Seminars by Faculty of the University of Chicago
The Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago offers a wide array of seminars on topics in German Philosophy taught by faculty both in and affiliated with the Department. Below is a list of the seminars to be taught by our faculty during the academic year 2022/23 that might be of interest to students with a research focus in German Philosophy.
Autumn Quarter 2022
PHIL 22822 Nietzsche’s Gay Science
Nietzsche describes The Gay Science as a distinctively affirmative work. Although still offering sharp challenges to rival views, the book also introduces many of Nietzsche’s own ideas about how life can be embraced. We will read the Gay Science from beginning to end, giving special attention to the affirmative aspects of Nietzsche’s thought. (A)
PHIL 23451/33451 Perception and Self-Consciousness
In the first part of the course, we’ll be discussing an argument to the effect that: in order for radical skepticism about empirical knowledge not to be intellectually obligatory, we must understand ourselves as enjoying a very particular kind of self-consciousness. In the remainder of the course, we’ll be trying to get into view what an adequate account of that sort of self-consciousness might look like. (B) (III)
Two prior philosophy courses.
PHIL 50128 Logic-Mathematical vs. Logico-Philosophical Conceptions of Logic
The history of philosophy, from antiquity to the early twentieth century, is littered with classic works bearing titles such as The Principles of Logic, The Foundations of Logic, A Theory of Logic, and so on. Most of the major philosophers in this tradition – Aristotle, Avicenna, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, etc. – devote at least one whole treatise to Logic, and in most cases several. These works are, like their other writings, composed of sentences – sentences of Greek, Arabic, Latin or German prose. The object of such works is to elucidate notions such as thought, judgment, negation, inference, and inquiry. Starting in the late 19th- and early 20th century a new kind of work in the theory of logic appeared – published by authors such as Boole, Peano, Frege, Russell, Hilbert, etc. These works contained comparatively little prose and a great many quasi-mathematical symbols in which formulae, axioms, theorems, proofs, etc. were set forward. The latter sorts of work had an enormous influence on how the nature of the discipline of logic itself came to be understood and how its relation, on the hand, to mathematics, and, on the other, to the rest of philosophy, came to be re-conceived. This, in turn, led – through the work of authors such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle, Peter Strawson, etc. – to a series of efforts to challenge the ascendancy of the logico-mathematical conception of logic. The seminar will explore the relation between these two different conceptions of logic. We will be interested in ways in which these conceptions, at least in the hands of some authors, were carved out in a manner that allowed them at least to appear to coincide with one another, as well as ways in which they either tacitly diverged or openly conflicted with one another. The ideas set forth in two works by Wittgenstein – his early Tractatus and his later Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics – will shape our approach to these issues. The readings for the course will include canonical texts from the classic tradition of thought about logic from Aristotle through Kant and beyond, as well as targeted selections from those of Wittgenstein’s contemporaries whom he is most concerned to criticize (especially Frege, Russell, and Hilbert). The seminar will also feature various sidelong glances at parallel developments in the Continental tradition in authors such as Husserl, Heidegger, Jakob Klein, and others. (V)
Philosophy graduate students: no pre-reqs; all others: permission of the instructor.
James Conant, Irad Kimhi
Winter Quarter 2023
PHIL 20625/30625 Sign and Symbol
The tendency in contemporary philosophy is to conceive of a linguistic sign as a composite notion to be analyzed in terms of kind of mere physical mark or acoustic noise to which something further — a meaning or use — is assigned or added in order yield a meaningful linguistic symbol. This course will explore figures in the history of philosophy and linguistics who opposed such a conception – figures, that is, who thought that the capacity to recognize linguistic signs presupposes some prior comprehension of their real possibilities of use. Readings will be from Frege, Hilbert, early and later Wittgenstein, Franz Boas, Roman Jacobson, Morris Halle, David Kaplan, Sylvan Bromberger, and others. (B) (II)
One previous course in philosophy.
In the course of discussing how it is that a philosophical problem arises in the first place, Wittgenstein says, “The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that we thought quite innocent.” This isn’t the only place where Wittgenstein speaks as if being gripped by philosophical problems is a matter of succumbing to illusions–as if a philosophers are magicians who are taken in by their own tricks. In this course, we’ll discuss philosophy and magical performance, with the aim of coming to a deeper understanding of what both are about. We’ll be particularly concerned with Wittgenstein’s picture of what philosophy is and does. Another focus of the course will be the passion of wonder. In the Theaetetus, Plato has Socrates say, “The sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.” And when magicians write about their aesthetic aims, they almost always describe themselves as trying to instill wonder in others. Does magic end where philosophy begins? And what becomes of wonder after philosophy is done with it? (B) (III)
Two prior philosophy courses.
(FNDL 27800, HIPS 25001, CHSS 37901)
This will be a careful reading of what is widely regarded as the greatest work of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Our principal aims will be to understand the problems Kant seeks to address and the significance of his famous doctrine of “transcendental idealism”. Topics will include: the role of mind in the constitution of experience; the nature of space and time; the relation between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects; how causal claims can be justified by experience; whether free will is possible; the relation between appearance and reality; the possibility of metaphysics. (B) (V)
The first half of the seminar will introduce major themes of Marx’s philosophy—historical materialism, aspects of his economics relevant to his critique of capitalism, Marx’s early theory of human nature and flourishing, and the theory of ideology (especially as applied to morality and law)—while the second half will consider the reception and development of Marx’s ideas in 20th-century Continental European thought, with a particular focus on the theory of ideology (e.g., Lukacs, Gramsci, Sartre, Althusser) and the application of that theory to art and aesthetics (e.g., Adorno, Benjamin, Lifshits). (I)
Open to philosophy Ph.D. students without permission and to others with permission. Those seeking permission should e-mail Professor Leiter with a resume and a detailed description of their background in philosophy (not necessarily in the study of Nietzsche). In the event of demand, preference will be given to J.D. students with the requisite philosophy background.
Michael Forster, Brian Leiter
Spring Quarter 2023
PHIL 21203 Introduction to Philosophy of Law
This course will be an introduction to the philosophy of law. The first third will cover some historical classics: Plato’s Crito, and selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kant’s Doctrine of Right, Hegel’s Outline of the Philosophy of Right, and Austin’s The Province of Jurisprudence Determined. The second third of the course will cover some classics of postwar Anglo-American jurisprudence, including selections from H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, Richard Posner, and Ernest Weinrib. The final third of the course will explore in a little further detail philosophical problems that arise in the following areas: the philosophy of tort law, theories of constitutional interpretation, and feminist jurisprudence.
Lisa Van Alstyne
PHIL 21517 Compassion: For and Against
Compassion, direct concern for the suffering of another, was the subject of a lively debate in German philosophy. In this course, we will engage with two of compassion’s sharpest critics and one of its greatest defenders. We will begin with a close reading of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, considering his claim that actions only have moral worth when motivated by respect for the moral law. We will then turn to the critique of Kant developed in Schopenhauer’s On the Basis of Morality, a text which argues that actions only have moral worth when motivated by compassion. Finally, we will discuss the critique of Schopenhauer developed by Nietzsche, working through a variety of texts where Nietzsche argues that compassion makes it harder to value our lives. (A)
PHIL 21999 Marx and Philosophy
Karl Marx has been enormously influential as a philosopher, but he has also been enormously influential as a critic of philosophy. In this course, we will read Marx as a decisive contributor to a broader 19th-century effort to arrive at a new way of doing philosophy. That is, we will explore Marx’s writings with an eye to how they challenge traditional approaches to philosophy and lay out a vision for the future of philosophy. This will require close attention to Marx’s early philosophical writings as well as to selections from Kant, Hegel, Schelling, and Feuerbach.
The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant’s “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy. We will trace its effects and the responses to it, focusing on the changing conception of philosophical ethics. Kant’s famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals rejects any appeal to nature or religious authority grounding all ethical obligations in the very idea of freedom or autonomy conceived as something that is for everyone. At the same time, Kant’s own work and much of the tradition that follows seems deeply shaped by racism, sexism, and elitism. We will investigate this tension in the tradition that led inter alia to the modern university. We will discuss works by Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglass, G.W.F. Hegel, Harriet Taylor Mill, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.
The ‘I think’ traditionally stands at the center of philosophical reflection. Yet there is a minority strand in the history of philosophy which has advocated that the second person pronoun is no less central. Human beings are social creatures. For this reason, addressing another as ‘you’ in communication is no less fundamental to human rationality than giving expression to oneself through saying ‘I.’ A guiding idea of the proposed seminar will be that, properly conceived, self-consciousness and recognition of another are two sides of one and the same phenomenon. In seeking to make out this claim, the seminar will explore the different aspects of the role of address in human life. It will take its point of departure from two guiding ideas: (1) the second-person present indicative form of interpersonal nexus is no less important for understanding human thought and action and logically no less fundamental than the corresponding first-person form, and (2) what is logically peculiar to the former form of thought is best brought to the fore if one examines what second-person thought in both its theoretical and practical guises have in common. The plan for the seminar is to alternate between examining problems in theoretical philosophy whose proper solution requires attention to the role of the second person and counterpart sorts of problem in practical philosophy. Under the first heading, we will explore the role of address and joint consciousness in speech act theory, the topic of shared understanding in the philosophy of language acquisition, and the problem of the apprehension of another human being as it arises in the epistemology of other minds. Interpolated between these topics, we will weave in and out of counterpart forms of philosophical difficulty arising out of reflection upon the place of the second-person in practical philosophy: in understanding the human striving for honor, in relations of justice, as well as in friendship and love.
At least one course in philosophy.
James Conant, Matthias Haase
We will be interested in the special and problematic notion of an attitude toward the world as a whole, and in some questions that arise in contexts where people face what they experience as the end of their world or its vulnerability to destruction. Readings will include texts from Freud, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, as well as more contemporary readings from Cora Diamond, Jonathan Lear, Brian O’Shaughnessy, and others.
Permission of instructor required for grad students not in Philosophy or Social Thought.
Matthew Boyle, Jonathan Lear
PHIL 50212 Late Wittgenstein: The Absolute Basics for The Confused, Skeptical, and Ignorant