MAP Courses 2021/2022
Master in Philosophy
12 April 2021
We are very pleased to announce the courses offered at the MAP during the Academic Year 2021/2022!
In the attachment (right column of the page), you can find the schematic list of courses. Below, the descriptions of the courses.
- Ancient Philosophy
- Medieval Philosophy
- Philosophy of Mind
- PhD Skills in Philosophy
- Metaphysics and Physics
- Philosophy of Physics
- Topics in Metaphysics
- Topics in Philosophy of Mind
- Topics in Logic
- Topics in Philosophy of Mathematics
- Topics in Medieval Philosophy
- Topics in Philosophy of Science
- Topics in Philosophy of Physics
- Topics in Ancient Philosophy
- Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence
- A Map of the Mind
- Information and Physics
- Summer School on Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
- Summer School on Metaphysics
Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Damiano Costa
Existence, Mereology and Grounding
What is the underlying structure of reality? Is there one? And what is reality after all? In this course, we will engage a few philosophical topics that revolve around such questions. More specifically, the course will be divided into three parts, devoted to the topics of existence, mereology, and grounding.
The main question of the first part will be: what is it for something to be - to exist? After introducing the contemporary mainstream view, according to which existence is univocal and fully captured by the unrestricted existential quantifier, we shall review some reasons to put it into question and explore some alternatives, including some accounts, old and new, of so called modes of being.
The second part will be devoted to the mereological structure of reality. Discussions about parts and wholes have always played a crucial role in philosophy. They play a crucial role in contemporary analytic philosophy too, where the mainstream view is arguably Classical Extensional Mereology (CEM). After reviewing CEM, here again we shall present philosophical reasons to put it into question.
The third part of the course will deal with the topics of dependence, grounding, and fundamentality. Since at least Aristotle, one of the key questions of philosophy has been what constitutes the core of reality - what is fundamental. In contemporary philosophy too, this question lies at the centre of the so called hyperintensional revolution. In this part, we shall focus on the notions of dependence, grounding and fundamentality, review the principles that are supposed to govern their behavior and the reasons that are usually invoked to argue that they are hyperintensional notions.
As such, this course will discuss some central questions of, and introduce students to advanced key instruments in, contemporary analytic metaphysics. Top page
Logic (Core Course 1st year)
People: Franz Berto, Paolo Gigli (TA)
Assessment: written exam
Video description available here
First-Order Modal Logic and Its Metaphysics
Mastery of contemporary modal logic is vital not only for logicians, but also for philosophers of language, metaphysicians, philosophers of mind, epistemologists, and political philosophers: such notions as meaning, content, intension, supervenience, reduction, causation, knowledge, belief, moral duty, and of course nomic, physical, metaphysical, logical and temporal necessity, can all be defined in the framework of modal logic.
The single feature of modal logic allowing it to perform all these philosophical tasks, is its semantics, phrased in terms of the Leibnizian notion of possible world. A possible world is a way things might be or have been, in some respects similar to the real world, in some others, different. Possible worlds semantics raises many philosophical questions, from the metaphysical status of worlds (Do possible worlds different from actuality really exist? If so, what are these things?), to the meaningfulness of quantification over non-actual individuals.
This course introduces both to the logical techniques of, and to the philosophical issues raised by, first- order modal logic, which combines the language of first order-logic with quantifiers, identity, names and descriptions, with modal operators. Top page
Ancient Philosophy (Core Course 1st year)
People: Anna Marmodoro
What is it, metaphysically, for a universal to be instantiated in a concrete particular, or for a concrete particular to instantiate a universal? What is an instantiated universal to that universal? Philosophical discussion around these questions has been ongoing since the beginning of philosophy itself, and the relevant literature is more than vast. Aristotle is usually thought to be the ‘culprit’: the one who created the ‘problem’, but positing that his universals are immanent, i.e. instantiated in concrete particulars. But what does this mean, metaphysically? The mainstream interpretation of Aristotle’s position is that according to which universals are instantiated by ‘combining’ somehow with matter, understood as a primitive bare particular. There are at least three issues with this mainstream interpretation of Aristotle’s position that fly in the face of modern metaphysics and make it, thus understood, unappealing and objectionable. Primitive bare particulars are generally considered an unwelcome addition to the ontology. Further, Aristotelian matter is seen as a suspicious entity, even by nowadays’ neo-Aristotelians. Finally, conceiving of instantiation in terms of a universal ‘combining’ with matter suggests that instantiation is a relation; while there are many positions on the table as to which kind of relation that might be, the very hypothesis that instantiation is (on this interpretation) a relation has attracted much criticism. In this course, we will examine the ‘origins’ of the problem of instantiation of universals in Plato’s metaphysics, and its background in Anaxagoras’s metaphysics; and then come to study Aristotle’s position. Top page
Medieval Philosophy (Core Course 1st year)
People: John Marenbon
Philosophy in the Long and Broad Middle Ages
This course introduces students to philosophy in the Long Middle Ages (c. 200 – c. 1700) in the four main branches of the Western tradition: Greek, Latin, Arabic and Jewish. I shall begin by considering briefly methodological questions (why study the history of philosophy and how best to do so) and providing a sketch of where and why philosophizing was done. I shall then examine how certain central topics were discussed, concentrating on metaphysics: universals; time, modality, determinism and freedom; truth and truthmakers; knowledge, immateriality and immortality. Among the philosophers whose work I shall discuss are Porphyry, Augustine, Boethius, Avicenna, Anselm, al-Ghazali, Abelard, Averroes, Maimonides, Suhrawardi, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Gersonides, Adam Wodeham, Gregory of Rimini, Hasdai Crescas, Pietro Pomponazzi, Descartes, Locke, Spinoza and Leibniz.
In particular, the (provisional) syllabus for the 14 sessions (of two hours each) is the following:
1. (a) Why study history of philosophy? (b) ‘Western Philosophy’ in the broad sense, and the Long Middle Ages
2. A sketch of philosophy in the Long Middle Ages
3. (a) Universals. The Latin problem as presented by Porphyry and Boethius. (b) Avicenna
4. Abelard and twelfth-century discussions of universals
5. (a) Duns Scotus and Ockham on universals. (b) Nominalisms: ibn Taymiyya and Locke
6. (a) Time and modality in Boethius’s defence of contingency in Consolation Book 5. (b) Time and modality in Aquinas
7. (a) Duns Scotus: modality and contingent volition. (b) Ockham’s critique of Scotus
8. Leaving room for Human Freedom, or not? Maimonides, Gersonides, Hasdai Crescas
9. Determinism and necessitarianism in Spinoza and Leibniz
10. Truth, facts and events: Anselm on Truth; Abelard on dicta; Ars meliduna on enuntiabilia
11. Truth, facts and events: Aquinas on truth and enuntiabilia; Adam Wodeham on the object of assent
12. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes
13. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Aquinas and Gersonides
14. Intellection, immateriality, immortality: Two critics of Aquinas, Pomponazzi and Descartes Top page
Philosophy of Mind (Core Course 1st year)
People: Kevin Mulligan
Semester: Annual course
This course analyses and evaluates some of the main views about (a) the way the mind presents and represents temporal properties and relations, (b) the temporal properties of mental acts, states, powers and psychological phenomena, and (c) the relation between (a) and (b). A variety of retentionalist, extensionalist and empiricist views of (a),contemporary and historical, will be discussed. Among the temporal categories employed to describe mental and psychological phenomena are: punctual event, process, state, change, flow, stream. Different philosophies of these categories will be discussed. The third project is to consider the relations between the way time is presented and the temporal profiles of mental and psychological phenomena. Top page
The aim of this professionalization course is to train students in the skills required to be accepted into a PhD programme and to write and defend a PhD thesis. Sessions will be devoted to writing academic papers and abstracts, submitting papers to academic journals, dealing with editors, referees and reports, giving effective talks, writing research proposals and preparing an application for a PhD programme. Top page
Metaphysics and Physics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Damiano Costa, Claudio Calosi
There is a raging controversy on how things persist through time. This disagreement represents the core of the debate in the metaphysics of persistence. In the last decade, advancements in the debate on persistence have mostly come from a corner in philosophy of physics. What is now regarded as a crucial distinction between mereological accounts and locational accounts of persistence, was drawn withing the context of relativistic spacetimes. Relativity has also played a major role in developing new arguments in favor of a particular metaphysics of persistence, namely four-dimensionalism. By contrast, new arguments coming from quantum mechanics seem to point to the fact that the most traditional variants of such a metaphysical thesis are unsatisfactory if not untenable. In the seminar we will discuss these and other central issues in the metaphysics and physics of persistence. While the focus will mostly be on physics and metaphysics, we will address questions of persistence in the history of philosophy and within the arts as well. Top page
Philosophy of Physics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Christian Wüthrich
This course offers an introduction to the philosophy of physics, which deals with methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in physics. It consists of seven modules offering a rich menu in philosophically deep questions arising in modern physics: space and time, quantum mechanics, and advanced topics of contemporary physics.
The seven modules are as follows:
- Organization and introduction: what is philosophy of physics, what are physical theories, and what is determinism?
- Substantivalism vs relationalism: Newton, Leibniz, Kant, and time in Newtonian physics in general
- Time in special relativity: relativity of simultaneity, Minkowksi spacetime, and implications for the metaphysics of time
- Time in general relativity, cosmology, and beyond
- Moving backward and forward in time: time travel in modern physics
- Quantum mechanics: phenomena and theory
- Quantum mechanics: the measurement problem and quantum non-locality
Accessibility and Prerequisites. This course will be self-contained and has no prerequisites. While some background in physics, mathematics, and philosophy will be helpful, I will not assume any specific knowledge beyond high school mathematics. Top page
Masterclasses (Core Course 1st year and 2nd year)
People: Kathrin Koslicki, Thomas Sattig, Martine Nida-Rümelin
Kathrin Koslicki – Social Essences
Video description available here
What is an election? What is a city? What is money? On the face of it, such questions bear on the real definition, nature or essence of the social phenomena in question (viz., election, city, money). Getting clear on the nature of social phenomena is crucial for our understanding of social reality. Yet in spite of the recent surge in research in both social ontology and metaphysics, essentialist approaches to social phenomena remain quite rare. The goal of this seminar is to examine essentialist approaches to social phenomena. In particular, we will discuss different types of objections that have been raised against social essentialism and we will examine positive considerations to motivate an essentialist approach to social phenomena. The goal of this seminar is to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of how an essentialist framework can contribute to the study of social phenomena.
Thomas Sattig – The Passage of Time
What is the nature of the passage of time? This question marks one of the biggest challenges in contemporary philosophy of time. Most philosophers of time hold that there is temporal passage. There is no consensus, however, about what type of phenomenon passage is. Traditionally, philosophers seeking to understand passage have taken approaches from two different perspectives. Some have started with passage as a phenomenon that occurs in the physical world, and have asked what constitutes this objective phenomenon. Theirs is a project anchored in metaphysics and located in the neighbourhood of theoretical physics. Others have started with passage as a phenomenon that is given in our experience of the world, and have asked what constitutes this subjective phenomenon. Theirs is a project anchored in the philosophy of mind and located in the neighbourhood of cognitive science.
This masterclass will give both perspectives on passage equal weight. The first part of the course will be dedicated to the reality of passage. The second part will be dedicated to the experience as of passage. We will study several philosophical accounts, some familiar and some novel, of the nature of worldly passage, of our experience as of passage, and of the representational and epistemological relationships between the nature and the experience of passage.
Martine Nida-Rümelin – Experiencing Subject
The course covers various central topics in philosophy of mind which are often discussed in an independent manner: experience, perception, self-awareness, self-reference, identity across time and across possible worlds (of conscious subjects), agency. Reflection on what it is to be an experiencing subject will be in the center of the course. The various topics will all be treated under that angle which makes it possible to see that and how they are closely related in a new manner. The teacher of the course will present her own views contrasting them with opposing views in the literature which will be closely analyzed using central passages in influential texts on the topic. Active participation leading to a vivid debate will be welcome. Top page
This course examines the category of essence and of essentiality. What is it to be essentially F ? What are the main arguments for and against essentialism? It also examines the relations between essence, apriority, modality and generality and the nature of knowledge of essence. Particular attention will be paid to the views of Hume, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Kit Fine and Bob Hale. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Mind (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Bence Nanay
Video description available here
The aim of this course is to give an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of perception. It combines philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific approaches to the topic. Besides the classic questions about the metaphysics of perception and about perceptual content, special emphasis is given to the intricate connections between perception and action and to perception that is not triggered by sensory input (a category that encompasses mental imagery, dreaming and hallucination). Further, too much of the (philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific) discussion about perception has focused on vision. This course aims to correct this imbalance and give equal (or almost equal) amount of space to all the sense modalities. Top page
Topics in Logic (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stephan Leuenberger
Metalogic is the study of formal logical systems with the methods of mathematics. It asks what properties such systems have: Are they complete? Decidable? What is their expressive power? There has been extensive philosophical debate about what sort of lessons we should draw from certain metalogical results. In this course, we will focus on first-order predicate logic. The aim is to familiarize students with key concepts and results about first-order predicate logic, as well as to introduce them to some of the philosophical discussion of these results. By the end of the course, students will be able to: state the definitions of central notions of model theory (model, truth in a model, validity, etc); explain in what sense first-order logic is complete, and sketch, in broad outline, a proof of its completeness; critically discuss some limitations of first-order logic. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Mathematics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Fabrice Correia
Is mathematics in the business of stating facts, or are mathematical statements to be understood in some non-standard way? Granted that mathematics states facts, are these facts necessary or only contingent? Are there mathematical entities, and if so, are they abstract of concrete? What are the links between mathematics and logic? Are mathematical truths, if any, analytic? How do we acquire mathematical knowledge? How is it that mathematics can be “applied” to the concrete world via disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, psychology or economics? What does it even mean that mathematics can be applied to the concrete world? When are two mathematical theories equivalent? Is the notion of equivalence for mathematical theories the same as that for empirical theories such as physics?
I will address these questions, together with other related questions, and examine what the main positions in the philosophy of mathematics have to say about them. I will also in due course introduce the basics of some mathematical theories which are useful for philosophizing about mathematics, but also for understanding and developing views in logic and other areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics and epistemology. Top page
Existence: The (Serious) Case of God
Does God exist? What does “God exists” mean? Is God existence or being itself? If God is existence or being itself, can He be a person? Is God’s being timeless? How perfect is God’s perfect being? If God is a timeless and perfect being, can He be a person? Can a timeless and perfect being think? Does God love? The course aims to analyse and discuss the answers given to these questions in Jewish, Islamic and Christian medieval philosophy. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Science (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Tim Maudlin
This course will follow the trajectory of the Logical Empiricist movement from its origins in the 1930’s through its eventual dissolution in the late 1940s and 1950s. We will briefly consider classical empiricism as articulated by Hume, and the effect that modern propositional logic had on the formulation of the position. General topics will include the problem of induction and the nature of scientific explanation. We will then consider some approaches to these issues that arose out of the ashes of Logical Empiricism from the 1960’s forward. Readings include classic papers by Carnap, Russell, Hempel and Quine, as well as Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery, Goodman’s Fact, Fiction and Forecast, Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Lakatos’s Proof and Refutations. One additional theme will be the question of whether there is any single “scientific method” or “unity of science”, and what that thesis might even mean. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Christian Wüthrich
Naturalized metaphysics of time
The philosophy of physics deals with methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in physics. This seminar addresses topics in naturalized metaphysics, the philosophy of space and time as they relate to physics, the philosophical implications of quantum physics, the physical origin of the direction of time, issues in the philosophy of cosmology and the philosophy of quantum gravity, or similar problems and debates.
For the spring semester 2022, the tentative topics are presentism and modern physics, time travel in physics, and the disappearance and re-emergence of spacetime in quantum gravity.
Accessibility and Prerequisites. Participants should have successfully completed the course Introduction to Philosophy of Physics, or be similarly prepared. Top page
Topics in Ancient Philosophy (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Paolo Crivelli
Commentators of the 19th and the early 20th century chastised Stoic logic as dull and uninteresting. Its revaluation, due mainly to the pioneering studies of Jan Łukasiewicz and Benson Mates, was made possible by the development of propositional logic, which enabled historians to attain a better grasp of what the Stoics were up to.
In the first part of this course, I will outline some views which can be plausibly attributed to Chrysippus and his immediate followers. In the second part of the course, we will discuss some relevant literature on stoic logic, which will be presented by the students. Students will be assessed based on their presentations. All the participants in the course are expected to read in advance the essays that will presented and actively participate in the discussion. Top page
Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Barry Smith, Alessandro Facchini
Video description available here
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the subfield of Computer Science devoted to developing programs that enable computers to display behavior that can (broadly) be characterised as intelligent.
This course addresses the questions and contexts from which AI has emerged, as well as those surrounding current developments. We will provide an overview of the many facets of artificial intelligence and including its various methods and technologies (from classical symbolic AI to deep learning). The course will introduce students to foundational and normative questions, such as:
- How should we define and measure an artificial intelligence?
- How can we evaluate the accomplishments of AI systems? more generally, what are machines really capable of achieving?
- Would machine intelligence, if there is such a thing, be something comparable to human intelligence or something quite different?
- What might be the benefits and risks of relying on such systems?
Related to this are long-standing philosophical questions concerning the possibility of creating machines with consciousness, desires and emotions, with common sense, and with creativity.
Recent developments in AI make it possible for us to consider a series of philosophical questions in a new light, including:
- What is personal identity?
- Could a machine have something like a personal identity?
- Would I really survive if the contents of my brain were uploaded to the cloud?
- What is it for a human to behave in an ethical manner? (Could there be something like machine ethics? Could machines, for example those used in fighting wars, be programmed to behave ethically?)
- What is a meaningful life? If routine, meaningless work in the future is performed entirely by machines, will this make possible new sorts of meaningful lives on the part of humans?
After introducing the relevant ideas and tools from both AI and philosophy, the aforementioned questions will be addressed in class discussions following lectures by Drs Facchini andSmith. The course will also include presentations of relevant papers by the students themselves. In addition to actively participate to the debates, students are expected to submit a final short essay on a chosen topic. Top page
A Map of the Mind (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kevin Mulligan
This course presents a complete map of the mind, a description of the most important types of mental and psychological phenomena within a unified framework and a series of proposals about their interrelations. Many different kinds of mental and psychological acts, functions, states, dispositions, powers and operations will be considered: admiration, belief, desire, expectation, happiness, hate, identifying, inferring, intention, joy, knowledge, love, memory, pain, perception, preference, ressentiment, sadness and the will. The different metaphysical views about mental and psychological phenomena (dualism, physicalism, functionalism, emergentism etc) will not be discussed except insofar as the description of mental and psychological phenomena throws light on them. Philosophies of the self and of the person will be introduced. The course incorporates many ideas from the two leading philosophical traditions in the philosophy of mind, analytic and phenomenological. But the map rejects many views popular in these two traditions and is a knowledge-first philosophy of the mind. Top page
This is a seminar focusing on various aspect at the intersection between information and its processing on one side, and physics, mainly quantum theory and thermodynamics, on the other. Being a seminar, the participants read a text and give a talk about it, on the basis of which they will be assessed. More information is available here. Top page
In this Summer School, we shall be looking at the metaphysics of relations in ancient and medieval philosophy, keeping in mind contemporary approaches to the same area.
Understanding how the philosophers of classical antiquity have conceived of what we would call the metaphysics of relations has been a challenge for scholars, who usually approach the topic as part of the metaphysics of properties. While the ancients acknowledge relational statements, as we do, there is a fundamental difference between us and them about the ontology of their truth-makers. Among the ancients, we shall explore Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle introduced an influential approach to the ontology of relations, as (so-called) monadic properties (rather than as polyadic ones), which can each belong only to each of the individuals which are related. Just as this book has the particular qualitative accident of being black, which belongs to it alone, so it, alone, also has the particular relational qualification of being older than that book. In turn, that book, alone, will have its own particular relational qualification of being newer than this book. For ancient philosophers, the difficult question about relations is whether they (e.g. x being equal to y) do anything more than simultaneously qualify each of their relata (e.g. as equal). So we shall try to understand how the ancients dealt with the relational metaphysical role of relations, over and above their qualification role.
According to a widely held view, medieval philosophers followed Aristotle and viewed relations as monadic properties. But recent work, especially but not exclusively on earlier medieval philosophy, shows that the range of views was far wider. We shall look both at authors who fit the traditional interpretation, such as Abelard and Aquinas, and those who do not, such as Boethius and Eriugena, continuing the discussion of the two metaphysical roles of relations: relational and as qualifications.
The teaching will be arranged into more formal morning lectures with discussion, run jointly by Anna Marmodoro and John Marenbon, and informal, directed discussion classes in the afternoons. The Summer School will end with a short conference on Relations in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, followed by one on Relations in Contemporary Metaphysics.
Further details available on the webpage of the summer school. Top page
Summer School on Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kit Fine
Video description available here
Further details available on the webpage of the summer school. Top page