Chair: John Morrison (Professor)
Professor: Taylor Carman
Professor: Frederick Neuhouser
Associate Professor: Karen Lewis
Assistant Professor: Francey Russell
Term Professor: Christina Van Dyke
Term Assistant Professor: Christopher Prodoehl
Professor Emeritus: Alan Gabbey
Other officers of the University offering courses in Philosophy:
Professors: David Z. Albert, Akeel Bilgrami, Haim Gaifman, Lydia D. Goehr, Robert J Gooding-Williams, Axel Honneth, Jenann T. Ismael, Wolfgang R. Mann, Christia Mercer, Michele M Moody-Adams, Christopher A.B. Peacocke, Carol Rovane, Achille C. Varzi, Katja Vogt
Associate Professors: Justin Clarke-Doane, Jessica Collins, Tamar Lando
Assistant Professors: Allison E. Aitken, Melissa Fusco, Dhananjay Jagannathan
Requirements for the Major
A major in Philosophy consists of at least 10 courses (with a minimum of 30 credits), as follows:
|1. One course in ancient or early medieval philosophy:|
|The History of Philosophy I: Presocratics to Augustine|
|2. One course in late medieval or early modern philosophy:|
|History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant|
|LATE MEDIEVAL ＆ MODERN PHILOS|
|3. One course in logic:|
|Introduction to Logic|
|4. One course in ethics:|
|5. One of the following courses:|
|6. The Senior Seminar|
|Senior Seminar (This course is required for the major and is offered only in the fall semester of each year.)|
|7. Either of the two-course groups below:|
|OR: One advanced seminar (PHIL UN 3912 or a PHIL seminar above 4000, other than PHIL BC 4050), plus one elective beyond the two stipulated in 8 (below).|
|8. Two electives in addition to the eight courses stipulated above.|
|"Elective" refers to any PHIL course not used to satisfy a major requirement.|
- Only one of the two introductory courses offered at Barnard and Columbia (PHIL UN1001 and PHIL UN1010) may be counted towards the ten PHIL courses required by the major.
- Only one of the two logic courses mentioned above—PHIL UN3411 and PHIL UN1401—may be counted towards the ten PHIL courses required by the major.
Requirements for the Minor
Five courses (with a minimum of 15 credits) constitute a minor in philosophy. The courses must be selected in consultation with the department chair.
PHIL UN1001 Introduction to Philosophy. 3 points.
Survey of some of the central problems, key figures, and great works in both traditional and contemporary philosophy. Topics and texts will vary with instructor and semester.
PHIL UN1010 METHDS/PROB OF PHILOS THOUGHT. 3.00 points.
Critical introduction to philosophical problems, ideas and methods
PHIL UN1401 Introduction to Logic. 3 points.
Explicit criteria for recognizing valid and fallacious arguments, together with various methods for schematizing discourse for the purpose of logical analysis. Illustrative material taken from science and everyday life.
PHIL UN2100 Philosophy of Education. 3 points.
Drawing on classical and contemporary sources, this course will introduce students to a variety of texts that address the philosophical consideration of education, including its role in the development of the individual and the development of a democratic society. Readings from Plato, Rousseau, Dewey, and others.
PHIL UN2101 The History of Philosophy I: Presocratics to Augustine. 4 points.
BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Reason and Value (REA)., Recitation Section Required
Corequisites: PHIL V2111 Required Discussion Section (0 points).
Exposition and analysis of the positions of the major philosophers from the pre-Socratics through Augustine. This course has unrestricted enrollment.
PHIL UN2108 PHILOSOPHY ＆ HISTORY. 3.00 points.
An introduction to historical (from 1800) and contemporary themes in the philosophy of history. Themes include Historicism, Historicity, Universality and Particularity; the debate over Positivism; the historical nature of concepts and meaning; time and tense: Past, Present Future; the Temporality of experience; the nature of Tradition and Practice; Epistemic, Revolutionary, and Paradigmatic change; Memory and the writing of one’s history (Autobiography).
PHIL UN2110 Philosophy and Feminism. 3 points.
Is there an essential difference between women and men? How do questions about race conflict or overlap with those about gender? Is there a "normal" way of being "queer"? Introduction to philosophy and feminism through a critical discussion of these and other questions using historical and contemporary texts, art, and public lectures. Focus includes essentialism, difference, identity, knowledge, objectivity, and queerness.
PHIL UN2201 History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant. 4 points.
Prerequisites: PHIL UN2211 Required Discussion Section (0 points).
PHIL UN2101 is not a prerequisite for this course. Exposition and analysis of the metaphysics, epistemology, and natural philosophy of the major philosophers from Aquinas through Kant. Authors include Aquinas, Galileo, Gassendi, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. This course has unrestricted enrollment.
PHIL UN2301 History of Philosophy III: Kant to Nietzsche. 4 points.
Exposition and analysis of major texts and figures in European philosophy since Kant. Authors include Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Required discussion section (PHIL UN2311). Attendance in the first week of classes is mandatory.
PHIL UN2655 COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY. 3 points.
This course will survey a number of topics at the intersection of cognitive science and philosophy. Potential topics include free will, consciousness, embodied cognition, artificial intelligence, neural networks, and the language of thought.
PHIL UN2685 Introduction to Philosophy of Language. 3 points.
This course gives students an introduction to various topics in the Philosophy of Language.
PHIL UN2702 Contemporary Moral Problems. 3 points.
Questions about how people should act have historically been central to philosophy. This course introduces students to philosophy through an examination of some important moral problems that arise in the twenty-first century. The aim is not only to offer ideas for thinking through the issues covered, but also to provide tools for general moral reflection. Topics covered will include: the legitimacy of asking migrants to abandon their traditional practices, responsibilities to distant people and to future generations, abortion and genetic testing of the unborn, the proper treatment of animals, and the permissibility of war and terrorism.
PHIL UN3000 BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY. 3.00 points.
Buddhist philosophers generally agree about what doesn’t exist: an enduring, unitary, and independent self. But there is surprisingly little consensus across Buddhist traditions about what does exist and what it’s like. In this course, we will examine several Buddhist theories about the nature and structure of reality and consider the epistemological and ethical implications of these radically different pictures of the world. We will analyze and evaluate arguments from some of the most influential Indian Buddhist philosophers from the second to the eleventh centuries, including Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu, Dignāga, Candrakīrti, Śāntarakṣita, Śāntideva, and Ratnakīrti. Topics will include the existence and nature of the external world, the mind, and the self; practical and epistemological implications of the Buddhist no-self principle; personal identity; the problem of other minds; and causal determinism and moral responsibility
PHIL UN3121 Plato. 3 points.
Prerequisites: One philosophy course or permission of the instructor.
Introduction to Plato's philosophy through analysis of characteristic dialogues.
PHIL UN3131 ARISTOTLE. 3.00 points.
Prerequisites: One philosophy course or permission of the instructor.
Introduction to Aristotle's philosophy through analysis of selected texts.
PHIL UN3237 LATE MEDIEVAL ＆ MODERN PHILOS. 3.00 points.
Prerequisites: One philosophy course or permission of the instructor.
Study of one or more of the major philosophers from the Renaissance through the 18th century. Sample topics: substance and matter; bodies, minds, and spirits; identity and individuation; ideas of God; causation; liberty and necessity; skepticism; philosophy and science; ethical and political issues. Sample philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Conway, Locke, Berkely, Hume, Kant.
PHIL UN3248 Darwin. 3 points.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has been revolutionary, not just for scientists but for everyone who reflects on human nature and human destiny. The first aim of this course is to separate Darwin’s own theory from its scientific, religious, and cultural aftershocks, and to consider how its influence developed and changed over the century and a half since On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. After careful consideration of Darwin’s own life and historical context, we will read our way through the Origin, and then consider reactions to to it starting Darwin’s own day, proceeding through the “Modern Synthesis," and ending in our present moment. The final sessions of the course will explore Darwin’s impact on contemporary philosophical debates over faith, ethics, and scientific knowledge.
PHIL UN3251 Kant. 3 points.
Explores the connections between theoretical and practical reason in Kant's thinking with special attention to the Critique of Pure Reason and the project of "transcendental" philosophy.
PHIL UN3252 Philosophy of Language and Mind. 3 points.
This course will provide an introduction to meaning, reference, understanding, and content in language, thought, and perception. A central concern will be the question of the relation of meaning to truth-conditions, and what is involved in language and thought successfully latching on to reality. If you have not already taken an elementary course in first order logic, you will need to catch up in that area to understand some crucial parts of the course. All the same, the primary concerns of the course will be philosophical, rather than technical.
PHIL UN3264 19th Century Philosophy: Hegel. 3 points.
Examines major themes of Hegel's philosophy, with emphasis on social and political thought. Topics include Hegel's critique of Kant, the possibility of metaphysics, the master-slave dialectic, and the role of freedom in a rational society. Readings from Kant’s Third Critique help explain how Hegel's project develops out of Kant's transcendental idealism. Some knowledge of Kant's moral theory and his Critique of Pure Reason is presupposed. Prerequisite: at least one of PHIL UN2201, PHIL UN2301, or PHIL UN3251.
PHIL UN3278 Nietzsche. 3 points.
Prerequisites: one prior course in the history of philosophy (either ancient or modern).
An examination of major themes in Nietzsche's thought. Topics include the philosophical significance of Greek tradegy, the nature of truth, the possibility of knowledge, the moral and metaphysical content of Christianity, the death of God, perspectivism, eternal recurrence, and the power to will.
PHIL UN3351 Phenomenology and Existentialism. 3 points.
Prerequisites: Two prior philosophy courses. Enrollment limited to 30.
Survey of selected works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. Topics include intentionality, consciousness and self-consciousness, phenomenological and hermeneutical method, the question of being, authenticity and inauthenticiy, bad faith, death, and the role of the body in perception.
PHIL UN3352 Twentieth Century European Philosophy. 3 points.
Prerequisites: one prior philosophy course.
Reading and discussion of selected texts by central figures in phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, critical theory, and recent Continental philosophy. Authors may include Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, Horkheimer, Adorno, Foucault, Bourdieu.
PHIL UN3353 European Social Philosophy. 3 points.
Prerequisites: one philosophy course.
A survey of Eurpoean social philosophy from the 18th to the 20th century, with special attention to theories of capitalism and the normative concepts (freedom, alienation, human flourishing) that inform them. Also: the relationship between civil society and the state.
PHIL BC3398 INDEPENDENT STUDY. 1.00-4.00 points.
PHIL UN3411 SYMBOLIC LOGIC. 4.00 points.
Corequisites: PHILV3413 Required Discussion Section (0 points). Advanced introduction to classical sentential and predicate logic. No previous acquaintance with logic is required; nonetheless a willingness to master technicalities and to work at a certain level of abstraction is desirable
PHIL UN3551 PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE. 3.00 points.
Enrollment limited to 40.
Prerequisites: one philosophy course or the instructor's permission.
Philosophical problems within science and about the nature of scientific knowledge in the 17th-20th centuries. Sample problems: causation and scientific explanation; induction and real kinds; verification and falsification; models, analogies and simulations; the historical origins of the modern sciences; scientific revolutions; reductionism and supervenience; differences between physics, biology and the social sciences; the nature of life; cultural evolution; human nature; philosophical issues in cosmology
PHIL UN3576 Physics and Philosophy. 3 points.
Philosophical problems at the foundations of quantum theory, especially those having to do with the uncertainty of relations and nature of quantum mechanical indeterminacy. Exploration of a variety of interpretation and hidden variable theory.
PHIL UN3601 Metaphysics. 4 points.
Discussion Section Required
Corequisites: PHIL V3611 Required Discussion Section (0 points).
Systematic treatment of some major topics in metaphysics (e.g. modality, causation, identity through time, particulars and universals). Readings from contemporary authors.
PHIL UN3654 Philosophy of Psychology. 3 points.
Considers psychology from the perspective of philosophy of science and the plausibility of various philosophical positions in light of the best current theories of psychology. Examines the assumptions and explanatory strategies of past and present "schools of psychology" and the implications of recent work in psychology for such perennial philosophical problems as moral responsibility and personal identity.
PHIL UN3655 TOPICS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY. 3.00 points.
This course will focus on one topic at the intersection of cognitive science and philosophy. Potential topics include free will, consciousness, modularity, mental representation, probabilistic inference, the language of thought, and the computational theory of mind
PHIL UN3685 PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE. 3.00 points.
This course is a survey of analytic philosophy of language. It addresses central issues about the nature of meaning, including: sense and reference, speech acts, pragmatics, and the relationship between meaning and use, meaning and context, and meaning and truth
PHIL UN3701 ETHICS. 4.00 points.
Prerequisites: one course in philosophy.
Corequisites: PHIL V3711 Required Discussion Section (0 points).
Prerequisites: one course in philosophy. Corequisites: PHIL V3711 Required Discussion Section (0 points). This course is mainly an introduction to three influential approaches to normative ethics: utilitarianism, deontological views, and virtue ethics. We also consider the ethics of care, and selected topics in meta-ethics
PHIL UN3751 SOCIAL ＆ POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. 3.00 points.
Six major concepts of political philosophy including authority, rights, equality, justice, liberty and democracy are examined in three different ways. First the conceptual issues are analyzed through contemporary essays on these topics by authors like Peters, Hart, Williams, Berlin, Rawls and Schumpeter. Second the classical sources on these topics are discussed through readings from Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Marx, Plato, Mill and Rousseau. Third some attention is paid to relevant contexts of application of these concepts in political society, including such political movements as anarchism, international human rights, conservative, liberal, and Marxist economic policies as well as competing models of democracy
PHIL UN3752 Philosophy of Law. 3 points.
This course explores philosophical reflection on the relationship between law, society and morality. We discuss the nature of law, the nature of legal reasoning, the relationship between law and social policy, and central concepts in civil and criminal law. Readings are drawn from such sources as the natural law tradition, legal positivism, legal realism, and Critical Legal Theory. Readings will be supplemented by analysis of classic cases.
PHIL UN3756 Critical Philosophy of Race: What is Race?. 3 points.
This course is a philosophical examination of the meaning and significance of the concept of race. The course will chiefly aim to answer: What do we mean by the term “race”? And why is it often tied to the existence of racism? From where does the concept come? And what role did “race” play in the philosophical thought and the culture of Western modernity? Among the questions that can be asked are, How do concepts of race contribute to the formation and justification of various economic, political, and social institutions and practices, such as slavery, colonialism, and segregation? However, we will also inquire at the end of the course whether “race” is always a destructive concept, or whether it can be re-defined as part of a liberation project centered on racial identity: the appreciation and celebration of racial difference and solidarity.
PHIL UN3800 THE PHILOSOPHY OF LAW. 3.00 points.
In his Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx writes, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” The questions to ask in response to Marx’s exhortation include: how do we recognize the need for change and appropriately effect it? What are the relations between our goals and the means to them? How can we better understand our goals to make the means more suitable? When we organize to produce results, what are we doing? Do we know exactly who and what we want to change? What are the “ethics of process”? What exactly do we do when we organize? A tentative definition: to organize is to bring together individuals who have common interests in a way that will enhance their power. What kind of power is this? What other forms of power are there? What is the best form of coordinating among individuals? If we better understand the dynamics of organizing, should we reconceive our goals accordingly? How do we better tap into shared values and concerns? What temptations and distractions get in the way of our goals? What problems prevent us from achieving them? Do we have goals that can be achieved? If not, how can we revise them?
PHIL UN3840 The Nature and Significance of Animal Minds. 3 points.
Humans have a complicated relationship with other animals. We love them, befriend them and save them. We hunt, farm and eat them. We experiment on and observe them to discover more about them and to discover more about ourselves. For many of us, our pets are amongst the most familiar inhabitants of our world. Yet when we try to imagine what is going on in a dog or cat's mind--let alone that of a crow, octopus or bee--many of us are either stumped about how to go about this, or (the science strongly suggests) getting things radically wrong. Is our thought about and behavior towards animals ethically permissible, or even consistent, Can we reshape our habits of thought about animals to allow for a more rational, richer relationship with the other inhabitants of our planet? In this course, students will reflect on two closely intertwined questions: an ethical question, what sort of relationship ought we to have with animals?; and a metaphysical question, what is the nature of animal minds? Readings will primarily be be from philosophy and ethics and the cognitive sciences, with additional readings from literature and biology. There are no prerequisites for this class--it will be helpful but certainly not necessary to have taken previous classes in philosophy(especially ethics and philosophy of mind) or in cognitive science.
PHIL UN3841 Advanced Introduction to Aesthetics: Philosophy of the Image. 3 points.
This course is an advanced introduction to philosophical aesthetics focused primarily on the question: how do artistic images achieve their distinctive effect? A traditional (Platonic) answer to that question is that images do so by resembling their objects in a distinctive way. However, criticisms of this view, from various directions, will motivate us to consider some less familiar alternatives. We will begin with a proposal from 20th century "analytical" philosophy: on this view, images "symbolize" in the way mathematical equations, linguistic signs and non artistic images like maps and diagrams do. Next, we will consider a proposal from the "phenomenological" tradition: rather than merely affording us visual experiences, images provide a holistic embodied experience in which we are solicited to move and act. Finally, we will consider a distinctive proposal from social theory, and, in particular, the Marxist tradition: on this view, images in late capitalist societies serve a distinctive secularizing function y emancipating the artwork from its ritual function and removing its sacred aura. The course is bookended by units on artistic images in general, but contains units on artistic images of all kinds (photographs, films, and paintings). Readings are numerous, short, and drawn from a wide variety of types of sources (interviews, academic articles, manifestos, book length works), thinkers, and traditions. Students will leave having read at least one modern classic in the field: Goodman's _Languages of Art_. They will also watch part of one (highly philosophical) film: Malick's _Badlands_. The course has no prerequisites.
PHIL UN3852 PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE. 3.00 points.
PHIL UN3855 The Potential and Actual Infinite. 3 points.
This course examines the concept of infinity throughout the history of western philosophy, looking at how the puzzles that surround the concept led to the construction and defense of many different philosophical positions on the infinite. In particular, we will examine how many different historical figures have attempted (in many different ways) to draw a distinction between what is potentially infinite and what is actually infinite, and further, how this distinction is used in attempts to solve puzzles of the infinite. We move chronologically, starting with Zeno and Aristotle, through the invention of calculi of infinitesimals, to the development of set theory, model theory, and modern mathematical logic. We will also use the tools we develop in our historical investigation to address modern discussions in philosophy about the infinite, such as the debates about supertasks and the limitations of computation. This course has no prerequisites (although having taken Symbolic Logic may be useful), and it serves well as an introduction to philosophy of mathematics because of its chronological presentation. It also intersects with a wide range of topics in other fields, such as mathematics, logic, physics, computer science, religion, and artificial intelligence, which should make it of interest even to those who may not have a strong formal background.
PHIL UN3856 Political Realism and Social Injustice. 3 points.
Rectifying injustice remains a central motivation for social and political thought. The aim of a theory of justice or injustice is often to guide us in dealing with the grave wrongs in our social world. But how should philosophy support the advancement of justice, and what do its moral ideals have to do with the political realities of power and conflict? Do we need an “ideal theory” of a perfectly just society to set the aims of social progress? Can we properly respond to racial and gendered injustices without understanding how they wrong people as members of social groups (e.g. as black Americans, women, etc.)? What limits do our theories face in helping us navigate real political decisions and problems? This course will examine different answers to these questions as well as their substantive consequences for addressing pressing injustices based on race and gender. Our investigations will emphasize the relations between political philosophy, social science, the social construction of identity, and real-world politics.
PHIL UN3857 The Public and the Private. 3 points.
In an era in which government surveillance, hacking, and social media regularly challenge the line between our public and private lives, exploring the nature of the public/private dichotomy is a pressing task. In this course we will explore how philosophers in the Western tradition have understood the contrast between the public and the private beginning with the ancient ideal of the polis as the site of genuine human flourishing and freedom, we will go on to explore the way in which modern thinkers have problematized this ideal in the context of capitalism, mass culture, and modern pluralistic societies. By engaging with thinkers such as Aristotle, Arendt, Dewey, Rawls, and Habermas, we will ask questions such as: what kind of freedom do we enjoy when we are in public with other people, and what kind of freedom do we enjoy in private? Are both equally valuable? What is the relationship between public opinion and a healthy democracy? How does capitalism and the mass medial affect the public sphere? What are the dangers of an impoverished public sphere? Is the very distinction between the public and the private gendered in pernicious ways?
PHIL UN3858 CULTIVATING INDIVIDUALITY. 3 points.
Talk about "individuality" , about "being" (or becoming) "yourself" is all around us. But what exactly does this mean? What is genuine individuality, and how can we develop, it in ourselves (through self-development) and in others (by designing appropriate educational institutions)? What is the relationship between an individual and being a part of society? Is there a tension between non-conformism often associated with genuine individuality on the one hand, and the demands of community and good citizenship, on the other? Can educational institutions be designed to fulfill both those demands (to the extent they are distinct)? And how might opressive social institutions hinder the development of "individuality" ? in this course, we will explore these and related questions by drawing both on the classics of philosophy of education (Plato, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Dewey, BeDois), and on relevant literary material that is in conversation with the philosophical texts (Rilke, Tolstoy, Woolfe).
PHIL UN3861 Language ＆ Society. 3.00 points.
Language is our primary means for influencing each other’s thoughts and attitudes. Sometimes, we use it to convey information explicitly, and to influence others directly. But sometimes, language is used to convey information implicitly (e.g., in hints, sarcasm and irony), or to shape the opinions of others surreptitiously (e.g., in propaganda). How do these forms of communication work? What distinguishes them? What makes for their success or failure? In this course, we will critically examine some classic theories in the philosophy of language that try to answer these questions. Then, we will turn to recent work that rejects or extends these theories in response to careful examination of the ways in which language can be exploited as a means for manipulation and control
PHIL UN3863 HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING. 3.00 points.
“What is it to be happy?” Philosophers have passionately debated this question from antiquity until now. Especially in times when happiness seems difficult to find, we naturally want to know what happiness is and how best to secure it. In this course, we will consider happiness in relation to well-being, examining four major theories of well-being (hedonism, desire-fulfillment theories, objective list theories, and eudaimonism/perfectionism). We will gain a nuanced understanding of each view by juxtaposing their ancient and modern advocates and opponents
PHIL UN3864 Philosophy, Science, and Politics of Learning. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
At the broadest level, this course addresses questions, What does it mean to respond to new information in a rational way? How should we update our beliefs in response to evidence? This is a central question in the philosophy of science and epistemology, but it also connects to important issues in social and political philosophy. For example, one's views about what it means to learn in a rational way might inform one's view about the significance of political polarization. Is polarization a sign that certain groups are responding to information in an irrational way? In order to address questions like this, one must first think carefully about what rational responses to inform amount to. This is what we'll do in this course. The course has three parts. In the first part, we will read some classical philosophical texts about the problem of induction. This part of the course will introduce students to some influential concepts from logic (formal learning theory), statistics (Bayesian inference), and computer science and artificial intelligence (PAC learning). Having developed a toolkit for thinking about rational learning, we will, in the third part of the course, turn to some issues in social and political philosophy. In addition to thinking about political polarization, mentioned above, we will ask whether learning based on the testimony of others has any distinctive significance, and we will study the concept of epistemic injustice. The course has no prerequisites. All of the technical concepts will be introduced in a self-contained and elemental way.
PHIL UN3867 Philosophy & Literature: Jane Austen & Moral Philosophy. 3 points.
In the 1790s, when Jane Austen was beginning to write fiction, there was much debate over the value and function of the novel. Some argued that novels were dangerous to their readers, inciting violent emotional responses and corrupting the imagination (especially in women and children, who were believed to be more sensitive to such stimuli). Others saw potential in this narrative form, arguing that novels could contribute to the moral and sentimental education of their readers. Adam Smith, for example, claims that “[t]he poets and romance writers, who best paint the refinements and delicacies of love and friendship, and of all other private and domestic affections, Racine and Voltaire; Richardson, Maurivaux, and Riccoboni; are, in such cases, much better instructors than Zeno, Chrysippus, or Epictetus” (Theory of Moral Sentiments III.3.14). And David Hume argues that there is a kind of moral philosophy that paints virtue and vice rather than anatomizing it. Such philosopher-painters, he says, “make us feel the difference between vice and virtue; they excite and regulate our sentiments” (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 1.1).
In this course, we will keep these questions about one possible function of literature in the back of our minds as we read through four of Austen’s novels. With each novel, we will focus on a specific ethical theme treated in and by that novel: with Sense and Sensibility we’ll focus on the role of the emotions in morality; with Mansfield Park we’ll focus on questions about moral education and virtue; with Emma we’ll focus on the difficulties of accurate discernment and judgment in moral matters; and with Persuasion we’ll focus on the relation between the individual and society and the complications caused by differences in gender, class, and social status. Each novel will be paired with selections from authors who were near contemporaries of Austen’s, including Samuel Johnson, David Hume, Jane Collier, Hannah More, Adam Smith, and Mary Wollstonecraft.
Two warnings/things to be aware of: first, this course will require a significant amount of reading; and second, in this course, we will be approaching literature with an interest in philosophical themes and questions. We will occasionally discuss formal and stylistic aspects of Austen’s novels (for example, her use of irony and of a technique referred to as “free indirect discourse”), but these sorts of concerns will not be our main focus
PHIL UN3870 PHILOSOPHY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. 3.00 points.
Artificial intelligence (AI) promises—or threatens—to transform every area of our lives and societies. It has already begun to upend our understanding of human nature, radically alter our social institutions, and revolutionize scientific practice. And in some circles, there is increasing concern that AI is developing intelligence to rival our own. This course will explore these issues through the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and ethics. We will ask whether AI systems could have minds like ours, whether they could be conscious, whether they might eventually deserve moral consideration, and how we can use them fairly in our current societies
PHIL UN3912 SEMINAR. 3.00 points.
Required of senior majors, but also open to junior majors, and junior and senior concentrators who have taken at least four philosophy courses. This exploration will typically involve writing a substantial research paper. Capped at 20 students with preference to philosophy majors
PHIL UN3960 EPISTEMOLOGY. 4.00 points.
Corequisites: PHIL UN3963
Corequisites: PHIL W3963 Required Discussion Section (0 points). What can we know? What is knowledge? What are the different kinds of knowledge? We will read classic and contemporary texts for insight into these questions
PHIL BC4050 Senior Seminar. 3 points.
Intensive study of a philosophical issue or topic, or of a philosopher, group of philosophers, or philosophical school or movement. Open only to Barnard senior philosophy majors.
PHIL BC4051 Senior Thesis. 3 points.
A substantial paper, developing from an Autumn workshop and continuing in the Spring under the direction of an individual advisor. Open only to Barnard senior philosophy majors.
PHIL BC4052 Senior Thesis. 3 points.
A substantial paper, developing from an Autumn workshop and continuing into the Spring under the direction of an individual adviser. Open only to Barnard senior philosophy majors.
PHIL GU4080 PLATO. 3.00 points.
The course offers an advanced introduction to key themes in Plato’s philosophy. It is open to undergraduate and graduate students and does not presuppose prior study of Plato. At the end of the semester, students will have the tools and preparation to think independently and critically about Plato’s philosophy. Beyond the study of Plato, the course teaches students crucial skills in the history of philosophy, such as the careful reconstruction of arguments, attention to concepts that may not be familiar today, critical discussion of philosophical proposals that were formulated in a foreign language and conceptual scheme, and an awareness of the range of different modes of inquiry and philosophical writing. The class covers three texts that, according to standard relative chronology of Plato’s dialogues, are considered “early”—the Protagoras—“middle”—the Phaedo—and “late”—the Sophist. We focus on themes where Plato’s arguments and proposals have lasting influence: virtue, the soul, perception, pleasure and pain, the Forms, being and becoming, and truth and falsity. The Protagoras introduces themes that we pursue throughout the semester. What is the soul? How does one become a good person? What is the role of pleasure and pain in a well-lived human life? In the Protagoras, Socrates advances a famous proposal, the so-called unity of the virtues: for someone to have one virtue such as justice or courage, she needs to have all the virtues. The question of how one becomes a good person involves a key distinction in Plato’s metaphysics between being and becoming. Presumably, we can only become good, but we can never be good. The Phaedo examines four arguments for the soul’s immortality. None of these arguments is presented as conclusive. And yet, Socrates trusts that the soul is immortal and this commitment informs his stance toward his own death. This theme is personal for Socrates, who is awaiting his death penalty. But it involves perennial questions in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. What is the relation between body and soul? Are perception, pleasure, and pain bodily? Is our own mind the cause of our actions? What, if anything, is the role of mind—nous—in the cosmos? And what is the role of the famous “Forms”? Plato’s Sophist belongs to a group of late dialogues that explore, fine-tune, and problematize Plato’s earlier proposals, specifically with respect to the Forms, the notions of being and not-being, and the distinction between true and false statements. The interlocutors set out to define sophistry, using a definitional method that Plato develops in several late dialogues. This method is the ancestor of a powerful but contested scientific tool: the division of things into kinds. Finally, we use the Sophist to ask general questions about Plato’s dialogues. Why does Plato write dialogues, rather than treatises? What is philosophically distinctive about his method?
PHIL GU4089 Aristotle. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
Prerequisites: undergraduate students must obtain the instructor's permission.
The course offers a high-level survey of central themes in Aristotle's ethics: happiness, motivation, agency, excellence, deliberation, pleasure, responses to relativism, and the nature of ethics.
PHIL GU4100 Paradoxes. 3 points.
Various paradoxes, from many areas, including mathematics, physics, epistemology, decision theory and ethics, will be analyzed. The goal is to find what such paradoxes imply about our ways of thinking, and what lessons can be derived. Students will have a choice to focus in their papers on areas they are interested in.
PHIL GU4137 Non-Classical Logics. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
Prerequisites: one term of formal logic (V3411/G4415, Introduction to Symbolic / Formal Logic, or G4801, Mathematical Logic I)
An overview of the main extensions and alternatives to classical logic, including: many-valued logics, fuzzy logics, partial logics, free logics, inclusive logics, paraconsistent logics, modal logics, intuitionism. Prerequisite: One term of formal logic (V3411/G4415, Introduction to Symbolic/ Formal Logic, or G4801, Mathematical Logic I).
PHIL GU4140 Hellenistic Philosophy. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
Ancient scepticism, and ancient debates between sceptics and non-sceptical philosophers. Topics include: belief, criteria of truth, proof, concepts, Stoic theory of cognitive impressions, Epicurean claim "all sense-perceptions are true," appearances, belief and action, belief and language.
PHIL GU4260 KANT'S ETHICS. 3 points.
Please contact the department for course description.
PHIL GU4424 Modal Logic. 3 points.
CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
PHIL GU4431 INTRODUCTION TO SET THEOR. 3 points.
Basic set-theoretic operations and constructions. The axiom of choice. Infinitary arithmetic, ordinal and cardinal. Russell’s paradox, Cantor’s paradoxes, and other set-theoretic paradoxes. The continuum hypothesis. Axiomatic set theory. Other topics as time permits.
PHIL GU4449 Philosophy of Logic. 3 points.
Prerequisites: PHIL UN3411
This course is an opinionated introduction to the philosophy of logic. Topics covered include logical form, logical constants, logical necessity, the normative role of logic, metaphysical neutrality, justification and reliability, higher-order quantification, the paradoxes, revisions to
logic and to the T-schema, and deflationary pluralism about fundamental logical notions.
PHIL GU4451 History of Philosophy: From De Morgan to Frege. 3 points.
Prerequisites: one term of Symbolic Logic.
The roots of logic may be traced to Aristotle, who systematized and codified the subject in a way that was not significantly surpassed for over two millennia. As we know it today, however, logic stems largely from certain advancements that took place in the mid-ninteenth century, when the subject developed into a rigorous discipline whose exemplar was the exact method of proof used in mathematics. Tha aim of this course is to provie a critical reconstruction of such advancements along with an assessment of their philosophical significance.
PHIL GU4471 Philosophy of Mathematics. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
Prerequisites: mathematical background, or familiarity with formal reasoning. The instructor's permission in borderline cases is required.
Topics: Mathematical reasoning and intuition, as illustrated in simple problem solving and historical examples. The source of mathematical validity. Views of mathematics of some major philosophers: Kant, Mill, Frege Russell, Wittgenstein. Realism and Constructivism. Hilbert's program. Mathematics as a formal deductive activity. Formal systems and the significance of Gödel's incompleteness results. Some more recent debates in the philosophy of mathematics.
PHIL GU4490 LANGUAGE AND MIND. 3 points.
PHIL GU4491 William James's Principles of Psychology. 3 points.
The primary goal of this course is to give sufficiently advanced students an opportunity to read through, in its entirety, one of the most influential works in the history of psychology. Although James conceived his two-volume work as an exhaustive scientific account of the mind, its approach is vastly different from contemporary psychology--which, since his time, has generated many subfields and methodologies, and benefitted from advances in related fields, such as computer science, linguistics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience, to name just a few. Apart from subsequent developments within the mind sciences, another major difference between James's pioneering work and current scientific work is that it is explicitly governed by some concerns that currently belong more to philosophy than to science. These include James's focus on the phenomenological dimensions of mind that are open to direct introspection, which are no longer regarded as reliable indicators of mental reality, and his interest in the ethical significance of his findings. Being a pragmatist, he could not help but regard a correct account of the mind as providing a basis for improvement of human life, and right action.
PHIL GU4495 Perception. 3 points.
This course addresses the fabulously rich range of issues about the nature of perception, including: perceptual mental representation and its content; computational explanation; justifying beliefs; knowledge and thought about perception; and perception of music. Perception is an interdisciplinary subject par excellence. Readings will be drawn from philosophy and psychology, aesthetics, and artificial intelligence.
PHIL GU4561 Probability and Decision Theory. 3 points.
Examines interpretations and applications of the calculus of probability including applications as a measure of degree of belief, degree of confirmation, relative frequency, a theoretical property of systems, and other notions of objective probability or chance. Attention to epistimological questions such as Hume's problem of induction, Goodman's problem of projectibility, and the paradox of confirmation.
PHIL G4569 Critical Social Theory. 3 points.
A close reading of Jürgen Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action. Prerequisite: PHIL V3353 or PHIL G9755
PHIL GU4602 PHILOSOPHICAL TEXTS IN GREEK. 3.00 points.
Careful reading and translation of a major philosophical text in ancient Greek to be chosen by the course participants in consultation with the instructor. Special attention is to be paid to the linguistic and conceptual problems of translating ancient Greek philosophical texts. Prerequisite: equivalent of at least two years of study of ancient Greek at university level
PHIL GU4660 Philosophy of Mind. 3 points.
PHIL GU4675 The Direction of Time. 3 points.
A survey of the various attempts to reconcile the macroscopic directionality of time with the time-reversibility of the fundamental laws of physics. The second law of thermodynamics and the concept of entropy, statistical mechanics, cosmological problems, the problems of memory, the possibility of multiple time direction.
PHIL GU4740 Islamic Philosophy. 3 points.
A study of what it meant for the Muslim world to open up itself to Greek philosophy and to create the tradition of philosophical thinking known as Falsafa (from the Greek philosophia). The relation between theology (kalam) and philosophy, as well works of major authors of the classical period (9th to the late 12th century), will be studied.
PHIL GU4763 Feminist, Social and Political Philosophy of Language. 3.00 points.
This course explores different ways in which social and political settings affect our language – what we can do with our words and what our words mean – as well as ways in which our language affects our social and political setting – the effects of people saying things, or saying things using certain words, or words with specific meanings. Topics and texts may vary with instructor and semester
PHIL GU4810 Lattices and Boolean Algebras. 3 points.
Prerequisites: PHIL UN3411 or 4801
This course is designed as an introduction to lattices and Boolean algebras. In the first part of the course, we study partial orders and view lattices both as partial orders and as algebraic structures. We study some basic constructions involving sublattices, products of lattices, and homomorphic images of lattices. In the second part of the course, we study Boolean algebras, with an aim to proving several representation theorems: first, a representation theorem for finite Boolean algebras, and toward the end of the course, the famous Stone Representation Theorem. We end the course with a look at the connection between classical mereology (or the theory of parthood) and complete Boolean algebras.
PHIL GU4900 Topics in Early Modern Philosophy. 3 points.
Open to undergraduates with previous work in the history of philosophy and to graduate students. Focuses either on an important topic in the history of early modern philosophy (e.g., skepticism, causation, mind, body) or on the philosophy of a major figure in the period (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Gassendi, Conway).
PHIL GU4910 Topics in Metaphysics. 3 points.
Not offered during 2022-23 academic year.
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