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Download MA in Philosophy Timetable 2017-18 (General, Contemporary European)

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Graduate Module Details


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  • PHIL 41430 Heidegger: On Truth & Justice (Joseph Cohen), Tuesdays 11-1

This MA module will focus primarily on the concepts of Truth and Justice in Heidegger's thought. What is meant in Heidegger's philosophy by the word 'truth' and in which manner does the philosopher entirely reformulate this concept in view of both the 'destruction' of onto-theology and the 'History of Being'? And furthermore, what is the essence of 'justice' in light of this philosophical reformulation of 'truth' in the 'History of Being'? This module will elaborate Heidegger's thought but also draw on notable critiques, most particularly from Derrida and Levinas.

  • PHIL 41320 Topics in Continental Philosophy (Danielle Petherbridge), Tuesdays 2-4

How do we understand encounters between self and other? What is the relation between subjectivity and intersubjective life? This module examines different philosophical perspectives for analyzing encounters between self and other, and investigates alternative theories of recognition and intersubjectivity in the tradition of continental philosophy. Themes covered will include the subject, intersubjectivity, recognition, difference, power, domination, and self/other relations.

In order to address these questions, we generally begin by tracing major theories of intersubjectivity and recognition in the German philosophical tradition, such as those developed by Fichte and Hegel. We contrast these to phenomenological accounts such as those offered by Husserl, or the existential-phenomenological accounts of Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. We also consider accounts of recognition and relationality offered by contemporary philosophers such as Honneth and Foucault, as well as postcolonial and feminist philosophers. We therefore consider not only face-to-face encounters but the way in which intersubjective relations are constitutive of subjects. We also examine the way in which patterns of interaction form a background of norms and meanings that constitute the lifeworld, as well as the ways in which recognition is employed as a means to understand forms of human relationality and sociality.

  • PHIL 41230 Phenomenology: Selected Readings (Dermot Moran), Wednesdays 11-1

This course involves a critical reading of selected key texts in twentieth-century phenomenology and existentialism. This module will trace the major themes and movements in phenomenology and existentialism through several key thinkers: Franz Brentano on intentionality, Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein on empathy, Martin Heidegger on the transcendence of Dasein, Jean-Paul Sartre on the body, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Irish Marion Young, among others. Themes that will be critically considered include: intentionality, consciousness, self-consciousness, embodiment, perception, emotion, empathy, intersubjectivity, and the constitution of the life-world.

  • PHIL 40010/40970 Consciousness, Agency & the Self (Markus Schlosser), Wednesdays 2-4

TThis course covers central issues in the philosophy of mind and action. We begin with a brief overview of the main positions on the mind-body problem: dualism, physicalism, and functionalism. Then we turn to questions and theories about consciousness: the "hard problem" of consciousness, philosophical theories, scientific theories, conscious agency and free will. In the final part we turn to the notion of the self. We consider accounts of the "minimal self" and the "narrative self". We investigate the role of the self in agency, and we look at the Buddhist doctrine of "no-self".

  • PHIL 41440 Critiquing Scientific Inference (Mikio Akagi), Thursdays 11-1

Conventional wisdom has it that the data don't lie—but they can certainly mislead us. In many of the special sciences the proper interpretation of data is a matter of significant controversy. In this module we will examine a several kinds of scientific inference in cognitive psychology, drawing on texts by both philosophers and scientists.

We will begin by considering explanatory practice in psychology—what form do psychological explanations take? Do psychologists discover laws or describe mechanisms? After examining this background, we will consider a series of brief case studies in experimental inference. Possible topics include inferences based on behavioral dissociation, reaction times, biases and illusions, computer models, and statistical inferences. We will conclude by considering case studies of theory choice in psychology. Possible topics include nativism about language, the ascription of representations, extended cognition, and plant cognition.

  • PHIL 41410 Personal Identity in Early Modern Philosophy (Ruth Boeker), Thursdays 2-4

Questions of personal identity bridge discussions in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and ethics. However, how exactly are the metaphysical, phenomenological, and moral dimensions intertwined in theories of personal identity? It is often thought that it is important to spell out the metaphysics of personal identity, before we can properly answer questions of moral responsibility or questions about the beginning and end of life. Yet it is not clear that the metaphysical questions can fully be answered in isolation from moral considerations. It is worth asking whether and to what extend our moral views shape the metaphysical boundaries of persons and personal identity. Furthermore, is it important to answer deep metaphysical problems concerning the relation between mind and body in order to provide an account of personal identity? Is it possible and plausible to give a moral and/or normative account of persons and personal identity? These are some of the questions that we will examine through the study of theories of personal identity from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. It is worthwhile to approach these questions historically, because the historical debates provide a variety of different answers to the question of how the metaphysical, phenomenological, and moral dimensions are intertwined in theories of personal identity. For example, Locke emphasizes that ‘person’ is a forensic term and Hume does not only offer an account of the self within his theoretical philosophy, but also acknowledges that the self plays an important role in our theories of the passions and in morality. At the beginning of the semester we will look at Descartes’s views about mind-body relation and the self and identify problems for his view that philosophers in the 17th and 18th century tried to solve. Then we will examine Locke’s theory in depth and study eighteenth century responses to Locke, including responses by Leibniz, Edmund Law, Butler, Reid, Catharine Trotter Cockburn, the Clarke-Collins Correspondence, and Shaftesbury. We will see how some of these debates lead to Hume’s discussion of the self. We will ask how Hume’s discussion of the self in his theoretical philosophy is related to his account of the self in his theory of the passions and in his moral theory.

  • PHIL 40430 Philosophy of the Emotions (Rowland Stout), Fridays 11-1

Through a combination of the studying of key texts and the tackling of a structure of central questions in the philosophical treatment of emotion, this course will address competing theories of the nature of emotion, emotional rationality, emotional knowledge, emotional recalcitrance, the social purpose of emotional expression, and the use of emotions as ways of perceiving evalulative aspects of the subject's situation. We will engage with such things as pride, fear, anger, jealousy and shame.

  • PHIL 41240 Newman: A philosophical perspective (Angelo Bottone), Mondays 2-4

This course will provide an overview of the relationship between John Henry Newman and philosophy.
After having considered the two main philosophical sources of his formation, namely Aristotle and Cicero, his contribution to the 19th century intellectual debates will be examined.
Themes to be covered include the understanding of the historical development of ideas, the relation between education and morality, the justification of religious beliefs, the personal conquest of the truth, the tension between conscience and civic duties.
Newman's ideas will be compared with those philosophers whom he overtly confronted and criticised: John Locke, David Hume, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
Finally the course will focus on his legacy and influence on later philosophers, particularly Ludwig Wittgenstein.

  • PHIL 40840 Autonomy as a Philosophical Problem (Brian O'Connor), Tuesdays 11-1

The exercise of autonomy is among the most valued of human capacities. Civilized societies aspire to the rational exercise of freedom. Scanlon defines autonomous persons as "sovereign in deciding what to believe and in weighing competing reasons for action." And the sovereign persons operates under their "own canons of rationality" and "cannot accept without independent consideration the judgment of others" about the actions they are expected to undertake.

This module will explore the theory of autonomy and the wide range of difficulties that attach to it. (1) The Metaphysics of the Self. The theory of autonomy is committed to a notion of the self in which reasons can prevail over passions. (2) The Source of Normativity. If sovereignty over our own reasons is a characteristic of autonomy we need to be confident that they are genuinely our own and that they are reasons which we are free to endorse or reject. Explanations of these two pivotal features of the theory of autonomy have yet to be unproblematically provided by philosophy. This will be seen through critical readings of materials selected from a range of authors (including, Kant, Korsgaard, Hegel, Adorno, Freud, Honneth, Geuss, Friedman, McDowell).

  • PHIL 40250 Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (Tim Mooney), Tuesdays 2-4

This module comprises a close reading of Phenomenology of Perception, one of the most significant treatments of philosophy of perception in the European tradition. Merleau-Ponty offers a sustained critique of the portrait view of perception and argues that the embodied perceiver must actively appropriate and organise the perceptible environment as a condition of having a world. We begin with his initial adaptation of phenomenology, and proceed to outline his arguments against objectivism as found in the empiricist and intellectualist approaches to perception. Merleau-Ponty's proposed alternative founded on phenomenological description will then be explicated in detail. Topics to be covered include perceptual synthesis, the body as objectified, as lived and as anonymous, the role of kinaesthetic awareness, proprioceptive awareness and the body-schema, the motor-intentional projection of action and the perceptual field.

  • PHIL 40410 Philosophy & Literature (Danielle Petherbridge / Elisa Magrì), Wednesdays 11-1

Literature of Exile and Dislocation

In this course we explore the intersections between philosophy and literature through a consideration of the relationship between the reader and the text. Our investigations are structured around the themes of exile and dislocation. We consider how these themes are explored in both philosophy and literature, and how a reading of philosophical and literary texts next to one another complicates each and reveals alternative insights. We will look at responses to these issues through a range of literary works that may include some of the following: Homer, Goethe, Conrad, Camus, Darwish, Wright, Morrison, and David Foster Wallace. Alongside these texts, we will examine the notions of exile and dislocation by looking at philosophical approaches in the works of Benjamin, Freud, Sartre, Said, Dreyfus, Arendt, Ingarden, Nussbaum, and Cavell. Our aim is to explore the notions of exile and displacement at different levels of discourse, including experiences of conscious and unconscious displacement; issues of social and political exile; ethical, intellectual and aesthetic dislocation; as well as potential forms of dislocation between the reader and the text. Among other questions, we will consider problems related to the philosophical, ethical and aesthetic value of literature; question whether literature fosters ethical and critical capacities; and ask about the value of lived experience for reflecting on questions of dislocation. Our intention throughout is not to privilege one discipline over the other but to carefully explore how philosophy and literature complicate and enrich one another.

  • PHIL 41450 The Myth of the Given (Jim O'Shea), Wednesdays 2-4

In 1956 the American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars delivered three lectures on "The Myth of the Given," published as "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" (EPM). This is widely recognised to be one of the most important works in 20th century philosophy, and this seminar will be structured around our reading of this complex but exciting text. In the first half of EPM Sellars famously criticized the idea of the Given: roughly, the idea that there exists any form of awareness that is knowledge-yielding just in virtue of having that awareness, independently of what Sellars called "the logical space of reasons." Our examination of this issue will introduce students to some key themes in 20th century perceptual epistemology and theories of intentionality. We will follow Sellars in providing the sort of rich historical background that has made his work compelling to current philosophers from all traditions, analytic, continental, and historical; and we will also explore contemporary debates on these issues among philosophers influenced by or criticising Sellars. The second half of EPM then asks the question: if no knowledge is Given or "immediate" in the above sense, then how do we account for our non-inferential knowledge of our own thoughts and sensations? Here Sellars is widely recognized to have made revolutionary contributions to the Philosophy of Mind, offering a non-reductive view of the nature of thoughts that is nonetheless consistent with a comprehensive scientific naturalism. The seminar will thus serve as an introduction to fundamental themes in epistemology and philosophy of mind throughout the 20th century to today.

  • PHIL 41280 Feminist & Gender Theory (Katherine O'Donnell), Thursdays 11-1

This seminar will introduce students to key contemporary feminist philosophers and debates between feminist philosophers with a view to understanding how their work draws from and challenges dominant philosophical traditions in the creation of new philosophical understandings of knowledge, ethics, self and politics.

We begin with an exploration of what is feminist philosophy? Feminism has a much more recent history than Philosophy. Feminism can be characterised as a popular (or unpopular) social movement that seeks to change the status quo to enable equal participation by girls and women in the public to that of boys and men, and to create a cultural parity of esteem for both masculinity and femininity. Besides this egalitarian project feminism has another impulse which is to seek to deconstruct the meaning of what it is to be male or female and to inscribe new signification for these terms and for the relationship between them. The ambivalence of these goals might be seen to excite many of the debates among feminists. The initial seminar will seek to collectively arrive at definitions for what Philosophy is and does which will begin a discussion that will continue for the remaining weeks: how might we define feminist philosophy?

Feminist philosophy is vibrant with debate and revision and the topics that will be addressed in our reading and discussion will offer a variety of contestations among feminists. These topics will include:
(i) What is Gender and its significance?
(ii) Feminist epistemology and feminist philosophies of ignorance;
(iii) Feminist conceptions of what is a Self?;
(iv) Feminist Ethics;
(v) Feminist Political Philosophy.

  • PHIL 41420 Philosophy of Hedonism & Death (Tatjana von Solodkoff), Thursdays 2-4

Hedonism is the view that what is fundamentally good for us is pleasure and what is fundamentally bad for us is pain. What’s so attractive about Hedonism, its defenders claim, is that it is a strikingly simple and flexible theory, which elegantly accounts for the fact that eating tofu increases my well-being (but not yours) while eating mushrooms increases yours (but not mine). But are pleasurable and painful mental states all that matter when it comes to personal well-being? Some argue that if a pleasurable could be fully simulated (e.g. through drugs or virtual reality), then such pleasure somehow cannot be important or deep. We will spend the second half of the semester discussing death and how it affects our well-being (spoiler alert: oftentimes it does so negatively). In particular, we will look at death's implications for well being when we adopt the hedonistic view.

  • PHIL 41000 Aristotle's Ethics & Politics (Tim Crowley), Fridays 11-1

As Aristotle sees it, ethics and politics are both concerned with the same thing: the pursuit of happiness. His great work, the 'Nicomachean Ethics' is concerned with identifying what an individual's happiness consists in, while his 'Politics' attempts to identify which political system will best promote the happiness of each citizen. Both works are masterpieces of moral and political philosophy, and remain of great interest and influence today. In this module we will examine the key doctrines that Aristotle argues for in these seminal texts. To set Aristotle's work in its appropriate historical and philosophical context, we will also look closely at the treatment of these, and similar, topics by Aristotle's great predecessors, Socrates and Plato.