For more information on 2015/16 graduate seminars, please see the MA program blog.
Take me to a list of past seminar topics.
FALL TERM 2015
Examines a number of liberal political theories of multiculturalism in virtue of particular claims made by specific non-Western non-liberal communities for cultural recognition. Since these theories are supposed to be a response to “multi”- cultural diversity, we examine whether and to what degree these theories can provide a realistic grass roots framework for intercultural dialogue, given their key theoretical tenets. We will explore the objection that while many theories purport to offer a just manner to approach issues of diversity, they in principle exclude the interests of cultural groups that are not organized around, for example, distinctly Western interpretations of agency, selfhood, autonomy, and property. Special attention is given to claims for self-rule made by many Aboriginal communities.
Instructor: Ashwani Peetush
PP681J Nietzsche on the Authority of the State
Nietzsche is primordially a philosopher of culture (Bildung as Kultur) and education (Bildung as Erziehung) whose aim is the revitalization of German culture. For this he seeks to restore the ideal of an Olympian culture under the guardianship of an aristocratic state. Nietzsche traces the roots of modern cultural decadence to the universalist aspirations of democracy. He employs political nominalism ideologically to dismantle the programme of the democratic state and clear the way for the advent of authoritarian commanders. Nietzsche also embraces epistemic nominalism (On Truth and Lies) to support political nominalism philosophically. Nominalism and scepticism correspond to the negative, aporetic side of his argumentation. As someone who intends affirmatively to direct the youth towards a new cultural realm he seeks to keep them from “reeling back into a hopeless infinity of scepticism” (On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life §9). While attacking modern culture as a “necessary lie,” Nietzsche defends his views as a “necessary truth” (ibid). Though a realist, he is not a political skeptic.
Instructor: Renato Cristi
Are we the authors of our own lives? Is life a story or something like a story? What, if anything, might be wrong with such claims? These are some of the over-riding questions of this course. Appeals to narrativity are increasingly prevalent in philosophical and psychological accounts of the self. Yet there is no single, philosophical narrative view of the self. Instead we find a host of claims to the effect that our lives can or do have a certain shape, unity, direction, or completeness, comparable to literary narratives or stories in general. Accompanying these claims are various declarations or assumptions that a narrative outlook makes us persons and/or better persons, or in other ways contributes to our well-being. A small but growing group of critics cast doubt on the narrative approach to the self, both as a description of how we in fact think of ourselves, and as a normative view about how we ought to think of ourselves. The course begins with one of these critiques and then works through key narrativist texts, attempting to establish what, if any, version of the narrative view of the self might be viable, and what challenges are faced.
Instructor: K. Behrendt
WINTER TERM 2016
PP681K Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics examines the question of how to live a good human life where the goodness of that life implies that it is intrinsically satisfying to the person living it. While there is broad agreement that a good human life will be a happy life, there remain disagreements about what constitutes a happy life. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle develops an account of the happy or excellent human life as a life of virtuous activity. He rejects the idea that a good or happy life can be achieved by following a list of ethical rules and instead develops an account of the virtuous life which includes, for example, sensitivity to the sort of situation one is in (is it time to be funny, to be courageous, to be generous?), the ability to identify and choose the mean, and the cultivation of appropriate sorts of emotional responses.
In this course, we will engage in close textual analysis of the Nicomachean Ethics; we will focus not only on developing sophisticated philosophical responses to Aristotle’s arguments, but also on the logically prior task of constructing well-supported textual interpretations.
Instructor: Rebekah Johnston
PP683D Climate Ethics
Instructor: Byron Williston
PP687C Sartre's Existential Phenomenology
Instructor: Gary Foster
SPRING TERM 2016