MAP: Courses 2022/2023
Master in Philosophy
28 April 2022
We are very pleased to announce the courses offered at the MAP during the Academic Year 2022/2023!
In the attachment (right column of the page), you can find the schematic list of courses. Below, the descriptions of the courses.
- Philosophy of Mind
- Philosophy of Physics
- Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
- Metaphysics and Physics
- Research Skills in Philosophy
- Research Seminar
- Topics in Metaphysics
- Topics in Logic
- Topics in Philosophy of Mind
- Topics in Philosophy of Physics
- Topics in Philosophy of Science
- Topics in Ancient Philosophy
- Logic and Metaphysics
- Mind and Metaphysics
- Philosophy of Mathematics
- Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence
- A Map of Value
- A Map of the World
- Discrete Structures
- Information and Physics
Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Damiano Costa
Existence and Mereology
What is it for something to exist? How should we make sense of parts and wholes? In this course, we will engage a few philosophical topics that revolve around such, and related, questions.
The first part of the course will be devoted to the topic of existence. 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. Top page
Logic (Core Course 1st year)
People: Franz Berto, Paolo Gigli (TA)
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.
The course also features a part in which we will go through the completeness of propositional and first-order non-modal logic; understanding how completeness proofs work is an important part of philosophy students’ logical education. Top page
Philosophy of Mind (Core Course 1st year)
People: Kevin Mulligan
This course analyses and describes some of the main types of mental acts and states – belief, judgment and acceptance; perception, visual, tactile and auditive; memory & expectation; the will, choice, decision, desire and intentions; imagination, perceptual, conceptual and affective; love, hate, moods and the emotions; preference; interest and attention; knowledge and acquaintance. Each of these types or families has given rise to philosophical disagreements. The course aims to identify some of the fundamental disagreements. Different views about the relations between these phenomena will be discussed and a knowledge-first account of the mind will be defended. The course also analyses and describes some of the main accounts of subjects, persons, souls and selves (empirical, metaphysical, transcendental). 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
Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (Core Course 1st year)
People: John Marenbon, Anna Marmodoro
Ancient Philosophy – Properties and their instantiation in ancient metaphysics
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? 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.
Intro: 1. Why do we study ancient philosophy today? And what’s the ‘best’ way to do it? 2. Properties: today’s view(s)
Part 1: 1. Anaxagoras’s opposites 2. The opposites’ natures 3. Parts of opposites 4. Opposites and objects 5. A proto-bundle theory of objects 6. Opposites as constituents and qualifiers of objects
Part 2: 1. Plato’s Forms 2. Participation 3. Are Forms universals? 4. The Dilemma of Composition 5. The Third Bed Argument 6. The problem of resemblance (in Anaxagoras’ and Plato’s metaphysics)
Part 3: 1. Aristotle’s forms 2. Are forms universals? 3. The problem(s) of instantiation 4. The state of the art 5. A ‘neo-Aristotelian’ solution 6. Recurrence and resemblance revisited
Medieval Philosophy – 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.
The (provisional) syllabus of the 14 sessions (of two hours each) is the following: 1. Why study history of philosophy? ‘Western Philosophy’ in the broad sense, and the Long Middle Ages. 2. A sketch of philosophy in the Long Middle Ages. 3. Universals. The Latin problem as presented by Porphyry and Boethius. Avicenna 4. Abelard and twelfth-century discussions of universals 5. Duns Scotus and Ockham on universals. Nominalisms: ibn Taymiyya and Locke 6. Time and modality in Boethius’s defence of contingency in Consolation Book 5. Time and modality in Aquinas. 7 Duns Scotus: modality and contingent volition. 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
Metaphysics and Physics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Damiano Costa
This seminar provides an overview on the most burning questions and the most intriguing answers concerning the existence and nature of time. And it does so combining the perspectives of analytic metaphysics and philosophy of physics. In it, we will investigate questions concerning the passage of time, the distinction between past, present, and future, the existence of past and future entities, the way in which modern physics, and relativity theory in particular, requires us to overturn our views on space and time, and, finally, the question whether time exists at all. Top page
Masterclasses (Core Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kit Fine, Kathrin Koslicki, Achille Varzi
Kathrin Koslicki – Hylomorphism
This seminar will examine recent developments of the doctrine of hylomorphism, in particular in its application to the case of concrete particular objects (e.g., living organisms). Concrete particular objects figure saliently in our everyday experience as well as our scientific theorizing about the world. The literature is divided over whether these entities are or are not further analyzable into more basic constituents: so-called “relational ontologies” (e.g., Platonism) or “blob ontologies” (e.g., nominalism) hold that concrete particular objects are not further analyzable into more basic constituents, while so-called “layer cake” or “constituent ontologies” (e.g., bundle theories or substratum theories) hold that concrete particular objects are further analyzable into more basic constituents. The Aristotelian doctrine of hylomorphism can be interpreted as yielding a further type of constituent ontology, according to which concrete particular objects are analyzed as compounds of matter (hyle) and form (morphe or eidos). I argue in my book, Form, Matter, Substance (Oxford University Press, 2018), that a hylomorphic analysis of concrete particular objects is well-equipped to compete with alternative approaches when measured against a wide range of criteria of success. In addition, hylomorphism is designed to meet further challenges which have not been emphasized much in recent times. A successful development of this doctrine, however, hinges on how hylomorphists conceive of (i) the matter composing a concrete particular object; (ii) its form; and (iii) the hylomorphic relations which hold between the matter, the form, and the hylomorphic compound. In this seminar, we will discuss different answers to these questions, as they have been proposed in the recent literature on hylomorphism.
Achille Varzi – TBA
Kit Fine – Against the standard view of Mereology
The standard view of Mereology is one in which holds a flat conception of wholes: wholes are at the same level as the parts. But I think that there is an interesting alternative conception of Mereology, in which wholes can have a hierarchical structure, so parts could be more or less up or down in that structure. What I like to focus on is this alternative conception of Mereology. Top page
Research Skills in Philosophy (Core Course 1st year)
People: Many MAP professors jointly hold this course
The aim of this professionalization course is to train students in the skills required to become a professional philosopher. Sessions will be devoted to how to read and write academic papers and abstracts, how to give effective talks, how to submit papers to academic journals, how to write research proposals, how to prepare a powerful application for a PhD programme… and much more. Top page
Research Seminar (Core Course 2nd year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Damiano Costa
This seminar will take place in September-October, precisely when second-year students are about to apply for challenging PhD programmes. The seminar provides the opportunity to each student to present, discuss and receive substantial feedback on how to improve their writing sample, which is arguably a crucial file in their dossier. Top page
Topics in Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stephan Leuenberger
In many philosophical contexts, rival theories do not disagree primarily about what the facts are, but about what explanatory relationships hold among the facts. In a famous contrast going back to Plato’s Eutyphro, we might hold that a good action is good because it is loved by the good, or alternatively that a good action is loved by the good because it is good. Similarly, a physicalist and a dualist may agree on what the physical facts are, and what the facts about conscoiusness are, and yet disagree about whether the latter hold in virtue of the former. In the last twenty years, such explanatory but non-causal relationships have become an important metaphysical topic in their own right, and various regimentations of locutions such as ‘because’ or ‘in virtue of’ have been proposed, under the label ‘grounding’.
Today, grounding is part of the standard conceptual repertoire used for articulating philosophical hypotheses and formulating arguments, along with mereology and first-order logic with identity. Regimented concepts of grounding has proved fruitful in a number of debates. (Damiano Costa’s ‘An argument against Aristotelian Universals’, Synthese, 2021) provides a good example).
The aim of this course is to familiarise students with the technical idiom of grounding (expressions such as ‘fully grounds’ and ‘partially grounds’), and with key contemporary theories about the status and features of the corresponding relations. Questions to be discussed include:
- Can grounding be used to define different levels of reality?
- Does Ockham’s razor apply to grounded entities as well as to ungrounded ones?
- Does everything need to be grounded in fundamental facts?
- Are facts of grounding themselves grounded?
- What, if any, are the grounds of negative facts?
Topics in Logic (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Timothy Williamson, Paolo Gigli (TA)
The course will consider some general issues in the philosophy of logic, concerning the relation of logic both to mathematics and to metaphysics, which will be illustrated with special reference to modal logic.
On a popular view, logic is the study of validity. We will discuss how that involves a reduction of logic to metalogic, and why that reduction is inadequate. However, we will also see how Tarski’s original account of logical consequence establishes a connection between metalogic and higher-order logic. We will then apply these ideas to the case of higher-order modal logic, and assess the differences between a natural application of Tarski’s theory to modal logic and standard semantic treatments of quantified modal logic in terms of Kripke models. In particular, we will contrast realist and instrumentalist interpretations of the model theory in relation to the dispute between necessitism and contingentism in modal metaphysics. More generally, we will see why the conception of logic as metaphysically neutral is problematic; instead, logics can be understood as core metaphysical theories, characterizing broadly structural features of reality. This makes the choice between different logics more akin to the choice between rival theories in natural science. The alternative view, associated with Carnap and Quine, sees choice of logic as in effect a pragmatic choice of which language to speak; that view will be critically assessed. A broadly abductive methodology will be considered for theory choice in logic, analogous to an abductive methodology for theory choice in natural science. We will see how confusions between logic and metalogic have led to misunderstandings of the abductive methodology for logic. We will also explore some limitations of the idea that proposals for non-classical logics can avoid revisionary implications for mathematics because their non-classicality can be restricted to non-mathematical domains. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Mind (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Bence Nanay
Emotion and Belief
The aim of this course is to give an interdisciplinary introduction to two central mental phenomena, emotion and belief. It combines philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific approaches to the topic. Besides the classic questions about the metaphysics of emotions and beliefs, special emphasis is given to the intricate connections between the two and also the ways they interact with other mental phenomena, like perception, desires and imagination. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Christian Wüthrich
The philosophy of physics deals with methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in physics. This seminar addresses topics in 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, or issues in the philosophy of cosmology and the philosophy of quantum gravity.
For the spring semester 2023, the tentative topics are (1) metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and physics, (2) naturalistic challenges to accounts of laws of nature and modality, and (3) the philosophy of black holes.
Prerequisites. Participants should have successfully completed the Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics, or be similarly prepared. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Science (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Tim Maudlin
What is called “quantum theory” is not actually a physical theory, i.e. a specification of a clear physical ontology and dynamics. This conceptual failure manifests itself in many ways, perhaps the most prominent of which is called the “measurement problem” (but which Philip Pearle has accurately called a “reality problem”). We will investigate the structure of quantum mechanics as it is usually presented and then look at several distinct physical theories that can recover—or nearly recover—the predictions made by using the quantum formalism in the usual way. We will pay particular attention to general results about physical reality, particularly Bell’s Theorem and the PBR theorem. Top page
Topics in Ancient Philosophy (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Paolo Crivelli
Aristotle created logic and developed it to a level of great sophistication. There was nothing there before; and it took more than two millennia for something better to come around. The astonishment experienced by readers of the Prior Analytics, the most important of Aristotle's works that present the discipline, is comparable to that of an explorer discovering a cathedral in a desert. This course explains and evaluates some of Aristotle's views about propositions and syllogisms. Top page
Logic and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Alessandro Giordani
Truth and Truthmaking
What is truth? The notion of truth is a central philosophical concept, as truth is generally acknowledged as the primary aim of inquiry, the distinctive condition of knowledge, and the essence of the relation between thought and the world. In addition, the notion of truth is deeply connected with many significant philosophical standpoints, such as realism, objectivism, and relativism. In this course we will present the primary definitions of truth and assess the main philosophical accounts of this notion, including the correspondence theory, the semantic theory, the core of the epistemic views and the deflationist views, and the truthmaking theory. In particular, we will focus on the idea that truth is a definable notion and that its definition involves a precise reference to the relation that links truth-bearers and that in virtue of which truth-bearers are true. Therefore, we will dedicate the last part of the course to the analysis of some versions of the truthmaking theory and the characterization of the notion of truthmaker. This will lead us to consider some fascinating issues, like the ones related to the identification of what can make true negative, universal, and modal propositions. Top page
Mind and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Thomas Sattig
Metaphysics and Experience
The course focuses on questions at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and epistemology: What is the relationship between our experiences of a certain phenomenon and the metaphysical nature, or essence, of this phenomenon? Do the contents of our experiences depend on the nature of what is experienced? If so, how strong is this dependence? Do our experiences even give us a window on the nature of things? We will consider these questions for the following areas: the existence and composition of ordinary material objects, the persistence of persons and selves, and the passage of time. Top page
Philosophy of Mathematics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Øystein Linnebo
Potentialist and generative approaches to the philosophy and foundations of mathematics
Aristotle famously claimed that the only coherent form of infinity is potential, not actual. However many objects there are, it is possible for there to be yet more; but it is impossible for there actually to be infinitely many objects. Although this view was superseded by Cantor’s transfinite set theory, even Cantor regarded the collection of all sets as “unfinished” or incapable of “being together”. In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in potentialist and other generative approaches to the philosophy and foundations of mathematics, according to which an ontology of mathematical objects is successively “generated”, or accounted for, in an incompletable “process”. The course provides a survey of such approaches, older as well as newer, including (i) Aristotle’s view of infinity; (ii) Cantor’s conception of the transfinite and absolute infinity; (iii) the iterative conception of sets; (iv) potentialism in constructive mathematics; (v) recent potentialist and generative approaches; (vi) connections with the hierarchical conception of reality. Top page
Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Barry Smith, Jobst Landgrebe
This course will provide an introduction to AI and to the impacts of AI on the wider world. It is designed to be of interest to both philosophers and those with a background in computer science. It will cover topics such as the following:
- Defining intelligence (Can we compare human and animal intelligence with the sort of intelligence can be achieved on the part of a machine?)
- The Turing test (Why, after more than 50 years, we are still so often disappointed when we telephone our bank and are put through to a machine?)
- Consciousness (Can a computer have a conscious mind? Can it have emotions and desires? Can it have a will?)
- Deep neural networks (Could we build an intelligent machine by replicating the structure of the human brain?)
- AI ethics (What could it be for a machine to behave in an ethical or unethical manner? Will there, one day, be robot cops?)
- The Singularity (Could we build a machine with superhuman intelligence, which could in turn design an even more intelligent machine, thereby initiating a chain of ever more intelligence machines which would one day have the power to take over the planet?)
- Digital immortality (Could we, one day, find a way to upload the contents of our brains into the cloud so that we could live forever?)
- The meaning of 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?)
A Map of Value (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kevin Mulligan
Philosophers and fools often refer to values – to beauty, sublimity, grace, agreeableness, the values of health and of knowledge, the sacred. This course looks at values from the point of view of ontology, ethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of language, epistemology and the philosophy of mind. It also pays particular attention to the variety of value. Top page
A Map of the World (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Peter Simons
What there is, and isn’t, and how it all hangs together
Metaphysics in Analytic Philosophy strives to produce a unified inventory of the most general kinds of items in the world, what they are, what they are like, and how they all hang together to give the world. Metaphysical disputes are typically about what kinds of entity there are, giving opposed answers to questions of the form “Are there Xs?” — “Yes, there are” vs. “No, there aren’t.” Far from being childish or pointless, the answers to these disputes define the principal positions in metaphysics, and there is no neutral territory. Disputed items include but are not confined to (in alphabetical order): abstract objects, classes, events, facts, meanings, non-existents, properties, relations, societies, states of affairs, substances, tropes, universals, and vague objects. Among items rarely denied existence, there is still disagreement as to their nature and status: in this category we may include actions, artefacts, artworks, causation, composites, matter, organisms, persons, space, species, time, and the universe.
In addition to assessing and adjudicating the most salient disputes, we shall look at metaphysical method, categories and the factors distinguishing them, what ties the world together, and how to represent (“map”) this and all things in it in a systematic way. The course leader has his own view on all these matters, but students will be encouraged to disagree, consider, and work out their own opinions. While examples will be taken from the history of analytic and some pre-analytic philosophy, the aim is not to do history, but to do first-order metaphysics: to map the things themselves. Top page
Discrete Structures (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stefan Wolf
The main topics of the course are propositional logic and proofs; sets, relations, and functions; combinatorics (urn models, inclusion-exclusion), graph theory (trees, planar graphs, Euler tours and Hamilton cycles) and some basic number theory (modular calculus, groups, Euler's theorem, RSA). Top page
Information and Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stefan Wolf
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
Reality+ (Elective Summer School for 1st and 2nd year)
People: David Chalmers