Current Graduate Student Information
Download MA in Philosophy Timetable 2016-2017 (General, Contemporary European)
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Graduate Module Details
PLEASE NOTE: ALL DESCRIPTIONS, DATES AND TIMES SUBJECT TO CONFIRMATION
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- PHIL 41280 Feminist & Gender Theory (Clara Fischer), Mondays 11-1
The purpose of this module is to introduce students to key concepts and debates in feminist thought. The module constitutes a survey of feminist theory, exploring confluences and divergences in the development of particular bodies of feminist thought, while situating these in the wider context of debates in social and political theory. The module covers a range of feminist theoretical trajectories, including liberalism, socialist and Marxist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, care ethics, Black and postcolonial feminism, postmodern feminism, and affect and new materialist feminisms.
- PHIL 41340 Kant on Aesthetics & Nature (Jim O'Shea), Mondays 2-4
This seminar will consist in the close analysis and interpretation of one of the most intriguing and influential books in the history of philosophy: Immanuel Kant's _Critique of the Power of Judgment_ , i.e. the 'Third Critique'. (Please use the P. Guyer & E. Matthews translation, Cambridge Univ. Pr., 2000.)
In this text Kant attempts to unify the realms of moral freedom and deterministic nature through a conception of our capacity for purposive, reflecting judgment. In reflecting on nature and its products we seem to have a justified but problematic sense that nature itself is not only a lawful machine but is also purposively ordered: that nature exhibits phenomena that are both beautiful and sublime, as if made for us to admire; that nature's living organisms and their parts are exquisitely designed in a way that requires explanation in terms of purposes. The difficulty, however, is that nature as portrayed by physics apparently has no room for objective purposes. Having rejected any objective knowledge of nature's 'design' or purposive teleology in his famous Critique of Pure Reason, how does Kant's conception of our power of reflecting judgment supposedly ground the a priori validity of any such principles? What is Kant's conception of aesthetic judgment, and how is it supposed to be objectively valid while granting that taste is, at least in some sense, 'in the eye of the beholder'? How does Kant's conception of biology fare when we considered in light of our own Darwinian evolutionary conceptions of biology? These are the sorts of philosophical, systematic, and historical questions that will occupy us in this seminar.
- PHIL 41360 Pragmatism and the Real (Willem deVries), Tuesdays 11-1
What’s real? The word 'real' is hardly a piece of high jargon or technical language—people make decisions about what’s real and what’s not in many different contexts, and most of the time there’s no problem about the meaning of the term. (E.g., "Her job puts real demands on her" vs "The demands she experiences aren’t real; she just puts way too much pressure on herself.") But things are very different when using the term in philosophical contexts, where decisions about what’s real usually get systematized and transformed into a doctrinaire 'ism'. There are long-standing debates about Platonic realism, realism about the 'external world,' modal realism, scientific realism, moral realism, etc. In philosophy, questions about what’s real suddenly become difficult metaphysical problems. Pragmatism is generally an anti-metaphysical view, but even pragmatists have to decide which claims to reality (or denials thereof) they endorse. This course will look some recent attempts in the tradition of Sellarsian philosophy (and related strands of contemporary thought) to limn the boundary(ies?) of the real, including some attempts to reject the project. We’ll look at some Sellars and at some of his right-wing (e.g. Rosenberg, Millikan) and left-wing epigones (Rorty, McDowell, Brandom), as well as assorted others (Huw Price, various historical figures like Kant & Hegel).
- 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 analysing 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 central 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 and the existential-phenomenological approaches of Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. We also consider the accounts of intersubjectivity and recognition offered by contemporary philosophers such as Axel Honneth and Michel Foucault, as well as postcolonial and feminist philosophers. We therefore consider not only interpersonal or face-to- face encounters but the way in which intersubjectivity and recognition are understood as the basis for subject-formation. We also examine the way in which patterns of interaction form a background of norms and meanings that constitute the lifeworld, as well as those philosophies that posit recognition as an anthropological category that accounts for underlying 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 40970 Philosophy of Mind (Markus Schlosser), Wednesdays 2-4
This course covers some of the main topics and theories in the philosophy of mind and in the contemporary philosophy of cognitive science. In the first part, we will address the mind-body problem, which concerns the relationship between mind and body. We will look at traditional answers, ranging from dualism to materialism, and at more recent views, such as functionalism, the computational theory of mind, and connectionism. We will also discuss the seemingly intractable problem of mental causation. In the second part, we will shift our focus to some of the issues that have been discussed more recently, and we will pursue empirically informed approaches. The topics and readings for this part are to be decided in class. Possible topics include the 'hard problem' of consciousness, the nature of intentionality and mental representation, social cognition, the emotions, the neuroscience of free will, or any of the 'four Es' (embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended cognition).
- PHIL 40430 Philosophy of the Emotions (Rowland Stout), Thursdays 2-4
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 40410 Philosophy & Literature (Danielle Petherbridge / Dylan Trigg), Mondays 2-4
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 by the themes of ethicality, loss, materiality, and anxiety. We will 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 new forms of insight. In the first half of the course we will look at possible responses to these questions through a range of literary works that may include J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Henry James, and Donald Ryan. Alongside these works we consider essays by authors such as Richard Rorty, Martha Nussbaum, Cora Diamond, and Stanley Cavell. In particular, we will consider questions such as the philosophical and ethical value of literature; whether literature fosters ethical capacities and critical reflection; how might questions of ethical and aesthetic value be different; and what is the value of lived experience for reflecting upon questions of loss and ethical dislocation.
In the second half of the course we will turn to a consideration of these themes through a reading of literary texts, including those by authors such as Clarice Lispector, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.G. Ballard. We will give particular attention to how the dialogue between philosophy and literature is able to give voice to difficult concepts such as anxiety and the uncanny. Questions central to this relationship include: to what extent is literature able to give form to the materiality of anxiety; to what extent is literature able to affect our sense of self; and is there a relationship between anxiety and the loss of self? In conjunction with the literary texts, we will investigate these themes theoretically through the lens of Merleau-Ponty, Freud, Heidegger, Levinas, and Alphonso Lingis. 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 41390 Immortality (Tatjana von Solodkoff), Tuesdays 11-1
Filmmaker Woody Allen famously claimed that he didn’t want to achieve immortality through his works; he wanted to achieve immortality through not dying. He’s certainly not alone in his desire for immortality. The fact that we will eventually die is often thought to be one of the most regrettable facts about the human condition. But whilst the prospect of death often fills us with fear and anxiety, would the alternative option -- of living forever, of being immortal -- really be such a good thing? After all, many fictions portray immortals as being rather unfortunate creatures who wish for nothing more than being being mortal (think of Connor MacLeod from "Highlander"). The question that we are going to focus on in this seminar is this: Can an immortal life ever be good for the person who desires to be immortal? We will read a variety of articles from the contemporary philosophical literature aimed at addressing this question, starting with a seminal paper by Bernard Williams ("The Makropulos Case") in which it is argued that all forms of immortality are undesirable.
- PHIL 40840 Autonomy as a Philosophical Problem (Brian O'Connor), Tuesdays 2-4
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 (Kant, Korsgaard, Hegel, Adorno, Freud, Honneth, Geuss, Friedman, McDowell, Habermas).
- PHIL 40420 The Good Society (Maeve Cooke), Wednesdays 11-1
What is the place of protest and resistance in any "good society"? Sparked off by recent events in the real world, there has been a renewal of academic interest in this question. In the module we will consider the question of the place of protest and resistance in contemporary democratic life. In doing so, we will compare and contrast distinct forms of democratic protest, especially civil disobedience and whistle-blowing, and ask how these forms of protest are best conceptualised. We shall also consider alternative modes of political resistance. Readings include classic texts, such as Thoreau’s essay “Resistance to Civil Government”, as well as seminal essays from the 1960s and 1970s and more recent contributions to debate. One area of focus will be the ethical aspects of whistle-blowing and civil disobedience, probing in particular the concept of conscience, but we will also investigate the interplay between the moral, political and legal aspects of democratic protest.
- PHIL 41350 Metaphysics (Daniel Deasy), Wednesdays 2-4
In this course we’ll address some contemporary philosophical questions concerning the nature of time and possibility. As for time, we’ll think about questions such as: what sort of picture of time do we get from contemporary physics, and how far should the philosophy of time defer to physics? What sort of picture of time do we get from our experience of time, and how far should the philosophy of time defer to our experience? What is the nature of change? What is it for time to 'pass'? Could there be time without change? Is time travel possible? As for possibility, we’ll think about questions like: what about the world could have been different? For example, could the laws of physics have been different? Could someone have had different parents than they actually have (and still be the same person)? When something could have been the case but isn’t, what in the world (if anything) makes that true?
- PHIL 41380 Dealing with Disagreement (Maria Baghramian), Thursdays 11-1
In today’s complex societies many of our decisions depend on expert advice and opinion, but experts can and do disagree, sometimes vehemently, and not all their disagreements seem open to resolution. An immediate question facing all of us, and not just those in public positions of decision making, in particular when it comes to decisions concerning some of the greatest challenges facing humanity, such as environmental policy, is how to react to seemingly "faultless disagreement" among experts, or disagreements where neither side seems to be making any obvious errors, and its sorry corollary, the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of this in the media and civic society. In this MA module we investigate the ill understood, but socially and politically significant phenomenon of peer disagreement. The ultimate goal of the course is to gain a better understanding of the role and consequences of disagreement among scientific experts and its implications for policy decisions by governmental agencies and the formation of public opinion. More specifically, the module addresses the following questions: a)What are the best ways to understand and deal with peer disagreement among scientific experts who advise policy makers on politically and economically sensitive areas such as climate change? b)What are the optimal strategies for choosing and trusting one set of expert opinion over a dissenting one? c)What is the impact of disagreement among scientific experts on policy decisions as well as on the formation of public opinion? The study also utilises the methodologies of Experimental Philosophy in order to collect and analyse empirical data on the reactions of the general public to disagreement among experts in different arenas.
The module is running in conjunction with an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Irish Research Council New Horizons Award Scheme titled "When Experts Disagree: A comparative study of peer disagreement in the natural sciences and its effect on policy decisions".
- PHIL 40250 Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (Tim Mooney), Thursdays 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 41370 Philosophy and Criminal Law (Christopher Cowley), Fridays 11-1
This module starts with the basic philosophical questions: in the paradigm case, what does it mean for the judge to hold the defendant responsible for having committed an offence? In what ways can the defendant deny responsibility for the offence? On what basis does the jury make their decision about guilt? What sort of factors are mitigating and aggravating, and why? How exactly is the state justified in punishing the offender? This will involve a detailed examination of responsibility and excuses (esp. duress, provocation, self-defence, insanity), and at different kinds of mental state (intention, recklessness, negligence). We will also examine the important complexities and paradoxes surrounding conspiracy, complicity and collective responsibility. The module is designed for students of philosophy, political science and law. No prior knowledge of the law is required, but a familiarity with moral philosophy or political theory or legal theory (jurisprudence) is strongly recommended.