2017-18 Graduate Seminars

Fall 2017

Rachel Barney, Seminar in Plato: Plato’s Theaetetus

Thurdays, 3-6 JHB 418

A ‘slow reading’ of Plato’s great epistemological work, a sustained investigation of the question, ‘What is knowledge?’ Questions to be considered include: the relation of knowledge to sense perception, to belief, and to explanation; Plato’s dialectical method, its ‘dramatic’ features, and its (here, purely negative) results; and the relation of epistemology to metaphysics in his later works. No prior background in Greek philosophy is assumed


Deborah Black, Philosophy of Mind in the Middle Ages: Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā) on the Soul

Fridays, 10-12 LI 301

This course will be devoted to a close reading of Avicenna’s most comprehensive work on philosophical psychology, The Book on the Soul from his summa of philosophy, The Healing (Al-Shifāʾ). This text covers a wide range of topics, and had a lasting impact on philosophy and theology both in the Islamic world and the West. Our readings will be drawn from the complete draft English translation by D. Black and M. Marmura, Avicenna, Healing: Psychology.


Lloyd Gerson, Platonism vs. Naturalism (MA seminar)

Mondays, 9-12 JHB 418

In this course we will examine the hypothesis advanced by Richard Rorty: Platonism is identical with philosophy if philosophy is understood as having a distinct subject matter. Rorty went on to argue that since Platonism is unsustainable, we ought to abandon philosophy as an area of human endeavor in which truth or truths can be discovered. We will focus on the historical construction of Platonism and then various versions of naturalism, the view that everything important that is knowable is knowable by and in the natural sciences. This course will take us from the dialogues of Plato to contemporary cutting edge science and various deflationary views regarding a number of the questions repeatedly posed in the history of philosophy.


Winter 2018

Charles Brittain — welcome, Charles! —, Augustine’s Confessions

Tuesdays, 1-3 LI 220

The seminar will read the Confessions as (inter alia) a philosophical analysis of human psychology and natural development which takes the case of Augustine as a more or less standard example of humanity. The complex structure, style and multi-level writing of the text makes it a challenging work, but the philosophical results are rewarding as well as influential in the history of philosophy.


James Allen, Seminar in Greek Philosophy: Ancient Scepticism

Thursdays 6-9 JHB 418

The aim of the seminar is to explore the philosophy of antiquity’s two main  ‘schools’ of scepticism: the New Academy and Pyrrhonism. Our principal texts will be Cicero’s Academica and Sextus Empiricus’ Outlines of Pyrrhonism (available at Bob Miller’s Book Room).


Peter King, The Philosophy of William of Ockham

Mondays, 2-4 LI 310

A survey of the philosophy of William of Ockham, including what Ockham had to say about logic, ontology, categories, his notorious rejection of any real universals, his new psychological theory of skills and abilities, his claims about knowledge and whether they entail skepticism.