Graduate Courses Fall 2007
Kit Fine & Jim Pryor
Advanced Introduction to Bioethics
The course explores a range of concepts and principles for framing and addressing moral questions in both medical and environmental practices. Topics include: Concepts of Health, Disease, and Nature; Reverence and Respect for Life; Sentience, Pain, and Empathy, Rights to Life and Health care; Autonomy, Paternalism, and Trust; Human and Animal Research; Conflicts of Interest; Political and ethical principles of medical care, research, and environmental protection; Levels of population and consumption; Biodiversity and extinction.
Advanced Introduction to Epistemology
A rigorous survey and introduction to fundamental issues in epistemology for graduate students. Students who are already writing dissertations in epistemology are welcome, and the course will be plenty substantial enough to hold their interest. But we won't presuppose that much background. I assume only an undergrad-level prep in epistemology, and a certain amount of philosophical sophistication. Our focus for the first part of the course will be on the ethics of belief; we'll use that as a springboard into various issues about justification, internalism, the basing relation, and so on. We won't do much with issues specific to knowledge, like debates about contextualism. See course website for further details.
NOTICE OF CANCELLATION: For unavoidable reasons, this seminar will unfortunately not be offered this term. Professors Kis and Nagel hope to offer it at a future date.
Thomas Nagel & Janos Kis
Tuesday 6:30-8:30 (Sept. 4 to Oct. 16 only; two credits)
The topic will be Global Justice, and we will read recent work on the subject by various authors.
Consciousness, Perception, Intentionality, and Action
Kant and Contemporary Philosophy
Beatrice Longuenesse & Christopher Peacocke
Wednesday 4:30-6:30 (location alternates between NYU and Columbia)
Further information about this course can be found at the course website. Course readings and assignments will be posted each week on this site."
PLEASE NOTE: The first session will be held at NYU Philosophy Department, 5, Washington Place, 2nd floor seminar room. Sessions held at Columbia will be at 716, Philosophy Hall.
What is involved in perception having a content concerning the objective world? How can perceptual experiences justify judgments? What is the relation between perception and self-consciousness? What is self-consciousness? What is the difference between thinking of oneself as a subject and thinking of oneself as an object? What is involved in being a self-conscious thinker? These questions were addressed both by Kant and are also considered by contemporary philosophers of mind and knowledge. The purpose of this course is to present and consider the mutual bearing of Kantian and contemporary approaches to these and related issues in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. Readings from both Kant and contemporary thinkers will be required. No previous acquaintance with Kant or the contemporary literature will be presupposed.
Philosophy of Language: Theories of Vagueness
Crispin Wright and Stephen Schiffer
Monday and Thursday, 4-6 pm (first seven weeks only)
Vagueness is a fundamentally important topic simply because virtually all natural language is to some extent vague. This impacts in basic ways on what it is to understand a language, and how natural language relates to the world. It also means that we can't determine the correct semantics or logic for natural language until we resolve the issues of vagueness. Paramount among these issues are certain peculiarities and paradoxes, including the notorious sorites paradox. The leading problem of vagueness is to account for the semantics and logic of vague language in a way that addresses these while casting light on what vagueness is, why so much of natural language is vague, and whether this is a flaw or a necessity. The first weeks of the seminar will critically survey the leading recent and contemporary accounts of vagueness, before focusing on the sort of approaches we find most promising. In addition to the questions that obviously arise in considering a given account of vagueness, we'll also cover such issues as higher-order vagueness (the distinction between bald men and borderline bald men seems itself to be vague); vagueness in the world (can there be objects with indeterminate boundaries, or does vagueness reside wholly in language and thought?); and kinds of indeterminacy that aren't due to vagueness (e.g. the indeterminacy of certain counterfactual conditionals). There are no formal prerequisites for this seminar, since we aim to make it accessible to those who are coming to the problem of vagueness for the first time. The work for the seminar is one paper on a topic to be approved by us. Please note that the seminar meets twice a week for the first seven weeks of the semester.
Norms of Rationality
So far I don’t have a set agenda for this seminar. One of the topics will be the nature of normative judgment (with a focus on epistemological judgment): I will be concerned to try to articulate a view of such judgments that does not require realism about normative properties, or a reduction of normative properties to natural properties. I don’t expect to spend long directly on this, but throughout the semester will try to indicate its bearings on more “ground level” epistemological issues. Another topic will be the role that logic plays in our norms of rationality. There is an inconsistency between three plausible principles:
- If a particular logic is built into a person’s norms of rationality, then it is not possible for the person to rationally revise that logic.
- For any logic (that is powerful enough to be of any use), it is possible for the person to rationally revise that logic.
- The norms of rationality must include a logic (powerful enough to be of use).
General issues about the rational revisability of norms will be investigated, with special attention to inductive norms.
There will be something on what norms are and what their psychological function is, and something on the resolution of normative disagreements. Also something on the issue of whether there is a uniquely rational system of epistemic norms (which somewhat cuts across the issue of normative realism, though the latter certainly affects the former). And something on norms for getting oneself back on track when one has violated other norms.
I probably won’t have a clearer view of how all this fits together until late in the summer.
Topics in Metaphysics: Metaphysics and Metaphilosophy
During the last sixty years, at least, mainstream academic philosophy (which has been, and still is, analytic philosophy) has sought to offer, almost without exception, very novel, philosophically interesting, and quite general, necessary truths - even while avoiding offering - even just for a bit of intellectual contemplation - contingent propositions that are very novel, philosophically interesting and quite general proposals. It is largely for that reason, it will be argued in the seminar, that analytic philosophy has offered, almost without exception, no philosophically interesting hypotheses, or thoughts, as to the general character of (actual) concrete reality - by contrast with much earlier, and much more speculative, philosophy.
For example, from that earlier philosophy, there's been made available - for at least our intellectual contemplation - such competing hypotheses, or doctrines, as Entity Materialism (Hobbes, as now most fruitfully taken), and Entity Dualism (Descartes, and Locke, too), and Entity Idealism (Berkeley, and Hume, too.) Each of these three quite general contingent claims presents an alternative (visionary) philosophy of (actual) concrete reality - even as each happily coherent and internally consistent claim logically conflicts with each of the others. By contrast, we get nothing comparable to that - or almost nothing - with the philosophical offerings of (at least) the last sixty years.
One aim of the course will be to search for other (likely lesser) reasons for the great discrepancy between the evidently substantial character of such (much) earlier philosophy and, on the other side, the (at least relative) inanity of, or emptiness of, contemporary mainstream philosophy.
A much larger aim will be to formulate novel hypotheses, or proposals, that, though they pertain mostly to - or most directly to - other aspects of concrete reality - other than those most directly addressed by our mentioned Materialism, Dualism, and Idealism - will be (just about) as general, and as interesting, as are those three time-honored ideas.
As one directly suggestive source for such novel, general and philosophically interesting proposals, we'll examine the professor's most recent book, All the Power in the World. While usually treating their texts in a rather different way, we'll look at salient passages from other authors, mainly from some who, over the last forty years, have been among the very few, very most prominent analytic philosophers, including Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Hilary Putnam and Donald Davidson. Finally, we'll look at some suitably suggestive passages, each highly accessible to nonscientists, from some very recent best-sellers by leading theoretical physicists.
To gain credit for the course, students either will write a short paper followed - a month later - by an improved and expanded version of the paper, or else two short papers, submitted a moth apart, on two different questions raised in the course.
Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy
Tom Nagel & Ronald Dworkin
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 2007 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM each Thursday from September 6 through December 6 except Thanksgiving, in Lester Pollack Room, 9th floor, Furman Hall, 245 Sullivan Street @ West 4th Street.
Papers will be presented by Professors Mark Kelman of Stanford, Ricky Pildes of NYU, Loren Lomansky of Virginia, Sharon Street of NYU, Leslie Greene of Oxford, Moshe Habertal of NYU, Lisa Austin of Toronto, Margaret Gilbert of Connecticut, Liam Murphy of NYU, Rainer Forst of Frankfurt, John Dunn of Cambridge, Ronald Dworkin of NYU and David Golove of NYU.
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.
Thesis Preparation Seminar