Current Courses

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PHIL 1100 : Introduction to Philosophy
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Theodore Korzukhin
A general introduction to some of the main topics, texts, and methods of philosophy. Topics may include the existence of God, the nature of mind and its relation to the body, causation, free will, knowledge and skepticism, and justice and moral obligation. Readings may be drawn from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical literature.
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PHIL 1110 : FWS: Philosophy in Practice
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Alicia Patterson
Avi Appel
August Faller
Daniel Manne
This First-Year Writing Seminar is about using philosophy and everyday life and provides the opportunity to write extensively about these issues.  Topics vary by section.
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PHIL 1111 : FWS: Philosophical Problems
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Matthew Paskell
This First-Year Writing Seminar discusses problems in philosophy and gives the opportunity to write about them.  Topics vary by section.
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PHIL 1112 : FWS: Philosophical Conversations
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Vivek Mathew
Charles Brittain
Quitterie Gounot
This First-Year Writing Seminar offers the opportunity to discuss and write about philosophy.  Topics vary by section.
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PHIL 1440 : Ethics of Eating
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
William Starr
We all face difficult moral decisions on occasion. This course introduces students to the idea that we face such a decision several times a day in deciding what to eat. How should facts about animal life and death inform this decision? Is the suffering involved in meat, egg, and dairy production really bad enough to make the practices immoral? How do our dietary choices affect local and non-local economies, the environment, and other people generally? Finally, given the deep connections between eating practices and various ethnic, religious and class identities, how can we implement a reasonable food policy for an expanding world population while also respecting these important differences? The goal of this course is not to teach some preferred set of answers to these questions. The goal is rather to give participants the basic tools required to reflect clearly and effectively on the questions themselves. These tools include a working knowledge of the major moral theories developed by philosophers, and an understanding of basic empirical issues related to food production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. In addition to readings, lectures, and required sections, the course will involve trips to some local food-production facilities, as well as supplemental lectures by experts from Cornell, Ithaca, and beyond.
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PHIL 1901 : Discussions of Justice
Crosslisted as: GOVT 1901, SOC 1900, GOVT 1901, SOC 1900, GOVT 1901, SOC 1900, GOVT 1901, SOC 1900 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Alex Esposito
August Faller
Matthew Paskell
John Proios
This course will address questions of justice posed by current political controversies, for example, controversies over immigration, economic inequality, American nationalism, the government's role in healthcare and the environment, racial inequality, the political power of elites, populism, authoritarianism, globalization, and the proper use of America's global power. Brief readings in political philosophy and social science will be starting points for informal discussion and mutual learning among diverse perspectives.
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PHIL 1910 : Introduction to Cognitive Science
Crosslisted as: COGST 1101, CS 1710, LING 1170, PSYCH 1102 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Khena Swallow
This course provides an introduction to the science of the mind.  Everyone knows what it's like to think and perceive, but this subjective experience provides little insight into how minds emerge from physical intities like brains.  To address this issue, cognitive science integrates work from at least five disciplines: Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Linguistics, and Philosophy.  This course introduces students to the insights these disciplines offer into the workings of the mind by exploring visual perception, attention, memory, learning, problem solving, language, and consciousness. 
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PHIL 1911 : WIM: Introduction to Cognitive Science
Crosslisted as: COGST 1104, LING 1104, PSYCH 1104 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Khena Swallow
This section is highly recommended for students who are interested in learning about the topics covered in the main course through writing and discussion. 
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PHIL 1920 : Introduction to Political Theory
Crosslisted as: GOVT 1615 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Patchen Markell
This course offers a survey of political theory in the West. We will examine some of the persistent dilemmas of politics and the attempts of several canonical political theorists to respond to them: Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, and Nietzsche. In each case, we will attend to the particular crises these theorists addressed in their work—such as imperialism, the European wars of religion, the English Civil War, the French Revolution, and industrial capitalism—as well as the broader philosophical and political issues they continue to pose to us now. Our approach will be both historical and conceptual, providing students with an understanding of political theory as a distinctive form of political inquiry.
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PHIL 2220 : Modern Philosophy
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Steven Mitchell
A survey of Western philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries: Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We focus largely on epistemology (ideas, skepticism, belief, knowledge, science) and metaphysics (bodies, minds, God, causation, natural laws, afterlife, and personal identity). Some of the ethical implications of these systems will also be mentioned in passing.
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PHIL 2300 : Puzzles and Paradoxes
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Alexander Kocurek
The course provides an overview of a number of famous philosophical puzzles and paradoxes and important attempts to solve them. Among the paradoxes that may be discussed are Zeno's paradoxes of space, time and motion; the paradox of the heap; the liar paradox; Russell's set-theoretic paradox; and various paradoxes concerning knowledge and rationality.
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PHIL 2410 : Ethics
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Julia Markovits
This course is intended to introduce and explore some of the big questions about the content, scope, and nature of morality. The first half of the course will focus on various first-order ethical theories, which offer criteria of morally right action. These will include consequentialist and deontological approaches, and also broadly virtue-theoretic approaches, which place more emphasis on the notion of moral character and/or are critical of focusing exclusively on what one ought to do as opposed to who one ought to be. The second half of the course will examine some of the more abstract questions about the nature of morality which are the province of twentieth-century metaethics. What is the nature of moral properties? Where in the world might they be located? Are they objective, subjective, and/or relative to particular times and places? What is the connection between morality, moral judgments, and being motivated to act morally? Interspersed with these theoretical ethical issues will be more concrete ethical questions about what to do as individuals in an often unjust social world.
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PHIL 2455 : Introduction to Bioethics
Crosslisted as: STS 2451 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Julia Markovits
Bioethics is the study of ethical problems brought about by advances in the medical field.  Questions we'll discuss may include:  Is it morally permissible to advance a patient's death, at his or her request, to reduce suffering?  Is there a moral dilemma between killing someone and letting someone die?  What ethical issues are raised by advance care planning?  How should the rights of pregnant women be balanced against those of the fetus?  What constitutes informed consent?  Should medical treatment ever be compulsory?  Should parents be given control over the genetic make-up of their children?  Are some forms of human enhancement morally troubling?  Should we aim to be better than well?  How should scarce health care resources or costly therapies be allocated to those in need?  Should organ sales be permitted?  Should doctors or hospitals be permitted to refuse to provide certain medical services that violate their consciences?
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PHIL 2540 : Introduction to Indian Philosophy
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 3344, CLASS 3674, RELST 3344 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Lawrence McCrea
This course will survey the rich and sophisticated tradition of Indian philosophical thought from its beginnings in the speculations of Upanishads, surveying debates between Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and materialistic philosophers about the existence and nature of God and of the human soul, the nature of knowledge, and the theory of language.
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PHIL 2611 : Knowledge and Belief
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Steven Mitchell
This course will introduce students to some central questions in epistemology (often defined as the philosophical study of knowledge), using both contemporary and historical readings. For example, we will examine our reliance on experts and testimony for our knowledge, the status of reports concerning miraculous or 'scientifically impossible' events, and the epistemology of conspiracy theories. We will also consider questions of disagreement and pluralism when it comes to controversial matters such as politics and religion.
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PHIL 2941 : Ethics and Society: Aid and Its Consequences
Crosslisted as: ASRC 3333 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Olufemi Taiwo
The course looks at the connection between ethics and society.  It does so by focusing on the issues raised by the phenomenon of aid, giving or receiving it, and how we understand and react to it.  We seek to make sense of aid and its place In society.  We explore the ethics of aid from the point of view of philosophy.  We move to working through the implications of aid for (1) the giver; (2) the receiver; (3) the society, local and global; (4) the relations between individuals in a given society with respect to aid and; (5) relations between one society and its members and another society when they engage in aid-related activities.
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PHIL 3203 : Aristotle
Crosslisted as: CLASS 3664 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Rachana Kamtekar
We will study several of Aristotle's major works, including the Categories, Physics, Posterior Analytics, Metaphysics, and Nicomachean Ethics. Topics include nature and change, form and matter, the nature of happiness, the nature of the soul, and knowledge and first principles.
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PHIL 3210 : Medieval Philosophy
Crosslisted as: MEDVL 3210, RELST 3150 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Scott MacDonald
A selective survey of Western philosophical thought from the fourth to the 14th century. Topics include the problem of universals, the theory of knowledge and truth, the nature of free choice and practical reasoning, and philosophical theology. Readings (in translation) include Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. Some attention will be given to the development of ideas across the period and the influence of non-Western traditions on the West.
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PHIL 3300 : The Foundations of Mathematics
Crosslisted as: MATH 3840 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Harold Hodes
This will be a course on the set theory of Zermelo and Fraenkel: the basic concepts, set-theoretic construction of the Natural, Integral, Rational and Real Numbers, cardinality, and, time permitting, the ordinals.
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PHIL 3310 : Deductive Logic
Crosslisted as: MATH 2810 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Harold Hodes
A mathematical study of the formal languages of standard first-order propositional and predicate logic, including their syntax, semantics, and deductive systems. The basic apparatus of model theory will be presented. Various formal results will be established, most importantly soundness and completeness.
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PHIL 3900 : Independent Study
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Tad Brennan
Andrei Marmor
Harold Hodes
M. Kosch
Scott MacDonald
Richard Miller
Derk Pereboom
Nicholas Silins
William Starr
Rachana Kamtekar
Julia Markovits
Kate Manne
Daniel Manne
To be taken only in exceptional circumstances. Must be arranged by the student with his or her advisor and the faculty member who has agreed to direct the study.
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PHIL 3972 : Animal Rights
Crosslisted as: LAW 7072 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Sherry Colb
This cutting-edge and constantly evolving field of law will explore the statutory and case law in which the legal, social, or biological nature of nonhuman animals is an important factor. The course encompasses companion animals, wildlife, and animals raised for food, entertainment, and research, and surveys traditional law topics like torts, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, and federal laws as they intersect with animals. Grades are based on participation in open-minded discussions and writing assignments.
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PHIL 4002 : Latin Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: LATIN 7262, MEDVL 4002, MEDVL 6020, PHIL 6020, RELST 4100, RELST 6020 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Scott MacDonald
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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PHIL 4110 : Greek Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: GREEK 7161, PHIL 6010 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Tad Brennan
Reading and translation of Greek philosophical texts.
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PHIL 4200 : Topics in Ancient Philosophy
Crosslisted as: CLASS 4662, CLASS 7173, PHIL 6200 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Tad Brennan
Advanced discussion of topics in ancient philosophy.
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PHIL 4433 : Following
Crosslisted as: PHIL 6433, SHUM 4633, SHUM 6633 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Kate Manne
Since Stanley Milgram's famous experiments on obedience to authority conducted in the early 1960s, and arguably long before that, it's been clear that the majority of people are unreliable judges of who to obey, who to follow, and who to treat as moral authority figures. This advanced seminar would begin by considering the nature and bases of a mistaken sense of moral obligation to follow someone's lead, either because one falsely takes oneself to owe them obedience as such, or because one erroneously treats them as a source of superior moral insight. We will then explore questions about the epistemology and metaphysics of genuine or licit moral authority, which is at least partly a matter of issuing, and not contradicting, independently valid moral requirements.
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PHIL 4435 : Pluralism and Political Authority
Crosslisted as: AMST 4630, AMST 6630, GOVT 4835, GOVT 6835, PHIL 6435, SHUM 4631, SHUM 6631 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Avigail Eisenberg
This seminar considers new directions in thinking about political authority that focus on the claims of non-state groups. It considers leading 20th century political theorists who have recognized authority to be plural and contested as well as those who have resisted this characterization. We explore contemporary scholarship about religious groups that claim authority over their members, Indigenous peoples that claim authority over lands and resources, and employers that claim authority over workers by imposing their own rules and norms even if these depart from ones endorsed by the state. The aim is to understand where legitimate authority comes from, how it is enacted, and what role (if any) it plays in shaping the identities of those who are subject to it.  
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PHIL 4470 : Topics in Social and Political Philosophy
Crosslisted as: AMST 4655, AMST 6656, GOVT 4655, GOVT 6656, PHIL 6430, SOC 4430, SOC 6430 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Richard Miller
Advanced discussion of topics in social and political philosophy.
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PHIL 4710 : Topics in the Philosophy of Language
Crosslisted as: LING 4712, LING 6634, PHIL 6710 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
William Starr
An investigation of varying topics in the philosophy of language including reference, meaning, the relationship between language and thought, communication, modality, logic and pragmatics.
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PHIL 4720 : Pragmatics
Crosslisted as: LING 4425, LING 6425, PHIL 6720 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Dorit Abusch
What is the relationship between what words mean and how they are used? What is part of the grammar and what is a result of general reasoning? Pragmatics is often thought of as the study of how meaning depends on the context of utterance. However, it can be difficult to draw a line between pragmatics and semantics. In this course, we will investigate various topics that walk this line, including varieties of linguistic inference (including entailment, presupposition, and implicature), anaphora, indexicals, and speech acts.
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PHIL 4901 : Informal Study for Honors II
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Richard Boyd
Tad Brennan
Gail Fine
Harold Hodes
M. Kosch
Scott MacDonald
Richard Miller
Derk Pereboom
Neelam Sethi
Nicholas Silins
Nick Sturgeon
Andrei Marmor
Daniel Manne
Rachana Kamtekar
Kate Manne
William Starr
Alexander Kocurek
Emad Atiq
Majors in philosophy may choose to pursue honors in their senior year. Students undertake research leading to the writing of an honors essay by the end of the final semester. Prospective candidates should apply at the Department of Philosophy office, 218 Goldwin Smith Hall.
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PHIL 4941 : Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances
Crosslisted as: AIIS 4200, AIIS 6200, AMST 4220, AMST 6220, PHIL 6941 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Troy Richardson
This course looks at the philosopher John Locke as a philosopher of dispossession. There is a uniquely Lockean mode of missionization, conception of mind and re-formulations of the 'soul' applied to dispossess Indigenous peoples of the social institutions, intellectual traditions and the material bases and practices which sustain(ed) them. While colonization is typically used as a kind of shorthand for this process, we will be attempting to stay focused on the specific dimensions of Lockean dispossession and its mutually informing relationship with English colonialism.
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PHIL 6010 : Greek Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: GREEK 7161, PHIL 4110 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Tad Brennan
Reading and translation of Greek Philosophical texts.
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PHIL 6020 : Latin Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: LATIN 7262, MEDVL 4002, MEDVL 6020, PHIL 4002, RELST 4100, RELST 6020 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Scott MacDonald
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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PHIL 6200 : Topics in Ancient Philosophy
Crosslisted as: CLASS 4662, CLASS 7173, PHIL 4200 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Tad Brennan
Advanced discussion of topics in ancient philosophy.
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Description
PHIL 6430 : Topics in Social and Political Philosophy
Crosslisted as: AMST 4655, AMST 6656, GOVT 4655, GOVT 6656, PHIL 4470, SOC 4430, SOC 6430 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Richard Miller
Advanced discussion of a topic in social and political philosophy.
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PHIL 6433 : Following
Crosslisted as: PHIL 4433, SHUM 4633, SHUM 6633 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Kate Manne
Since Stanley Milgram's famous experiments on obedience to authority conducted in the early 1960s, and arguably long before that, it's been clear that the majority of people are unreliable judges of who to obey, who to follow, and who to treat as moral authority figures. This advanced seminar would begin by considering the nature and bases of a mistaken sense of moral obligation to follow someone's lead, either because one falsely takes oneself to owe them obedience as such, or because one erroneously treats them as a source of superior moral insight. We will then explore questions about the epistemology and metaphysics of genuine or licit moral authority, which is at least partly a matter of issuing, and not contradicting, independently valid moral requirements.
View course details
Description
PHIL 6435 : Pluralism and Political Authority
Crosslisted as: AMST 4630, AMST 6630, GOVT 4835, GOVT 6835, PHIL 4435, SHUM 4631, SHUM 6631 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Avigail Eisenberg
This seminar considers new directions in thinking about political authority that focus on the claims of non-state groups. It considers leading 20th century political theorists who have recognized authority to be plural and contested as well as those who have resisted this characterization. We explore contemporary scholarship about religious groups that claim authority over their members, Indigenous peoples that claim authority over lands and resources, and employers that claim authority over workers by imposing their own rules and norms even if these depart from ones endorsed by the state. The aim is to understand where legitimate authority comes from, how it is enacted, and what role (if any) it plays in shaping the identities of those who are subject to it.
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Description
PHIL 6710 : Topics in the Philosophy of Language
Crosslisted as: LING 4712, LING 6634, PHIL 4710 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
William Starr
An investigation of varying topics in the philosophy of language including reference, meaning, the relationship between language and thought, communication, modality, logic and pragmatics.
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Description
PHIL 6720 : Pragmatics
Crosslisted as: LING 4425, LING 6425, PHIL 4720 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Dorit Abusch
What is the relationship between what words mean and how they are used?  What is part of the grammar and what is a result of general reasoning?  Pragmatics is often thought of as the study of how meaning depends on the context of utterance.  However, it can be difficult to draw a line between pragmatics and semantics.  In this course, we will investigate various topics that walk this line, including varieties of linguistic inference including entailment, presupposition, and implicature), anaphora, indexicals, and speech acts.
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PHIL 6731 : Semantics II
Crosslisted as: LING 6422 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Mats Rooth
Uses the techniques introduced in Semantics I to analyze linguistic phenomena, including quantifier scope, ellipsis, and referential pronouns. Temporal and possible worlds semantics are introduced and used in the analysis of modality, tense, and belief sentences. The phenomena of presupposition, indefinite descriptions, and anaphora are analyzed in a dynamic compositional framework that formalizes the idea that sentence meaning effects a change in an information state.
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PHIL 6941 : Locke and the Philosophies of Dispossession: Indigenous America's Interruptions and Resistances
Crosslisted as: AIIS 4200, AIIS 6200, AMST 4220, AMST 6220, PHIL 4941 Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Troy Richardson
This course looks at the philosopher John Locke as a philosopher of dispossession. There is a uniquely Lockean mode of missionization, conception of mind and re-formulations of the 'soul' applied to dispossess Indigenous peoples of the social institutions, intellectual traditions and the material bases and practices which sustain(ed) them. While colonization is typically used as a kind of shorthand for this process, we will be attempting to stay focused on the specific dimensions of Lockean dispossession and its mutually informing relationship with English colonialism.
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PHIL 7000 : Informal Study
Semester offered: Spring 2019 Instructor:
Richard Boyd
Tad Brennan
Gail Fine
Harold Hodes
M. Kosch
Scott MacDonald
Richard Miller
Derk Pereboom
Neelam Sethi
Nicholas Silins
Nick Sturgeon
Andrei Marmor
Alexander Kocurek
Kate Manne
William Starr
Daniel Manne
Rachana Kamtekar
Julia Markovits
Emad Atiq
Independent study for graduate students only.
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