Graduate Seminars 2020-21


Winter 2021

Philosophy 275C, Agnieska Jaworska – Proseminar in Value Theory (Fri 11am-2pm)

The bulk of the seminar will survey some of the main currents in contemporary normative theory, including consequentialism, contractualism (T.M. Scanlon), and contemporary neo-Kantianism (Christine Korsgaard). We will also discuss various questions about the nature of reasons for action and the connection between reasons and desires or motives – e.g., are all reasons desire-based? 


Philosophy 281, Erich Reck – Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (Tues 2-5pm)

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is one of the most fascinating and influential, but also one of the most enigmatic texts in twentieth-century philosophy.  It was published 100 years ago, which is one reason to reconsider it.  Another is that two new translations of the Tractatus are currently in the works (by Michael Beaney and David Stern, respectively), drafts of which we will have at our disposal.  In our seminar discussions, we will consider the Tractatus as a whole, but with special focus on Wittgenstein’s remarks about logic, language, and philosophical method.  In doing so, we will follow the peculiar tree-structure of the text, as highlighted in one of the new translations (Stern’s), to bring out is argumentative structure more.  We will also consider difficulties in translating philosophy, by comparing the divergent renderings of central passages in the Tractatus in several of its translations.


Philosophy 282, Pierre Keller – Kantian Constructivism and Dynamic Structuralism (Wed 4-7pm)


Philosophy 282, Andrews Reath – Rousseau’s Social Theory (Thurs 2-5pm)

We will study the main texts of Rousseau’s social theory, in particular the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, selections from Emilei, and Of the Social Contract with an eye to seeing how they fit together and form a uniform account. We will also be reading some of the important recent secondary literature (Joshua Cohen, Frederick Neuhouser, Niko Kolodney and others).


Philosophy 283, Coleen Macnamara – Varieties of Moral Address.   (Wed 11am-2pm)

In “Responsibility and the Limits of Evil,” Gary Watson famously argued that the Strawsonian reactive attitudes--resentment, indignation, gratitude and approval-- are forms of moral address. A wide range of theorists have taken up Watson’s characterization of the reactive attitudes as forms of communication, more specifically his characterization of these attitudes as “implicit demands.”  Recently, theorists have challenged this demand-oriented characterization of the reactive-attitude’s communicative character.  Not all forms of speech are imperatival directives, and there are reasons to question whether any or all of the reactive attitudes should be understood on the model of demands.  In this seminar we will explore the literature on reactive attitudes as forms of moral address and take up the question that has gained traction in the literature: are reactive attitudes best characterized as demands? 


Phil 276, Luca Ferrero - 3rd and 4th year Research Workshop (Mon 3-5pm)


FALL 2020

Philosophy 275A, Michael Nelson – Proseminar in Metaphysics and Epistemology: Action, Intention, Thought, and Perception


Philosophy 281, Sasha Newton – Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

This course will be a study of one of the most important works in the history of philosophy, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. We will attempt to understand its lasting significance by considering Kant’s own remarks about how his ‘Copernican revolution’ changed philosophy. We will pay close attention to Kant’s use of the traditional vocabulary of Aristotelian hylomorphism within the modern context of his reflections on self-consciousness. Our focus will be on what logic, and transcendental logic, in particular, can teach us about the mind, the sort of capacity it is, and the way it relates to objects.


Philosophy 282, Adam Harmer

There is a great deal of recent interest in collective action, intention, and responsibility. However, much less attention has been paid to certain preliminary questions about the nature of collectives themselves. For example: In what sense do collectives exist? Are there different types of collectives/collective existence? What does the nature of collectives/collective existence suggest about the properties and capacities of collectives? This seminar will focus on the metaphysics and ontology of collectives, engaging both historical and contemporary discussions. We will start with an investigation of Leibniz’s distinction between aggregates and individuals before turning to some contemporary literature. Time permitting, we will then consider ways to move from these preliminary metaphysical questions to ethical questions about collective agency and, ultimately, issues of social justice.


Philosophy 283, Myisha Cherry – Forgiveness and its Limits


Philosophy 283, Howard Wettstein – Wittgenstein’s On Certainty

We will do a close reading of this classic, with extensive discussion. The issues here are fundamental: the grounding of our beliefs, values, ways. The skeptic sees (some or all of) these as ungrounded, untethered, just hanging there. Wittgenstein's approach here, as with his approach to other fundamental issues, is subtle and not easy to get ahold of. But that's our task. I look forward to productive discussion of the issues.

Past Seminars