Fall semester of 2015/2016
The course will focus on a selection of bioethics topics, from the traditional issues of abortion, euthanasia, organ donation etc., to the more speculative ones pertaining to reproductive technologies, genetics etc. The course employs a problem-based learning methodology which allocates with students the rights and the responsibilities regarding the precise focus, questions and agenda of the seminars. This interdisciplinary course will mostly make use of philosophical bioethics literature but will also include critical materials from social and natural sciences.
The Political Philosophy of Hannah Arendt
Arendt's reflections on totalitarianism, the banality of evil, freedom, revolution, the rise of the social and the nature of the political mark her as one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth-century. Throughout her work, she focuses on the relationship between the self, the world and the polis – between the person as individual and as citizen – between inclusion in the world and exclusion from it. Linking academic and life experience, Arendt seeks to understand the political questions of her time within the long tradition of political philosophy. The course presents close readings from The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, Between Past and Future and Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Three boys are having fun setting a kitten on fire and watching it die slowly while it suffers excruciating pain. Most of us would agree that such an action is simply wrong. But what is it to make a moral judgment like this? Are we merely expressing our disapproval of the action, with no aim to correctly represent the action as wrong? Are we claiming something that is objectively true regardless of what others may think? Or maybe we are under the illusion of grasping a moral truth, in this and other cases? The course provides a toolbox for students to address these questions and evaluate the arguments for and against particular views.
Respecting Persons and Their Voices: Objectification and Silencing
Francesco Orsi, Alexander Stewart Davies and Eve Kitsik
It is a five-day intensive course. The concept of objectification is widely used to characterize certain kinds of personal and cultural attitudes manifested in behaviour, speech, societal practices, regulations, and representations. Objectifying is treating a person as if he or she were an object. During the course we will examine its relation to two central spheres of human experience: work and sexuality. We will discuss the required features for a plausible theory of objectification. Finally we will consider whether the very notion of objectification, for example as applied against pornography or prostitution, might have itself the consequence of objectifying those it regards as victims, whether through silencing them or denying their autonomy.
Constructivism in the philosophy of science
The course focuses on aspects of contemporary constructivist approaches to science, for example model- and agent-based accounts of science, procedures of construction of scientific knowledge, constructive realism and methodological distinction of kinds of science, the notion of scientific world picture and its role in constructing knowledge.
Introduction to Metaphysics
An analytic introduction to contemporary metaphysics. The first part of the course is devoted to the basic categories of being - universals, particulars, facts, events and propositions. The second part of the course deals with various relations between these entities and to some central concepts in metaphysics such as necessity, possible worlds, time and causation.
The course consists of three parts, each of which includes a lecture and a series of seminars. In the first part of the course we will discuss various theories about the nature of desire, including the simple dispositional view, learning-based theory and good-based account. In the second part we will look at the semantics of desire ascriptions and its possible metaphysical implications. Finally, in the third part we will turn to the epistemology of desire and inquire into different views about the way in which one can know what one wants.
Introduction to Logic
Logic I introduces the systems of propositional logic and first order predicate logic and their respective model theoretic semantics and deductive systems. It is explained how logic is used to reconstruct and analyse arguments and the semantics of natural language. For the course we will use Volker Halbach's The Logic Manual (Oxford University Press 2010). Some additional material is on Volker's website. This is the course currently used at Oxford University, and it is a (to my mind) very good introduction to elementary logic. In combination with the course "Logic for Philosophy" (FLFI.04.015) it should provide you with the minimal requirements to follow discussions in contemporary philosophy. See more information.
Introduction to Estonian Culture
The course begins with an overview of some signs in contemporary Estonian culture, and continues to read them in historical perspective, with particular attention to material culture of daily life (food, textiles, housing), transportation and innovation; social and ritual events (country fairs, customs practiced at birth, marriage, death), and the phenomenon of the folk song. The deeper dynamics of Estonian culture are approached through the secular and sacred imprint of colonization, town vs village (city vs rural) dialectics, cultural hybridity, and the perplexities of "becoming modern" in a provincial corner of Europe, recognized by its self-described identity.