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.

Academic Year 2023-24

Autumn Quarter 2023

PHIL 21423 Introduction to Marx

This introduction to Marx’s thought will divide into three parts: in the first, we will consider Marx‘s theory of history; in the second, his account of capitalism; and in third, his conception of the state.

PHIL 28202/38202 Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

A study of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and its topics, including knowledge, self-consciousness, desire, culture, morality, religion, art, and the character of phenomenological investigation.

PHIL 27303/47303 The Principle of Sufficient Reason

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is the principle according to which every truth or fact can be explained. Appeals to explicability are pervasive in our everyday reasoning as well as in philosophy and the sciences – for example, the view that consciousness is grounded in physical features of the world is motivated by the thought that otherwise consciousness would be inexplicable. However, while the thought that phenomena admit of explanation motivates a great deal of philosophy, contemporary philosophers on the whole reject the PSR. Their reasons for doing so are partly because the PSR is thought to have the following surprising consequences: that God exists; that everything that could possibly be true is not only actually true, but necessarily true (also known as necessitarianism); and that only one thing exists (also known as monism). In this course we will read, write, and think about the philosophical tradition of metaphysical rationalism that is characterized by its embrace of the PSR. Our course will divide into three sections. First, we will study the ‘golden age’ of metaphysical rationalism in the 17th century through the writings of Spinoza and Leibniz. From there, we will turn to the recent resurgence of interest in metaphysical rationalism within analytic metaphysics, much of which has been influenced by scholars working in 17th century philosophy. In this second part of the course, we will discuss in a more systematic way the relation between the PSR and monism, necessitarianism, grounding, and metaphysical explanation. Finally, we will end by looking at Michael Della Rocca’s recent claims that the only consistent form of rationalism is a kind of radical monism, and that as such rationalism – and reason itself – may be self-undermining. Our aim in this course is to come to understand a historically important philosophical tradition that is undergoing a renaissance. It will serve as an introduction to work in the history of philosophy and contemporary metaphysics, and it will help students build the skills they need to continue engaging with both.

Winter Quarter 2024

PHIL 27523/37523 Reading Kierkegaard

This will be a discussion-centered seminar that facilitates close readings some of Kierkegaard texts:

The Present Age, Fear and Trembling, Sickness Unto Death, and The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air. Topics to be considered will include: living in clichés and self-satisfaction, despair, absolute requirements, the demands of ethical life, and becoming a human being. We shall also consider Kierkegaard’s forms of writing and manners of persuasion. Students will be expected to write comments each week and to read the comments of others. Our reading each week will be determined by the pace of the group.

PHIL 20307/50307 Kant on Moral Meaning

Kant is known mostly as a moral theorist. In that capacity, he argued that morality was a matter of pure practical rationality and that we are unconditionally obligated to a moral law, the categorical imperative. But Kant also noted that we do not experience our moral lives in those theoretical terms, and in several texts, he explored the various ways in which our moral vocation is ordinarily experienced, what it means to us, and how it comes to matter to us. In that context, he discusses such topics as conscience, virtue and the formation of character, moral education, whether human beings are radically evil, how the claims of morality fit into a human life as a whole, and the possibility of a moral community. These themes will comprise the topics of this seminar. The texts will include sections from his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, his Doctrine of Virtue, his Lectures on Ethics, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, and essays on the problems of casuistry.

PHIL 51830 Advanced Topics in Moral, Political & Legal Philosophy: Nietzsche’s Theory of Value

The seminar will explore aspects of Nietzsche’s theory of value, especially regarding morality and aesthetics, in the context of two major intellectual 19th-century influences on his thought:  naturalism (especially through Schopenhauer and German Materialism) and Romanticism.  The first half of the seminar (led by Leiter) will emphasize naturalistic themes in his understanding of morality in On the Genealogy of Morality and excerpts from Beyond Good and Evil.  The second half (led by Forster) will examine the influence of Romanticism, including in The Birth of Tragedy and selections from later works. 

Michael Forster, Brian Leiter 

PHIL 57502 Finite Knowledge in the Critique of Pure Reason

A consideration of the positive part of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as the reflective investigation of the human capacity for empirical knowledge and as the advancement, under the title of transcendental idealism, of a conception of metaphysics as the science of the object of that capacity as such, with attention to alternative interpretive possibilities.

Spring Quarter 2024

PHIL 21426 Marx’s Theory of Class

The topic of this course is Karl Marx’s theory of socio-economic class. Its purpose is to gain insight into Marx’s fundamental thesis that understanding classes helps us understand politics. Though it is one of the topics for which his name is most remembered, his view of class is often misrepresented. For instance, one might hear that, for Marx, there are just the two most famous classes of capitalist society—the so-called proletariat (workers) and the bourgeoisie (capitalists). Like classical economists before him and heterodox economists after him, however, Marx actually believes that modern societies consist of at least three classes: workers, capitalists, and landlords or rentiers, as well as other marginalized groups. And he even disaggregates those classes into the smaller groups which constitute them (e.g., productive and unproductive labor; industrial, commercial, and financial capital, etc.). By examining selections from his mature political-economic writings, we will reconstruct Marx’s theory of social classes and consider his application of that theory in significant case studies such as the American Civil War. Themes which we will address include the relation between economy and politics, class and race, science and ideology, as well as agency and structure in historical development. Questions which we will ask include the advantages and disadvantages of Marx’s view with an eye to contemporary questions.

PHIL 27000 History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century

The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant’s “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy.  We will trace the effects of this revolution and the responses to it, focusing specifically on the influence of Kant’s contribution to moral philosophy and its lasting influence on discussions of ethics and political philosophy.  We will begin with a consideration of Kant’s famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in which he announces his project of grounding all ethical obligation in the very idea of a free will.  We will then consider Hegel’s radicalization of this project in his Philosophy of Right, which seeks to derive from the idea of freedom, not just formal constraints on right action, but a determinate, positive conception of what Hegel calls “ethical life”.  We will conclude with an examination of some important challenges to the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical and political theory: Karl Marx’s re-interpretation of the idea of freedom in the economic sphere; Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill’s radicalizations of the ideas of political liberty and equality; and the appropriation and critique of the Enlightenment rhetoric of freedom by writers on racial oppression including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, and Angela Davis.

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial    Topic: Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Johannes Climacus argues in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript that to be a true philosopher, one must be a uniquely subjective thinker. While subjectivity has traditionally been associated with a lack of objectivity (and thus a negative attribute), Kierkegaard aims to recover this concept. For him, rather, to be subjective is to be the sort of person who does not merely read or study philosophy, but to be someone who lives differently as a result of it. Thus, our aim in this course is to read the Postscript as Climacus would have it read. In asking about the nature of subjectivity, commitment, religion, and action, our goal will be ever on our own lives and how they ought to be lived.

PHIL 27326/37326 Leo Strauss’ Philosophical “Autobiography”

Leo Strauss did not write an autobiography. However, he did mark out his path of thought through autobiographical reflections on the decisive challenges to which his oeuvre responded. The philosophically most demanding confrontation that Strauss presented on the question of how he became what he was is the so-called Autobiographical Preface of 1965, which he included in the American translation of his first book, “Spinoza’s Critique of Religion” (originally published in 1930). Two decades earlier, in the lecture The Living Issues of German Postwar Philosophy (1940), he made a first autobiographical attempt to publicly ascertain himself and determine his position. And in 1970 he published the concise retrospective A Giving of Accounts.

The seminar will make these writings – which illuminate the significance of Nietzsche and Heidegger for Strauss and address his early engagement with revealed religion and politics, in a constellation ranging from Hermann Cohen and Franz Rosenzweig to Karl Barth and Carl Schmitt – the subject of a close reading. Selected letters to Karl Löwith, Gershom Scholem and others will be used as supplementary texts.

Heinrich Meier

PHIL 28203/38203 Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

We will study Hegel’s Elements of Philosophy of Right. The book is an absolute classic of practical philosophy. Its ambition is nothing less than to provide a systematic treatment of the unity of action theory, ethics and political philosophy. Hegel’s theory is considered by many as the highpoint and completion of practical philosophy in the post-Kantian German Idealism. And it is essential for the development Marxism and Critical Theory. It is a crucial treatise to study – not only for those interested of the history of ethics and political theory, but for anyone reflecting on the logic and origins of the kind of society we live in. At the same time, the book is hardy an easy read. For one, the genre of text is quite peculiar: it was written for as a condensed “Leitfaden”  for the students listening Hegel’s lectures. Moreover, the range of topics discussed under the heading of the Philosophy of Right – as well the order in which they are presented – seems quite from a contemporary perspective.

Hegel’s guiding thought is that the power of practical reason and freedom can only be understood through its actuality. What stands at center of his treatise is thus the idea of practical reality, encapsulated in his famous slogan that “the rational is actual and the actual is rational.” Hegel’s point is that the domain of the practical is a stratum of being that is not a reality given to the mind, but one that reason apprehends as its own work in virtue of bringing it into being. This thesis has two sides: On the one hand, it means that there are aspects of reality whose very existence depends on our understanding of them as rational. On the other hand, it means that the norms of rationality cannot be understood independently of their realization in practice. Various features of our contemporary intellectual climate make it difficult for us to grasp this idea. Hegel’s slogan is often taken as a peculiar excess of Absolute Idealism that just reflects a conservative attitude towards the status quo. However, the central topics for a Marxist critique of right and western liberalism – such as alienation, exploitation and imperialism – can already be found in Hegel’s account on bourgeois society.

PHIL 21511/31511 Forms of Philosophical Skepticism

The aim of the course will be to consider some of the most influential treatments of skepticism in the post-war analytic philosophical tradition—in relation both to the broader history of philosophy and to current tendencies in contemporary analytic philosophy. The first part of the course will begin by distinguishing two broad varieties of skepticism—Cartesian and Kantian—and their evolution over the past two centuries (students without any prior familiarity with both Descartes and Kant will be at a significant disadvantage here), and will go on to isolate and explore some of the most significant variants of each of these varieties in recent analytic philosophy.  The second part of the course will involve a close look at recent influential analytic treatments of skepticism. It will also involve a brief look at various versions of contextualism with regard to epistemological claims.  We will carefully read and critically evaluate writings on skepticism by the following authors: J. L. Austin, Robert Brandom, Stanley Cavell, Thompson Clarke, Saul Kripke, C. I. Lewis, John McDowell, H. H. Price, Hilary Putnam, Barry Stroud, Charles Travis, Michael Williams, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. (B) (II)

This will be an advanced lecture course open to graduate students and undergraduates with a prior background in analytic philosophy.

Some Other Courses

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)
Joshua Fox

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.
David Finkelstein

PHIL 50128 Logic-Mathematical vs. Logico-Philosophical Conceptions of Logic
(SCTH 50128)
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.
James Conant

PHIL 21505/31505 Wonder, Magic, and Skepticism
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.
David Finkelstein
PHIL 23504/33504 Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind
Matthias Haase

PHIL 27500/37500 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
(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)
Matthew Boyle

PHIL 51830 Advanced Topics in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy: Marx’s Philosophy and its 20th-Century Development
(LAWS 53256)
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)
Joshua Fox

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.
Lawrence Dallman

PHIL 27000 History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century
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.
Matthias Haase
PHIL 27506/37506 The Second Person: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives
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

PHIL 50113 The Concept of World and Its Vulnerability
(SCTH 50113)
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
David Finkelstein


Spring Quarter 2019


PHIL 23701/33701. Varieties of Philosophical Skepticism.

The aim of the course will be to consider some of the most influential treatments of skepticism in the post-war analytic philosophical tradition – in relation both to the broader history of philosophy and to current tendencies in contemporary analytic philosophy. The first part of the course will begin by distinguishing two broad varieties of skepticism – Cartesian and Kantian – and their evolution over the past two centuries (students without any prior familiarity with both Descartes and Kant will be at a significant disadvantage here), and will go on to isolate and explore some of the most significant variants of each of these varieties in recent analytic philosophy. The second part of the course will involve a close look at recent influential analytic treatments of skepticism. It will also involve a brief look at various versions of contextualism with regard to epistemological claims. We will carefully read and critically evaluate writings on skepticism by the following authors: J. L. Austin, Robert Brandom, Stanley Cavell, Thompson Clarke, Saul Kripke, C. I. Lewis, John McDowell, H. H. Price, Hilary Putnam, Barry Stroud, Charles Travis, Michael Williams, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. This will be an advanced lecture course open to graduate students and undergraduates with a prior background in analytic philosophy. J. Conant


PHIL 56706. Conceptions of the Limits of Logic from Descartes to Wittgenstein.

In what sense, if any, do the laws of logic express necessary truths? The course will consider four fateful junctures in the history of philosophy at which this question received influential treatment: (1) Descartes on the creation of the eternal truths, (2) Kant’s re-conception of the nature of logic and introduction of the distinction between pure general and transcendental logic, (3) Frege’s rejection of the possibility of logical aliens, and (4) Wittgenstein’s early and later responses to Frege. We will closely read short selections from Descartes, Kant, Frege, and Wittgenstein, and ponder their significance for contemporary philosophical reflection by studying some classic pieces of secondary literature on these figures, along with related pieces of philosophical writing by Jocelyn Benoist, Matt Boyle, Cora Diamond, Peter Geach, John MacFarlane, Adrian Moore, Hilary Putnam, Thomas Ricketts, Sebastian Rödl, Richard Rorty, Peter Sullivan, Barry Stroud, Clinton Tolley, and Charles Travis. The course is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students with prior background in philosophy. J. Conant


PHIL 20215/30215 (SCTH 30215). The End of Life.

Aristotle taught that happiness, or Eudaimonia, I the end of human life, in the sense that it is what we should strive for. But, in another sense, death is the end of life. This course will explore how these two “ends” – happiness and death – are related to each other. But it will do so in the context of a wider set of concerns. For, it is not only our individual lives that come to an end: ways of life, cultural traditions, civilizations and epochs of human history end. We now live  with the fear that human life on earth might end. How are we to think about, and live well in relation to, ends such as these? Readings from Aristotle, Marx, Engels, Freud, Heidegger, and Arendt. A. Ford & J. Lear


SCTH 44917. Studies in Dramatic Structure: Goethe and Schiller

Drama, as theoreticians from Aristotle to Hegel forcefully argued, views the world through the lens of action. But how exactly does action make the world intelligible? In this course we shall consider this question through the close analysis of two (very different) historical plays: Goethe’s Egmontand Schiller’s Maria Stuart. Since both these plays rely on historical sources, we shall have the opportunity to view dramatic structure against the background of historical events (both factual and mythic). Schiller’s theoretical work, centrally his review of Egmont, and Goethe’s essays on Shakespeare will provide important analytical reference points, but our discussions will also draw on theoretical work on drama from Hegel to Juliane Vogel. This course provides a unique opportunity for the close study of dramatic structure. D. Wellbery

Winter Quarter 2019


PHIL 20210/30210. Kant’s Ethics.

In this course we will read, write, and think about Kant’s ethics. After giving careful attention to the arguments in the Second Critique, portions of the Third Critique, the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Metaphysics of Morals, and several other primary texts, we will conclude by working through some contemporary neo-Kantian moral philosophy, paying close attention to work by Christine Korsgaard, David Velleman, Stephen Engstrom, and others. B. Laurence


PHIL 55511. Mourning and Melancholia.

What is it to live well — or poorly — with death? Why is mourning thought of as psychic health? This seminar will read closely Freud’s classic papers, “Mourning and Melancholia” and “On Transience”. We shall also read other Freudian texts on death, murder and loss — such as Totem and Taboo, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego — and consider how all these phenomena contribute to the development of the human mind. We shall read other psychoanalysts such as Hans Loewald on separation and mourning. And we shall read other thinkers such as Heidegger on being-towards-death, Rilke on transience, Cora Diamond on loss and other authors. Permission of instructor required. This will be a small, active seminar; enrollment is limited. Please email before the first meeting if you have an interest in participating. J. Lear


PHIL 51830. Topics in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy: Nietzsche on Morality, Suffering, and the Value of Life.

Nietzsche objects to Judeo-Christian morality (and its ‘ascetic’ analogues in non-Western traditions) because he argues it is a fatal obstacle to certain kinds of human flourishing and cultural excellence. This is closely connected to his opposition to Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view that the inescapable fact of suffering renders life without value (a life without human excellence would, on Nietzsche’s view, lack value). These issues (and others, e.g., the nature of philosophy and tragedy, the conception of Dionysus) have antecedents in his early work as a scholar of antiquity and the influence of his Basel colleague, the important historian Jacob Burckhardt. Roughly the first five sessions will be devoted to reconstructing the “mature” Nietzsche’s view, as represented by the Genealogy, but also excerpts from Daybreak, Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of the Idols, and Ecce Homo. The remaining four sessions of the seminar will explore the historical background, in Greek literature and philosophy, the reception of Greek culture in German philosophy, and in the seminal work of his colleague Burckhardt. The ultimate goal is to reconstruct Nietzsche’s view from a philosophical point of view and, as importantly, in light of the historical context. Open to philosophy PhD students without permission and to others with permission; those seeking permission should e-mail 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. M. Forster; B. Leiter


Social Thought 38113 Hermeneutics of the Image

What does it mean to “read” an image? To achieve an understanding of its “meaning”? This is not an easy question since images don’t directly offer propositional content, which is the usual habitat of meaning. In this seminar, we will approach this question by considering first some foundational contributions to hermeneutics (Gadamer, Hirsch) and to the theory of pictorial meaning (Wollheim). We will then dig into the tradition of pictorial interpretation as it unfolds starting with Winckelmann and Diderot and extending to the present day (Fried, Clark). Freudian hermeneutics (Freud, Adrian Stokes), iconology (Panofsky), and phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger) will also be considered. In each case, we will endeavor to test the claims and interpretive findings through close examination of the images involved. The emphasis will be on the tradition of European painting and sculpture, but the tools acquired in the seminar should also be applicable in other fields. D. Wellbery

Autumn Quarter 2018

PHIL 51821. Political Liberalism and Social Pathologies.

The exercise of state power is supposed to pass a test of “legitimacy.” However, it has been difficult to find a legitimacy criterion that is both compelling and satisfiable. In Political Liberalism John Rawls proposes a criterion of legitimacy that he thinks will be compelling, satisfiable, and, crucially, acceptable to a wide range of citizens’ (reasonable) fundamental beliefs (or, as he calls them, “comprehensive doctrines”). Rawls’s proposal has been criticized in many ways. In the seminar we will go through and try to understand the structure and content of Rawls’s political liberal view. We will then examine several challenges to his criterion of legitimacy. Finally, we will look at a challenge that stems from work by recent writers of the Frankfurt School. This challenge says (i) Rawls’s legitimacy criterion does not preclude significant “social pathologies” associated with a capitalist economy, and (ii) no criterion of legitimacy that could preclude these pathologies would be consistent with the basic agenda of political liberalism. The seminar will read work by Rawls, Colin Bird, Corey Brettschneider, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth and Rahel Jaeggi. (I) D. Brudney


Social Thought 41219  Interpretation: Theory and Practice. 

This seminar will be conducted on two tracks. On the one hand, we will study major contributions to hermeneutic theory (including positions that understand themselves as anti-hermeneutic). Contributions to be considered include works by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wijlhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, E.D. Hirsch, Manfred Frank, Roland Barthes, Stanley Cavell, and Jacques Derrida. At the same time, the seminar will include a practical component in which we will collectively develop interpretations of works by Heinrich von Kleist, Johann Peter Hebel, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville. English translations of the assigned reading will be provided. (This course is restricted to students in Ph.D. programs.) D. Wellbery