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MA modules

MA modules 2022-2023


PHIL40010/40970 Consciousness, Agency & the Self (Assistant Professor Meredith Plug)

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". We investigate the role of the self in agency, and we look at Eastern views on the self and consciousness.

PHIL41280 Feminist & Gender Theory (Professor Katherine O’Donnell)

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?

PHIL41320 Topics in Continental Philosophy (Assistant Professor Danielle Petherbridge)

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.

PHIL41570 Problems from Kant (Professor Jim O'Shea)

The 'Problems from Kant' seminar this Autumn 2022-23 will focus on a close reading of Kant's _Critique of the Power of Judgment' (1790), the 'third Critique', a work that has been central to later work in both the 'analytic' and 'continental' styles of philosophical inquiry. This book contains Kant's famous attempt to reconcile our unconditional moral freedom defended in the 'second Critique' with the deterministic objectivity of nature's laws that emerged from his famous 'Critique of Pure Reason' (1781). We will explore Kant's highly influential accounts of our aesthetic judgments of taste concerning the beautiful, the sublime, and art, as well as his currently much discussed account of how our teleological judgments of 'purposive design' in nature's organisms is reconciled in our reflective judgments with the mechanist view of nature's laws. It turns out that a felt harmony or 'subjective purposiveness' of our faculties of imagination, understanding, and reason, which is evoked by our reflections on the beautiful, the sublime, and on the organized livings things we encounter in nature, evokes in the human mind an awareness of nature as a proper arena, not just for scientific cognition, but for our moral agency and our highest moral ideals. We will begin with some necessary background in the first Critique (feel free to contact me at jim.oshea@ucd.ie for a pdf of my Intro book: _Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction_ (Routledge 2012), and then for the rest of the seminar we will work our way systematically through the Third Critique, focusing on how this book was meant to bring all of Kant's 'critical system' together, and the problems this raises. Students will be able to propose which aspect of the Third Critique they want to focus on for their final research paper.

(General Description of the 'Problem from Kant' module: Each year this MA seminar focuses on selected themes from Kant's critical philosophy, and brings to bear on them insights, debates, and extensions of Kant's ideas from 20th/21st century philosophers strongly influenced by Kant. In some years the seminar might focus more on interpreting Kant's own systematic philosophy in detail, selecting themes from his philosophy of mind, knowledge, and nature, or in some cases his views on freedom, morality, and aesthetics. In other years the seminar might focus more on the 20th/21st c. philosophers defending or criticising influential variations of fundamental Kantian themes. Usually there will be a mixture of the two approaches, historical and more recent.)

PHIL41660 Moral Agency (Assistant Professor Ruth Boeker)

Are all human beings moral agents? How can we best grow and develop as persons and moral agents? In what senses does moral agency require freedom? What role do reason and emotions play in moral actions? In what ways do we and should we depend and rely on family members, friends, and others in society for personal and moral development? What role does education play? Did 17th and 18th century women face practical hurdles that restricted their freedom and moral agency? Questions like these will be the main focus of this seminar, which focuses on seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophical debates concerning moral agency. We will discuss selected texts by John Locke, Mary Astell, Damaris Masham, Adam Smith, Sophie de Grouchy, Thomas Reid, and their contemporaries. Through a close study of their writings, we will examine issues concerning agency that continue to be relevant in philosophical debates in ethics, social philosophy, moral psychology, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics.

PHIL41810 Critique & Destruction (Associate Professor Joesph Cohen)

This module will address the inception and the development, the confrontations as well as the similitudes, both the historical sources and philosophical orientations, between three fundamental "gestures" in contemporary European philosophy: critical theory in Adorno and Horkheimer, the "kritische Abbau" or "destructio" of onto-theology or metaphysics in Heidegger and the "deconstruction" of the metaphysics of presence in Derrida. Our first task will therefore involve a genealogical contextualisation of these three "gestures" in order to analyse and interpret why, how, in which manner - that is, according to which disposition and in view of which heading - each of these, in retrieving our philosophical tradition, engage in opening novel spaces and directions for what Hegel termed "the need for philosophy". Consequently, we will engage in showing how each of these philosophical "movements" propose new reformulations of the traditional philosophical questions of meaning and signification, telos and arché, judgment and testimony, truth and justice in history. From the study of these three "gestures", our Module will also endeavour in presenting the premises towards a renewed approach to historical events, past and future, in our lived-present. 

PHIL41820 Philosophy of Life Writing (Associate Professor Christopher Crowley)

The world seems to be filling up with biographies and autobiographies: by or about athletes, actors, politicians, entrepreneurs, criminals, royalty, even philosophers. This fits with a more general urge to tell biographical stories, about other people and about ourselves, and with an urge to judge, praise and condemn – both others and ourselves. We offer our CVs to employers, and employers evaluate them. We describe and explain ourselves to potential friends or partners and they evaluate us. We ask questions: what have I achieved? What have you achieved? What have I become in virtue of such achievements? What are you still trying to achieve, trying to become? The larger philosophical problem here has to do with interpersonal understanding and self-understanding, not so much on a particular occasion, but over a longer timescale.


PHIL40250 Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (Associate Professor Tim Mooney)

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.

PHIL40410 Philosophy & Literature (Assistant Professor Lisa Foran)

In this course we will approach the relationship between philosophy and literature through a phenomenological framework by asking: 'what is the experience of reading philosophy and what is the experience of reading literature?' The aim is to discover the manner in which each genre of text reveals something of the human experience but to precisely question the extent to which that revelation actually impacts upon the reader's experience of being human. Towards these ends we will broadly investigate the theme of nationalism drawing on the work of post-Kantian European thinkers and authors.

PHIL40420 The Good Society (Professor Maeve Cooke)

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.

PHIL40960 The Cultural Mind (Assistant Professor Meredith Plug)

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.

PHIL41240 John Henry Newman – a philosophical prespective (Assistant Professor Angelo Bottone)

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.

PHIL41510 Ethics in Public Life (Dr Silvia Ivani)

Either Face to Face or Online Evening Module 

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. 

UCD School of Philosophy

Fifth Floor -- 510D, Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: philosophy@ucd.ie