In 2021-22 I am teaching the following courses at the University of Chicago:
Philosophical Perspectives I (Autumn 2021)
Course Description: This is the first of three classes in the Philosophical Perspectives Core Sequence. Traditionally, the study of philosophy has centered on the pursuit of three topics: truth, beauty, and goodness. Our aim in the first term of the sequence will be to understand something about what these topics are and why we should be interested in studying them. We will read a variety of influential texts from the Western philosophical tradition, with emphasis this term on work by Ancient Greek thinkers. As we do so, we will articulate and begin to answer a perennial set of philosophical questions, such as: What is the nature of reality? What kinds of things can human beings know? Why is knowledge important? What is the good? What is virtue? How should we live? And whose job is it to answer these questions?
Our primary texts will be Sophocles’s Oedipus; Plato’s Meno, The Apology of Socrates, and Crito; Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, and Augustine’s Confessions.
Simone de Beauvoir as Philosopher (Winter 2022)
Description: This class will survey the philosophical work of twentieth-century Existentialist thinker Simone de Beauvoir. Best known as the author of the landmark second-wave feminist book, The Second Sex, de Beauvoir wrote extensively on topics in ethics, politics, and phenomenology. She also published several novels, one of which (The Mandarins) won the prestigious Prix Goncourt. Even so, the vast majority of de Beauvoir’s work is rarely studied in either France or the United States. Our goal in this class will be to take de Beauvoir seriously as one of the most important philosophical thinkers of the twentieth century. We will aim to understand her intellectual program holistically, with emphasis on the way in which her Existentialist concerns informed her work in literature and feminism.
Works to be read include The Ethics of Ambiguity, The Second Sex, The Mandarins, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, and selected essays. Classes and readings will be in English; background knowledge of post-Kantian European philosophy is helpful but not necessary.
Philosophical Perspectives II (Winter 2022)
Description: This is the second of three classes in the Philosophical Perspectives Core Sequence. This term tracks the Western philosophical tradition into the early modern period. During this era, the scientific revolution occurred, signaling a widespread shift in the way Europeans understood the world around them. This destabilized the dominance of Christian doctrine as the primary source of metaphysical and epistemological authority, and opened up a variety of new paths of philosophical inquiry. The texts we will read this quarter focus on questions about how human beings come to know the world, what the world itself must be like in order to be an object of knowledge, and the political consequences of the emerging scientific world view.
Our primary texts will be Descartes’ Meditations, Shakespeare’s Othello, and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. We will supplement these with excerpts from Francis Bacon, Margaret Cavendish, and Dennis Diderot.
Kant’s Critique of Judgment (Spring 2022)
Description: This course will consist in a close reading of Kant’s third Critique. Our aim will be to read as much of the book as possible, with attention to how the two apparently disparate central topics—aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment—fit together as elements of a single project. Other topics to be considered include: the importance of the Critique of Judgment for Kant’s critical project more generally, how the philosophical notions of “god” discussed at the end of the text bear on the task of understanding human cognition, and the way in which Kant’s book served as a point of departure for German Idealist thinkers like Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. PQ: At least one course in philosophy. Some knowledge of Kant’s theoretical philosophy will be assumed; prior coursework in Kant, German Idealism and/or the History of Philosophy sequence will be extremely helpful.