Courses in English
The Department of Philosophy regularly offers courses in English, which are usually open to everyone, although sometimes they do require advanced knowledge of the discipline. Be sure to also check the Seminars and reading groups section for other regular academic activities which are sometimes given in a less formal manner.
Spring semester 2016/2017
Ethics and Philosophy of Sex (3 ECTS)
This course examines philosophical questions related to sex. We will begin by analyzing the nature of sex, discussing a range of theories of sex including sex as essentially connected to reproduction, sex as a language or expression of love, and "plain sex" theories that emphasise sexual pleasure and desire. Then, we will consider more closely the ethics of sexual behaviour, discussing issues such as perversion, objectification, sexual consent, prostitution, pornography. We will examine some of the most relevant ethico-philosophical traditions for these issues: natural law theory, Kantianism, and feminism.
All levels, no prerequisite subjects.
Critical Thinking (3 ECTS)
The aim of the course is to acquaint the students with the philosophical foundations of critical thinking, most common types of faulty argumentation and to give them the skills to apply both at analyzing and re-constructing different kinds of arguments.
Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory in Political Philosophy(3 ECTS)
In this course we will be reading and discussing Gerald Gaus' new book The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society.
Readings in Buddhist Philosophy I (3 ECTS)
The aim is to familiarize students with the main concepts and issues in Buddhist philosophy and with some schools of Buddhist thought. Texts that introduce Buddhist philosophy will be read and analyzed.
BA students (from 2nd year); MA, PhD students
Nietzsche, Foucault and Genealogy (3 ECTS)
The aim of the course is to provide students with knowledge of what is genealogy, more specifically, how Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault conceived it and what they thought it can achieve. In the course of reading Nietzsche's and Foucault's key texts on genealogy, the following topics will be focused on: (1) The cultural and philosophical context Nietzsche's and Foucault's genealogies grow out of; (2) The philosophical problems and questions pertaining to both conceptions of genealogy; (3) The (philosophical and cultural) aims and use of both genealogies; (4) The place of both (conceptions of) genealogies in the wider context of the 20th century philosophy.
Social and Ethical Aspects of Engineering (4 ECTS)
Ave Mets, Endla Lõhkivi, Edit Talpsepp and Jaana Eigi
Social and value dimensions of technologies. Overview of ethical theories. Environmental ethics and engineering. Research ethics and professional ethics.Moral relativism and cultural context of engineering.
Research Ethics and Integrity (3 ECTS)
The course consists of three modules: 1. Introductory lecture+seminar; 2. Joint workshop for the graduate students from Tartu and Konstanz universities; 3. Participation in the international conference on Research Integrity. The introductory lecture and seminar provide an ethical-philosophical background for understanding the topic of research ethics and integrity. In the joint workshop guidance will be provided on how to successfully pass the ethics review of the European Commission, how to deal with the ethical issues of one's research project. The international conference will provide a good overview of the international discussion on research integrity and scientific misconduct. A new Estonian Code of Conduct for Researchers will be discussed in the workshop of the conference.
World Picture (3 ECTS)
Nature as spirited (animism, polytheism); monotheism and science; laws of nature as material or transcendent, abstract, from materialism to abstraction; human and nature, human and world; mathematics and technology in understanding the world; deep ecology.
All interested students, suggested (not obligatory) some knowledge of philosophy of science. Elective course for philosophy BA students.
Pragmatist Realism: Philosophy, History, and Science (3 ECTS)
In his intriguing book "Is Water H2O. Evidence, Realism and Pluralism" (2012), Hasok Chang, in fascinating and informative ways, brings together the philosophy, history and practice of science. As he expresses it: the by now commonplace fact that water is H2O "was a very difficult thing for scientists to learn". Through his attentive and critical look at the history of this learning process, Chang brings forth the intricacies and contingencies of science and of our understanding of the world as scientifically explained. Thereby he incites a more pluralistic approach to and revision of our contemporary scientific practices. On the basis of this book, Hasok Chang will give the workshop "Pragmatist Realism: Philosophy, History, and Science" on 6-9 March 2017.
MA, PhD, and last year BA students
Philosophical Methodology (3 ECTS)
The course gives an overview of different philosophical methods and asks if there is something that is distinctive about them when compared to scientific methods. First, we will consider philosophical naturalism and its claim that philosophy should be continuous with natural sciences. Second, we will explore various methods that have taken by some to be distinctive of philosophy, such as conceptual analysis and thought experiments. Third, we will consider the evidential status of philosophical intuitions in the light of some recent criticism by experimental philosophers.
Philosophy MA students
Introduction to Epistemology (3 ECTS)
Alexander Stewart Davies
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and related concepts. This course aims to introduce students to the philosophical questions that arise when trying to understand knowledge and related concepts. For example, what is knowledge? Should we always form our beliefs in accordance with the evidence? Or can moral and pragmatic factors legitimately influence our beliefs? What is the structure of justification? How do we get knowledge from what seem to be good sources of knowledge: such as perception, testimony and induction even though those sources are obviously susceptible to all kinds problems e.g. illusion, deceit, and unobserved cases? The aim of this course is not to provide students with the answers to these questions. It is rather to get students to understand why these questions are not easy to answer and thus to position students so that they are able to think critically for themselves about these topics. This course is twinned with Epistemology II: a series of seminars that follow a day or so after each week's lecture. In these seminars, students will have the chance to practice doing epistemology by engaging in supervised discussions of the topics raised in the lectures. It is strongly recommended that students who attend Epistemology I also attend Epistemology II.
BA students, MA students
Introduction to Epistemology II (3 ECTS)
Alexander Stewart Davies
The aim of this course is to develop the capacity of students to analyse and assess the key texts which form the basis of the lectures for Introduction to Epistemology I. This course builds on the knowledge students gain of contemporary epistemology from Introduction to Epistemology. The aim is to develop student's capacity to critically engage with, rather than merely learn facts about, contemporary epistemology. Generally, this course must be taken simultaneously with Introduction to Epistemology I. Exceptions may be made--but you must discuss this with the course lecturer.
BA students, MA students who have already passed / are taking Introduction to Epistemology (FLFI.04.013)
Philosophical Perspectives on the Naturalistic Explanation of Religious Belief (3 ECTS)
Uku Tooming and Riin Kõiv
The purpose of this course is to explore naturalist and materialist approaches, both historical and contemporary, to explaining religious belief and practice, and their broader implications for reductive understanding of cultural phenomena. Special focus will be on the questions of whether, and in which ways, the materialist understanding of human nature can ground cultural critique. The course will address the following topics: materialist and psychologistic explanations of religious belief in the tradition of European Enlightenment thought (e.g. French materialism, Ludwig Feuerbach), contemporary cognitive studies of religion and explanations of religion in evolutionary psychology (e.g. Dan Sperber and the epidemiology of religious representations, Pascal Boyer, Paul Bloom).
Everybody interested, preferably MA students
Meaning, Truth, and Context (6 ECTS)
Alexander Stewart Davies
An attractive view of the relationship between linguistic meaning and the things we say to one another when we use linguistic expressions with given linguistic meanings is that the linguistic meaning determines what we say when we use the relevant expressions. But in recent years, this view has come under pressure from a variety of linguistic data and philosophical arguments. In this course, we will assess the cogency of these arguments and the implications of this data.
Undergraduate and graduate philosophy students who have passed elementary logic and/or formal semantics courses, and an introductory course in philosophy of language.
The Sun and the Stranger: Seminar on Julia Kristeva (6 ECTS)
Tiina Ann Kirss
This seminar course will focus on key topics, conceptual frameworks and metaphorics in selected writings by semiotician and cultural theorist Julia Kristeva. Though her work is often classified as feminist and poststructuralist, Kristeva`s thinking uses but eludes both of these classifications. More precisely, she draws extensively and richly on the discourse of psychoanalysis to address what she refers to as "new maladies of the soul, " and the characteristics of modern collectivities that inhibit or destroy subjectivity. In the seminar we will read closely Kristeva`s writings on exile, love, melancholy ("black sun"), and estrangement, as well as consider her innovative uses of form to provoke her reader into the precariousness of humanist philosophical inquiry.
Students in MA Program in Philosophy, international students, interested Ph.D students in the humanities or arts. Prerequisite: knowledge of English sufficient to undertake the reading of complex texts and to discuss them in a seminar setting.
Topics in Estonian Culture: Colonization, Trauma, Postcommunism (6 ECTS)
Tiina Ann Kirss
This course will investigate, in lecture/discussion format, three clusters of events and processes in the cultural history of Estonia in the context of interdisciplinary thought and cultural theories. Specific knowledge of cultural history will serve as a testing ground for explanatory frameworks drawn from postcolonial thought, trauma theory, and memory studies. (1) The first cluster will examine "founding moments" of the 13th century colonization of the Baltic region, and the subsequent christianization using the chronicle as a principal source. As a long-term process, colonization led to the enslavement of the Estonian peasant on manorial estates owned by Baltic-Germans, and to oppressive structures of physical as well as epistemic violence. The paradox of the emergence of written Estonian is one facet of christianization, alongside the "civilizing project" of establishing basic schools. Topics to be covered include insurgency, peasant social differentiation, and Enlightenment-fueled emancipatory discourses among Baltic-German intellectuals. (2) The second cluster will examine the loss of Estonian nationhood at the beginning of World War II, and the cultural memory of the three occupations (Soviet, German, Soviet) of the war. Models of trauma, tragedy, and postmemory will be discussed, using written life stories of Estonians as source material. (3) The third cluster will discuss the post-Soviet period (1991-) and questions will be raised concerning the pertinence and validity of a post-colonial model for these cultural shifts and dynamics. Filling in "blank spaces" of history with banished narratives, and the representation of Soviet life in life stories are questions for memory studies, and will be broached through a plurality of approaches (recuperative, "multidirectional", cultural trauma). All readings are in English translation.
All students interested in the subject.
Fall semester 2017/2018
History of Political Thought (6 ECTS)
As the historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote, “words are witnesses which often speak louder than documents.” This course will examine words and concepts from ancient Greece until the 19th century: dignity, justice, reason, nature, freedom, political community, equality, ideology, democracy, socialism and communism. To imagine the world without such words and the political concepts which they signify is to measure the profundity of the political ideas that shape our world. Beginning with Greek tragedy, the course will examine fundamental questions in the long tradition of political thought. Who is a citizen? Why should we obey the law? When is civil disobedience higher than the law? What is freedom and how is related to equality? What is political obligation? Why do individuals have the right to be treated with dignity and respect? Comprised of three parts: ancient, medieval and modern; the readings are brief selections from classical authors, rather than from secondary sources. Basic concepts such as justice, the rule of law, citizenship, power, liberty, equality, reason and representative government are traced from their origins in Greek thought to their development in the Renaissance to show how they guide political thinking today. The course discussions will emphasize the historical context and main points of different political thinkers and ideas. Because it is a historical class, attendance is important so that intellectual and historical influences of time periods are clear.
Memory, History and Tradition (6 ECTS)
The objective of the course is to familiarize students with the main ideas of historical consciousness and collective memory. From the Platonic notion of memory as a wax block to Hegel's historical consciousness and Nietzsche's critique of historicism, the link between past and present has been an object of philosophical debate. The writings of Maurice Halbwachs on collective memory emphasize that memory is not entirely individual, but linked to particular groups. Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics foregrounded the importance of interpretation, tradition and historical consciousness. Freud, on the other hand, was more interested in the traumatic aspect of past experience, rather than the past as a repository of tradition. The course ends with Derrida's hauntology as a substitute for ontology. In our discussions, we will examine what it means to be conscious of the past, to be influenced, determined or even haunted by past events. An underlying theme throughout the course will be the inability to fully capture and represent past experience in the present.
No prerequisites, but some philosophical background is desirable. The course is meant for advanced bachelor and master’s students.