- Graduate Program
This graduate seminar will cover topics in the metaphysics and epistemology of science-the subject matter, aims, and methods of science. The topics we engage with may include: Essentialism and natural kinds; Natural kinds and universals; Laws of nature, dispositions, and powers; The aim of science and scientific progress; The pessimistic meta-induction; Scientific evidence; The metaphysics of group knowledge; Inference to the best/only explanation; Kuhnian psychology of discovery; Justification and confirmation. A guiding theme will be the interrogation (and rejection?) of empiricism.
Deliberative Democracy - Jim Bohman
Debates about deliberative democracy have dominated democratic theory now for a decade or more. According to its proponents, deliberative democracy refers to any number of views that see legitimate political decision and law making as issuing from the public deliberation of citizens. As a normative theory, deliberative democracy raises many philosophical issues such self-governance, participatory politics, and rational legislation. This idea also has raised a number of questions: What is deliberation? Is it guided by what Kant called "public reason"? How do people deliberate in culturally and religiously diverse societies? As these debates have taken shape, a number of different positions have emerged, constituting a kind of second wave of philosophical reflection on deliberation. After looking at some of the important initial statements of the theory, we will look at the major new works by deliberative democrats and their critics. Our focus will be on the ways in which the recognition of the fact of pluralism provided the basis for reshaping the main debates about deliberative democracy. More recently, deliberative democrats have begun to focus on non-state polities as fruitful locations for deliberation.
Plato's Epistemology - Scott Berman
Plato's best known theory of knowledge, his Theory of Recollection, is endorsed by no contemporary epistemologists, who reject it summarily. I shall argue that (1) Plato is in fact the first philosopher to show what is wrong with the theory and that (2) the reason Plato gives applies equally well to many contemporary epistemological theories. I shall also argue that in Plato's late-period dialogues he replaced the Theory of Recollection with a better explanation of knowledge. In this seminar, then, we shall examine these theories and their concomitant metaphysical underpinnings as we engage critically with Plato's epistemological theories in his middle- and late-period dialogues.
Social Epistemology - John Greco
The seminar will introduce the varied and burgeoning field of social epistemology, and give extended treatment to some topics therein. Social epistemology is a fairly new subfield within epistemology, at least as it is conceived and practiced today. That subfield has been heavily influenced by Alvin Goldman, and in particular his Knowledge in a Social World (Oxford, 1999). The seminar will give attention to Goldman's seminal work, and will take advantage of Goldman's visit to the graduate student conference, Alvin Goldman and Social Epistemology.
A second focus of the seminar will be the intersection of social epistemology and virtue epistemology. A virtue-theoretic approach in epistemology is often touted as emphasizing the social dimensions of knowledge and inquiry (e.g., Zagzebski 1996). However, some recent critiques of that approach charge specifically that virtue epistemology cannot accommodate the social dimensions of knowledge. Aspects of this issue will be explored in depth, and will include attention to two recent issues in social epistemology and epistemology more generally: the epistemology of testimony, and the intimate relations between knowledge and action.
The seminar ends by looking at social dimensions of knowledge in two special domains: science and religion.
Macintyre - Gregory Beabout
This seminar aims to provide a detailed, rigorous introduction to the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre through a study of works from his entire career. With the aim of undertaking a large-scale philosophical engagement with MacIntyre's writing, the seminar will follow a flashback narrative structure: after glimpsing MacIntyre's recent work, we will trace the unfolding story of MacIntyre's career as a publishing philosopher, focusing especially on his inquiries into and contribution to moral philosophy and epistemology during two periods: 1) the 1980s, especially the three books for which he is best known: After Virtue, Whose Justice, and Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry, and 2) the last two decades, in which several issues and inquiries have emerged as central to MacIntyre's writing, especially his effort to re-conceive the practice of philosophy and its proper tasks. This seminar aims at two kinds of work: interpretation and inquiry. The course will consist in both a deep reading of key books and articles from MacIntyre's writing along with the activity of entering into the philosophical questions and disputes that have commanded MacInytre's focus. The inquiries into fundamental questions concerning goodness and truth about which MacIntyre writes have a robust life quite independent of his work, so a study of MacIntyre involves not only the work of understanding and interpreting his writings, but also a deepening of one's own participation in philosophical activity and the conversations to which MacIntyre has been a contributor.
The course will be an investigation into the metaphysics and epistemologies of Hume and Reid. The investigation will be critical, with an attempt to show relevance to contemporary debates. Issues will include: the nature of ideas and mind; theories of perception; the nature of justified belief and knowledge; causation and induction; realism and anti-realism; the nature of the self; the nature of empirical objects; the rationality of religious belief; the nature and extent of human freedom; the relationship between philosophy and common sense. Special attention will be paid to Hume's skepticism and anti-realism and Reid's criticisms of these.
We begin with some challenges to the idea that successful scientific theories tell us something about the way the world works with regard to things that are unobservable by us. The first challenge comes from the history of science: even very successful theories have, in the past, been overthrown for theories that do not merely improve upon the precision of the predecessor, but that call for a reconceptualization of the domain even in which the preceding theory was successful. Might not similar fates await the successful theories of today? The second challenge comes from an empiricism-inspired response to the underdetermination problem: If it is true that for any given body of data, multiple theories can fit those data, then it seems that deciding among this multiplicity of theories must be based not on empirical considerations, but on "pragmatic" criteria of usefulness, computational tractability, aesthetic appeals to simplicity, and the like.
We will consider several strategies by which realists have sought to respond to these challenges, including "traditional" scientific realism, entity realism, experimental arguments for realism, and structural realism (in both its epistemic and ontic formulations).
These issues are important not only for philosophers of science but also for philosophy more generally. For epistemologists, these issues raise significant questions about what we can consider ourselves to know, including some important general propositions that arguably underlie many other inferential beliefs. For metaphysicians these debates are important for gaining clarity on sometimes-neglected questions about the relevance of scientific theorizing for metaphysics. Most metaphysicians, for example, would agree that a good metaphysical theory should at a minimum be consistent with what we know about physics. But what do we know about physics, or any other science? That question is at the heart of the debate over scientific realism.
Aquinas on the Seven Capital Vices:
We will focus on Aquinas's discussion of the so-called seven capital vices. To prepare for this discussion, we will examine the capital vice tradition within which Aquinas developed his theory as well as his understanding of action and wrongdoing in general. We will read both primary and secondary literature in this course. The secondary literature will include both commentaries on Aquinas's views and general discussion on the particular vices we will study. This course presupposes general preparation in philosophy sufficient for successful graduate work in philosophy. It does not presuppose any background or expertise in the thought of Thomas Aquinas or in medieval philosophy in general, although such a background is obviously useful and welcome.
This course surveys recent work on well-being, with a focus on "eudaimonistic" approaches to well-being (or: welfare, or flourishing). By this I mean theories that identify well-being with the fulfillment of an individual's nature: nature-fulfillment or self-fulfillment. Aristotle's account is a paradigm of such a view, and all ancient eudaimonists arguably endorsed ideals of nature-fulfillment. But other variants of the approach appear in many modern works, including writings by Mill, Maslow and other humanistic
psychologists, and existentialist thinkers, among others. A central concern will be to assess the most plausible eudaimonistic alternative(s) to broadly Aristotelian approaches: how do they differ, and what are the main fault lines of debate? One question, for instance, concerns the role of virtue in well-being. Another is whether well-being depends entirely on the particulars of the individual's makeup, or is otherwise grounded, for instance depending on the fulfillment of species norms.
This course will investigate issues around skepticism, using the Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. The Handbook divides into three parts: Varieties of Skepticism and Skeptical Arguments, Responses to Skepticism, and Contemporary Issues. We will look at chapters from each of these, together with additional materials. A major theme of the seminar will be that there are no easy or obvious responses to a number of historically important skeptical arguments. On the contrary, an adequate response to skeptical arguments requires substantive positions in philosophy in general and epistemology in particular. We see as much in the history of philosophy, where some philosophers are driven to endorse anti-realism in ontology (Berkeley, Kant), or to reconceive the nature and purpose of philosophical inquiry (Austin, Wittgenstein), while others have been inspired to adopt controversial positions in epistemology (Reid, Moore, contemporary externalists), philosophy of mind (McDowell), and philosophy of language (contemporary contextualists). A second theme of the course is that common arguments for skepticism regarding moral and religious belief prove too much-if those arguments were sound, they would show that we can't know other minds or the empirical world. In a similar fashion, some of the anti-skeptical strategies for empirical knowledge suggest promising avenues for the epistemology of moral and religious belief as well.Metaphysics of Mind:
This seminar canvasses a handful of topics in medieval metaphysics and philosophy of mind-focusing in particular on the contrasting positions of Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. The aim of this course is to provide students with a general appreciation for the very different ways in which these two philosophers (i) develop the hylomorphic framework they inherit from Aristotle, (ii) apply this framework in their analyses of the human soul, and (iii) understand and analyze essential elements of human thought. The course divides into three units. In the first, we'll examine Aquinas and Ockham's understanding of the basic ingredients of hylomorphism-namely, matter, form, and substance. In the second, we turn to their views regarding the metaphysics of human persons, with special attention to their respective account of the soul. In the third and final unit, we consider their analyses of cognition, intentionality, and consciousness.
Science, Values, and Policy - PHIL 655-01 Fall 2013
Instructors: Kent Staley, William Rehg SJ
This course will examine the nature of science as objective public knowledge and the role of different kinds of values in the pursuit and content of such knowledge. We focus in particular on the role of values in three dimensions of contemporary science: the content of good science, the structure of robust scientific institutions, and the relation between science and policy. Examples will be drawn primarily from biomedical science, climate science, and physics. The specific issues we will discuss-inter alia, the nature of inductive risk, the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic values, forms of objectivity and bias, expertise, and deliberative policymaking-are relevant for a number of philosophical endeavors: not only for the philosophy of science and science and technology studies (STS), but also for epistemology, social-political philosophy, and argumentation theory.
Note that this course does not presuppose technical background in science.