Courses - Fall 2020

PHIL 1100 Introduction to Philosophy

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.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Full details for PHIL 1100 : Introduction to Philosophy
PHIL 1440 Ethics of Eating

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.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: William Starr (wbs56)
Full details for PHIL 1440 : Ethics of Eating
PHIL 1650 Philosophy of Race

This course offers an introduction to the philosophy of race. It canvasses key debates in the field concerning the metaphysical status of race, the relationship between the concept of race and racism (and the nature of the latter), the first-person reality of race, and the connections and disconnections between racial, ethnic, and national identities.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Benjamin Yost (bsy9)
Full details for PHIL 1650 : Philosophy of Race
PHIL 1950 Controversies About Inequality

In recent years, poverty and inequality have become increasingly common topics of public debate, as academics, journalists, and politicians attempt to come to terms with growing income inequality, with the increasing visibility of inter-country differences in wealth and income, and with the persistence of racial, ethnic, and gender stratification. This course introduces students to ongoing social scientific debates about the sources and consequences of inequality, as well as the types of public policy that might appropriately be pursued to reduce (or increase) inequality. These topics will be addressed in related units, some of which include guest lectures by faculty from other universities (funded by the Center for the Study of Inequality). Each unit culminates with a highly spirited class discussion and debate.

Distribution: (SBA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Anna Haskins (arh96)
Full details for PHIL 1950 : Controversies About Inequality
PHIL 2200 Ancient Philosophy

An introductory survey of ancient Greek philosophy from the so-called Presocratics (6th century BCE) through the Hellenistic period (1st century BCE) with special emphasis on the thought of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Tad Brennan (trb64)
Full details for PHIL 2200 : Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 2300 Puzzles and Paradoxes

This course will survey a number of famous paradoxes about the nature of time, identity, logic, science, belief, decision, and value. Some of these paradoxes have widely accepted answers, but many do not. Paradoxes include (but are not limited to) Zeno's paradoxes, the sorites paradox, the liar paradox, paradoxes of probability, the doomsday and simulation arguments, Newcomb's puzzle, and the trolley problem. These paradoxes will be used as a stepping stone to deeper philosophical questions. Some of the questions we'll tackle include: Is time real? What is a person? Is infinity coherent? How is science possible? What is knowledge? What is it to be rational? What should we do? Does God exist? And finally, why is death bad?

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Alexander Kocurek (awk78)
Full details for PHIL 2300 : Puzzles and Paradoxes
PHIL 2310 Introduction to Deductive Logic

Covers sentential languages, the truth-functional connectives, and their logic; first-order languages, the quantifiers "every" and "some," and their logic.

Distribution: (MQR-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Harold Hodes (hth3)
Full details for PHIL 2310 : Introduction to Deductive Logic
PHIL 2430 Moral Dilemmas in the Law

The course concerns the principles and philosophical arguments underlying conflicts and moral dilemmas of central and ongoing concern to society as they arise within legal contexts. We consider questions such as what justifies using state power to punish people for wrongdoing, what kinds of conduct are rightly criminalized, what justifies the Supreme Court's power to strike down Congressional legislation, what justifies the right to private property and its boundaries, what is the right to privacy and why it is important, what are human rights, and what is the morality and law of war. Throughout we will be reading legal cases and philosophical commentaries that engage with the deep issues that the cases pose.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Andrei Marmor (am2773)
Full details for PHIL 2430 : Moral Dilemmas in the Law
PHIL 2455 Introduction to Bioethics

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?

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Julia Markovits (jm2476)
Full details for PHIL 2455 : Introduction to Bioethics
PHIL 2510 Philosophy of the Arts

This course is an introduction to philosophy of the arts, with emphasis on contemporary visual art, and on recent theorizing about art. We will investigate questions such as: What is art? What is good art, and who decides? What is art about, and who decides? What is the relationship between art and politics? Between art and thought? Art and nature? Art and ordinary experience? What is the nature of aesthetic experience?  

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Karolina Hubner (kh753)
Full details for PHIL 2510 : Philosophy of the Arts
PHIL 2525 Introduction to African Philosophy

The central questions of philosophy are perennial and universal, but the answers that are given to them are always historical and idiomatic.  This course will introduce its enrollees to how these questions have been answered in the global African world; how they have thought about and sought to make sense of or solve some of the same philosophical problems that have remained at the core of the "Western" tradition. The readings are chosen from a global African perspective. This does not mean that we will not read any of the 'traditional' texts, but will be yielding the pride of place to much maligned and characteristically absent from the "mainstream" philosophical traditions and the ideas of people that are not normally considered worthy of study in the American academy. We wish to broaden our repertoire so that our knowledge will reflect the comparative perspectives that studying different traditions can offer while at the same time giving us access to the wisdom of peoples other than our own.

Distribution: (SBA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Olufemi Taiwo (ot48)
Full details for PHIL 2525 : Introduction to African Philosophy
PHIL 2810 Introduction to the Philosophy of Science

We will look at some central questions about the nature of scientific theory and practice. What makes a discipline a science? Does science discover the objective truth about the world? How, and why, do scientific theories change over time? To what extent do observation and experiment determine which theories we accept? What is a good scientific explanation? What are laws of nature? Does physics have a special status compared to other sciences?

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shaun Nichols (sbn44)
Full details for PHIL 2810 : Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
PHIL 2945 Civil Disobedience

This course examines the political theory of civil disobedience. Do citizens have obligations to obey unjust laws? What makes disobedience civil rather than criminal? How do acts of protest influence public opinion and policy? Do disruptive protests endanger democracy or strengthen the rule of law? How is the distinction between violence and non-violence political constructed and contested? How has political dissent transformed in a digital era? We will study classical writings and contemporary scholarship in pursuit of answers to these questions and related debates concerning the rule of law, conscience, justice, violence and non-violence, whistleblowing, direct action, rioting, and hacktivism.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Alexander Livingston (pal229)
Full details for PHIL 2945 : Civil Disobedience
PHIL 3222 Early Modern Philosophy

This course is an advanced study of a central concept, problem, or figure in 17-18th century philosophy.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Karolina Hubner (kh753)
Full details for PHIL 3222 : Early Modern Philosophy
PHIL 3300 Introduction to Set Theory

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.

Distribution: (MQR-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Harold Hodes (hth3)
Full details for PHIL 3300 : Introduction to Set Theory
PHIL 3340 Modal Logic

Modal logic is a general logical framework for systematizing reasoning about qualified and relativized truth. It has been used to study the logic of possibility, time, knowledge, obligation, provability, and much more. This course will explore both the theoretical foundations and the various philosophical applications of modal logic. On the theoretical side, we will cover basic metatheory, including Kripke semantics, soundness and completeness, correspondence theory, and expressive power. On the applied side, we will examine temporal logic, epistemic logic, deontic logic, counterfactuals, two-dimensional logics, and quantified modal logic. 

Distribution: (MQR-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Alexander Kocurek (awk78)
Full details for PHIL 3340 : Modal Logic
PHIL 3475 Philosophy of Punishment
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Benjamin Yost (bsy9)
Full details for PHIL 3475 : Philosophy of Punishment
PHIL 3610 Epistemology

This course will be an advanced introduction to some contemporary debates in epistemology.  We will start by considering skeptical arguments that we cannot really know whether the world is the way it appears to us.  We will look at different strategies to respond to such skeptical arguments, in particular contextualism, and explore questions concerning the nature of knowledge and the relation between knowledge and other epistemologically significant concepts, such as certainty, justification, and evidence. We will also look at Bayesian epistemology and its theoretical underpinnings, at knowledge-first approaches to epistemology, at the relation between knowledge and action, and at the compatibility of traditional epistemology with formal epistemology.  Also will explore the notion of common knowledge, and issues in social epistemology.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Carlotta Pavese (cp645)
Full details for PHIL 3610 : Epistemology
PHIL 3900 Independent Study

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.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shaun Nichols (sbn44)
Full details for PHIL 3900 : Independent Study
PHIL 4002 Latin Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Charles Brittain (cfb9)
Full details for PHIL 4002 : Latin Philosophical Texts
PHIL 4110 Greek Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Greek philosophical texts.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Tad Brennan (trb64)
Full details for PHIL 4110 : Greek Philosophical Texts
PHIL 4200 Topics in Ancient Philosophy

Advanced discussion of topics in ancient philosophy.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Terence Irwin (thi1)
Rachana Kamtekar (rk579)
Full details for PHIL 4200 : Topics in Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 4310 Mathematical Logic

First course in mathematical logic providing precise definitions of the language of mathematics and the notion of proof (propositional and predicate logic). The completeness theorem says that we have all the rules of proof we could ever have. The Gödel incompleteness theorem says that they are not enough to decide all statements even about arithmetic. The compactness theorem exploits the finiteness of proofs to show that theories have unintended (nonstandard) models. Possible additional topics: the mathematical definition of an algorithm and the existence of noncomputable functions; the basics of set theory to cardinality and the uncountability of the real numbers.

Distribution: (MQR-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Justin Moore (jtm237)
Full details for PHIL 4310 : Mathematical Logic
PHIL 4710 Topics in the Philosophy of Language

An investigation of varying topics in the philosophy of language including reference, meaning, the relationship between language and thought, communication, modality, logic and pragmatics.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Sarah Murray (sem269)
William Starr (wbs56)
Full details for PHIL 4710 : Topics in the Philosophy of Language
PHIL 4730 Semantics I

Introduces methods for theorizing about meaning within generative grammar. These techniques allow the creation of grammars that pair syntactic structures with meanings. Students look at several empirical areas in detail, among them complementation (combining heads with their arguments), modification, conjunction, definite descriptions, relative clauses, traces, bound pronouns, and quantification. An introduction to logical and mathematical concepts used in linguistic semantics (e.g., set theory, functions and their types, and the lambda notation for naming linguistic meanings) is included in the course.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Sarah Murray (sem269)
Full details for PHIL 4730 : Semantics I
PHIL 4900 Informal Study for Honors I

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.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shaun Nichols (sbn44)
Full details for PHIL 4900 : Informal Study for Honors I
PHIL 4901 Informal Study for Honors II

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.

Academic Career: UG Full details for PHIL 4901 : Informal Study for Honors II
PHIL 6010 Greek Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Greek Philosophical texts.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Tad Brennan (trb64)
Full details for PHIL 6010 : Greek Philosophical Texts
PHIL 6020 Latin Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Charles Brittain (cfb9)
Full details for PHIL 6020 : Latin Philosophical Texts
PHIL 6100 Pro Seminar in Philosophy

Seminar for first year Philosophy graduate students.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Nicholas Silins (ns338)
Full details for PHIL 6100 : Pro Seminar in Philosophy
PHIL 6200 Topics in Ancient Philosophy

Advanced discussion of topics in ancient philosophy.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Terence Irwin (thi1)
Rachana Kamtekar (rk579)
Full details for PHIL 6200 : Topics in Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 6220 Topics in Modern Philosophy

Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).

Academic Career: GR Full details for PHIL 6220 : Topics in Modern Philosophy
PHIL 6411 Philosophy of Law Seminar

The seminar is aimed to equip graduate students with the necessary academic background to teach philosophy of law. The seminar is divided in two main parts: during the first half of the semester we will cover the main philosophical controversies of the 20th century about the nature of law and some of the central themes in general jurisprudence. In the second half of the semester we will focus on contemporary literature in legal philosophy, focusing on some of the new philosophical debates that come up in current literature. Two or three guest speakers will be invited to present their work in progress.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Andrei Marmor (am2773)
Full details for PHIL 6411 : Philosophy of Law Seminar
PHIL 6710 Topics in the Philosophy of Language

An investigation of varying topics in the philosophy of language including reference, meaning, the relationship between language and thought, communication, modality, logic and pragmatics.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Sarah Murray (sem269)
William Starr (wbs56)
Full details for PHIL 6710 : Topics in the Philosophy of Language
PHIL 6730 Semantics I

Introduces methods for theorizing about meaning within generative grammar. These techniques allow the creation of grammars that pair syntactic structures with meanings. Students look at several empirical areas in detail, among them complementation (combining heads with their arguments), modification, conjunction, definite descriptions, relative clauses, traces, bound pronouns, and quantification. An introduction to logical and mathematical concepts used in linguistic semantics (e.g., set theory, functions and their types, and the lambda notation for naming linguistic meanings) is included in the course.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Sarah Murray (sem269)
Full details for PHIL 6730 : Semantics I
PHIL 6740 Semantics Seminar

Addresses current theoretical and empirical issues in semantics.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Dorit Abusch (da45)
Mats Rooth (mr249)
Full details for PHIL 6740 : Semantics Seminar
PHIL 7000 Informal Study

Independent study for graduate students only.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Tad Brennan (trb64)
Full details for PHIL 7000 : Informal Study
PHIL 7900 Placement Seminar

This course is designed to help prepare Philosophy graduate students for the academic job market. Though students will study sample materials from successful job applicants, much of the seminar will function as a workshop, providing them with in-depth feedback on multiple drafts of their job materials. Interview skills will be practiced in every seminar meeting. The seminar meetings will be supplemented with individual conferences with the placement mentor, and students should also share copies of their job materials with their dissertation committees.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Julia Markovits (jm2476)
Full details for PHIL 7900 : Placement Seminar