centre for Medieval Studies students. 

All other students not enrolled in the Department of Philosophy must have their request approved both by the course instructor and by the Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy (DGS). Requests to the DGS should be submitted with a transcript (if no grades have been received in the current University of Toronto graduate program, then the transcript from the previous degree should be attached). 

Find detailed guidelines about how to enrol in courses on ACORN on our instructions sheet.

Fill out the SGS Add/Drop Course(s) Form, have it signed by the instructor, and submit it to the Graduate Administrator.

Students from other Ontario universities must request enrollment in U of T graduate-level courses through the Ontario Visiting Graduate Students Exchange Program. Contact the Graduate Office of your home university for more information.

The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has required a diversification of modes of class delivery. Classes may be delivered in person, online synchronously (meaning that students and instructors meet online at a predetermined time), or online asynchronously (meaning that class lectures and materials will be made available online for viewing, with no shared meeting times). If you would like to take an in-person course but are unsure whether you can be physically present, please contact the instructor(s). Please note: The modality indicated in the course description is subject to change pending governmental and university health advisories.

Breadth Requirements

History of Philosophy and Philosophical Traditions Drawn from Geographical Regions

  1. Ancient
  2. Medieval
  3. 17th and 18th Century
  4. 19th Century
  5. 20th Century
  6. East Asian Philosophy
  7. South Asian Philosophy

(Note: This list is flexible and may be expanded to accommodate a wider range of philosophical traditions from geographical regions, depending on courses offered in any given year). 

Contemporary Problems of Philosophy

  1. Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science (MES)
  2. Values (Ethics and Metaethics, Social and Political Philosophy, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion) (V)
  3. Mind, Language, Logic (MLL)

2021-2022 Graduate Course

(TENTATIVE AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Fall 2021 Graduate courses

AMP2000Y — Proseminar for the Collaborative Specialization in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (CPAMP)

 Instructor: TBD

Time: Mondays, 4:00 pm –6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Limited to CPAMP students

Description: This course is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. The proseminar has three components: a series of seminars; an ancient Greek philosophy reading group; and a Latin medieval philosophy reading group. All students in the proseminar must attend the seminars and at least one of the reading groups. Students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups. For up-to-date information closer to the start of term, please contact the CPAMP director, James Allen.

 

COL 5143F —Dramaturgies of the Dialectic Part I: Hegel: The End of Art and the Endgame of Theater

Instructor: Rebecca Comay

Time: Wednesdays, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: “Dramaturgies of the Dialectic” is a two-part seminar course exploring the constellation of dialectics, theatre, and politics in and in the wake of Hegel. The courses have been designed in tandem, but students are welcome to take either or both parts. The first semester (COL 5143F) will focus on Hegel and his contemporaries; the second semester (COL 5144S) will focus on post-Hegelian thinkers.

This semester we’ll be thinking about some repercussions of Hegel’s infamous pronouncement of the “end of art.” Why does Hegel say that art “no longer counts” as the expression of truth and what does this obsolescence imply for the practice of philosophy and for political practice? We’ll look at the ways in which art, according to Hegel, stages its own undoing at every stage and in every art form (sculpture, painting, music, etc), but especially in theatre, which Hegel presents both as the “highest” art form and the scene of art’s ultimate undoing. Why does theater occupy this privileged position? And what comes next? We’ll be focusing on selected portions of Hegel’s Aesthetics and the Phenomenology of Spirit, alongside other contemporary writings, such as Lessing, Schelling, and Hölderlin. And we’ll be reading some of the plays –mostly, but not always, tragedies — they were watching (or at least reading, or imagining watching): Sophocles, Euripides, Schiller, Goethe, Diderot, Aristophanes. Finally, we’ll consider the peculiar afterlife of theatre in philosophy – as a scene of pedagogy, a performance, and a political spectacle.

 

MST3311F — Topics in Medieval Metaphysics—Impossibility

Instructor: Peter King

Time: Mondays, 11:00 am–1:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The topic of this seminar will be impossibility, in particular the ways in which it has played a role in reasoning in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Some of the topics we may cover are: indirect proof, the modal definition of inference, reasoning based on an impossibility, the relation between the medieval genre of obligationes and counterfactuals, thought-experiments as a method to gain knowledge. We will look at a variety of texts, all in translation; knowledge of Latin or Greek, while helpful, is not required for this seminar. Students will have the option of writing three short papers during the course of the term or one long paper at the end.

 

PHL1000F — Individual Reading and Research Course

Description: Philosophy graduate students who wish to take a reading course must draw up a detailed course plan with a member of the philosophy graduate faculty who is prepared to provide supervision. All reading courses must be approved by the graduate director. Please fill out a Request for Reading and/or Research Course form.

 

PHL1111F — PhD Proseminar—Plato’s Theaetetus and Its Legacy

Instructors: Jennifer Nagel + Rachel Barney

Time: Wednesdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: What is knowledge? Motivated by this question, Plato’s Theaetetus offers a remarkable series of arguments about the nature of perception, skill, memory, judgment, relativism, error, and definition. This seminar will examine Plato’s arguments and their contemporary counterparts in authors including Carlotta Pavese, Brian Weatherson, Timothy Williamson, and Linda Zagzebski.

TEXTS

Required:

  • Plato, Theaetetus and Sophist, edited and translated by Christopher Rowe, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Recommended:

  • Plato, The Theaetetus of Plato, M. J. Levett, trans., with an introduction by Myles Burnyeat, Hackett Publishing Company, 1990
  • Plato, Complete Works, ed. John Cooper, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997
  • Timothy Williamson, Knowledge and Its Limits, Oxford University Press, 2000

 

PHL2007F — Seminar in Aristotle

 Instructor: Jessica Gelber

Time: Fridays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This will serve as an introduction to central themes from Aristotle’s natural science, metaphysics, and epistemology, by way of a close reading of some primary text together with classic and recent scholarship on the topics that arise. The text this year is Physics book II. This is where we find extended Aristotle’s discussions of several influential concepts and central issues, including his conception of nature, his views about causation, what he thinks luck and chance are, and a defense of natural teleology.

 

PHL2009F — Seminar in Greek Philosophy

Instructor: Lloyd Gerson

Time: Mondays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The course offers an introduction to the thought of Plotinus (204/205–270 CE), a central figure in the Platonic tradition. We will focus on the central tractates in the collection known as Enneads. We will also study a selection of works (or parts thereof) chosen in consultation with the class.

 

PHL2018F — South Asian Philosophy—Commands and Motivation in the Philosophy of Maṇḍana

Instructor: Elisa Freschi

Time: Tuesdays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: Maṇḍana is among the key Sanskrit philosophers. He wrote several monographs on action, commands, metaphysics, and the epistemology of error. In this class we will discuss the connection between the first two topics and analyse Maṇḍana’s theory of rational motivation. Maṇḍana developed his theory by contrasting it with the one of Prabhākara, the most eminent deontologist in Sanskrit philosophy. Prabhākara contends that when we hear a command, we immediately respond because of an innate sense of duty. Maṇḍana, by contrast, insists that we respond because we have realized that the action commanded is an instrument to something we desire.

 

PHL2057F — Seminar in 17th- and 18th-Century Philosophy

Instructor: Marleen Rozemond

Time: Wednesdays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: Research over the past few decades has unearthed a treasure trove of wrongly neglected philosophical writings by women during the early modern period. This course will explore two interconnected lines of thought in their works. One line of thought is continuous with well-known early modern discussions of the material-immaterial divide. Thus Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway questioned both Cartesian dualism and Hobbesian materialism. At the same time, early modern women such as Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft questioned traditional approaches to the education of women. These questions are connected by way of the issue of the ontological status of human beings in general, and of women in particular.

 

PHL2089F Heidegger — Heidegger’s Being and Time

Instructor: Tarek Dika

Time: Wednesdays, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This seminar examines Heidegger’s ontology in Being and Time (1927) and related texts both philosophically and historically. Topics include Heidegger’s overall concept of ontology and its basic problems; his preferred method in ontology (phenomenology); the role he assigns to the human being (or, more accurately, Dasein) in ontology; and his thesis that time is the “horizon for any understanding whatever of being.”

While helpful, no prior knowledge of Heidegger or phenomenology is required. When necessary, selections from Husserl (Logical Investigations and Ideas I) will be read alongside Heidegger’s interpretation of them. Texts by other figures in the history of philosophy (e.g., Aristotle, Descartes) may also be read to deepen our understanding of Heidegger’s ontology.

 

PHL2093F Frege — TBD

Instructor: Byeong-uk Yi

Time: Thursdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course aims to study Frege, one of the founders of Analytic Philosophy who has shaped contemporary studies in logic, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mathematics. We will read his basic writings in these areas.

 

PHL2117F Formal Epistemology — TBD

Instructor: Jonathan Weisberg

Time: Mondays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course is an introduction to models, and modelling tools, of interest to philosophers. No special technical background is required (if you passed Grade 9 math, you can take this course).

Some of the models we’ll cover are commonly used within philosophy, for example, probability, epistemic networks, and decision theory. Others are common in work of interest to philosophers, for example, regression and deep learning. The goal is to learn through hands-on experience how such tools work, what they are for, and what they are and are not capable of.

 

PHL2132F — Seminar in Ethics—Consequentialism and Methodology

Instructors: Brendan de Kenessey and Andrew Sepielli

Time: Tuesdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This seminar will explore a range of topics related to consequentialism, the moral theory that says (roughly, in one of many formulations) that one always ought to do the action that will produce the best consequences. We will be interested less in rehashing traditional objections to consequentialism and more in how our assessment of consequentialism interacts with broader philosophical commitments, for example, in action theory, moral epistemology, and philosophical methodology in general. Specific topics may include: the metaphysics of the doing/allowing distinction; the philosophical import of common-sense moral intuitions; the potential (ir)relevance of empirical psychology to moral theory; the claim that all moral theories can be “consequentialized”; and whether value is objective or perspective-relative.

 

PHL2146Y — Topics in Bioethics

Instructor: James Anderson

Time: Fridays, 8:15 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course explores a number of key concepts and issues using ethical theories and principles in bioethics. The approaches we will consider include: utilitarianism (consequence-based theory); Kantianism (duty-based theory); communitarianism; “principlism”; feminist ethics; virtue ethics; and the ethics of care. We will also briefly explore putative foundations for ethical judgment, bioethics scholarship developed by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scholars, and the relationship between theory and practice in bioethics. Topics to be discussed include: the foundations of ethical judgment; the nature of ethical reasoning in philosophical bioethics; the fact/value distinction; personhood and moral status; autonomy; relational selfhood and autonomy; beneficence, non-maleficence and paternalism; distributive justice and social justice; gender, race, and other markers of equality and difference; the possibility of a global bioethics; the ethical status of legal and religious texts and opinions/commands; cultural relativism; communities, cultures, and religions in bioethics.

 

PHL2196F — Seminar in Philosophy of Science: Current Trends in Formal and Applied Ontology

Instructor: Rasmus Larsen

Time: Tuesdays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: online, synchronous

Description: Philosophy is traditionally described as a discipline fundamentally different from those in the natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, etc. An often-highlighted difference is that philosophy is characterized as a speculative or a priori approach to knowledge formation, strictly disjointed from the natural sciences that are predominately informed by empirical experimentation. However, recent developments in philosophy have demonstrated why this “hard” distinction between philosophy and science is untenable and obscures philosophy’s role in scientific progress. In this course, we explore these developments, focusing mainly on contributions from the field of formal and applied ontology, and how these have innovated research methods in an array of scientific domains ranging from genetics to artificial intelligence to mental health studies. During the semester, we will cover themes in the history of metaphysics and formal ontology; innovations in, and the utility of applied ontology; and case studies from the use of (formal and applied) ontology across scientific disciplines and domains.

 

PHL2198F — Advanced Introduction to the Philosophy of Science

Instructor: Michael Miller

Time: Wednesdays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course offers an advanced introduction to several contemporary topics in the general philosophy of science. Topics to be considered may include inductive inference, confirmation, models and theories, scientific representation, approximation and idealization, realism and empiricism, reduction and emergence, explanation, causation, and experimentation.

 

PHL2222F — MA Proseminar—Wellness

Instructor: Andrew Franklin-Hall Time: Thursdays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: What does it mean to say that something is good for someone, that something makes their life go better? The answer to those questions, whatever it is, is what philosophers typically refer to as well-being. But what does well-being essentially consist of? Pleasure? Getting what we want? Realizing our potential? Engaging in objectively valuable activities and relationships? Life satisfaction? This is the central issue we will investigate in this course. We will also consider questions about the moral importance (or unimportance) of well-being, the relation between philosophical and psychological conceptions of well-being, how well-being has been conceived in some non-Western traditions, the character of well-being over time, and the way we should think about well-being for children, persons with dementia, and other living things. Readings will include selections from Derek Parfit, L. W. Sumner, Thomas Hurka, James Griffin, Valerie Tiberius, Fred Feldman, Martha Nussbaum, Jennifer Hawkins, and others. As an MA seminar, this course will focus on providing students with opportunity to get feedback on their philosophical writing. For this reason, students will write three short essays over the course of the term, instead of one long term paper.

 

PHL3000F — PhD Professional Development Seminar

Instructor: Sergio Tenenbaum

Time: Tuesdays, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The aim of this course is to prepare students entering the job market for careers as professional philosophers. Students will present and receive feedback on work from their dissertations, and receive training on preparing dossier materials, creating a website, and interviewing.

 

PHL3000F — MA Professional Development Seminar

Instructors: Jennifer Nagel, Andrew Sepielli, Martin Pickavé

Time: Tuesdays, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm (4 sessions only)

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This four-session course provides MA students with professional advice. The topics will be Pedagogy, Writing Philosophy, Graduate Studies in the Overall Structure of the University and Philosophical Research. The seminar is a required course for all MA students, including those in the Philosophy of Science stream, and is graded on a CR/NCR (credit/non-credit) basis. Classes are held on four Tuesdays during the fall term. The first will be held September 14. Other dates will be announced soon.

Schedule: 

September 14, 2021:  Pedagogy and Student Engagement (Martin Pickavé)

October 26, 2021: Writing Philosophy (Jennifer Nagel)

November 16, 2021: Preparing for Philosophical Research: Developing your own Topic and Approach (Andrew Sepielli)

November 30, 2021: Graduate Studies in the Context of the University (Martin Pickavé)


Winter 2022 Graduate Courses

Classes begin the week of January 10, 2022, unless you have been contacted by your instructor with a different start date.

 

AMP2000Y — Proseminar for the Collaborative Specialization in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (CPAMP)

Instructor: James Allen

Time: Mondays, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Limited to CPAMP students

Description: This course is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. The proseminar has three components: a series of seminars; an ancient Greek philosophy reading group; and a Latin medieval philosophy reading group. All students in the proseminar must attend the seminars and at least one of the reading groups; students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups. For the course schedule and details on the reading groups see the CPAMP website.

 

COL 5144S —Dramaturgies of the Dialectic Part II: Tragedy and Philosophy after Hegel

Instructor: Rebecca Comay

Time: Wednesdays, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: “Dramaturgies of the Dialectic” is a two-part seminar course exploring the constellation of dialectics, theatre, and politics in and in the wake of Hegel. The courses have been designed in tandem, but students are welcome to take either or both parts. The first semester (COL 5143F) will focus on Hegel and his contemporaries; the second semester (COL 5144S) will focus on post-Hegelian thinkers.

Philosophy has always had a special interest in tragedy, and has often used it as either a negative or positive foil (sometimes both at once) to construct its own self-image. Plato famously banned tragedy; Aristotle recouped it; German idealist philosophers saw in “the tragic” a mirror-image of philosophy’s own preoccupations; Nietzsche blamed philosophy for tragedy’s demise; Marx saw in tragedy’s own (tragic) slide into farce a symptom of practical-theoretical enervation. In this semester we’ll explore the entanglement of philosophy and tragedy after Hegel, and in the light of the failed 1848 revolutions, with focused attention on how later thinkers raise the political stakes of this entanglement. We’ll be exploring the relationship between tragedy and sovereignty; tragedy and revolution; tragedy and gender; the predicaments of decolonial tragedy; the relationship between genre and medium.

Readings to include: Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit and Sophocles, Antigone; Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire; Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy; Brecht, Short Organon and selected plays; Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel and “What is Epic Theatre?”; Adorno, “Trying to Understand Endgame” and Beckett’s Endgame; Eisenstein’s Notes towards his (unrealized) film version of Capital; C.L.R James, The Black Jacobins and  Toussaint Louverture (the play); Nicole Loraux, Mothers in Mourning; Judith Butler, Antigone’s Claim; Raymond Williams, Modern Tragedy.

 

MST3321S — Philosophy of Mind in the Middle Ages—Avicenna on the Soul

Instructor: Deborah Black

Time: Wednesdays, 11:00 am–1:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course will be devoted to a close reading of Avicenna’s most comprehensive work on philosophical psychology, The Book on the Soul (Kitāb al-Nafs/De anima) from his summa of philosophy, The Healing (Al-Shifāʾ), a text that had a lasting impact on philosophy and theology in both the Islamic world and the West. Avicenna covers a wide range of topics, including the relation of the soul and the intellect to the body; personal identity, consciousness, and self-awareness; the nature of intellectual cognition; the nature of sense perception and imagination; animal cognition; and the relations between intellectual and sense cognition.

Text: Our readings will be drawn from the complete draft English translation by D. Black and M. E. Marmura. An electronic copy will be provided by the instructor. The text is also available in the original Arabic, in medieval Latin translation, and in French.

 

PHL1000S — Individual Reading and Research Course

Description: Philosophy graduate students who wish to take a reading course must draw up a detailed course plan with a member of the philosophy graduate faculty who is prepared to provide supervision. All reading courses must be approved by the graduate director. Please fill out a Request for Reading and/or Research Course form.

 

PHL2009S Seminar in Greek Philosophy — Plato’s Euthydemus and Sophist

Instructor: James Allen

Time: Fridays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This seminar will tackle, by means of a close and careful reading, two of Plato’s most challenging and rewarding dialogues: the Euthydemus and the Sophist. In different ways, both come to grips with puzzles of the kind in which the so-called sophists trafficked. These puzzles call into question the very possibility of meaningful speech and thought, at least if speech and thought are to be capable of being true and false and of permitting real disagreement. Regardless of the spirit in which these puzzles were put forward by their original authors—as displays of cleverness or techniques for securing apparent victory in argument—the challenges they present are serious, and they inspired some of Plato’s deepest and most lastingly influential philosophical insights.

 

PHL2013S — Topics in Chinese Philosophy—Knowledge and Skepticism in Classical Chinese Thought 

Instructor: Christopher Fraser

Time: Thursdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: Classical Chinese texts present a non-representational approach to knowledge in which knowing is a norm-governed competence in distinguishing and responding to things. This competence involves not only correct judgment but knowing how to adapt to various conditions so as to avoid error, while conscientiously seeking appropriate norms by which to guide judgment. Skepticism concerns the status of these norms. The central skeptical issue is not whether we engage with the world but whether the norms by which we do so are appropriate or might be rendered inapplicable by changing conditions. The course will explore conceptions and problems of knowledge as presented in Mozi, the Mohist “Dialectics,” Xunzi, The Annals of Lv Buwei, and Zhuangzi. The course assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese thought. All primary source readings will be available in both Chinese and English.

 

PHL2019S — Topics in South Asian Philosophy

Instructor: Jonardon Ganeri

Time: Mondays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: TBD

 

PHL2076S Hegel — Hegel’s Logic

Instructor: Nick Stang

Time: Mondays, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course will be a graduate-level introduction to, and survey of, Hegel’s Science of Logic. As its name suggests, this is a work of logic, which Hegel, following the tradition, understands as the science of the laws of thought. But, Hegel claims, “logic coincides with metaphysics.” So the Logic is not merely about the laws of thought but also about the traditional object of metaphysics: being qua being. In the Logic Hegel undertakes to develop, from the nature of thought itself, not merely all of the logical categories with which we must think but also all of the ontological categories of being, because, ultimately, these are one and the same set of categories. After considering some larger questions about the Logic as a whole (what is its subject matter? what is its “method”?), we will examine individual sections and categories in detail (e.g., being, becoming, and nothing; “bad” vs. “true” infinite; actuality, modality, and the Absolute; and Hegel’s doctrine of “the Concept”). No previous experience with Hegel will be presupposed, though familiarity with Kant’s first Critique and post-Kantian German idealism will make for a helpful background.

 

PHL2097S — History of Analytic Philosophy — Stalnaker v Field in re Intentionality

Instructor: Benj Hellie

Time: Tuesdays, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: Learning the oeuvres of a variety of major philosophers is a big part of developing one’s own philosophical abilities: examining each oeuvre individually, one learns how to draw connections among issues and build philosophical systems; studying them collectively, one comes to see how delicate differences of initial emphasis ramify through shared background assumptions to stark divergences of endpoint. This course surveys, in this spirit, work by Robert C. Stalnaker and by Hartry Field addressing matters of ‘intentionality’: how mind and language relate to the world; and the place in such a theory of such phenomena as reason and meaning, content and logical consequence, reference and truth. The oeuvres contrast with one another structurally and come into (sometimes explicit) dialectical conflict: Stalnaker displays remarkable constancy of vision over his career, bestowing a central explanatory role in the understanding of reason and meaning on representational content, envisaged as amenable to functionalist-physicalist reduction; Field, by contrast, is a changer of mind, with earlier work according a central explanatory role not to content but instead to syntax, and later work restoring content but in a ‘deflationary,’ nonexplanatory guise, not reducible to the physical but instead to be understood ‘expressivistically.’

 

PHL2101S — Seminar in Metaphysics

Instructors: Jessica Wilson + Trevor Teitel

Time: Tuesdays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course will focus on metaphysical modality (metaphysical possibility and necessity). We’ll read a mix of modern classics and recent work. Potential topics include (i) the basis of metaphysical modal truth, (ii) relatedly, the prospects of analyzing modality (in terms, e.g., of essential properties, dispositions, conventions, some understanding of possible worlds), (iii) the relation between nomic and other forms of modality and metaphysical modality, (iv) the logic of metaphysical modality, (v) the epistemology of metaphysical modality, (vi) the status of “Hume’s Dictum,” according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between wholly distinct entities (and relatedly, the status of “combinatorial” principles), and (vii) whether there can be merely haecceitistic differences between metaphysical possibilities, and what this might imply about the metaphysics of ordinary objects.

 

PHL2122S Seminar in Advanced Logic

Instructor: Phil Kremer

Time: Thursdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The dominant semantic framework for modal and intuitionistic logic is the so-called Kripke semantics, from the late 1950s and early 1960s. But this was preceded by topological semantics, first introduced for intuitionistic logic (Tarski 1938), and then for modal logic (McKinsey and Tarski 1944). Over the past twenty years, topological semantics has experienced a revival, in terms of both formal results and philosophical applications.

This course will be an introduction to modal logic, with a special concentration on topological semantics—though we will also cover the basics of Kripke semantics. We will prove classical results of McKinsey and Tarski for propositional modal logic and of Rasiowa and Sikorski for quantified modal logic, together with some recent improvements and extensions. We will also consider applications of topological semantics that have emerged in the last decade.

 

PHL2131S — Seminar in Ethics

Instructors: Sergio Tenenbaum + Julia Nefsky

Time: Tuesdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: There is a traditional division between perfect and imperfect duties. Imperfect duties, such as duties to aid, allow room for judgment (there are different ways of complying with the duties) and are not as strict as perfect duties (not all my actions need to be in compliance with the duty; I can fail to aid in a given opportunity without running afoul of my duty to aid). However, various questions arise in trying to make clear what exactly the distinction is, and in justifying how some duties could be imperfect, and in getting the scope of these duties right. For instance, don’t I also need to exercise judgment to comply with perfect duties, and aren’t there often different ways of complying with perfect duties (e.g., different ways of fulfilling a promise)? If so, how are imperfect duties different from perfect duties? Why should we accept that the duty to aid is less strict in the relevant way: if I can aid someone without substantial cost to myself, why would failing to do so not violate my duty to aid? In this seminar, we will investigate the nature and ground of imperfect duties.

Readings may include work by philosophers such as Kant, Joshua Gert, Patricia Greenspan, Barbara Herman, Douglas Portmore, Matthew Hanser, Paul Hurley, Robert Noggle, Samuel Scheffler, Karen Stohr, Sarah Stroud, and Fiona Woolard, among others.

 

PHL2141S — Political Philosophy: Philosophy of Race—W. E. B. Du Bois and the Prospects of a Black Critical Theory

Instructor: William Paris

Time: Thursdays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: Without a doubt, W. E. B. Du Bois remains a central figure in the tradition and legacies of African American political philosophy. Given that race continues to constitute a significant cleavage within global political and social life, it is no wonder that Du Bois remains an important resource for contemporary political philosophy. The breadth of his writings has guided questions concerning the formation of race and capitalism, the role of aesthetics in politics, social epistemology, and global justice. To paraphrase Robert Gooding-Williams, Du Bois extends a long shadow over this field of study. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the complexity and richness of Du Bois’s political thinking by reading him in juxtaposition with the historical events he faced in his life. These events include Reconstruction after the end of slavery, World War I and the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and World War II, and the burgeoning anticolonial era. We will investigate issues concerning normativity and political justice, lived experience and systemic crises, the relationship between utopia and critique, and, finally, the prospects of developing a Black critical theory. My hope is that we ask after what we expect a Black critical theory to do and how it should be communicated. Alongside Du Bois we will read excerpts from Marx, Booker T. Washington, Anna Julia Cooper, Marcus Garvey, and Max Weber, as well as contemporary literature from Joy James, Robert Gooding-Williams, Adolph L. Reed Jr., Elvira Basevich, and Chike Jeffers. Students should come away with an understanding of the historical changes in Du Bois’s philosophy and important contemporary appropriations of his thinking in political philosophy and theory.

Primary Readings:

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk; Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil; Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880

 

PHL2142S Seminar in Political Philosophy — Political Representation

 Instructor: Shruta Swarup

Time: Wednesdays, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The topic of this seminar is political representation. We will consider questions such as the following: Is representative democracy “at best a grudging concession to size or efficiency” or does it have virtues that render it superior to direct democracy, even when those practical considerations are not in play? What duties do political representatives have to those they represent? Should disadvantaged groups be represented by individuals who are themselves members of those groups? Is group representation inherently undemocratic? Readings may include work by Iris Marion Young, Jane Mansbridge, Will Kymlicka, Alexander Guerrero, Melissa Williams, Anne Phillips, and Bernard Manin, among others.

 

PHL2146Y — Topics in Bioethics

Instructor: James Anderson

Time: Fridays, 8:15 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course explores a number of key concepts and issues using ethical theories and principles in bioethics. The approaches we will consider include: utilitarianism (consequence-based theory); Kantianism (duty-based theory); communitarianism; “principlism”; feminist ethics; virtue ethics; and the ethics of care. We will also briefly explore putative foundations for ethical judgment, bioethics scholarship developed by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scholars, and the relationship between theory and practice in bioethics. Topics to be discussed include: the foundations of ethical judgment; the nature of ethical reasoning in philosophical bioethics; the fact/value distinction; personhood and moral status; autonomy; relational selfhood and autonomy; beneficence, non-maleficence and paternalism; distributive justice and social justice; gender, race, and other markers of equality and difference; the possibility of a global bioethics; the ethical status of legal and religious texts and opinions/commands; cultural relativism; communities, cultures, and religions in bioethics.

 

PHL2151S Seminar in Aesthetics

Instructor: Mark Kingwell

Time: Tuesdays, 9:00 am–12:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course will focus on notions of the uncanny and narrative inversion, especially in film. The aim is to consider the unique challenge of encountering Self and Other under the doubled sign of “familiar strangeness,” and to challenge the apparent naturalness of narrative form. The issue of time, especially “experienced temporality,” or duration in Bergson’s sense, also presses on us.

Readings include works by Freud, Kristeva, Cavell, Žižek, Mulhall, and James Baldwin.

There will be regular film screenings in addition to seminar meetings. A key component of the course is student reflection papers, due at the beginning of each class on the assigned reading for the week or the film just screened. These papers are typically scholarly in tone, but you may also consider them an opportunity for personal and creative engagement with the texts.

The film screenings will take place, if health protocols allow, at the Robarts Media Commons. Because part of the implicit argument of the course pertains to shared cinematic experience, these screenings are not optional.

 

PHL2190S Topics in Philosophy of Language

Instructors: Nate Charlow + Imogen Dickie

Time: Tuesdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: The dominant tradition in the philosophy of language assumes that the central problem is to explain how we manage to use sentences to state facts. Expressivist views reject this assumption. For example, one flagship Expressivist claim is that there are classes of declarative sentences (sentences of form “a is F”) whose literal use is not to state facts: it is to prescribe, forbid, or recommend courses of action. Expressivism has its roots in attempts to explain uses of explicitly evaluative language in ethics and aesthetics. But over the last several decades it has spread far beyond its meta-ethical beginnings. Many philosophers of language now endorse Expressivist accounts of sentences that a few decades ago were regarded as uncontroversially fact-stating. This seminar will explore the foundational pressures toward Expressivism, and ask how far they might push us from the traditional approach. We will examine the modes of philosophical explanation that are distinctive to Expressivists, and consider why philosophers of language have been drawn to them, what value they add, and whether that value is worth the “price” of the ticket.

The seminar will suppose no particular background: the tools required to engage with the material will be provided in class.

Assessment: Either four short papers (1250 words) or a term paper (5000 words).

 

PHL2199S — Philosophy of Science

Instructor: Boris Babic

Time: Wednesdays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This seminar will focus on the methodology of science, paying particular attention to the use of statistics in scientific advancement. As such, it is relevant to thinking about what have been called replication crises in several fields, though many of the issues precede the current hype around replication, and many are broader than what is covered in such conversations. We will draw on a range of readings from statistical theory, rational choice and decision sciences, and epistemology of science.

We will think carefully about what makes a good inference method and why, and the extent to which such methods can (and should) be objective. This will include some discussion about the likelihood principle, exchangeability, stopping rules, priors, etc., but we will avoid stale conversations as much as possible. Some of this may come across as Bayesian vs. frequentist, but that’s not what the course will be about, and is anyway a false dilemma.

We will also talk about updating, information processing, and, in particular, model selection and the extent to which the process of discovery ought to proceed along decision theoretic lines, as many philosophers (perhaps falsely?) assume. This will include some discussion about so-called reverse Bayesianism, search, martingales, and optional stopping.

 

PHL2223S — MA Proseminar

Instructor: TBD

Time: Wednesdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: TBD


Summer 2022 Graduate Courses (May/June)

PHL2111F — Seminar in Epistemology

Instructors: David Barnett + Michael Caie

Time: Mondays & Wednesdays, 3:00 pm–6:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: This course surveys recent work on knowledge and rationality, especially in connection with contentious metaphysical topics like space, time, personal identity, chance, and necessity.  Part of our aim is to question the common presumption that the normative issues can be addressed independently of the metaphysics.

Possible topics include:

Space and secondary qualities

How metaphysically committal are our ordinary beliefs about the sizes, shapes, and colors of objects we perceive?  Does this affect the force of skeptical arguments?

TIME

Is it rational to prefer that good times lie in the future and bad times in the past?

Are rationality’s requirements diachronic or synchronic?  Does what you ought to do now depend on what you have done in the past, or will do in the future?

PERSONAL IDENTITY

When is it rational to trust your own judgment, and how is self-trust related to trusting other people?

Is there a special epistemic role for self-locating (or de se) beliefs?

CHANCE AND MODALITY

Is knowledge compatible with luck?  What is its connection to modal notions like safety, sensitivity, and normality?

What is the connection between objective and subjective notions of probability?

Do competing interpretations of quantum mechanics support different updating rules for rational credence?

 

PHL2132F — Ethics: Virtue and Reason

Instructor: Phil Clark

Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:00 pm–3:00 pm

Modality: TBD

Location: TBD

Description: On one view virtue is a kind of knowledge or wisdom, a capacity to exercise good judgment in one’s decisions about how one feels and what one cares about. But one may object that a change of mind does not necessarily bring a change of heart. To take one topical example, one can decide that one is not an anti-Black racist without thereby divesting oneself of the feelings and behaviors that support systemic racism. On another view, virtue is having the right emotions and desires. Here one may object that a good heart does not necessarily bring wisdom. Faced with a concrete decision, one is lost without a capacity to size up the situation and see what is called for in the way of a response. On yet another view, possibly that of Aristotle, virtue requires both a good heart and a wise intellect.

Our purpose will be to advance the contemporary discussion of the nature of virtue, but there is no restriction on the resources we might consult, and students will be encouraged to find and post further readings. We will read a mix of historical and contemporary work, mostly by philosophers, but likely including some discussions of empirical research in neurology and psychology. Possible authors include Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Elizabeth Anscombe, Richard Moran, A. W. Price, John McDowell, Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, Simon Blackburn, Gail Fine, Tom Hurka, Christine Swanton, and Valerie Tiberius.