Sunday, July 20, 2008

Potential Course List

I'm starting to get my affairs ready to start at Columbia this Fall, and have assembled the following class list. I haven't registered yet, but I have the (perhaps wildly incorrect) perception that grad students are rarely unable to get into classes of their choice. In any case, here's my dream schedule (a long with course descriptions and some commentary) for Fall 2008:

EVOLUTION, ALTRUISM, AND ETHICS
Day/Time: W 11:00am-12:50pm
This seminar will elaborate and examine a naturalistic approach to ethics, one that views contemporary ethical practices as products of a long and complex history. I am currently writing a book presenting this form of naturalism, and chapters will be assigned for each meeting after the first. Using brief readings from other ethical perspectives, both historical and contemporary, we shall try to evaluate the prospects of ethical naturalism.
Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.
I'm particularly excited about this one. In my early undergraduate days, I specialized in ethical issues, but I found all of the existent ethical theories dreadfully unsatisfying, and came to suspect that if we were going to get a plausible naturalistic account of ethics, we needed a more thorough understanding of how the mind and brain worked--hence the switch to mind. This class sounds right up my alley, though, and I'm always excited to hear naturalistic defenses of philosophical concepts.


1st YEAR PROSEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY
Day/Time: W 6:10pm-8:00pm
This course, which meets only for the first seven weeks of term, is restricted to, and required for, first-year Columbia Ph.D. students. The course aims to promote weekly writing by each student. A paper, or section of a book, with which every philosopher ought to be familiar, will be selected each week, and one student will make a presentation on that target paper, while the others will hand in a brief essay about it. Essays will be returned, with comments, before the next meeting of the seminar. Each week a different member of the faculty, in addition to Professor Peacocke, will participate in the discussions. A second seven-week segment of the ProSeminar will be held in the Spring Semester of 2009.

What can I say? It's the Pro-Seminar, so I have to take it. Still, it could be really good--the single most productive (in terms of bettering me as a philosopher) course I took at Berkeley was the "Introduction to Philosophical Methodology" class--just like this one, it was aimed at getting students writing every week. My hope is that this class will be a more rigorous and intense version of that one, and that I'll really have a chance to sharpen my writing considerably.


ADVANCED TOPICS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
Day/Time: W 2:10pm-4:00pm
This seminar will be concerned with the interactions between the theory of intentional content and thought on the one hand, and metaphysics on the other. We will first discuss the role of truth and reference in the individuation of intentional content. We will then draw on that role in discussing the following issues: the nature of rule-following and objectivity in thought; transcendental arguments and objective content in thought and in perception; the general phenomenon of relation-based thought, and its extent, nature and significance; the nature of subjects of consciousness, self-representation and first person thought.


Mind is my specialty, so this was an easy choice. I'm not entirely clear on what exactly this course description is talking about (which is a good thing), other than that the class seems to deal with intentional content and how it relates to external objects, which is a topic I'm very much interested in.

Serendipitously, all these classes are on Wednesday, so I'd be in class only one day per week, which would be pretty nice. I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of writing to do outside of class (and Fallout 3 is coming out soon, too...), so not having to make the commute to campus every day will be nice.

2 comments:

Chris Jackson said...

Oh, how sweet does grad school sound about now. While you get to take that stuff, I'm looking forward to learning all about, say, fee simple absolute rights to property. ::yawn::

Jon said...

You had your chance, and you chose to go be a sophist :P