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  1. Helen Lauer | Department of Philosophy and Classics
  2. Contemporary philosophy
  3. Navigation menu
  4. Empedocles (c. 492—432 B.C.E.)

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Helen Lauer | Department of Philosophy and Classics

What do we owe to future generations? The module is assessed by a summative essay. The maximum length is strictly words. Students are strongly encouraged to write a formative essay, which is due around the end of week 8. The formative essay is intended to serve as a draft of the summative and should therefore answer the same question. We will have a problem-based approach, and try to assess how Aristotle addresses his own philosophical questions. The course provides an introduction to Kant's theoretical philosophy. It will consider both questions of interpretation and issues of critical assessment.

Typical topics include but are not limited to: the question of synthetic a priori judgements, Kant's views on space and time, the self, the critique of traditional metaphysics, and the distinction between appearances and things in themselves. This module will examine the ideas of 20th-century philosophers who have postulated an intrinsic link between linguistic meaning and mental content, on the one hand, and our practices of interpreting linguistic expressions and ascribing propositional attitudes, on the other. We will study the work of W. Quine, Donald Davidson and Daniel Dennett, among others.

We will study these proposals in detail and assess their plausibility. We will also consider the consequences of these ideas for related philosophical issues. This course considers the philosophy of arithmetic. Our starting question is: Do numbers exist?


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If numbers exist, they are presumably abstract entities, but then how can we know anything about them? We will consider several reactions to these questions, including constructivism, formalism, logicism, structuralism, nominalism and fictionalism. The course presupposes no particular knowledge of mathematics, but introductory logic would be helpful.

This is an intermediate-level module designed to introduce students to the burgeoning field of Applied Epistemology. We will use philosophical theories about knowledge, justification and belief-formation to explore pressing societal issues.

Contemporary philosophy

Topics will vary from year to year, but may include:. Shared with Graduate Students. We can characterise TARR as involving three main components. Everyday propositions represent the world by being truth functions of elementary propositions. The second component of TARR is an account of the nature of elementary propositions and of how they represent the world.

On this account, an elementary proposition is a combination of items known as names. Names are referential expressions. An elementary proposition represents the referents of its names as combined with one another in the same way in which the names are combined in the proposition. The proposition is true if the referents are so combined; false if they are not. The referents of names are simple items known as objects. The combinations of objects that elementary propositions represent as obtaining are known as states of affairs Sachverhalte.

The third component of TARR is an account of the structure of reality, according to which a possible state of the world is constituted by the states of affairs that obtain in it. Two states of the world differ from one another only if there are states of affairs that obtain in one and not in the other.

And for every set of states of affairs there is a possible state of the world in which the states of affairs that obtain are precisely the elements of the set. Thus, according to TARR, elementary propositions and states of affairs provide the interface between language and the world. Propositions represent the world by their truth-functional dependence on elementary propositions. These, in turn, represent states of affairs.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

This enables propositions to represent the whole of reality, since everything that is the case, and everything that can be the case, consists in the obtaining and non-obtaining of states of affairs—what truth functions of elementary propositions represent. Taken as an intuitive model, TARR is fairly easy to understand—we can form a conception of what things would have to be like in order for TARR to be correct.

A precise, literal understanding of the view is much harder to achieve. And it is even harder to grasp why anyone would think that this is how things are in actuality—that language and reality have the structure that TARR attributes to them and that the former represents the latter as TARR says it does. Specifically, it is hard to understand why Wittgenstein thought this. Addressing these questions is the main goal of this course. There are two main English translations of the Tractatus, one by by C. I tend to use the Pears and McGuinness, but although they differ in important respects, either would be fine.

I have prepared a hypertext version of the Pears and McGuinness translation. It doesn't work on some browsers.

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If you know any German, there is a very useful edition by Joachim Schulte and Brian McGuinness Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, , collating sections of the Tractatus with relevant passages from preliminary manuscripts. Another important primary source is Wittgenstein's Notebooks, Oxford: Blackwell, 2nd ed. This volume contains the main extant manuscripts from the period when Wittgenstein was working on the Tractatus.

We will be paying close attention to the origin of Wittgenstein's ideas in the work of Russell and Frege. We will be looking mainly at the following texts:. Geach, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Chapter 4 of The Principles of Mathematics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, London: Longmans, Green, Chapter 12 of The Problems of Philosophy. The fourth lecture of The Philosophy of Logical Atomism. LaSalle, Ill. There are many book-length expositions and commentaries of the Tractatus. Many of them make some good points but they all differ in important respects from the interpretation that I'll be presenting.

The following might be particularly useful:. Max Black. A Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Ithaca, N. James Griffin. Wittgenstein's Logical Atomism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, David Pears. Volume I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, I will recommend readings on particular topics in the lectures, but here is an unsystematic selection of interesting articles on the issues that we will be discussing:.

Candlish, Stewart. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, Conant, James. London: Routledge, Carnap and Early Wittgenstein. Stidd, Oxford: Clarendon, Geach, Peter T. Griffin, Nicholas. Hylton, Peter. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner, Russell, Idealism, and the Emergence of Analytic Philosophy. Kremer, Michael. Linsky, Leonard. Palmer, Anthony. Chapter 4.

Pears, David. Proops, Ian. Sluga, Hans. Sommerville, Stephen. Vienna: Holder-Pichler-Tempsky, The module focuses on Aristotle's philosophy of mind and moral psychology. After a brief introduction in the first week to the central tenets of his metaphysics and epistemology, the module will cover topics including Aristotle's views human nature and human flourishing, the kinds of cognitive capacities attributable to humans and non-human animals, the emotions, virtue ethics, the doctrine of the mean and learning to be good, weakness of the will, and the role of contemplation in the good life.

The central primary texts will be de Anima and the Nicomachean Ethics, although other texts will be consulted. They will develop the ability to evaluate the arguments proposed in the sources and to propose and assess different possible interpretations. They will be encouraged to reflect critically on the significance of the material. A sample syllabi, with the relevant primary texts, is as follows:. Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, book I especially chapters , , Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, I.

Broad offers a comparative phenomenology of vision, audition, and touch highlighting the important differences between them. The class will be conducted as a seminar with student presentations. For relatively recent analytic discussion of these issues, the student might consult the optional reading Perception and Its Modalities edited by Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen, and Stephen Biggs. Oxford University Press, This module will focus on philosophy of emotion. We will critically examine the leading theories of emotion found in contemporary philosophy of mind.

According to "feeling" theories, emotions are a distinctive kind of felt sensation. According to "judgment" theories, they are a kind of evaluative belief. According "perceptualist" theories, emotions are a kind of perception, akin to visual experience. According to "non-reductivist" theories, the emotions cannot fruitfully be understood in terms of other pre-existing categories in the philosophy of mind, but must be understood in their own right.

To what extent can each of these the capture the nature of emotions and the role they play in our mental lives? We will also discuss further issues: do the emotions form a natural kind? What representational content do emotions have? How do emotions relate to values? How do they relate to the body?

This optional course will be taught in seminar format, with one weekly two-hour meeting. It is designed to introduce students to some central questions in political and moral philosophy. The topic of the course is the politics of sex. It focuses on general ethical concerns raised by state regulation of intimate relations e.

Should some things not be for sale? Is consent the key to legitimate interaction? Are there circumstances in which paternalism is permissible or even required? This course is intended for students with a range of specializations, but some background knowledge in philosophy normally a minimum of two philosophy courses passed before taking this module. The course is not suitable for conversion students.

This is an advanced undergraduate course covering topics in analytic philosophy of religion. We will be focusing on three topics. Gasser ed Personal Identity and Resurrection. Assessment: Unseen two-hour written examination. The course focuses on central issues in the writings of the German Idealists — Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel — with special attention to the ways in which they develop and transform Kant's philosophy. Topics covered include the theory of the self, transcendental and absolute idealism, philosophy of nature, the Hegelian dialectic.

In this course, we will cover three central topics in the metaphysics of science: causation, chance and the laws of nature. Questions to be addressed include: What are laws of nature? Are there laws in sciences such as biology, ecology, or economics? If so, how do they relate to the laws of physics? With the development of artificial systems electronic computers, autonomous robots, etc.

But then it was clear that people could use these artificial systems in order to contrast theories describing natural phenomena Maes, ; Webb, , instead of attempting to contrast them directly with natural systems see Figure 2. Figure 1. The inductive method tests a theory of a system by matching predicted facts against observed facts Steels, Figure 2. The synthetic method builds up theories of a system attempting to construct an artificial system that exhibits the same capabilities of the natural system Steels, We have the advantage that we have a very high control over the artificial system.

Also, it is relatively easy to repeat experiments and to isolate some processes.

A Matter of Time

But this is because we are simplifying the natural phenomena. If this simplification is not done with care nor justified turning into oversimplification , we might be fooling ourselves contrasting the performance of our artificial system not taking into account observed phenomena experience of the natural system, and our artificial system will just be a consequence of our theory Di Paolo, Noble, and Bullock, It would be like testing if the theorems derived from axioms we define, are consistent with the axioms [9] which is important for noticing unexpected errors, but by no means justifies the axioms.

It is difficult to decide when a model is oversimplifying, because it depends on the goal of the model. Since by definition all models make simplifications otherwise they would be instances of the system, not models , we can always find a context when any model can be considered to be oversimplifying [10].

It depends more on how much we want, or are able, to understand, and how many assumptions we want to admit, in order to decide how much a model should simplify the modelled. In all cases, this depends on the specific situation. That is, it is relative to a specific context. It is only inside a specific context that we can judge oversimplification. And again, experience will show us which contexts are more appropriate for different situations. As with all emergent processes, this can be a bit observer-dependant. This is because some people might not consider the emergent phenomena to be what the researchers claim to be, because "it is only individuals and interactions, not a society".

As we stated earlier, the societies absolutely are the individuals and their interactions. It is just that we observe social phenomena at a different abstraction level. Sometimes this observation is not shared, and some people speak about a system in terms of a lower abstraction level while others in terms of the higher in this case, individual and social level , not realizing that they are different perspectives of the same thing. For example, social models involving cellular automata or grid worlds e.

Epstein and Axtell, have been severely criticized for being "non realistic". But, as we stated, any model is non realistic in some sense. Other approaches include the modelling of societies from an adaptive autonomous agents or behaviour-based systems perspective e. Hemelrijk, ; Gershenson, a , or from a rational agents perspective e.

Empedocles (c. 492—432 B.C.E.)

Castelfranchi, All these are just examples, since the specific approach for each model is hard to classify rigidly. We would not like to say that any approach is effective, but we need to note that it is difficult to compare different models if they are taking different perspectives, goals and assumptions. Rational agents are more effective for modelling social reasonings; behaviour-based systems are more effective for modelling social adaptive behaviour; and so on.

Every approach has its pros and cons, since they study societies at different levels and in different contexts. These include the study of communication and language e. Cangelosi and Parisi, ; Steels and Kaplan, , different types of self-organization and adaptation e. Mataric, ; Steels, , coordination e. Di Paolo, and cooperation e.

Hemelrijk, ; Cohen et al. Cangelosi and Parisi, , and emergence of social properties e.

As we cannot compare models from different perspectives or contexts, we cannot compare models of different aspects of society. This is because each one is modelling different aspects of sociality, and from different perspectives. While judging a model we need always to take into account which perspective it has, because no model will be able to have all the properties of a society if we are not even able to define them properly If, for a given perspective and aspect, a model is not able to simulate the modelled aspect of the natural system seen from the same perspective, it will not be valid.

And for valid models, it seems we are interested only in the ones which explain non trivial phenomena. But also, it is a widely accepted theory that our cognition evolved because of the complexity of our societies [11] Dunbar, Therefore, in order to study human cognition, we need to study our societies. We acquire our intelligence whatever intelligence may be by social interactions. An argument for this, without having to isolate a newborn and study its non-development, would be to compare the genetic differences of present-day humans and those of ten thousand years ago or one thousand years ago or one hundred years ago.

The genetic difference is uncomparable to the cognitive and cultural differences found in any period of time. How can we explain this? Accepted and sensible ideas note the role of the storage of information outside our brains e. But all this only has sense, and can be studied, inside a social context.

Taking this to a larger scale, how could an isolated individual acquire culture and civilization [12] So, if we attempt to study the evolution or acquisition of human and it seems any cognition, we need to include a social perspective. Recent research in Artificial Intelligence has already noted this importance e.

Breazeal, ; Steels and Kaplan, The importance of social factors has been also noticed for studying consciousness Thompson,