Courses

Graduate Seminars Led by CPAMP Faculty 2018-19

Fall 2019

CPAMP Proseminar: Latin Reading Group | Mondays 4–6, LI 301

The Latin medieval philosophy reading group will meet this fall to read Boethius’s Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Categories’. [The CPAMP proseminar is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. All students in the proseminar must attend either this reading group or the Greek reading group in the winter; students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups.]

George Boys-Stones, Stoicism in the Roman Mediterranean | Fridays 10–1, LI 103

This course will be an introduction to Stoic philosophy in a period (the first and second centuries CE) from which our earliest complete texts of Stoicism survive. It will explore ways in which the school remained a vital force in the development of philosophy, not just in Rome, but across the Mediterranean. Epictetus will be our starting-point, but we will also consider Seneca and Musonius Rufus, and the lesser known (but no less interesting) Hierocles, Cornutus and Cleomedes. We will be especially alert for ways in which Stoicism interacted with, and helped to shape, the emergence of new philosophical movements at this time – including Platonism and Christianity.

Christin Pfeiffer, Seminar on Aristotle’s Metaphysics | Wednesdays 6–9, JHB 418

Aristotle believes that ordinary material objects, and especially living organisms, like plants and animals, are substances. However, he also believes that these substances are hylomorphic composites, that is, composites of form and matter. Unlike the materialists, who claim that such ordinary objects are most fundamentally the matter they are made of, and that the lowest level constituents of the physical world (be they atoms or stuffs) are the only genuine substances, Aristotle suggests that what material substances fundamentally are is given by their form. At the same time, he distances his view from the Platonic conception of forms as separately existing universals. Aristotle arrives at this new conception of material substances through a complex and often roundabout discussion which engages with his predecessors’ views. Moreover, Aristotle faces a significant challenge that he himself seems to be the first to fully develop: if material substances are composites of form and matter, how can they be genuine unities, rather than accidental compounds? In this course we will focus primarily on the so-called “middle books” of the Metaphysics, books VII-IX, but we will also look at excerpts from other works. Each week, we will also read and discuss recent secondary literature. Participants should have some familiarity either with Aristotle or with contemporary metaphysics. Knowledge of ancient Greek is not required, though it is always useful.

Martin Pickavé, Free Will and Human Action in Medieval Philosophy | Mondays 2–4, LI 301

Historically many philosophers have believed that human beings owe their ability to act freely and responsibly to a special human faculty called the will. In this seminar we will look into the origins of this view by examining medieval accounts of free will and human action. For the discovery of the faculty of the will is often considered as one of the main contributions medieval philosophy has made to the history of philosophy. The main topics explored in this class are: (1) What conception of freedom do medieval authors hold? Does freedom, for instance, involve a power to otherwise? Are there rival conceptions of freedom? Is freedom compatible with certain forms of determinism? (2) What is the basis of the free exercise of our will? Do we have free will and free choice in virtue of the will itself or in virtue of our capacities for thought and deliberation?

Winter 2019

CPAMP Proseminar: Greek Reading Group | Mondays 4–6, LI 205

The ancient Greek philosophy reading group will meet this winter to read Aristotle’s Categories. [The CPAMP proseminar is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. All students in the proseminar must attend either this reading group or the Latin reading group in the fall; students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups.]

Deborah Black, Topics in Medieval Metaphyiscs | Wednesdays 10–12, LI 301

In this course we will focus on the metaphysics of Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna, d. 1037), perhaps the most original and influential metaphysician in classical Islamic philosophy. Our focus will be on the Metaphysics of his main work, the Healing or Cure, although some consideration will also be given to Avicenna’s predecessors Al-Kindī (d. 870) and Al-Fārābī (d. 950), and to Avicenna’s critical reception by al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) and ibn Rushd (Averroes, d.1198). Topics to be covered include the conception of metaphysics as the study of being; the distinction between essence and existence; necessity and possibility; causality; universals and particulars; the existence and attributes of God.

Lloyd Gerson, Late Greek Philosophy: Plotinus | Mondays 9–12, JHB 418

This course is an introduction to the works of this central figure in the history of philosophy. Plotinus was called by Proclus, “the exegete of the Platonic revelation”. He is the first systematizer of Platonism and (apart from Plato) the only philosopher in antiquity whose entire literary output we possess. We will study the metaphysical structure of Platonism, Platonic epistemology, and Plotinus’ ethical arguments placed within this metaphysical system. After Plotinus, Plationism was forever shaped by his “exegesis” of Plato.