4. Contemporary Core
Metaphysics concerns the nature of reality, considered at the most abstract and general level. This course covers classic and contemporary debates concerning existence, universals and particulars, causation, and identity.
Philosophy of Language
This course covers the key ideas and arguments developed in the philosophy of language concerning meaning and reference since the seminal work of Gottlob Frege. These ideas have been very influential not only for the philosophy of language but for linguistics and the philosophy of mind. Topics include Frege’s puzzle, Russell’s theory of descriptions, the causal theory of reference, indexicals and demonstratives (Kaplan), and key distinctions such as between the analytic/synthetic (Quine, Strawson), referential/attributive (Donnellan, Kripke), and semantic/pragmatic (Grice).
This course provides an introduction to the theory of knowledge. In particular, we will focus on the nature, sources, structure and limitations of knowledge. Topics include the analysis of knowledge, the problem of induction, a priori knowledge, skepticism about the external world, sensitivity and safety, the regress of reasons, foundational vs. coherence views, and internalism vs. externalism.
Philosophy of Mind
This course surveys the mind/body problem, the nature of consciousness, and mental content. We start with the mind/body problem and Cartesian dualism. We will then critically explore a range of responses to the problem such as Ryle’s behaviourism, Smart’s identity theory, Davidson’s anomalous monism and Putnam’s functionalism (with special attention to Jackson’s Knowledge Argument against functionalism). We will then consider whether consciousness poses a problem for physicalism by looking at Kripke’s modal arguments and Levine’s explanatory gap. Lastly, we will consider whether intentionality is the mark of the mental and the internalism/externalism debate about mental content.
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science is a (comparatively) young sub-discipline of philosophy. Its aim is to reflect on the fundamental concepts and conceptions, aims, methods, and presuppositions of the various sciences and of the scientific enterprise in general. Questions that fall into the purview of Philosophy of Science include: What distinguishes science and scientific knowledge from pseudo-science, ordinary knowledge and, perhaps, from meaningless metaphysics? How are we to characterize scientific progress? Are there in fact atoms, superstrings, or properties like biological fitness and do these items exist in the same way as chairs, tables, human beings, and cars? What speaks in favor of, what against such a view? What is a scientific explanation? Is there a scientific method? Are scientific observations theory-dependent and would this be a problem? What is causation? Can scientific theories be inductively confirmed or falsified?
In this course, we look at various of these questions and then explore philosophical issues that arise in the specific sciences. Possible areas of interest are e.g.: Philosophy of Space-Time, Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics, Philosophy of Evolotionary Biology, Philosophy of Nanoscience, Philosophy of History, and Philosophy of the Cognitive (Neuro-) Sciences.
Introduction to Ethics
This course is an introduction to the three main fields of ethics: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Students will learn about key contemporary debates in ethics and will read select important works in the history of ethics.
Normative ethics is about what is right and wrong, good and bad, and virtuous and vicious. This course will examine the three main theories in normative ethics: deontological, consequentialist, and virtue. We will learn the basics of these three theories, and then investigate topics like whether some are better than others, what sets the theories apart from each other, and whether other sorts of theories might make sense. Readings will be drawn from contemporary authors like Julia Driver, Onora O'Neill, Christine Korsgaard, and J.J.C. Smart.
This course surveys some of the major currents of contemporary ethical theory, such as anti-realism and non-cognitivism, subjectivism, consequentialism, and neo-Kantian contractualism. Topics include the nature of ethical value, desires and reasons for actions, and moral luck.
This course covers the central concepts of contemporary political philosophy: liberty (Mill, Berlin), equality (Williams, Cohen), justice (Plato, Rawls, Sen), rights (Locke, Hart), democracy (Rousseau) and authority (Hobbes). During the course, we will apply these concepts to debates regarding free-speech, secularism, and quotas/reservations.
Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
In this course we will undertake an examination of the key areas of contention in debates within western aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The issues that we will study include the definition of art, the ontology of artworks, aesthetic evaluation, and morality and art. Our class discussions will be supplemented with examples from the fine arts and we will also undertake field trips to museums, galleries, and performances in Delhi in addition to screenings and listening sessions on campus.