Fall semester 2017
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.
Readings in Animal Consciousness (3 ECTS)
Vivian Puusepp, Kyle Nathaneal York
The aim of this course is to familiarize students with basic concepts and issues in the philosophical study of animal consciousness.
Intention (6 ECTS)
Alexander Stewart Davies
The course will focus on Elizabeth Anscombe's 1957 monograph on the nature of intentional action. President Truman was responsible for the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. This was not considered by him, an act of mass murder. Why? Because the killing of civilians was not the intention behind the dropping of the bombs. Instead, the intention was to end the (Second World) war. The killing of civilians was a side-effect of the action, not the intention behind it. For that reason, the act was not an act of mass murder. Elizabeth Anscombe believed that this defence of Truman's action is flawed. She believed that this defence rests upon a failure to properly understand the nature of intention and intentional action. She subsequently engaged in a detailed philosophical study of the nature of intention and intentional action. This course is a course about the fruit of that study, Anscombe's book Intention.
Pride: Conceptual and Moral Aspects (3 ECTS)
Margit Sutrop and Heidy Meriste
The aim of this course is to cultivate a deeper understanding of the conceptual contours of pride and its role in morality and good life. We focus on pride in two senses: as an episodic emotion, and as a character trait (virtue/vice) with more complex dispositional structure. The course covers the main philosophical positions with regard to pride throughout the history of philosophy - Aristotle's account of megalopsychia as the crown of virtues, Christian conception of pride as a capital vice and the root of all evil, Kant's conception of "love of honour", and Hume's analysis of pride as an episodic emotion - and the reflections and developments of those views in contemporary analytic philosophy.
The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence (3 ECTS)
We will study the main philosophical arguments and concepts concerning artificial intelligence, in the form of a reading group.
Postnarrativist Historiography (3 ECTS)
In the reading group, Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen's book "Postnarrativist Philosophy of Historiography", (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) is read and analyzed. The course is meant to prepare the participants for a workshop which will be held in March 2018 by the author.
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.
Classics in Moral Philosophy (6 ECTS)
The course will in each different year examine a particular work in moral philosophy that is especially significant in the history of moral philosophy and that continues to be relevant for contemporary debates, whether in normative ethics, metaethics, applied ethics, etc. This course examines John Stuart Mill's utilitarianism, through a close reading of his essay Utilitarianism (1861).
Early Modern Conceptions of the Soul and Immortality (3 ECTS)
The course focuses on the views that early modern philosophers held on the soul and immortality.
Readings in Buddhist Philosophy II (3 ECTS)
Primary and secondary texts on Buddhist philosophy will be read and analyzed. This semester, the seminars will be dedicated to the philosophy of the Indian Buddhist thinker Nagarjuna.
Philosophy Conference I (1 ECTS)
Heidy Meriste, Bruno Mölder, Margit Sutrop, Vivian Puusepp
Active participation in a philosophy conference and writing a reflection upon the process of participating in the conference. This semester the conference is "Emotions: Rationality, Morality and Social Understanding" (September 7-9).