Summer courses do not have prerequisites.
FIRST SUMMER SESSION (5/22-7/5)
PHIL-UA 5; Minds and Machines; M/T/W/TH 11:30AM-1:05PM; Stephan Pohl
This course will be an introduction to some central issues in philosophy with a focus on the relation between minds and machines. We will consider philosophical debates about the nature of minds: What does it take to represent the external world, to be intelligent, or to be creative? We will consider the relation between minds and biological machines, asking such questions as: Is the mind something non-physical? If it is physical, is it anything over and above the brain? And we will look at contemporary AI systems, pursuing questions like: Do chat bots have minds? How can we ensure that AI systems make morally good decisions? We will read some classic work from the history of philosophy and contemporary work, responding, for instance, to recent developments in AI research.
PHIL-UA 76; Epistemology; M/T/W/TH 9:30AM-11:05AM; Tez Clark
Epistemology is often glossed as the “theory of knowledge.” This course explores central questions in this area, including: Are our beliefs about the external world justified? What is knowledge? What is the structure of epistemic justification?
This course will also explore topics that call into question the above knowledge-focused gloss of epistemology. We will explore the various things philosophers have meant by “coherence” and “rationality,” and the relationship between these issues and the so-called “central” topics of evidence, knowledge, and epistemic justification. We will also consider meta-epistemic questions, such as the function of our epistemic norms and evaluations, and the point of first-order epistemic theorizing.
PHIL-UA 85; Philosophy of Language; M/T/W/TH 6:00PM-7:35PM; Clifford Carr
This course provides an introduction to twentieth century philosophy of language, focusing primarily on the analytic tradition and on the question of how our capacity for language is even possible. Our apparent ability to represent reality - and to communicate about it with one another - is, in many ways, astonishing. What conclusions should we draw about the nature of the relationship in which we stand towards the world and towards other people? Readings will be drawn from the work of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin, Kripke, Putnam, Grice, Lewis, Davidson, and Derrida - among others.
PHIL-UA 90; Philosophy of Science; M/T/W/TH 3:30PM-5:05PM; Jens Jaeger
This course examines philosophical issues about the natural sciences. Questions include: What is the scientific method? How does science differ from pseudoscience? How are scientific theories confirmed? In the course's second half, we'll also delve into the philosophy of key scientific concepts: What are laws of nature? What is causation? What are chances? No prior familiarity with particular sciences is assumed.
PHIL-UA 96; Philosophy of Religion; M/T/W/TH 1:30PM-3:05PM; Will Nava
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism
We will approach the philosophy of religion by focusing on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism. The course will be oriented around the three religions’ different answers to questions like: What is the fundamental nature of reality and of the self? How do we gain epistemic access to this nature? How is the good life related to the nature of reality? We will also consider what makes these traditions religions (as distinct from philosophical systems), and the extent to which (some of) their commitments are ineffable.
SECOND SUMMER SESSION (7/6-8/16)
PHIL-UA 7; Consciousness; M/T/W/TH 6:00PM-7:35PM; Ali Rezaei
The warmth of the sun in the morning, the sour taste of an orange, and the feeling of sadness are quite different experiences. But they all have something in common: it feels like something to undergo them; they all seem to have first-person, subjective aspects. It is these aspects, taken collectively, that constitute our consciousness of the world.
This course investigates consciousness from a philosophical standpoint. We will ask: what is the nature of consciousness? Is it just a material phenomenon or does it somehow resist materialism? What does science tell us about consciousness and how are we making scientific progress in understanding it? Are other animals also conscious? And if so, how does their consciousness compare to ours?
PHIL-UA 21; Early Modern European Philosophy; M/T/W/TH 3:30PM-5:05PM; Carl Christian Abrahamsen
This course is an introduction to European philosophy during the early modern period: roughly, 1600 to 1800. During these 200 years, Europe experienced a series of immense social, religious, and scientific upheavals, including the development of modern natural science, the challenging of the traditional authorities of church and crown, and the birth of colonialism and the world market. These upheavals also extended to the realm of thought, leading philosophers to revise or outright reject traditional ways of understanding both ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, the early modern period is often seen as the beginning of a distinctly modern worldview, radically different from what came before it.
We will closely read some of the canonical texts from this period, including works by figures like René Descartes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. We will also be interested in recent attempts to recover and recenter the works of women philosophers during the period; possible figures include Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Mary Astell. Key themes will include skepticism and the foundation of knowledge, the relationship between our mind and the external world, the nature of reality and the existence of God, the place of human freedom in the world, and the value of culture and society.
PHIL-UA 22; Plato; M/T/W/TH 9:30AM-11:05AM; Ariel Melamedoff
A close reading of Plato’s Republic
How can we create a more just society? Any attempt seems to run into the problem of systemic injustice: all societies have unjust elements built into their basic institutions that create opportunities for the already-powerful to benefit. A natural response is to ask how a just society could be built from the ground up, so that every institution is designed to promote justice. This is the central topic of Plato’s greatest work, The Republic: what would genuine systemic justice require?
Plato’s Republic is the first piece of systematic philosophy in the Western tradition. Socrates, the protagonist, leads his interlocutors through a lengthy answer to the question: what is justice? It becomes clear that this question cannot be answered without touching on a variety of other topics in philosophy. To figure out what justice is, whether it is worth seeking, and how it can be achieved, we must delve into the topics of human psychology, education, art, governance, reality, knowledge, and political revolution.
In this class we will read The Republic from beginning to end, attempting to piece together the many moving parts of Plato’s theory of justice. Along the way we will not only seek to understand Plato’s proposals and arguments, but also to evaluate them. The class will have a large discussion component in which we will try to figure out what we can learn from Plato’s radical political vision, and how it can challenge our assumptions of what justice requires.
PHIL-UA 32; Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy; M/T/W/TH 11:30AM-1:05PM; Alan Barat
This class will focus on Hegel and Nietzsche’s metaphysics, with special attention to the themes of unity and plurality, and inclusion and exclusion. There will be a secondary focus on their ethics. We will also read some Kierkegaard in between.
PHIL-UA 40; Ethics; M/T/W/TH 6:00PM-7:35PM; Sophie Cote
This course examines the fundamental question of moral philosophy: What are the moral values, if any, by which we should judge our actions, ourselves, and our lives? The first part of the course will consist of a historical survey of three influential answers to this question: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (340 BCE), Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Mill's Utilitarianism (1863). The second part of the course will look at the practice of ethics, or how we do and talk about ethics with others. Topics will include blame, hypocrisy, and anger.
PHIL-UA 41; Nature of Values; M/T/W/TH 1:30PM-3:05PM; Justin Zacek
This class will be organized around contemporary moral realism. In addition to standard analytic metaethical questions about moral epistemology and metaphysics, we will think about modernity and postmodernity, and how (or whether) contemporary moral realism relates to the (broadly value-antirealist and relativist) intellectual currents familiar from 20th century culture and humanities. Much of the reading, and all of the writing, will be analytic or analytic-adjacent, but we will also look at classic work on modernity, and other bits from the "continental"/capital-T Theory canon. The class will begin with a crash course in analytic metaphysics and epistemology, and we will have an eye throughout on what analytic philosophy even is and how it fits into recent intellectual history, so the course is meant to be of general interest. (We will survey a lot of material but required reading and workload will be standard. Writing assignments will be structured and concrete, focusing on particular texts and arguments.)
PHIL-UA 85; Philosophy of Language; M/T/W/TH 3:30PM-5:05PM; Richard Roth
Learning to read an analog clock is hard for children, although analog clocks represent only a very limited range of meanings about the time. Natural languages like English represent an infinitely wider range of meanings, and yet all of us have learnt our native languages with ease.
In this course, we will explore a range of questions related to these remarkable abilities, such as: What is linguistic meaning, and how is it possible for a sentence or word to mean something? How do we refer to particular individuals, or quantify over all individuals? How can we represent what was, will be, or might have been? How do we follow, and exploit, the rules of conversation to use language to express non-literal contents?