Graduate Courses Spring 2004
Advanced Introduction to Metaphysics
The course will be organized around Professor Unger's attempt to articulate a metaphysics of concrete reality that's analytically adequate for, but that's also speculatively bold enough to, make some progress with the problems that get most first drawn into philosophy, and that always comprise the subject's heart: problems of appearance and reality, problems of personal identity, problems of mind and body, problems of free will, and more. Over the last seven years, this metaphysical attempt has been receiving improving formulations in a book-in-progress, All the Power in the World, that will still be progressing throughout the course. The developing metaphysical system draws heavily on, and it’s a response to, several central figures of Modern Philosophy: Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Several 20th century figures also influence the work, notably Bertrand Russell, David Lewis, C.B. Martin, Roderick Chisholm, Peter van Inwagen, and David Armstrong. As well as reading the nine chapters of All the Power, we'll read collateral selections from several of these influential thinkers, and from several other thinkers.
So that this course serves well as an Advanced Introduction to Metaphysics, we’ll also address some issues that are only tangential to the book’s many main concerns. Readings for this will be drawn from sources Unger uses for his basic undergraduate metaphysics course: Metaphysics: The Big Questions, edited by van Inwagen and Zimmerman, and a small course-pack provided gratis. Students will be required to write just one paper, preferably at least 12 standard pages, but not more than 20. And, students will make a class presentation, each on a different Advanced topic covered in the course. To avoid the issuing of Incompletes, all students will make their presentations well before the last class session, and each will submit her paper a full week before the course's last scheduled meeting.
Advanced Introduction to Logic
This is primarily a course for NYU graduate students; others admitted only by permission. It will be a high-level background course, going over basic concepts and results in the metatheory of logic but at a rapid pace. While the content of the course will depend a bit on the backgrounds and interests of the students enrolled, I expect to cover at least:
Along the way I will discuss various important concepts, such as categoricity, various types of definability, and various concepts from recursion theory. And we’ll look at the effect of adding Tarskian truth predicates to incomplete theories like arithmetic and set theory.
- Soundness and completeness theorems, not just for classical logic but for some non-classical generalizations of it;
- Compactness and Skolem-Lowenheim theorems, and their role in producing nonstandard models;
- Gödel's first and second incompleteness theorems, and various extensions, e.g. Löb's theorem.
There will be no textbook, but students may want to consult the following:
A look at these should give some idea of the level at which the course will be pitched. It is expected that students coming into the course will already have a good facility at knowing which inferences are valid in first order logic and which aren’t; at being able to reason by mathematical induction, preferably having had some exposure to arguments by induction on the complexity of proofs and by induction on the complexity of formulas; and that they will have some basic understanding of sets and functions and the basic notions and operations pertaining to them, preferably including a bit about cardinality. (If everyone has more background than this minimum, we’ll cover more material.)
- Mendelson, Introduction to Mathematical Logic
- Boolos and Jeffrey, Computability and Logic
- Grandy, Advanced Logic for Applications
Call # 30875
The seminar will be on personal identity. The main focus will be on the dispute between neo-Lockean views of personal identity, which hold it to consist in some kind of psychological continuity, and animalist and bodily continuity views. We will also discuss the question of whether “what matters” in survival is identity or something else (e.g., psychological continuity and connectedness). We will read Part III of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, Eric Olson’s The Human Animal, and papers by Bernard Williams, David Wiggins, John Perry, Sydney Shoemaker, Ernest Sosa, and others.
Ethics: Selected Topics
Call # 30877
In this seminar, we will undertake a close reading of Allan Gibbard's new book, Thinking How to Live (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003). Gibbard's aim in the book is to study the workings of normative or "ought-laden" concepts as they figure in our thought about what to do, believe, and feel, and to offer an expressivistic theory of these concepts. Central topics of the book include: the difference between normative and descriptive discourse (between questions of "ought" and "is"); the nature of objectivity and "factuality" in ethics; and expressivism and the Frege-Geach problem. While our focus will be Gibbard's treatment of these issues in Thinking How to Live, additional background readings on these topics will be assigned and discussed as relevant.
Mind and Language Seminar
Christopher Peacocke/Jerry Fodor
Monday 5-6, Tuesday 4-7
Call # 30878
Concepts, Representation and Mental States
The Research Seminar on Language and Mind will be conducted for Spring 2004 by Jerry Fodor and Christopher Peacocke. Visitors to the seminar on this interdisciplinary area will include both philosophers and psychologists. We will meet in the Seminar Room of the Philosophy Department on Tuesdays 4:00 to 7:00pm. A preparation session, restricted to students enrolled in the course, will meet on Mondays from 4:00 to 5:00pm. Papers to be discussed at the Tuesday meetings will be available one week in advance, and will be distributed at the preceding seminar. Copies will also be available at the Philosophy Department, Silver Center, Room 503, 100 Washington Square East. Many of the papers will also be available for downloading from this web page.
Schedule of Visitors Presenting Papers:
January 20 Jerry Fodor (Rutgers and NYU)
January 27 Christopher Peacocke (NYU)
February 3 Austen Clark (University of Connecticut)
February 10 Robert Brandom (Pittsburgh)
February 17 Elizabeth Spelke (Harvard)
February 24 John Campbell (Oxford)
March 2 Zenon Pylyshyn (Rutgers)
March 9 Sean Kelly (Princeton)
March 23 C. R. Gallistel (Rutgers)
March 30 Susan Carey (Harvard)
April 6 José Bermudez (Washington University, St. Louis)
April 13 Fred Dretske (Duke)
April 20 Alan Leslie (Rutgers)
April 27 Jane Heal (Cambridge)
Philosophy of Language: Reference
Stephen Schiffer/Stephen Neale
Call # 31189
The seminar’s primary concern will be the semantics of singular terms. Among the issues to be discussed are:
- Speaker reference vs. expression reference;
- Reference, meaning, and belief content;
- Single-word demonstratives;
- Proper names;
- Definite descriptions;
- Complex demonstratives;
- Reference and general terms and sentences.
History of Philosophy
Call # 31188
Self-Consciousness in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argues that self-consciousness and consciousness of objects are mutually conditioning: self-consciousness is a necessary condition of consciousness of objects, and conversely consciousness of objects is a necessary condition of self-consciousness.However, Kant also argues that consciousness of oneself as a subject is quite distinct from consciousness of oneself as an object. Indeed, as the subject of thought (what is referred to by 'I' in Descartes' proposition 'I think') I can never be an object of knowledge. According to Kant, the early modern notion of a mind or thinking substance rests on precisely the illusion that the referent of 'I' in 'I think' can be known as an object.
The purpose of this seminar is to try to disentangle the complex web of Kant's views about self-consciousness, consciousness of objects, consciousness of oneself as a subject, and consciousness of oneself as an object. To do this we shall focus our reading on the two chapters in the Critique of Pure Reason which are mainly devoted to these issues: the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories in both editions (1781 and 1787), and the Paralogisms of Pure Reason, also in both editions. The seminar will begin with a discussion of the chapters in the Critique that lead up to the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, to introduce Kant's vocabulary and the set of problems that motivate Kant's argument in the Transcendental Deduction.
Primary Text: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason. Transl. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood, Cambridge University Press. Optional: Prolegomena to Any Metaphysics, Gary Hatfield,ed., Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, Cambridge University Press. Secondary readings will be suggested for each session and made available at the library or on the web.
Topics in Epistemology
Call # 31351
This course will be held from Wednesday, March 24th until Wednesday, May 5th.
The seminar will centre on issues to do with the acquisition and possession of epistemic warrant. Roughly half of the sessions will be concerned with the acquisition of warrant by inference, and these will divide in turn between questions to do with "transmission failure" (templates for transmission-failure, Moore's 'proof' of an External World, Pryor's "dogmatism", Easy Knowledge, McKinsey, and semantic externalist arguments against scepticism) and questions to do with the epistemological constraints on the rules of inference involved if transmission of warrant is to succeed (Lewis Carroll, Boghossian, Williamson, do we know basic logic at all?). The remaining seminars will be concerned with non-inferential warrant, and will also divide between two large topics: the Very Nature of the non-inferential acquisition of warrant (the model in Mind and World, Peacocke on rational belief, basic rule-following, etc.); and the prospects and problems raised by the idea of non-evidential warrant (Entitlement).
Thesis Preparation Seminar