Graduate Course Descriptions
The following is a sample of the graduate classes offered in recent years. All courses are 3 credits unless noted otherwise.
PHIL 500. Plato’s Later Dialogues
Plato’s dialogues usually considered “late” are the Sophist, Statesman, Timaeus, Critias, Philebus, and Laws. This course will offer a close examination of some of these dialogues, It will be considered how these dialogues fit with the other dialogues of Plato.
PHIL 501. Plato’s Early Dialogues
Though titled “Early Dialogues,” this course gives sufficiently close readings to the “Socratic Dialogues” that they seem neither early nor distinguishable from later dialogues in any clear way.
PHIL 502. Philosophy of Music
This course focuses primarily upon the music of Debussy, examining Debussy’s revolutionary developments in harmony, orchestration, and (especially) form. In-class lectures and discussions will investigate the ways that Debussy’s music relates to artistic works of his contemporaries, particularly Monet, Cézanne, Mallarmé, and Proust. Readings and papers will center upon the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose “Eye and Mind,” “Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence,” and The Visible and the Invisible will be used to engage these artistic works.
PHIL 503. Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy
This course provides a close reading of the Physics and other works following it. Aristotle’s most basic notions pertaining to the realm of natural beings are traced, such as change, place, time, and causes of motion.
PHIL 504. Plato’s Republic
This dialogue is central in Plato’s corpus and touches on most of his themes. The course gives a close reading to the dialogue, tracing its account of justice in connection with the soul and the city.
PHIL 505. Freud and Psychoanalysis
The first half of this course surveys the major writings of Freud, critically examining his technique of psychoanalysis as well as his theories of human cognition, affection, and motivation. What, if anything, is a good life according to Freud? The second half of this course surveys recent psychoanalytic contributions, considering the ways in which practitioners since Freud have deepened their understanding of both these topics and their own technique. Is psychoanalysis an ethics?
PHIL 506. Aristotle: Politics
The course considers how this complex treatment of political topics pertains to antiquity and the present.
PHIL 507. Aristotle: Metaphysics
An investigation into the science of being as being. How there can be such a science, what its subject matter is, and what Aristotle discloses about it are the main issues of this course.
PHIL 509. Aristotle: Organon
A close reading of Aristotle’s works on logic.
PHIL 510. Plato’s Middle Dialogues
An examination of Plato’s Meno, Phaedo, Phaedrus, and Cratylus. The aim of the middle dialogues is the central question of this course.
PHIL 511. Aristotle’e Nicomachean Ethics
How can there be a practical science? What is its connection with theoretical science? Is eudaemonism a plausible approach to moral reflection?
PHIL 512. Aristotle’s Physics
The Physics is arguably the central world of the Aristotelian corpus. The course explores the central issues in this work.
PHIL 513. Hegel/Nietzsche/Freud
There is a brief section in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, which is devoted to the evolution of self-consciousness, the striving for interpersonal recognition, and the vicissitudes of labor. Special attention will be given to the concepts of ressentiment (Nietzsche), recognition (Kojeve), justice (Marx/Freud/Derrida/Lyotard), repression (Freud), to the role that work plays in mediating identity-formation, and to expression of instinctual tendencies. Since we cannot canvass this field in its entirety, we will carefully examine some of the basic themes and thinkers involved. We will also explore segments of three art films (by Arnold, Bunuel and Fassbinder) related to our theme. Students are invited to explore and explain the contributions of theorists who have closely related concerns who may not be covered in lectures or required readings.
PHIL 514. Plato’s Sophist & Statesman
A close examination of the Sophist, focusing on the connection of sophistry with being and non-being.
PHIL 515. Plotinus
This course surveys most of the Enneads. In its first half it covers the metaphysical system of Plotinus’s Platonism. Beginning with Nature and Soul — with the problems of knowledge, being, and desire that these raise — it rises to the Intellect and One, before returning downwards in imitation of the cosmic creation he describes. The second half of the course examines special topics in the light of this system: time and eternity, fate and freedom, good and evil, beauty and virtue, selfhood.
PHIL 516. Aristotle’s Politics & Rhetoric
This course deals with Aristotle’s key work on politics and his treatment of rhetoric. These two works remain treatments of their fields that challenge our current understanding. The Politics belongs with the ethics, but the Rhetoric enters into many of the important themes of ethics and politics.
PHIL 518. Kierkegaard’s Critique of Hegel
This course on Kierkegaard’s existentialism studies writings from his various periods, with special attention to the Concluding Unscientific Postscript in relation to Hegel’s Science of Logic. It criticizes claims some make that Hegel’s philosophy is indifferent to human existential concerns and Kierkegaard’s position is entirely anti-Hegelian. On the contrary, we will see that some elements of Kiekegaard’s critique of Hegel are derived from the Science of Logic. Other philosophers in addition to Hegel enter the dialogue with Kierkegaard. The course compares his analysis of the public in The Present Age with Marx’s Private Property and Communism and examines his arguments about God in relation to Kant’s critical philosophy.
PHIL 520. The Philosophy of St. Augustine
The early dialogues and the Confessions will be highlighted. Topics include Augustine’s views on skepticism, truth, wisdom, free will, the existence of God, faith/reason, the soul, immortality, memory, time, libido, and knowledge of self, and Augustine’s impact on subsequent philosophy/psychology of the subject.
PHIL 521. St. Thomas Aquinas — God and Being
This course is an introduction to Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical theology through a close reading of his Summa contra gentiles — not the whole text, which would take many semesters, but as much as we can read with care. We will give special attention to the historical context of the work so as to shed light on the much discussed question of Thomas’ intention in writing it, and also to the role he assigns the philosophy of nature.
PHIL 522. Aquinas: Treatise on Man
This course will emphasize Aquinas’ psychology, epistemology, and theory of appetition — love, will, affectivity, emotion. Specific questions will treat the body/soul relationship, immortality/ mortality, external/internal sensation, intellectual cognition, the will, choice, emotion, the various types of love, and conscience. Original texts are the main focus.
PHIL 523. The Names of God
Aristotle tells us that we name things as we know them, and that our knowledge begins with the senses. If so, can the language we fashion apply to God? How? After a glance at antiquity, we will discuss various medieval responses to these questions, giving special attention to Pseudo-Dionysius, Eriugena, Anselm, Maimonides, and Aquinas.
PHIL 526. Phenomenology and Epistemology
This course considers the epistemological aspect of phenomenology. It ranges widely over a series of thinkers including Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty.
PHIL 527. St. Thomas Aquinas — The Soul
This course is an introduction to Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical psychology through a close reading of the Treatise on Man in his Summa theologiae, complemented by excerpts from his commentary on Aristotle’s On the Soul. Along the way, we will consider his theory of knowledge and the views of his near contemporaries, with whom he is in dialogue.
PHIL 528. Early Greek Philosophy
This course surveys Greek philosophy from its beginning through to Socrates, with discussion of the following figures in between: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, ‘Pythagaoras,’ Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Zeno, Melissus, Democritus, and Diogenes of Apollonia. Other Greek authors will be read as background or as philosophers in their own right: Hippocrates, Sophocles, and Thucydides.
PHIL 529. Spinoza — Ethics
This course will be devoted to a close reading of Baruch Spinoza's masterwork, the Ethics.
PHIL 530. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason
This course will be devoted to a close reading of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.
PHIL 531. Heidegger’s Contribution to Philosophy
Written between 1936 and 1938, published in German in 1989, Martin Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy is one of the most innovative and original texts in twentieth century Continental thought. Many Heidegger scholars now consider this to be his major text. We will highlight the renowned turn (Kehre) from the standpoint of Heidegger’s unique readings of Holderlin, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.
PHIL 532. Kant’s Critique of Judgment
This seminar will focus on Kant’s endeavor to ground a distinctly aesthetic judgment. We will read this classic text on modern aesthetics with regard to Kant’s aesthetic and teleologic way of presenting the question of nature.
PHIL 533. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Hegel’s Phenomenology is perhaps the single most important philosophical treatise of the nineteenth century. This difficult book amply repays close study. The aim of the course is to read as much of it, with as much care, as possible. There will be frequent reference to the surrounding German philosophical tradition, as well as discussion of Hegel’s influence and the viability of Hegel’s views.
PHIL 534. Hegel and Shakespeare
What is moral imagination? How can Hegel and Shakespeare help us to understand it? This course concerns shapes of self-consciousness in the tricky interface between reality and drama. Shakespeare’s plots and characters will be used to shed light on Hegelian dialectic, and Hegel’s Aesthetics and Phenomenology of Spirit to shed light on Shakespeare’s dramas. Our focus will be on moral imagination and on how interpretations of drama and history constrain it. The students of this course will be asked to investigate shapes of self-consciousness discussed by Hegel in the Phenomenology and the Aesthetics in relation to Shakespearean characters, as well as to develop theories about the nature of moral imagination.
PHIL 535. Postmodern Readings of Early Modernity
This course focuses on examples of the roles that confrontations with texts from the history of early modern philosophy and literature have played in the formulation of key theoretical orientations in postmodern thought and its foundations in 20th century continental philosophy. Texts pairings may include Heidegger/Leibniz, Benjamin/Lohenstein, DeMan/Pascal, Derrida/Rousseau, Negri/Spinoza, Deleuze/Hume, Foucault/Arnauld, and others.
PHIL 536. History and Philosophy of Science
This course examines conceptual, historiographical, and methodological issues in the history and philosophy of science. It may be structured as a general survey of major theoretical positions, as an investigation of specific philosophical problems, or as an inquiry into the connections between philosophy and science in a particular era.
PHIL 537. German Idealism
German Idealism arguably belongs to one of the two richest periods in the philosophical tradition. The positions of the major German idealists arose through their interaction with one another. This course considers the relation of the positions of Kant, Fichte, possibly Schelling, and the early Hegel. Texts will include Kant’s Prolegomena, Fichte’s Science of Knowledge, possibly Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism, and Hegel’s Differenzschrift.
PHIL 538. Kant’s Moral Theory
This course will consist of a close reading of Kant’s major works on morality, especially the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Metaphysics of Morals. There will also be some discussion of the first Critique and Kant’s relationship to several selected twentieth-century philosophers. A few contemporary critics of Kant’s moral theory will be discussed.
PHIL 539. Kant/Hegel/Marx
This course discusses the complex relation between three of the most important thinkers of the modern tradition. It is argued that all three belong to the same intellectual tradition and that the relation is closer and also more complex than usually understood.
PHIL 541. Philosophy of the Body
In this course, we will examine philosophical approaches to the body through the perspectives of phenomenology, postmodernism, feminism, queer theory, and critical race theory.
PHIL 542. Foundations of Moral Philosophy
The main purpose of this course is to read and discuss classical texts in moral philosophy in order to articulate, understand, and criticize central ethical issues that form the theoretical background of many cases in applied contemporary ethics. There will be an overview of major ethical traditions with a concentration on the moral positions of Kant, utilitarian positions, and the ethics of care.
PHIL 543. Hegel’s Logic
Hegel’s 1812 Science of Logic is one of the most important works in the history of philosophy and one of the greatest books ever written. It is also one of the most difficult. In this ontology, Hegel shows the dialectically necessary development of every moment of Being, from its most abstract conceptualization (Pure Being) to its most determinate concretion. At the heart of this movement is the Notion (der Begriff — also translated as the Concept). Among the many, many concepts we will be discussing as we read through this book are the dialectical unities of: being and nothing; unity and multiplicity; finite and infinite; identity and difference; thought and being; existence and essence; substance and subject. This semester, we will read the Prefaces and Introduction, The Doctrine of Being and the Doctrine of Essence (pp. 25–571). Seminar; offered irregularly.
PHIL 544. Nietzsche Philosophy — Genealogy
This course explores whether Nietzsche’s reflections on the relation between truth, art, and spirit are merely repetitions of a metaphysical system.
PHIL 546. Husserl’s Ideas
Study and discussion of Husserl’s Cartesian introduction to transcendental phenomenology, emphasizing: the character and method of phenomenology as an eidetic discipline; the nature of the epoche and reduction as methods of access to pure consciousness; the distinctive style of noetic-noematic intentional analysis; the function of transcendental constitution in the critique of theoretical reason.
PHIL 547. Husserl’s Ideas II
Study and discussion of some major details involved in the step-by-step phenomenological constitution of regional ontologies underlying the natural and human sciences, as well as their complex interrelationships: regions, material nature, psychic reality, individual and communal personal life, with special emphasis on the role of the body throughout.
PHIL 548. Descartes and Cartesianism
This graduate course explores a wide array of texts by René Descartes, with a focus on the development of Cartesianism as a response to late scholasticism, the rise of neo-Epicureanism, the development experimental and “corpuscular” philosophy, etc.
PHIL 549. African American Philosophy
African-American Philosophy explores the unique philosophical questions and problems that arise out of the African-American life-world. We explore such issues as Black identity formation, questions of standpoint epistemology, the meaning of Blackness as a racial marker, questions of social ontology, the relationship between race and the meaning of philosophy, the meaning of Black philosophy vis-à-vis “white philosophy,” questions of justice, aesthetics, and theology within the context of North American racism.
PHIL 550. Islamic Philosophy
An introduction to major philosophers from the classical period of Islamic thought. Among the thinkers whose works we will sample are Alkindi, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Algazel, and Averroes. We will give special attention, as did they, to the relation between philosophy and prophecy and that between philosophy and theology, to divine and natural causality, and to the nature and destiny of the soul.
PHIL 552. Rethinking Place
This course will examine the history of the philosophy of place, as well as current philosophers who make place one of their central concerns. We will pay special attention to the work of Martin Heidegger, Edward Casey, and Henri Lefebvre.
PHIL 553. Husserl: Inner Time Consciousness
“Time is motionless and yet it flows.” –Husserl. This course This course examines Husserl’s analysis of time-consciousness as a way or presenting the central problem on intentionality. The disclosure of the problem is through phenomenological reflection upon the way temporal objects are constituted through achievements of the essential modes of time-consciousness: perception, imagination and memory (retention and recollection).
PHIL 554. Plato’s Timaeus and Philebus
This course examines the metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology of two of Plato’s so-called ‘late period’ dialogues. This course focuses on the nature of reality, belief, and error; the differences among types of knowledge; cosmology and divine craftsmanship; and the role of physiology in the human good.
PHL 555. Hermeneutics
This seminar examines the philosophy of interpretation in twentieth century continental philosophy through an engagement with the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur.
PHIL 556. Foucault
In the style of such academics as Noam Chomsky and Edward Said, Michel Foucault is also a political activist (hence an intellectual in perhaps the most honorable sense of the word). Yet his many critics claim that Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical enterprises — his genealogies of how human beings constitute themselves as subjects — imply that we have no rational and subject-centered basis for political or ethical commitment (for liberation, emancipation, revolution or even reform in any significant sense of the term). The major aim of the course will be to evaluate this claim in light of our understanding of Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical methods and their application to specific domains.
PHIL 558. Plato’s Phaedo
This textual study of the Phaedo investigates the theory of the soul in relation to the Republic and with reference to other pertinent dialogues, such as the Phaedrus and Timaeus. It also examines the Phaedo in the light of new interpretations that criticize body/soul dualism and propose neurobiological revaluations of Platonic psychology. Course topics include: the meaning of death, the question of immortality, the relation between the forms and the soul, courage, music, causality, and the nature of consciousness.
PHIL 559. Plato’s Timaeus and Cratylus
Plato’s Timaeus and Cratylus have been of great interest to contemporaries. The Timaeus seems extraordinarily to approach contemporary views of the universe both in content and as philosophy of science. The Cratylus deals with another contemporary theme, language and its origin.
PHIL 560. Introduction to Phenomenology
This course will begin by reading Edmund Husserl’s Crisis. Some themes to be developed will be: the sense of the crisis and the need for historical reflection, life-world, the status and significance of psychology in relation to transendental phenomenology. We will next read selections from the works of Heidegger. Representative examples of the readings would be: the Introduction to Being and Time, and On the Essence of Truth. We will seriously consider Heidegger’s claim that phenomenology is possible only as ontology and ontology only as phenomenology. Husserl asks: “Wie konnen wir jetzt wirklich zu Philosophen werden?”
PHIL 561. Early Modern Political Philosophy
This course investigates the development of political philosophy in the early modern era. It may be structured as a survey of major texts and thinkers or as a more specific investigation into a particular conceptual issue.
PHIL 562. Adorno
Theodor Adorno, a member of the Frankfurt school of critical theory, wrote voluminously on a number of topics, such as music, literature, history, morality, culture, and dialectics. This course provides a survey of his most important works, with particular emphasis on Dialectic of Enlightenment, Minimal Moralia, and Negative Dialectics. Some investigation of his writings on music will also be offered.
PHIL 563. Problems in Ethics
This course continues the argument Alasdair MacIntyre begins in After Virtue. Moral discourse requires a rootedness in beliefs reflecting continuity of debate at the personal as well as political level. Modern liberalism short circuits this dialectical connectedness through the creation of, and emphasis upon, what must be considered its central tenet: the individual qua individual as repository of rights must be protected as point of departure and ultimate end of moral inquiry.
PHIL 564. Kiekegaard
This focuses on Kierkegaard’s early writings (after his dissertation and prior to his lampooning in the “Corsair” in 1846). If time permits, we will include parts of his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, since that text marks his turning point from his early to late writing. Kierkegaard’s early writings are characterized by his use of pseudonyms. We’ll read chronologically (see reading list below). But the general topic of class discussions to be discussed are the following: 1) Kierkegard’s religious metaphysics: for example, in Fear and Trembling and in Philosophical Fragments, what does it mean to have faith “by virtue of the absurd?” What are the “occasion” of and “condition” for faith? Why, for Kierkegaard, is faith a paradox and an “affront” to reason? What role does history play for the Christian follower? 2) Kierkegaard’s methodology: in particular his ventues in imaginative experimenting as he questions, among other things, the nature of time, of love, and of devotion (for example, in the “The Seducer’s Diary” in Either/Or, and in Repetition); 3) Elements of Kiekegaard’s existential psychology (for example, the relationship between the concepts of sin and anxiety, in The Concept of Anxiety); 4) Kierkegaard’s implicit and explicit critiques, throughout these works, of Hegelian dialectic and of the “Hegelian System.”
PHIL 565. The Metaphysical Novel B
This course begins with Simone de Beauvoir’s view of the metaphysical novel in her essay, “Literature and Metaphysics.” For her, “Metaphysics is not primarily a system…” To do metaphysics is “to be metaphysical…” This means to face the world, to throw oneself into the totality of the world with the totality of one’s own being. Thus fiction can recreate the “adventure of the spirit” that is lived metaphysics. We will read novels such as Beauvoir’s “L’invité,” Nadine Gordimer’s “Burger’s Daughter” and Franz Kafka’s “The Castle” in the light of the metaphysical problems that they articulate, question, and discuss. We will read short selections by other philosophers, primarily on literature but also on metaphysics.
PHIL 566. Black Bodies / White Gazes
In this course, we will focus on what it means to be racially embodied, how this impacts body comportment, body integrity, body aesthetics, and how being-in the-world means something differently for those whose bodies are differently raced.
PHIL 568. History Matters: Renaissance and Modern Thought
This graduate course is an exploration of the history of the concept of matter (and concomitant doctrines of materialism) in the philosophy and literature of the Renaissance and the Early Modern period.
PHIL 569. Critical Race Theory
This course explores race through reading the works of critical race theorists who have deployed the methodology of critical narrative as a way of bringing attention to race realism and such resulting problems as racial inequality, racial power differentials, affirmative action, unconscious racism, the myth of meritocracy, etc.
PHIL 570. Special Topics
Topics vary. See the Philosophy Department website for specific offerings in any given semester. Recent special topics courses have included: Early Modern Women Philosophers; Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences; Anti-Philosophy; Rythmic Figures: Hölderlin & Heidegger; Deleuze on Cinema; Gadamer's Hermeneutics; etc.
PHIL 571. Ricœur’s Symbolism of Evil
This phenomenological study analyzes four ways of symbolizing evil and redemption: Babylonian, Greek Tragic, Biblical, and Orphic. It also examines rituals, myths, and theories that express this symbolism in religious experience, poetry, theology, and philosophy. The course asks if belief in the existence of God can be reconciled with the problem of evil. The professor interprets Ricoeur's project in relation to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment and Heidegger's Being and Time and focuses on the aesthetic dimension of the redemption of evil. Seminar; offered irregularly.
PHIL 572. Heidegger’s Being and Time
Heidegger’s Being and Time is one of the most influential philosophical books of this century. Students are required to study the primary text of assigned parts of the Introductions and selected sections from all chapters of Divisions One and Two. The course will emphasize Dasein’s fundamental characteristics, care and its relation to temporality, and anticipatory resoluteness. It will also examine Heidegger’s analysis of phenomena such as Dasein’s use of equipment, its relation to another Dasein, fear, anxiety, inauthenticity, and authenticity. Special attention will be given to the following chapters: ‘Care as the Being of Dasein,’ ‘Dasein’s Authentic Potentiality-For-Being-A-Whole,’ and ‘Temporality as the Ontological Meaning of Care.’
PHIL 574. Sartre
This course will focus on one of Sartre’s major works: either Being and Nothingness, or Critique of Dialectical Reason, or some other great work. Sartre is not only a phenomenologist and ontologist, but also an astute political philosopher with a unique method of investigating historical events, both past and present. This course will combine close reading of his texts with speculative phenomenological and social applications. Seminar; offered irregularly.
PHIL 575. The Later Heidegger
The seminar explores the relationship between philosophy, art, and poetry in Heidegger’s later writings. It will focus on Heidegger’s question: What task is reserved for thinking at the end of philosophy?
PHIL 576. Husserl
This course is a fairly comprehensive introduction to Husserl’s work as well as to phenomenology. We touch upon several of his more important texts, including Logical Investigations, Ideas, Crisis of European Sciences, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time and Cartesian Meditations. While analyzing the texts themselves, we focus also on the development of certain issues within Husserl’s phenomenology, such as temporality, corporeality, and inter-subjectivity, through the course of his work.
PHIL 577. Merleau-Ponty: Phenomenology of Perception
On the basis of a thorough examination of The Phenomenology of Perception and some of Merleau-Ponty’s other writings (including sections of The Visible and the Invisible), we shall evaluate Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the lived body and his treatment of the relation between language and perception. We shall also consider the relation between The Phenomenology of Perception and Merleau-Ponty’s later writings.
PHIL 578. Contemporary Neo-Pragmatism
In the wake of the development of classical pragmatism in the writings of Peirce, James, and Dewey, many critics have modified key pragmatic and pragmaticist insights. This course explores both the founding insights that pragmatism draws from German Idialism, particularly from Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger, and then the recent modifications of pragmatism found in the writing of Rorty, Davidson, Brandom, and Habermas. The basic supposition of the course is that neo-pragmatists reject theories that assume verification in terms of some empirical given or mere coherence of beliefs in favor of determination of meaning and truth relative to some kind of holistic structure, either objective or intersubjective in character. Such a holism can be expressed primarily in the framework of a practical theory of action. Specifically, we shall examine the problem of action explanation in Kant and Hegel, the impetus the Heidegger’s turn to an existential ontology gave to action theory, and then the attempts of recent thinkers to establish a theory of meaning, belief, and justification without “foundations”. What we will investigate are, in the main, truth theories that target assent (Davidson), consent (Habermas), cultural agreement or conversationalism (Rorty) and inhertibility/entitlement (Brandom).
PHIL 581. Lyotard: Philosophy of Our Time
Lyotard: Philosopher of our Time explores the state of aesthetics after Nietzsche, Heidegger and Derrida by questioning conventional dialectical attempts to understand society and culture. Simultaneously, this seminar introduces Lyotard’s thought as a post-aesthetic prelude to a philosophy of the future.
PHIL 586. Derrida
This course will explore Derrida’s relation to Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, and Heidegger. It will show that Derrida’s philosophy is a rigorous, radical transformation of the kind of phenomenology evidenced in modernity from Kant to Heidegger.
PHIL 588. Critical Whiteness Studies
This course explores what it means to be white, white privilege, white domination, white invisibility, and whiteness as normative. We explore the important works by critical whiteness theorists and how they have come to think about whiteness and how they have proposed ways of challenging its social, political, and epistemological hegemonic status.
PHIL 591. Levinas
A discussion of the major works and themes of this important twentieth-century philosopher.
PHIL 592. Simone de Beauvoir
This course discusses the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir by a careful analysis of selected essays, novels, and autobiographical accounts, e.g., The Ethics of Ambiguity, The Second Sex, L’Invitee, and The Mandarins, as well as current important scholarship related to Beauvoir.
PHIL 593. Marxism and Critical Theory
This course examines closely the writings of Karl Marx and the eventual reception of these texts by the Frankfurt School critical theorists. The course focuses both on the early writings of Marx, particularly the Manuscripts and the German Ideology, and also the later writings, particularly the Grundrisse and Capital. The critical theorists drew much inspiration from Marx, though they also forwarded significant criticisms of his work. Critical theorists that will be examined in the course include Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Habermas.
PHIL 594. Phenomenology of Race
In this course, we will examine the lived experience of race in relationship to key phenomenological concepts (embodiment, intersubjectivity, lived space, Erlebnis, etc.). Our objective is to work through what a phenomenology of race looks like by deploying important concepts from Fanon, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Sara Ahmed, et al.
PHIL 595. French Feminism
PHIL 596. Deleuze: A Thousand Plateaus
In 1970, Michel Foucault proclaimed, ‘perhaps one day this century will be known as Deleuzian.’ Through a close reading of A Thousand Plateaus: Vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, we will assess the adequacy of his forecast concerning the innovative philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and his co-author, Felix Guattari.
PHIL 597. Husserl and Descartes
This seminar will consist of a close reading of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations. The intention is to examine each philosopher’s text as it stands alone, i.e., in light of their own projects, as well as the effect of Descartes’ work on Husserl’s phenomenology.
PHIL 598. Deleuze: Anti-Oedipus
Michel Foucault proclaimed that, “perhaps one day this century will be known as Deleuzian.” Through a close reading of Anti-Oedipus: Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, we will assess the adequacy of his forecast concerning the innovative philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and his co-author, Felix Guattari.
PHIL 599. Nietzsche
This course examines the writings and key insights of the influential nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
PHIL 601. Hegel’s Idealism and Analytic Philosophy
Analytic philosophy, which began in England by refuting idealism in all its forms, is now in the process of making a selective turn toward Hegel. This seminar will consider issues concerning the analytic critique of idealism, the emergence of neo-analytic pragmatism, and the relation of the current nascent analytic turn toward Hegel.
PHIL 603. Heraclitus/Marcus/Nietzsche
Beginning with a detailed introduction to Heraclitus, this course shows how his thinking — especially about time and eternity, contradiction and conflict, unity and selfhood — emerges in the Roman Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, yet also the German philosopher Nietzsche who criticized the Stoics in no uncertain terms. Special attention will be given to the doctrine of the eternal return that is crucial to all three.
PHIL 604. Badiou’s Being and Event
Badiou is perhaps the most important French philosopher following the generation of Derrida and Deleuze. Being and Event is his most important book. Like other recent French philosophers, Badiou emphasizes multiplicity. Almost every page of this long, fascinating, and difficult book develops brilliant and original concepts of ontology and ethics. The core of his argument is that ‘events’ (whether they emerge from philosophy, politics, poetry, mathematics, or love) surpass ‘Being.’ Badiou is a political activist as well as a novelist, and he draws on political as well as aesthetic sources. Throughout, Badiou uses a unique approach to the logic of set theory to express his ontology. (Students do not need any background in mathematics to take this course, since Badiou’s book explains the basic ideas of set theory.) There are many controversial ideas in Badiou’s philosophy, and studying this book is essential for anyone who wants to know what is happening in Continental philosophy today.
PHIL 605. Leibniz
This course is an investigation into the philosophy of G.W. Leibniz, dealing with his account of individual substances, his metaphysics, and his epistemology.
PHIL 606. Augustine and Dionysius
We will read Augustine’s early dialogues and most of the Dionysian corpus to see how these two seminal figures for medieval Neoplatonism offered contrasting approaches to the self and its relation to the world.
PHIL 608. Confucianism: Philosophy of Change
The Confucian commentaries on the Book of Changes aim to impart knowledge of all possible states of affairs, and to establish the basic nature of change. We will study the commentary composed by the Song dynasty Confucian Cheng Yi, but we will also look at classical sources of the Confucian understanding of change, including the Daodejing and the work of Han Feizi. No background in Chinese philosophy needed.
PHIL 609. Special Topics
Topics vary. See the Philosophy Department website for specific offerings in any given semester. Recent special topics courses have included: Early Modern Women Philosophers; Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences; Anti-Philosophy; Rythmic Figures: Hölderlin & Heidegger; Deleuze on Cinema; Gadamer's Hermeneutics; etc.
PHIL 613. Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy
The issue of how to accommodate the seemingly conflicting notions of unity and diversity is a core problem in contemporary social and political thought. To approach it, this course critically examines the work of Rawls, Derrida, Butler, Agamben, Badiou, Rancière and other contemporary political philosophers.
PHIL 614. Idealism and German Idealism
Idealism is often criticized but rarely well understood. This course discusses the meaning of the term and then the complex relation among the main German idealists.
PHIL 615. Hegel's Philosophy of Nature
During his professorship at the University of Heidelberg (1816-1818), Hegel published his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. That systematic work consists of three parts: the Logic, the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit. Our seminar will be a close study of the second part of the Encyclopedia, using the Michael John Petry translation (Hegel's Philosophy of Nature). This seminar is timely given the recent surge in interest in this area of Hegelian thought and in its relation to current Continental and Environmental philosophy. In the Philosophy of Nature, Hegel traces the dialectic through Mechanics, Physics and Organics; among the many fascinating developments is Hegel's account of the transition from chemistry into organic life. We will briefly touch on the influences of Goethe and other 18th and 19th C. scientific thinkers on Hegel. Given the proclivities of the instructor, one can expect some discussion of Hegel's philosophy of nature in relation to his Science of Logic and to his Phenomenology of Spirit (though no reading or previous knowledge of these is required).
PHIL 616. Hegel's Absolutes
This course examines the ways Hegel defines the absolute, reading and discussing the culminating moments of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, Philosophy of Right, the encyclopedia Philosophy of Spirit, and Science of Logic. Questions for the course include: what is absolute knowing and how is it different from absolute spirit? Are art, religion and philosophy equivalent in value? What is the difference between the logical idea and the absolute in its other forms? What is the status of the state, for Hegel? What are the ramifications of these absolutes for the Hegelian person?
PHIL 617. Descartes / Spinoza / Leibniz
This seminar engages the tradition of Continental Rationalism, with specific attention to the writings of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Rather than narrowly focusing on their contributions to epistemology, the course connects seventeenth century theory of knowledge to metaphysics, ethical and political thought, and early modern science.
PHIL 618. Art and Truth
This seminar studies the post-Platonic Western aesthetic tradition centering on the theme of art and truth initially raised by Plato.
PHIL 619. Kierkegaard: The Later Works
This course focuses on a selection of Kierkegaard’s later writings. Topics of class discussions (and readings) are the following: 1) Kierkegaard as Philosopher contra Hegel: Johanned Climacus’ Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846) 2) Kierkegaard as Christian Thinker: his 1848–49 self-acclaimed “best” writing: Anti-Climacus’ Sickness Onto Death and Practice in Christianity 3) Kierkegaard as Author: the not-pseudonymous works “On my work as an Author,” “The Point of View for my Work as An Author, and “Armed Neutrality.”
PHIL 620. Longergan: Insight into Insight
In 1957 Bernard Lonergan published a little book called, Insight; A Study of Human Understanding. In it he transposes the metaphysical categories of Aristotle and Aquinas into the more accessible language of a psychology of understanding. He gives a detailed, critical, phenomenological description of the process of knowing from the first question, through thinking, understanding and arguing to the final conclusion in a judgment. It is a possible answer to the questions about knowing raised by Hume, Kant, Husserl and the Post-Modernists. The course will focus on selected readings from this text.
PHIL 621. Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics
This course surveys Hellenistic and Roman philosophy, focusing especially on the latter. The following authors will be read: Cicero, Lucretius, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Sextus Empiricus. Among dozens of questions raised by these authors to be discussed, the chief will be the therapeutic role of philosophy in a good life.
PHIL 622. The Body and the Non-Rational in Platonic Philosophy
This seminar is an examination of Plato’s treatment, in various works, of elements he tends to oppose to reason, such as the body and what has to do with the body, including appetite, non-rational desires (including and especially erotic desire), and non-intellectual pleasures. What is the nature of these elements? What, according to Plato, is their metaphysical and ethical status? We will also examine how Plato’s dichotomy between the rational and the non-rational bears on his notion of psychic health and on his ethics generally. We will consider whether it is fair to characterize Platonic ethics as an endeavor to purify oneself of all things unrelated to reason, and whether Plato holds that reason does and ought to exert strict control over the lower parts of the soul. Time permitting, we will look at how later thinkers, notably, the Neoplatonists Plotinus and Augustine, interpreted Plato’s thoughts on the body and the non-rational, and what they considered the aim of Platonic ethics to be.
PHIL 623. Husserl's Analyses of Passive Syntheses
This course will begin with an overview of the main tenets of Husserl's phenomenology, and then turn to a careful reading of his Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. While we will focus primarily on this one text, we will occasionally make comparisons to other texts written by Husserl, especially those written during the same time period.
PHIL 624. Medieval Women Philosophers
Unable to write in the style of scholars and priests, women in the Middle Ages produced a discourse that ran both side-by-side and counter to the mainstream of medieval philosophy. We will read some of the most influential of the protagonists in this alternative Middle Ages: Heloise of Argenteuil, Hildegard of Bingen, Herrad of Hohenburg, and Hadewijch of Antwerp.
PHIL 625. Hegel Goethe Hölderlin Translation
This course caters both to those with no German and those with German by using different techniques for evaluation and discussion in class, such as (for non-German readers) comparing different English translations of a poem by e.g., Goethe or a passage from Hegel, and discussing it alongside readings about what translation means and what issues arise when doing it (e.g., Gadamer's writing on translation in general, and Benjamin's, Hegel's, Derrida's and others' about translating German philosophy and literature), and, for students who know German, adding that they must provide their own translations from the German into English. This course is designed for those who enjoy the interface of literature and philosophy; it also provides important practice for students training to do advanced scholarship and translations in the 19th C. German Philosophical Tradition.
PHIL 626. Continental/Early Modern Texts
This course will investigate the ways early modern philosophical texts have been read, interpreted, and appropriated in contemporary continental philosophy. In each segment of the course, we will examine a more recent text together with the early modern material it engages. Texts and figures to be examined could include: Foucault's The Order of Things together with John Wilkins, Giovanni della Porta, Descartes, Bacon, Arnauld, Linneaus, and Buffon; Benjamin with Lohenstein and Opitz; Heidegger with Descartes and Leibniz; De Man with Pascal; Derrida with Rousseau; Deleuze with Spinoza and Hume; Althusser, Balibar, and Negri with Spinoza, etc.
PHIL 627. Epicurean Ethics
This course is a close examination of the ethical system of the world's most famous hedonist, Epicurus, who claimed that pleasure is the highest good and end. Course texts will include primary works by Epicurus and his followers, particularly the Letter to Menoeceus, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, various testimonia and fragments, as well as polemical works by Cicero, Plutarch, and others who sought to undermine Epicureanism by arguing that the highest good is not and should not be pleasure. Some attention will be paid to Epicurean physics insofar as it pertains to Epicurean ethics. Texts will also include secondary literature. Major questions to be considered include: What is Epicurus' definition of pleasure? How systematic is his ethics? What role do the virtues, external goods, and friends play in his hedonism? How reliable are polemical treatments of Epicurus' works? How practical is Epicureanism.
PHIL 628. Is God Illusion?: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard
This course engages Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals and Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, encouraging a dialogue between atheistic and theistic existentialism.
PHIL 629. Derrida
This is a course on Jacques Derrida’s theory of signifiers, concentrating on his great early works of the 1960’s. Derrida has had an enormous influence on the philosophy of language, on political philosophy, and on the interpretation of the history of metaphysics. The issues around signifiers are connected to Derrida’s other topics of writing, difference, presence, and deconstruction. His invention of ‘deconstruction’ has often been misunderstood, but it is extremely interesting, important, and useful for anyone interested in meaning. Derrida’s writing is difficult, and his ideas are highly controversial, but studying Derrida is essential for anyone who wants to understand and do philosophy in a contemporary way. We will study Derrida’s texts closely (sympathetically as well as critically), and consider his work in relation to linguistics and semiotics of the period. The most important thing that students will take from this course is a range of options for thinking about how ‘signifiers’ work. Required texts: Derrida, Of Grammatology; Derrida, Margins of Philosophy; Derrida, Speech and Phenomena.
PHIL 630. Literary and Philosophical Modernisms
This class will address the contested categories of ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ through the close reading of literary and theoretical texts. Taking a comparative perspective, the course will address the emergence of theme of modernity in the poetry of Baudelaire and Mallarmé, in the narrative fiction of Henry James and Virginia Woolf, and in the theoretical and critical writings of Benjamin and Adorno, Heidegger and Derrida, Auerbach and Fredrick Jameson.
PHIL 631. Aristotle: De Anima
This course traces Aristotle's account of the soul and its various capacities. The credibility of Aristotle’s ‘philosophy of the mind’ has been challenged. To what extent does he manage to develop viable positions?
PHIL 632. Romanticism in Philosophy and Literature
Romanticism remains a highly nebulous term in both philosophy and literary studies. In this course, we will explore why romanticism is still, nonetheless, a crucial point of reference for debates in the contemporary critical humanities. We will read key texts by the German romantic philosophers, in a bid to understand their still-surprising attempt to fuse aesthetics and politics. In our reading of the parallel tradition of British romantic poetry, we will assess the impact of the French revolution on prosody, and ask after the role of ideas of nature and the imagination during the full flowering of 19th Century industrial capitalism.
PHIL 633. Virtue Ethics
Virtue ethics takes as its foundation Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which emphasizes the role of character and excellence in our moral assessments. This course considers the directions in which contemporary virtue ethicists have taken Aristotle’s character-based ethics as they have attempted to situate his notions of virtue, character, and happiness in a contemporary context and thereby to create an alternative to non-character based ethical systems such as Kantianism and Utilitarianism. The course will focus on the following questions: On what do contemporary virtue ethicists base the virtues (e.g., on some notion of human well-being; on the care of others; on our intuitions)? Which virtues are interesting and important? Are some virtues gender-specific? Practice-specific? How grounded in Aristotelian moral theory is contemporary virtue ethics? What are the major contemporary critiques of virtue ethics? Readings include works by Aristotle, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Susan Wolf, G.E.M. Anscombe, Susan Okin, Philippa Foot, Thomas Nagel, and others.
PHIL 634. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Art, Religion, and Philosophy
This course treats Hegel’s 1830 accounts of objective and absolute Spirit in the Encyclopedia, which form the basis of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Philosophy of Art, and Philosophy of Religion
PHIL 638. Dionysius and His Interpreters
We will spend the term on a close reading of Dionysius the Areopagite’s On the Divine Names, one of the greatest works of Christian Neoplatonism, but we will not privilege the original Greek version of the text. The Latin Middle Ages built its own version, through multiple translations, scholia, and commentaries. We will look at how Eriugena, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Denys the Carthusian, and Marsilio Ficino constructed and reconstructed the text that they then read and revered.
PHIL 640. Queer Theory and Transgender Studies
Two major figures said to have launched the movement now called “queer theory” are Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. The course will begin with an examination of important selections of their works. We will then turn to subsequent key texts in queer theory and transgender studies, looking especially at the alliances and crucial differences between these two movements. Concepts such as sexuality, gender, embodiment, discourse, and institutionalized power regimes will be central to our discussions of the texts.
PHIL 641. Plato and Nietzsche
Each week juxtaposing a Platonic dialogue with excerpts from Nietzsche's books, this course examines and evaluates the obvious differences between them: on questions of metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, ethics, and aesthetics. But it also considers their remarkable similarities: their philosophical art, their aristocratic politics, and their salvific aspirations, among others. One central concern will be the relationship between love and time; another, the difference between reincarnation and eternal return.
PHIL 646. Hitchcock and Heidegger
Hitchcock and Heidegger will review philosophical thought from the standpoint of film as art. Within their own distinct medium, each one captures the intensities of time and expresses the anxiety and suspense of being-in-the-world. This course highlights Hitchcock as a very distinct thinker of the 20th century whose power of cinematic expression provides a check to thought while forging a cinematic work of art.
PHIL 647. Nietzsche on Culture, Music & Art
This course highlights Nietzsche’s view of culture from the perspectives of an aesthetic will to power rooted in a Dionysian affirmation of life. The lecture will give a comprehensive idea of Nietzsche’s thought and style. This will be done from the standpoint of contemporary Continental philosophy such as deconstruction, hermeneutics, and critical theory.
PHIL 648. Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) lived in catastrophic times, and wrote about them with precision. He followed the consequences of his thinking, even when this meant abandoning the pretension that thought is adequate to grasp reality without remainder. We will read a selection of Walter Benjamin’s Texts (in translation), focusing on his early aesthetics and criticism of art, his theory of experience, ideas and language, and his understanding of historical time.
PHIL 653. Deconstruction after Derrida
Often, the philosophical movement known as ‘deconstruction’ is associated simply and only with its founder, Jacques Derrida. But Derrida’s ideas were taken up and transformed from the 1970s onwards in a variety of disciplines by thinkers who often displayed comparable ingenuity to deconstruction's founder. In this course, we will begin by familiarizing ourselves with some of Derrida’s key essays, before exploring how scholars in literary theory, art criticism, philosophy, architecture and political science extended and reinvented key notions originally developed by Derrida. Thinkers to be studied include Paul de Man, Jean-Luc Nancy, Catherine Malabou, Helene Cixous, Judith Butler and Geoffrey Hartman.
PHIL 654. Philosophy of Time
This course addresses some of the more influential philosophical analyses of time and temporality in the history of philosophy, including those from Aristotle and Augustine, and more contemporary philosophers such as Husserl and Heidegger.
PHIL 655. Film as Philosophy (in Art)
Film as Philosophy (in Art) explores the idea of film as philosophy and art. The films by Griffith, Murnau, Lang and Pabst (to mention a few) selected for study, deal with some of the most crucial and pressing issues of modernity — the dialectic of illusion and reality, the question of femme fatale, the relation of nature and city, freedom and capital, technology and gender.
PHIL 657. Subjectivity and Science
This class will read and discuss French philosophy of science (Bachelard, etc.) alongside Foucault, Lacan and others, to assess the extent to which French philosophy has insisted on the implication of the problem of subjectivity in the question of scientific knowledge. We shall bring things right up to date, including a reading of Badiou's recent texts on science.
PHIL 658. Jacques Lacan
From the 1930s to his death in 1981, Jacques Lacan repeatedly revolutionized psychoanalytic theory and practice in the name of what he called a ‘return to Freud.’ Despite the many twists and turns of Lacan’s thinking across that swathe of time, a number of things remained constant. These include a commitment to reading Freud in dialogue with almost the entirety of the Western intellectual tradition, taking in philosophy, art, literature, religion and more besides, and an uncompromising and controversial commitment to the most radical theoretical and practical consequences of the Freudian discovery of the unconscious. In this class, we will read representative texts from the broad sweep of Lacan’s tumultuous and sometimes troubling career, critically assessing the relevance of his singular take on the psychoanalytic project for contemporary understandings of subjectivity, culture, art and politics.
PHIL 671. Power and Dialogue: Foucault and Gadamer
We will approach the issue of the status of subjects and knowledge in terms of the philosphies of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Michel Foucault. Gadamer thinks that the world is present to us as the subject matter of a dialogue that simultaneously establishes us and takes place between subjects. Knowledge of the world and of ourselves can therefore be revealed to us in, and only through, dialogue. Foucault, in contrast, argues that all knowledge takes place within the constraints of specific power-knowledge complexes. On his view, subjects seem to be the sites of operation rather than the autonomous producers of these complexes or the revealers of a central subject matter — of a worldly tradition — that guides the interpretive efforts of subjects. In his book, The Power of Dialogue: Critical Hermeneutics after Gadamer and Foucault, Hans Kogler attempts to combine the two views into a basis for what he calls a critical hermeneutics. We will come up with our own answers on the issue of the status of ourselves by studying selected works of Gadamer and Foucault and by evaluating Kogler’s hermeneutics.
PHIL 672. Deleuze: Difference and Repetition
This course will be devoted to a close reading of Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition.
PHIL 675. Phenomenology and Feminism
Phenomenology is a philosophical method that carries out an analysis of “experience” — but traditionally, that experience is first neutralized of gender, sexual difference, and sometimes embodiment in general. For this reason, feminists have rightly criticized this approach. However, there is a history of theorists who have employed phenomenology precisely to carry out feminist projects. This course will examine certain traditional texts that established phenomenology as a method as well as contemporaries of these philosophers who already employed phenomenological methods toward feminist goals. In addition, we will look at writings in the current “movement” of feminist phenomenology.
PHIL 685. Gender, Nature, Being
Is gender natural or not? This is a recent debate among feminists, enhanced by contributions from transgender theorists, but it has an ancient lineage, beginning with Plato, who used it not only to argue that women should become philosopher-queens, but also to introduce his doctrines of nature and being. This course begins and ends with recent thinkers, but tries to clarify it through an intervening survey of differing accounts: Greeks, Catholics, queer theorists, evolutionary biologists, evolutionary psychologists, philosophers of science, genealogists of selfhood, and Sophists. One goal of the course will be to answer our central question (Is gender natural?), but a more important goal will be to consider how much is at stake whichever answer one favors. For above all, this course aims to show, every answer to this question makes commitments to a specific understanding of body and mind, nature and being.
PHIL 689. Graduate Teaching Seminar II
This seminar in philosophical pedagogy is intended for graduate students who are teaching their own philosophy courses and who have already completed PHIL 690. It is primarily a practicum for discussing, sharing, and working through challenges and successes participants are encountering in their own classes, as well as an opportunity for reflection on recent work in scholarship of teaching and learning.
PHIL 690. Graduate Teaching Seminar I
This seminar in philosophical pedagogy is intended for graduate students who will be teaching their own courses in the future. Its has three goals: 1) preparing students to design, deliver, and assess their own classes, including writing syllabi, choosing course material, developing effective assingments, facilitating student discussion, responding to student work, grading, and dealing with difficult classroom situations; 2) acquainting students with some of the most relevant literature from recent scholarship of teaching and learning; 3) engaging philosophical texts, both classical and contemporary, that address issues connected to teaching or learning.
PHIL 700. Research Thesis - Philosophy
This course is for students writing an M.A. thesis.
PHIL 701. Dissertation - FT
This course is for students writing a doctoral dissertation.
PHIL 705 & 706. Exchange Program - FT
This course is for students studying abroad in an exchange program in the fall semester.
PHIL 710 & 711. Readings in Philosophy I & II
This course is a tutorial with an individual professor on a topic not offered in a regular graduate seminar. Enrollment by permission of the chair only.