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Spring 2018


 

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

9:30–11:30

PHIL 76100
[38243]
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
Prof. Nuzzo
Room 5383

 

PHIL 76800
[38253]
Biological Essentialism
Prof. Devitt
Room TBA

 

11:45–1:45

PHIL 77800
[38244]
Moral Realism
Prof. Ross
Room 5383

PHIL 77700
[38247]
Art, Morality, and Politics
Prof. Carroll
Room 5382

------------

PHIL 76500
[38248]
Non-Classical Logic
Prof. Fitting
Room 6421

PHIL 76900
[38252]
Political Psychology
Profs. Prinz
Room 6421

PHIL 77000
[38255]
Mental Representation 
Prof. Papineau
Room 7395

2:00–4:00

PHIL 77500
[38245]
Philosophy of Feminism: Gender and the Body
Prof. Alcoff
Room 7395

PHIL 77900
[38249]
Subjectivity and Objectivity in Morality
Prof. Fricker
Room 5383

PHIL 80000
[38254]
Theories of Truth
Prof. Kripke
Room 6494

 

4:15–6:15

PHIL 77600
[38246]
Rawls, Race, and Gender
Profs. Mills & Schwarzenbach
Room 7395

PHIL 76600
[38250]
Language and Law
Prof. Neale
Room 7395

Philosophy Colloquium Series
Rooms 9204/9205

 

6:30–8:30

PHIL 78700
[38256]
Naturalism in the Philosophy of Science
Prof. Cordero
Room 5383

PHIL 76700
[38251]
Ignorance and Stupidity
Prof. Mandelbaum
Room 7395

 

 

at Mount Sinai
 

 

1/2/18 - 3/20/18

5:30-7:00
PHIL 77500  / MSCR-CLR0700 (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)
[38617]
Ethical Issues in Clinical Research
Profs. Rhodes & Moros
Annenberg 5-212

 

4/5/18 - 6/21/18

4:00-6:30
PHIL 77200
[38618]
Medical Ethics
Prof. Baumrin
Room TBA


Students may also take courses at other schools in the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium. Choose a school from the list below to see the course schedule for the current semester (where available).
The Graduate Center's Current Student Handbook has information about and instructions for registering for classes at other consortium schools. 
 

Spring 2018 COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Phil 77500 
Philosophy of Feminism: Gender and the Body
Prof. Alcoff 

4 credits
Mon. 2:00-4:00
Room TBA

  The question of the relation of gender identity to embodiment has been central in feminist theory and received sustained analysis since Simone de Beauvoir. Bodies are not all the same, and their differences have been accorded various cultural meanings with political effects. Today there is a lot of focus on the plasticity of bodies and the need to reduce the importance of bodily difference, even while the “delusions of gender,” as Cordelia Fine call them, continues to play a strong role in the sciences. Phenomenological approaches to embodiment offer a corrective to some the extreme views today, so this course will focus on these readings. What role do (or should) bodies play in identity, social roles, or laws? Are female bodies inherently limiting, with increased dependence? How should we understand the role of embodiment in regard to sexual violence? What is the role of reproduction in the formation of gender identity? This course will primarily focus on gender but consider also embodiment issues in relation to race, sexuality, disability, intersex, and trans identities. We will also consider the relation of women and of feminism to the practice and discipline of philosophy.

[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
Phil 77200 
Medical Ethics
Prof. Baumrin 

4 credits
Thurs. 5:30-7:30 at Mount Sinai
Room TBA  

This course examines "classic" and emerging issues in biomedical ethics paying particular attention to the history of medicine and the nature of scientific thought as it relates to medical ethics. While many issues in biomedical ethics seem timeless such as our concerns about the withholding of treatment, abortion, truth-telling—others have arisen out of the development of an increasingly scientific medicine beginning in the 1700s. It is the availability of well confirmed effective treatments that forces us to wrestle with such questions as the propriety of medical intervention over the objection of the patient, the treatment of children over the objection of their parents, the right of all citizens to health care, the regulation of the sale of body parts for transplantation, and numerous circumstances arising out of assisted reproduction. In the not too distant past it would have seemed bizarre to consider the adjudication of competing rights when one woman contracts to rent the uterus of a surrogate to bear through in vitro fertilization the embryo formed from the egg of a third individual. The current revolution in biotechnology, microelectronics and nanotechnology continuously produces new issues. What is the meaning of confidentially in a world where an enormous amount of information about each of us can be extracted rapidly from numerous searchable databases? What is the moral status of the embryonic stem cell derived from a discarded embryo, or a non-human animal? How are we to regulate cloning and our ability to shape and alter the human genome? We now implant electrodes into the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. Soon we may be treating depression, disorders of impulse control, anxiety and phobias electronically. Does such technology present different issues as compared with today's drug and surgical therapies? We will also be challenged by the products of bioengineering. We already have prosthetics that remarkably link the brain directly to external mechanical devises and further alter the meaning of disability.

In medical ethics both the past and the future need to inform out vision of proper behavior and decision making In our world of rapidly advancing technology, much medical ethics policies misread and mishandle the present and construct rules with an eye towards an idealized past, while failing to consider a fast approaching future. An aim of this course is to prepare health care professionals and philosophers to enter into medical institutions with the preparation necessary to be helpful additions to the provision of health care in ethically acceptable ways.

Principal text is the latest edition of Contemporary Issues in Bioethics, Beauchamp and Walters, Wadsworth. And The Blackwell Guide To Medical Ethics, Rhodes et al, 2007 Plus handouts in the history and philosophy of medicine.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
Phil 77700 
Art, Morality, and Politics
Prof. Carroll 

4 credits
Tues. 11:45-1:45
Room TBA  

This seminar is an overview of the several of the relations between art, morality, and politics. We will look at some classic texts on the topic (Plato, Augustine, Rousseau, Kant, Bell, Brecht) as well as contemporary debates between autonomism and various forms of moralism. The diverse ways in which moral norms are circulated and readjusted by the arts will be explored from several perspectives, including non-western ones and from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. The nexus of art and morality as mediated through society will also be addressed through several political themes including state patronage, censorship, propaganda, ideology, and social criticism. There are no course prerequisites. Students are expected to participate in class discussions, to make a class presentation, and to write a term paper.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
Phil 78700 
Naturalism in the Philosophy of Science
Prof. Cordero 

4 credits
Mon. 6:30-8:30
Room TBA  

Naturalist projects grant exceptional cognitive status to the empirical sciences. We’ll focus on major naturalist moves in recent philosophy of science and the debates around them. About one third of the sessions will be on background seminal papers. The other two-thirds will be devoted to representative naturalism in action in ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Our discussions will include influential contributions by Ronald Giere, Philip Kitcher, Lawrence Sklar, Michael Devitt, Larry Laudan, Steven French, Daniel Dennett, Peter Godfrey-Smith, and Jesse Prinz, among others.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group B]
 
Phil 76800 
Biological Essentialism
Prof. Devitt

4 credits
Weds. 9:30-11:30
Room TBA  

The Issues

  1. What is it to be a member of a particular biological taxon? In virtue of what is an organism, say, a Canis lupus? What makes it one? These are various ways to ask about the ‘essence’, ‘nature’, or ‘identity’ of a particular taxon. They raise the issue of Taxon Essentialism.
  2. What it is to be a particular individual organism? In virtue of what is an organism, say, the Queen? What makes it her? These are various ways to ask about the ‘essence’, ‘nature’, or ‘identity’ of a particular individual. They raise the issue of Individual Essentialism.
  3. If an individual organism belongs to a taxon does it do so essentially? This is the issue of Essential Membership. Clearly, if we had answers to both Taxon Essentialism and Individual Essentialism we would have an answer to Essential Membership: an organism O is essentially a member of a taxon T iff an organism having the essence of O entails its having the essence of T.

The Metaphysicians
These essentialism issues have been much discussed by metaphysicians in recent times. Thus, on Taxon Essentialism, Saul Kripke (1980), Hilary Putnam (1975), and David Wiggins (1980) have urged that the essence of a taxon, particularly a species is (at least partly) an intrinsic, underlying, probably largely genetic property. This view accords with common sense and has been widely accepted in philosophy. These authors also embraced Essential Membership. And, talking about the Queen in particular, Kripke has urged a view on Individual Essentialism: her origin in certain gametes from certain parents is essential to her. This “origin essentialism” has stirred controversy among metaphysicians (e.g., McGinn 1976, Salmon 1979, Forbes 1986, Robertson 1998). The methodology of the metaphysicians is to appeal to intuitions.

What have philosophers of biology had to say on these issues? The contrast with metaphysicians could hardly be more stark.

The Philosophers of Biology
First, philosophers of biology (and biologists) are dismissive of the popular Kripkean view on Taxon Essentialism. The idea that a species has an underlying intrinsic essence is thought to smack of “Aristotelian essentialism” and reflect a naive and uninformed view of biology that is incompatible with Darwinism. Clearly, if the essence of a species is not intrinsic it must be relational (assuming that it has an essence at all). The consensus is indeed that the essence is relational: for an organism to be a member of a certain species, it must have a certain history. Second, until recently, the issue of Essential Membership had been largely ignored in philosophy of biology. Insofar as it has been addressed it has been rejected. Third, the issue of Individual Essentialism has been totally ignored in philosophy of biology. The methodology of philosophers of biology is to appeal to biological theory.

The course will consider these essentialism issues. It will use the methodology of philosophers of biology to argue against almost all of their consensus. So it will be arguing for positions akin to those of the metaphysicians, but without relying on intuitions. It will be organized around four papers of mine:

  • “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism”. Philosophy of Science 75 (2008), pp. 344- 82.
  • “Defending Intrinsic Biological Essentialism”. Under review
  • “Historical Biological Essentialism”. Under review
  • “Individual Essentialism in Biology”. Under review

If there is time the course will also consider some other issues in the metaphysics of biology. Are species, genera, families, etc. “real”? An answer to this needs to be very clear about what it is to be “real”. Are species natural kinds or individuals? Does anything really hang on this question?

Anyone who is not a philosophy graduate student should consult with me before enrolling for this course.

[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group B]
 
Phil 76500 
Non-Classical Logic
Prof. Fitting

4 credits
Tues. 11:45-1:45
Room TBA  

Classical logic was developed to formalize the reasoning used by (most) mathematicians. It is very good at this, but it is not a satisfactory fit with most of the other kinds of reasoning we do. To take its place a very large number of non-classical logics have been created, primarily by philosophical logicians and by logicians in computer science. This course will study the main examples of such logics. We will confine things to the propositional level since, generally, adding quantification is less traumatic than one might think.

We will study modal logics, tense logics, intuitionistic logic, relevance logics, first degree entailment, substructural logics, conditional logics, many-valued logics, fuzzy logics. Non-classical logics generally fall into families whose members have significant resemblances to each other. Modal logics are such a family. Intuitionistic logic is a single item but it, along with several other items in the list fall into the family of substructural logics. All this will be sorted out as we proceed. Non-classical logics constitute a rich and complex realm, and we must concentrate on a relatively small number of most significant examples.

For each logic we need a formal language, a semantics, and a proof procedure. And of course we need some informal motivation for considering this particular logic. In general, semantics and proof procedures will be plural. There often are more than one semantics for a given logic, and more than one proof procedure. Among the proof procedures we will favor tableaus, but other kinds will be mentioned. And it should also be mentioned that tableaus themselves are a multiplicity—a variety of kinds exists.

There will be no official textbook for the course, but the book An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic, by Graham Priest is strongly recommended. Most of what we cover can be found there. The book exists in a first and a second edition. They differ primarily in that the second edition covers quantification. Since we will not be discussing this, if you already have the first edition, this should be fine.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group E]
 
Phil 77900 
Subjectivity and Objectivity in Morality
Prof. Fricker

4 credits
Tues. 2:00-4:00
Room TBA  

In this class we will explore both historical and contemporary views of morality that advance either a subjectivist (sentimentalist) or an objectivist (rationalist) conception. The arc of the course will originate with David Hume’s moral sentimentalism, including his notions of natural and artificial virtue, and Adam Smith’s distinct but not dissimilar picture. This will give us a clear idea of the historical roots of more current ways of approaching morality from the point of view of moral emotion. The more current approaches we shall discuss take their direct inspiration from P. F. Strawson’s ‘moral reactive attitudes and feelings’, and build upon that foundation to work up a theory of responsibility (R. Jay Wallace, Angela Smith), or a theory of the complex interpersonal normativity found to be implicit in these attitudes (Stephen Darwall).

We will then discuss moral luck (Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel) and notions of ‘penumbral agency’ (David Enoch, Susan Wolf) as a bridge to thinking about a diametrically opposite conception of morality from that which is grounded in the moral emotions. Indeed the conception of morality we shall now turn to is one that excludes emotion altogether from the moral frame, just as it excludes moral luck: Kantian objectivism. We will focus on Kant’s Groundwork in order to get clear about the mechanics of his view, and then perhaps look to the work of Christine Korsgaard for a modified contemporary Kantian moral philosophy. And we will consider the most powerful critiques of Kant’s view – such as Williams’ attack on it as embodying ‘the morality system’, which saddles us with falsely purified ideas of moral obligation and practical necessity, of the nature of moral deliberation and agency, and of the place of luck in moral life.

What are the implications for morality of this staunch attack on the morality system and the objectivist conception of morality that it embodies? In the last phase of the course we shall look closely at Williams’ contributions to positive possibilities on this score—in particular his cognitivism and argument for (non-objective) moral knowledge with the use of ‘thick’ ethical concepts; and his vindicatory use of State of Nature genealogy—much inspired by Nietzsche’s debunking genealogy, but closer in spirit to Hume’s positive mini-genealogy of (the artificial virtue of) justice, which we will have looked at right at the start. The arc of the course thus lands not too far from where it originated, namely with the moral emotions and a naturalistic idea of virtue; however these virtues are now theorized as divisible between those that grow from absolutely basic human-cultural needs on the one hand (i.e. in the State of Nature), and on the other, those that are formed or re-formed by more contingent pressures of history and culture. We shall draw our own conclusions as to how far this picture leaves us with sufficiently balanced measures of subjectivity and objectivity in moral life to deliver a satisfying philosophical view.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
 
Phil 80000 
Theories of Truth
Prof. Kripke

4 credits
Weds. 2:00-4:00
Room TBA  

The topic of this seminar is truth in the sense formulated by Tarski, that is, as a semantic notion (if one doesn’t like the idea of truth being a semantic notion, one could think of it as the notion of ‘expressing a truth’). As is well known, there are problems, generated by various paradoxes, the most famous being the Liar. We will discuss, among other things, Tarski’s original approach and how it might be extended. The relevance of Gödel’s work, and alternative ways of looking at the (first) Gödel incompleteness theorem. And, of course, my own work in this area, which in addition to a treatment of truth, mentions some other ways of looking at the Gödel incompleteness theorem. I also hope to discuss the relevance of various fixed points and alternative valuation schemes. In addition, the view, advocated by Yablo and others, that Truth Tellers ought to be definitely false, not indeterminate, and how this might be developed in my own approach. If time permits, we may discuss later developments, alternatives or extensions of my own work (such as the revision theory of truth, Hartry Field’s approach, our own Graham Priest’s dialetheist treatment, etc.).


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group A or E]
 
Phil 76700 
Ignorance and Stupidity
Prof. Mandelbaum

4 credits
Tues. 6:30-8:30
Room TBA  

When explaining behavior, we are often caught between two uncomfortable poles: interpreting the actors as either stupid or evil. Although ascribing actions to evil may come easier (and is more satisfying), the safe bet is on stupidity. What might first look like a vast conspiracy turn outs to be due to bungling bureaucrats and diffusion of responsibility. What appear to be the worst-laid plans turn out to be no plans at all. One cannot underestimate the vast idiocy of the human psyche.

And yet the notion of ubiquitous idiocy is in deep tension with the core of cognitive science: Chomsky has forever been pointing out how deeply creative people are, instantly and effortlessly generating and parsing novel sentences; Bayesians are constantly stressing how accurate our judgments of probabilities are and how excellent we are at using scant information; perceptual psychologists’ main job is uncovering unconscious mechanisms that allow perception to automatically solve terribly difficult problems. How can we, as Rationalists like Chomsky suggest, be (innately and unconsciously) sensitive to formal and logical aspects of reasoning and yet also display such striking irrationality?

Reconciling base stupidity with our impressive problem-solving faculties will be a goal of the course. Along the way we’ll try to understand exactly what ignorance and stupidity are, as well as why we think we are smarter and less biased than others, why we think our groups are better than others’ groups, why we are so bad at telling when we are being daft, why we fall for propaganda so easily, why flowery nonsense often sounds profound, why people believe in the supernatural and paranormal, why people believe they have free will, why people believe they have more free will than others, why we double check to see if we locked the door even when we know it’s locked, why we ignore probabilities and base rates, and more. In sum, we will look at our reasoning capacities as well as our metacognitive capacities, touching on the traditional philosophical topics of belief and rationality.

More educated people exist now than ever before, and yet we live in the dumbest of times. This especially stupid time demands reflection; hence, this course on the cognitive science of ignorance and stupidity.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group B]
 
Phil 77600 
Rawls, Race, and Gender
Profs. Mills & Schwarzenbach

4 credits
Mon. 4:15- 6:15
Room TBA  

The seminar will be an in-depth study of the philosophy of John Rawls, and will focus on central analyses and criticisms of his work primarily from two directions: feminist and critical race theory perspectives. In the first half of the semester we will grapple with basic concepts and themes of A Theory of Justice, -- with ideas such as the basic structure of society (as the subject of justice), the method of reflective equilibrium, ideal versus non-ideal theory, the original position, its resulting two principles of justice, the constitutional convention, Rawls’s moral psychology, and so forth. In each case, we will ask whether such notions can be salvaged and adapted for progressive (race and feminist) purposes or must be jettisoned altogether. Attention will also be given to Rawls’s later Political Liberalism and Justice as Fairness, as commentaries on his main argument and with their new notions of public reason and the burdens of judgment. The seminar will end with a discussion of Rawls’s work on international justice, The Law of Peoples, again asking to what degree this work can be helpful or simply obfuscates.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
 
Phil 76600 
Language and Law
Prof. Neale

4 credits
Tues. 4:15-6:15
Room TBA  

TBA


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group A or B]
 
Phil 76100 
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
Prof. Nuzzo

4 credits
Mon. 9:30-11:30
Room TBA  

This course will give a comprehensive account of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787). In this fundamental work Kant proposes the new idea of “transcendental philosophy,” offers his critique of traditional metaphysics and a new idea of metaphysics beyond the rationalist and the empiricist tradition, and provides the foundation of his critical epistemology. We will address issues such as Kant's idea of transcendental philosophy, the meaning of the Copernican Revolution in philosophy, the nature of space and time and the status of the a priori, the function of the transcendental unity of apperception.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group D-Modern]
 
Phil 77000 
Mental Representation
Prof. Papineau

4 credits
Thurs. 11:45-1:45
Room TBA  

This course will seek to understand how minds can represent things. There are many approaches to mental representation: phenomenological, computational, neuroscientific, biosemantic, eliminativist, interpretivist, and others. This course will tend to focus on naturalist theories, but will also survey a wide range of further views on the nature and significance of mental representation.

Topics to be covered will include: thought and language; consciousness and representation; the ontology of mental representation; interpretativism versus realism; the explanatory significance of representation; broad and narrow contents; anti-representationalist strains in recent cognitive science; naturalist theories of representation, including causal, success semantic, teleosemantic, and signaling theories; perceptual representation; intentional objects; phenomenal intentionality; representational theories of consciousness.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group A or B]
 
Phil 76900 
Political Psychology 
Prof. Prinz 

4 credits
Wed. 11:45-1:45
Room TBA  

Political psychology is the investigation of attitudes and behaviors in the public sphere. Examples include partisan polarization, voter ignorance, right-wing populism, national character, class conflict, imperialism, wartime atrocities and trauma, suicide terrorism, attitudes towards immigrants, and identity politics. Researchers in various fields have investigated the mechanisms that motivate these phenomena, including human nature, personality, emotions, propaganda, a ruling elite, material conditions, historical events, culture, ideology, and institutional structures. Philosophers have been interested in such issues too, along with questions that tie into core debates in ethics, metaphysics, mind, and political philosophy: Are we naturally peaceable or pugnacious? What is the relationship between political attitudes and personal identity? Can political disagreements be rationally adjudicated (e.g., by deliberating behind a veil of ignorance)? In this seminar, we will take an interdisciplinary look at the political mind.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group B or C]
 
Phil 77500 (Crosslisted as Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai MSCR- CLR0700)
Ethical Issues in Clinical Research
Profs. Rhodes & Moros (Mt. Sinai) 

4 credits
Tues. 5:30-7:00
Annenberg 24-206B, Mount Sinai  

Objectives
By the end of this course participants should be able to:

  • Refer to the historical evolution of research ethics and the development of protections for human subjects.
  • Identify and employ the guiding principles of research ethics.
  • Evaluate clinical studies in terms of ethical considerations.
  • Review the research ethics literature and use it in addressing questions related to clinical research.
  • Justify decisions about the ethical conduct of research in terms of reasons that other reasonable scientists should accept.

Seminar participants will include students from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and students from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: medical school, MS & PhD in Clinical Research, and MPH programs.

This seminar will explore the complex issues raised by human subject research. It will begin with a review of some of the history of human subject research and landmark cases of questionable research practices. In light of that history, we will examine the policies that shape our current understanding of the ethical conduct of research and the mechanisms for research oversight that have been instituted. Then, through reading a broad selection of seminal articles and papers from the recent literature, seminar presentations and discussions, we shall engage in conceptual analysis of controversial and pressing issues. We shall discuss the moral and public policy aspects of research design, placebo-controlled studies, risk-benefit assessment, informed consent, enrolling "vulnerable" subjects, research without consent, confidentiality, inducements, conflicts of interests, disclosure of research findings, tissue use, vaccine development, and international research. In addition to exploring the moral landscape of this rich and provocative domain, the seminar will provide a perspective from which to clarify and inform understanding of basic moral concepts such as autonomy and justice. It will also serve as a model for approaching other issues in applied ethics.



[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]
Phil 77800 
Moral Realism
Prof. Ross

4 credits
Mon. 11:45-1:45
Room TBA  

“Moral realism” takes up how we are to understand the status of statements that have moral content. This question is often rephrased as: how do statements with moral content fit, or fail to fit, in with the statements about the natural world? The issue is an old one; in its modern form it goes back to Hume who famously argued that moral attributions were expressions of feelings that in turn had no representational content. There are many problems with this unsatisfactory view, but, it had the advantage of fitting moral life into our scientific view of the world smoothly. And that so called advantage has driven a great deal of contemporary meta – ethics ever since. Also within the purview of “moral realism” is the status of reasons, particularly moral reasons, and whether they can be said to have an objectivity that outruns the contingent psychological desires that typically enact them.

Before the question of the status of moral claims, we will look at most of the standard offerings: skepticism, projectivism, expressivism, utilitarian like naturalism, Darwinian naturalism, non reductive objectivism, constructivism. On the issue of reasons, which will take up less of the course, we will look mostly at Scanlon’s objectivism and his critics.

The questions raised are fascinating. At the center of it all is I believe a deep puzzle about how to understand normative justification and how to fit it into our view of the world. But students be warned: the material we read will often by contrast be deeply frustrating and unsatisfactory. In a way though, this is the pleasure of meta-ethics. We must figure much of this out for ourselves.

Readings are largely drawn from the anthology Moral Discourse and Practice, edited by Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, and Peter Railton (Oxford, 1997). Other readings will be made available by link.


[Counts towards course satisfaction of Group C]