Graduate Courses Fall 2006
Paul Boghossian/David Velleman
This course is open only to first-year PhD students in the philosophy department.
Advanced Introduction to Ethics
This advanced introduction will focus on some of moral philosophy's greatest hits from the eighteenth century to the present. The topics we discuss may include method and moral philosophy, the objectivity of morality, consequentialism and its critics, and the relevance of moral psychology to moral theory. Readings may be drawn from the following authors: Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Mill,Moore, Stevenson, Falk, Hare, Foot, Anscombe, Smart, Williams, Scheffler, Mackie, Wiggins, Lenman, O'Neill, Hill, and Singer.
Advanced Introduction to Epistemology: Confirmation Theory
What is the nature of inductive reasoning in science? What counts as scientific evidence for a hypothesis, a theory, an unobservable entity? To answer these questions, we will examine the virtues, problems, and variants of the Bayesian view of confirmation, and we will compare Bayesianism to some of its rivals, both historical and modern. Bayesian topics include: splitting up praise and blame among hypotheses under test; "subjective" v. "objective" Bayesianism; the question whether Bayesianism even constitutes a theory of induction; the "new theory/old evidence" problem. Other topics include: instantialist approaches to confirmation (including my own recent efforts in this direction), inference to the best explanation, the social structure of scientific inquiry. No background will be presupposed.
This will be an advanced introduction, covering some natural philosophy, metaphysics, and ethics. We'll pay special attention to Aristotle's account(s) of form and substance. Primary readings will be from the Physics, De Anima, Categories, Metaphysics book Zeta and perhaps Theta, and the Nicomachean Ethics. Greek not required.
Political Philosophy: Political Authority and Political Obligation
Thomas Nagel/Janos Kis
States claim to have authority over their subjects, i.e., a right to issue binding directives to the latter. This claim entails that the subjects have a moral obligation to obey the authoritative directives. The obligation to obey is said to be defeasible but general: it must hold with regard to most directives, most subjects, on most occasions. This is the claim of political obligation. Can it admit of a justification? Anarchists and classical Marxists answer the question in the negative. Liberals, traditionally, defend a positive answer for a subclass of states (constitutionally limited democracies). However, in the last couple of decades, an increasing number of liberal philosophers came to adopt a skeptical view on the possibility of justifying political obligation. This course will look into the traditional strategies of justification, the skeptical arguments, and more recent attempts to meet these arguments.
History of Philosophy: Locke, Hume, and Reid
This seminar will trace a set of central issues through the philosophical writings of Locke, Hume, and Reid. The issues to be covered are: the justification of belief; the nature of sense perception and mental representation; the metaphysics of causation; the conditions for personal identity; and the sources of obligation.
Topics in Philosophical Logic (website username "paradox," password announced in class)
The course will deal with a variety of attempts to solve the semantic paradoxes and certain related paradoxes, and will discuss connections between these paradoxes and some puzzling features of vague language. I will try to give a clear map of the different strategies that have emerged for solving these paradoxes, and their philosophical ramifications, while largely avoiding technicality.
Advanced Seminar in Metaphysics
Response-Dependent Concepts. My aim in this seminar is twofold. I wish first to survey the extensive literature on response-dependent concepts - especially in its application to value, perception and rule-following and in its bearing on the issues of objectivity and privileged access. I then wish to develop a theory of response-dependent concepts. I shall argue that they constitute a logically distinctive category of concept and that it is only by understanding their distinctive logical features that one can properly adjudicate on the various applications and issues to which they have given rise.
Advanced Seminar in Ethics: Reasons and Rationality
Liam Murphy/Derek Parfit
This seminar will be about reasons and rationality, Kant's ethics, contractualism, and consequentialism.
Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy
Ronald Dworkin/Thomas Nagel/Jeremy Waldron
Each week on Thursday a legal theorist or moral or political philosopher presents a paper to the group, which consists of students, faculty from the Law School and other departments of NYU, and faculty from other universities in/or close to New York. The choice of subject is left to the paper's author, within the general boundaries of the Colloquium's subjects, and the discussions are therefore not connected by any structured theme for the term as a whole, though in past years certain central topics were canvassed in several weeks' discussion. The Colloquium aims, not to pursue any particular subject, but to explore new work in considerable depth and so allow students to develop their own skill in theoretical analysis. Each week's paper is distributed at least a week in advance, and participants are expected to have read it.
The Colloquium will meet as usual in the Fall Term of 2006 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM each Thursday from September 7 through December 7 except Thanksgiving, in Lester Pollack Room, 9th floor, Furman Hall, 245 Sullivan Street @ West 4th Street.
Papers will be presented by Professors Bill Talbott of Seattle, Jeremy Waldron of NYU, Sophia Moreau of Toronto, Samuel Issacharoff of NYU, Jürgen Habermas, Lewis Kornhauser of NYU, Noah Feldman of NYU, Samuel Scheffler of Berkeley, Thomas Scanlon of Harvard, Jack Balkin of Yale, Ronald Dworkin of NYU and Thomas Pogge of Columbia. Students enrolled in the Colloquium meet separately with Professor Dworkin for an additional two-hour seminar on Wednesday. One hour is devoted to a review of the preceding Thursday's Colloquium discussion, and one hour in preparation for the Colloquium of the following day. Students are asked to write short papers weekly, and each student is asked to make two or more oral presentations to the seminar during the term. Each student is asked to expand one of his/her weekly papers, or oral presentations, for a final term paper.
Enrollment in the Colloquium requires permission of the instructors. Those interested in registering should submit a request to Professor Dworkin, via his assistant Lavinia Barbu: firstname.lastname@example.org