Current Graduate Student Information
Download MA in Philosophy Timetable 2018-2019 (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 41510 Ethics: Theory and Practice (Marinus Ferriera), Mondays 11-1
Introduction to theories of ethics as well as particular problems in applied ethics. Thinking seriously about ethical questions requires us to face up to two different but related problems: firstly, identifying and getting clear on what the grounds are on which we can decide on ethical questions; and secondly, how to make use of those grounds in order to get determinate action-guidance for the case at hand. The grounds for answering ethical questions would be the principles that underlie our reasoning, the criteria for right action, and a theory about the role and content of ethics. Action-guidance are things like commands, rules, advice, and other ways of telling someone what they should do. We can use these two problems as a way of understanding the theoretical ethics vs practical ethics split, where the theoretical ethics is devoted to getting the grounds of moral judgements right, and practical ethics is about how best to come to identify the concrete courses of action that would follow from those grounds. This course will use this two-pronged approach in order to come to a better understanding of some widely-discussed approaches to ethics, and to highlight important features of some particular problems in applied ethics. In addition, we will introduce a range of issues such as: possible tensions between an ethical theory’s ability to explain the grounds of judgements vs. its ability to provide us with concrete action guidance; ways in which a theory can prioritise the explaining of the grounds over providing action-guidance, or vice versa; whether the requirement to have a particular kind of action-guidance (say, a hard and fast rule you can use for public policy) hides or distorts the grounds of the judgements, and so on.
- PHIL 40010/40970 Consciousness, Agency & the Self (Markus Schlosser), Mondays 2-4
This 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", and we investigate the role of the self in agency.
- PHIL 41410 Personal Identity in Early Modern Philosophy (Ruth Boeker), Tuesdays 11-1
After John Locke completed the first edition of his An Essay concerning Human Understanding he send a copy to his friend William Molyneux—an important intellectual in Dublin—and asked Molyneux if he had any suggestions for changes in future editions. The correspondence with Molyneux motivated Locke to write the chapter “Of Identity and Diversity,” first published in 1694. In this chapter, Locke develops an innovative account of persons and personal identity that continues to influence present-day debates in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and ethics. Locke suggests that we should distinguish the term ‘person’ from our ordinary notion of a human being. Assume Ms X is in a coma and unable to remember past experiences. In this case Locke proposes, Ms X continues to be the same human being as Ms X was at an earlier time, but is not any longer the same person and it would not be just to hold Ms X responsible for past crimes. However, not all of Locke’s contemporaries were willing to accept his views about personal identity. For instance, William Molyneux worried that Locke’s view has problematic consequences, because it entails that someone who committed a crime while drunk may not be responsible for it. What do you think? In this seminar we will examine how the debates about personal identity developed in seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophy. We will discuss selected texts by Locke and several of his early critics and defenders such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Edmund Law, Jospeh Butler, Thomas Reid, Catharine Trotter Cockburn, the Clarke-Collins Correspondence, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, and David Hume.
- PHIL 41470 E. Levinas: From the Truth of Being to the Ethics of the Other (Joseph Cohen), Wednesdays 11-1
This MA module will cover the philosophy of E. Levinas. We will explicate, in detail, the confrontation set forth by Levinasian ethics with M. Heidegger's rephrasing of "fundamental ontology". Our analysis will consequently develop the manner in which "fundamental ontology" is questioned and "phenomenologically suspended" through and by the ethical commandment of the Other. This confrontation will also allow for a succint examination of the ethical question in the history of metaphysics, most particularly through the figures of Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche. After having explicated Levinas' ethical commandment in relation to Heidegger's "fundamental ontology" and beyond, to the history of metaphysics in general, we will develop how and why Levinas seeks to entirely rephrase and rethink the idea of justice. How can justice remain irreducible to truth? Why is truth, according to Levinas, incessantly bound up to violence, and consequently failing to inaugurate an ethical responsibility towards the singularity of the other? In which manner can the idea of justice open to a "hyper-ethical" and infinite responsibility?
- PHIL 41320 Topics in Continental Philosophy (Danielle Petherbridge), Wednesdays 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 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 4040 Autonomy as a Philosophical Problem (Brian O'Connor), Thursdays 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 (including, Kant, Korsgaard, Hegel, Adorno, Freud, Honneth, Geuss, Friedman, McDowell).
- PHIL 41000 Aristotle's Ethics & Politics (Tim Crowley), Mondays 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.
- PHIL 40960 The Cultural Mind (Maria Baghramin/Meredith Plug), Tuesdays 9-11
This course will look at recent research on the interdependence between culture and mind. Two aspects of culture that the course will particularly focus on are language and moral norms. One of the broad themes that we will explore is relativity. So called ‘linguistic relativity’ is the view that (a) languages affect our thinking as well as our experiences of the world and (b) vastly different languages will give rise to very different, possibly incommensurable, ways of thinking about the world. We will look at recent empirical evidence for this view, and its philosophical implications. We will also look at empirical evidence for and philosophical discussion of variance in moral norms across different cultures. An opposing thought is that language or moral norms are to some extent universal. We’ll examine empirical evidence that bears on and philosophical discussion of this hypothesis.
- PHIL 40420 The Good Society - Protest and Resistance (Maeve Cooke), Tuesdays 11-1
We will consider the place of protest and resistance in contemporary democratic life. Our focus will be civil disobedience, but we will consider other modes. We will also, more briefly, consider the questions of protest and resistance in non-democratic contexts and in a globalizing world, beyond the constitutional state. Readings will include classic texts, such as Thoreau's "Resistance to Civil Government", as well as seminal essays from the 1960s and 1970s and more recent contributions to debate.
- 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 that may include the works of Benjamin, Freud, Sartre, Said, Dreyfus, Arendt, 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 40430 Philosophy of the Emotions (Rowland Stout), Wednesdays 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 41500 Buddhist Ethics (Tatjana von Solodkoff), Thursdays 11-1
Students will be asked to acquire C. Gowans book "Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction." Routledge (2014). Further articles we will read and discuss in the module will be made available through Blackboard. Students will be required to give one input presentation (around 10 mins, with handout) in which they lay out the main points of the chapter or article of the week. There will be one presentation each week, so students who already know that they will take the module should send an email to the lecturer as soon as possible to sign up for their desired week. A large portion of the seminar will consist in group work which is why it is vital that students attend regularily and participate in the seminar as well as do the weekly reading. Required reading in preparation for the first seminar: Introduction and the first chapter (the teaching of the Buddha) from Gowan's book.
- PHIL 41240 Newman: A philosophical perspective (Angelo Bottone), Thursdays 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.