Fall semester 2016
Reading Group on Critical Theory: Adorno & Horkheimer to Habermas (3 ECTS)
The Frankfurt School represents a group of German Jewish intellectuals who formed the Institute for Social Research in 1930. With the rise of Hitler to power, the Institute moved to New York and later to California. Some stayed in the United States, while others returned to Frankfurt in 1950. The work of the Frankfurt School while varied and interdisciplinary, centered around a critique of the Enlightenment and mass culture as distinctively modern. During the course, our discussions will focus on the importance of radio and film, the influence of National Socialism, the loss of individualism, and the negative aspects of Western reason and rationality. After presenting the philosophical background of Frankfurt School thinkers, the course will examine two key texts: The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno (1944) and One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse (1964). Next the issue of culture and cultural criticism will be discussed in selected essays of Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer and Theodor Adorno. Finally the seminar concludes with the work of Jürgen Habermas. When he replaced Adorno as Chair of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, he distinguished himself from the early Frankfurt School understanding of reason as purely instrumental, arguing for reason as both instrumental and communicative. Permission by instructor is necessary because the course is meant for advanced bachelor and master's students.
Master’s and PhD students. No prerequisites, but some philosophical background is desirable.
Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance
One way to think of ignorance is as a hole or gap in your knowledge. Thought of that, ignorance is easy to fix. You learn more and you fill the hole. But another way to think of ignorance - or perhaps, another kind of ignorance - is that ignorance defends itself. You may have a false belief, or no belief at all about a given subject, and you might live in a way, and think in a way, that makes it very unlikely that you will ever discover you have a particular gap in your knowledge. Moreover, this might make it very hard for others to make you aware of your ignorance. This course is about the epistemology, ethics, and politics of this second kind of ignorance, in particular with respect to racism. The seminar covers the intersection of epistemology, ethics and politics.
Challenges to Procedural Autonomy
Roughly speaking, for one's actions to be autonomous is for one's actions to be one's own. They might fail to be one's own if, for instance, you are forced to do them, or do you them under the influence of addiction. Within liberal theory, a procedural conception of autonomy is favoured: a conception that doesn't require you to be acting on any particular set of values in order for your actions to be your own. As long as you have you thought about carefully enough, then your actions are your own. In this group, we'll discuss three challenges to procedural autonomy: substantive conceptions of autonomy, relational conceptions of autonomy, and challenges posed by an apparent conflict between a liberal ideal of multiculturalism and feminist principles.
The aim of the course is to get to know the theoretical founcations of property-owning democracy, how it influences the institutions of economy, and the questions related to the application of property-owning democracy.
Philosophy of Biology (3 ECTS)
The course addresses the following topics from the perspective of philosophy of science: different concepts of 'species', the questions related to biological classification, the structure of evolutionary theory, units of natural selection, the questions related to the notion of 'gene' etc.
All levels, no prerequisites, elective course for PhD students form all fields
Practice-based Philosophy of Science Reading Group (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.
Introduction to Philosophy of Language (3 ECTS)
Philosophy of Language is one of the systematic core areas of theoretical philosophy. It deal centrally with the meaning of linguistic expressions and theories of communication. This course introduces the main contemporary theories and basic concepts of the discipline in the analytic tradition.
Introduction to Metaphysics (3 ECTS)
An analytic introduction to contemporary metaphysics. The course will provide an overview of the basic categories of being, of the various relations between entities and of some central themes in metaphysics such as time, causation and free will.
Desire (3 ECTS)
The purpose of the course is to introduce to the students various debates over the concept of desire in the contemporary philosophy. It will be shown how such debates are relevant for issues arising in philosophy of mind, epistemology and meta-ethics, and how our everyday discourse of wanting and desire raises philosophical puzzles. 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.
All levels, no prerequisites, some knowledge of philosophy of mind is recommended.
Metaethics (3 ECTS)
Contemporary metaethics. What is it to make a moral judgment? Moral judgments are an expression of our emotional and practical subjectivity. Yet they are not matters of taste, and seem to be objectively true or false regardless of what each of us may think. Analyzing this tension, the course will give a critical overview of the main questions and theories in contemporary metaethics, and relating these theories to issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind. Topics covered: G.E. Moore's open question argument, emotivism, quasi-realism, error theory, naturalistic realism, forms of reductionism, judgment and motivation, non-naturalism.
All levels, some previous knowledge of ethics is expected.
Logic I (3 ECTS)
Alexander Davies and Indrek Reiland
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.