MAP: Courses 2023/2024
Master in Philosophy
21 July 2023
We are very pleased to announce the courses offered at the MAP during the Academic Year 2023/2024!
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 Metaphysics
- Research Skills in Philosophy
- Research Seminar
- Topics in Metaphysics
- Topics in Philosophy of Mind
- Topics in Logic
- Topics in Ancient Philosophy
- Topics in Philosophy of Physics
- Topics in Philosophy of Mathematics
- Metaphysics and Physics
- Logic and Metaphysics
- Mind and Metaphysics
- Advanced Logic and Metaphysics
- Advanced Philosophy of Physics
- Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence
- Lugano Philosophy Colloquia
- A Map of Social Ontology
- A Map of the World
- A Map of Polish Philosophy
- Discrete Strucutres
- Information and Physics
- Summer School on Syntax, Truth, and Paradox
Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Fabrice Correia
Mereology and Location
Parthood and location are among the most central notions in our conceptual scheme. In this seminar we first introduce various formal theories of parthood and location. We then discuss several metaphysical issues regarding both. These include – but are not limited to – atomism, the special composition question and the possibility of multilocation. Finally, we bring the investigation of parthood and location together and discuss different metaphysical debates in which their interaction turns out to be crucial, such as, e.g., the metaphysics of persistence, the possibility of extended simples, and the nature of omnipresent entities – to mention a few. Top page
Logic (Core Course 1st year)
People: Franz Berto, Léon Probst (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 Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: John Marenbon, Anna Marmodoro
Metaphysics 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.
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. 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, Paolo Natali
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
Causation and Laws of Nature
Causation is pivotal in philosophy, and tends to be invoked in debates about existence, knowledge, freedom, individuation, responsibility, the direction of time, the mind-body problem, and many more. Moreover, causation is important outside philosophy too, in disciplines such as economics and psychology, and applied fields such as law, medicine, and engineering. What is causation, then? In its first part, this course will provide an introduction to an account of causation that has been particularly influential in philosophy, and serves as a useful point of reference in the discussion of subsequent work: David Lewis’ counterfactual theory. We will sketch Lewis’ neo-Humean metaphysics: how he explains causation in terms of counterfactuals; counterfactuals in terms of laws of nature; and laws of nature in terms of the “mosaic” of fundamental facts. Along the way, we will discuss problem cases for the theory, as well as objections from an anti-Humean perspective, which takes causation and laws of nature to be more metaphysically robust.
In the second part of the course, we will consider a few more recent topics in the study of causation, such as contextualism, contrastivism, absence causation, normativity, and the structural equations framework. The treatment of each issue will have to be relatively brief, but should put students in a position to decide about what they wish to explore in more depth in their presentation and/or essay.
Learning methods Classes will be a mix of lectures (with accompanying notes provided by the instructor), student presentations, and class discussions.
Those students who wish to do preparatory reading may start with one or more of the three texts listed below. The first one, by Pearl, is aimed at a larger audience, and a fairly easy read. It motivates the study of causal inference using a certain theoretical framework. The second and third text are more dense and will take more time to read. The second, by Lewis, is a classic which has inspired a large research tradition, and is still a key point of reference. The third text, by Gallow, is a recent survey article, drawing a variety of useful distinctions.
- Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie, Introduction to the The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect, Penguin, 2019.
- David Lewis, “Causation”, The Journal of Philosophy 70 (1973): 556–567. Reprinted in Lewis’ Philosophical Papers, vol. II.
- J. Dmitri Gallow, “The metaphysics of causation”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition).
More readings (by Tim Maudlin, Jonathan Schaffer, and Sarah McGrath, among others) will be made available during the course. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Mind (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Bence Nanay
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: Alessandro Giordani
A Journey through Epistemic Logic
Epistemic logic is currently considered one of the best general formal ap- proaches to the study of the structure of knowledge, its static and dynamic aspects, its limits and possibilities. At the beginning of this century we have witnessed an impressive revival of interest in this field, related both to the ex- ploration of new formal tools for studying the epistemic attitudes of ideal and ordinary agents and to the application of these tools to classical epistemological problems. The present course aims to provide a general introduction to the ba- sic concepts in the intersection between epistemology and epistemic logic and to develop systems of logic where these concepts are studied both from a semantic and from an axiomatic point of view. We will start with reviewing a standard possible world semantics for knowledge and justification. Then, we will go on by highlighting the limits of this kind of semantics for modeling the way in which ordinary agents argue based on what they know. Finally, we will consider how these limits can be overcome by refining the our initial semantic apparatus. In doing this we will constantly refer to some basic issues in epistemology, such as the problem of providing a correct definition of knowledge, the problem of avoiding logical omniscience, and the problem of solving the knowability para- dox, so as to check whether the systems we propose are acceptable. This will lead us to study a rich family of modal systems and to become familiar with a wide range of tools and techniques in intensional and hyperintentional logic. Top page
Topics in Ancient Philosophy (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Paolo Crivelli
The lectures will analyse, and assess from a modern philosophical perspective, Plato’s discussion of some possible answers to the question ‘What is knowledge?’ The course is organized in such a way that traditional lectures will alternate with presentations by students. Here is a list of the main topics covered: The structure of the Theaetetus; the answer to the question ‘What is knowledge?’ based on a list of kinds of knowledge; Theaetetus’ thesis that knowledge is perception (151d–e); uses of ‘to know’, ‘knowledge’, ‘to perceive’, and ‘perception’; Protagoras’ Man-Measure doctrine and its support for Theaetetus’ thesis (151e–152c); Protagoras’ ‘Secret Doctrine’ (152d–160d); the contradictory nature and the coming to be of perceptible particulars; the relativity of perceptible properties, the argument from conflicting appearances, and ‘mere Cambridge change’; the refined theory of perception; the Secret Doctrine’s support for Theaetetus’ thesis; the refutation of Theaetetus’ thesis (184b–187a) based on the view that perceptions are not true and therefore cannot be knowledge; the structure of the section dealing with the definition ‘Knowledge is true judgement’ (187a–201c); the justification of the view that knowledge should be true judgement (200e) and its refutation; the puzzles of false judgement, namely the argument from knowing and not knowing (187c–188c), the other-judgement analysis (189b–190e), the Waxen Block Analysis (190e–196d), and the Aviary Analysis (196d–200c); the structure of the section dealing with the definition ‘Knowledge is true judgement with an account’ (201c–210a); ‘Socrates’ Dream’ (201c–206c); the meanings of the word ‘account’ (‘logos’) (206c–210a); the similarity between the definition ‘Knowledge is true judgement accompanied by an account’ and modern epistemological views; the main interpretations of Socrates’ Dream. 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) presentism and modern physics, (2) time travel in physics, and (3) the disappearance and re-emergence of spacetime in quantum gravity.
Prerequisites Participants should have successfully completed the Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics, or be similarly prepared. Top page
Topics in Philosophy of Mathematics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Øystein Linnebo
The course will focus on abstraction and abstract objects.
The language of mathematics abounds with apparent reference to abstract objects. Are there really such objects? If so, what are these objects, and how are they related to operations of abstraction? The course considers some of the most important recent approaches to mathematical objects: numbers as magnitudes, nominalism, Fregean and neo-Fregean abstraction, as well as structuralism and structural abstraction. Some central topics include:
- Do we need abstract objects over and above equivalence relations that are congruent with respect to various properties?
- What is the relation between abstract objects and abstract properties?
- What is the status of uninstantiated properties or abstract objects.
- What is the relation between (neo-)Fregean and structuralist abstraction. Top page
Metaphysics and Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Achille Varzi
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, drawn within 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
Logic and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Timothy Williamson
The course will be an introduction to higher-order modal logic as a structural core of metaphysical theories. It will be based on Timothy Williamson, Modal Logic as Metaphysics (OUP, 2013), omitting some of the more technical sections, especially in chapter 7. Chapter 1 is reasonably non-technical and can be read in advance for an initial sense of the issues. Central to the book is the debate in modal metaphysics between necessitism and contingentism, on whether being is contingent, with a look too at the analogous issue in the metaphysics of time, on whether being is temporary. In modal logic, these issues correspond to the contrast between logics with and without the Barcan formula and its converse, and between constant-domain and variable-domain models. This will lead us to more general questions about the relation between formal models of modal logic and its metaphysical interpretations, and about higher-order logic as an approach to issues traditionally discussed under titles such as ‘the problem of universals’, including its implications for both mathematics and methodological debates about ontological commitment. Time permitting, we will also discuss implications for truthmaker theory. Top page
Mind and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Thomas Sattig
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 course 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 relationship between the nature and the experience of passage. Top page
Advanced Logic and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kit Fine
The course will provide the students with an overview of truthmaker semantics with special attention to some particular applications. It will begin with a comparison of three forms of truth-conditional semantics: possible worlds semantics, situation semantics and truthmaker semantics. It will then lay down the basic framework of the truthmaking approach. Here, the notions of a state space, of conjunctive and disjunctive part and of exact, inexact and loose verification will be introduced. The remainder of the course will be devoted to applications of the framework to such topics as counterfactuals, deontic logic and scalar implicature. Top page
Advanced Philosophy of Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Tim Maudlin
One of the central metaphysical questions from antiquity concerns the nature of space and time. Newton and Leibniz, for example, argued about whether space and time can exist independently of matter or are only relations among material things. But the classical account of the structure of space and time was rejected first by the Special Theory of Relativity and then even more radically by the General Theory of Relativity. In the latter theory, Newton’s postulate of a force of gravity is completely rejected, and gravitational effects are instead attributed to the curvature of space-time itself. We will study enough of these theories to understand what the various proposals are and perhaps even consider some novel ideas that go beyond General Relativity. Top page
Philosophy & Artificial Intelligence (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Jobst Landgrebe, Barry Smith
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the subfield of Computer Science devoted to developing programs that enable computers to display behavior that can (broadly) be characterized as intelligent. On the strong version, the ultimate goal of AI is to create an artificial system that is as intelligent as a human being. Recent successes of ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) have led to a new popularization of AI, since these tools are immediately available to the wider population, who for the first time can have real hands-on experience of what AI can do. LLMs belong to the class of stochastic AI.
These developments in AI open up a series of questions such as:
- Will the powers of AI continue to grow in the future, and if so will they ever reach the point where they can be said to have intelligence equivalent to or greater than that of a human being?
- Could we ever reach the point where we can accept the thesis that an AI system could have something like consciousness or sentience?
- Could we reach the point where an AI system could be said to behave ethically, or to have responsibility for its actions.
- Can quantum computers enable a stronger AI than what we have today?
We will describe in detail how stochastic AI work, and consider these and a series of other questions at the borderlines of philosophy and AI. The class will close with presentations of papers on relevant topics given by students. Top page
Lugano Philosophy Colloquia (Core Course 1st year)
People: Many MAP professors jointly hold this course
The Lugano Philosophy Colloquia is a series of annual research talks in philosophy given at the Institute of Philosophy at USI. The talk series combines talks given by external guests and internal collaborators. MAP students are allowed to attend the talks and take them for credits by writing a 3’000 word reply to one of the talks. Hence, this course is a chance for MAP students to with cutting edge research talks and to actively participate in the current debate by writing a reply to such talks. Top page
A Map of Social Ontology (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kathrin Koslicki
Social ontology is the philosophical study of the nature and characteristics of the social world. In this seminar, we will take a look at prominent topics and debates within social ontology, among them the following: What is the distinction between the social and the non-social? What are the building blocks of social reality? Does the creation of institutional social reality require collective intentionality? What determines an individual’s membership in a social kind or category? What does it mean for a kind or category to be “socially constructed”? What kinds of entities are social groups? How do artifacts and artworks fit into the social world? And what distinguishes the philosophical study of social reality from the social sciences? Top page
A Map of the World (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kevin Mulligan
Essence and Modality
This course surveys and evaluates philosophical accounts of (a) essence, essentiality, essential connections and essentialism, (b) modality, metaphysical, natural and normative, (c) the relations between (a) and (b), and (d) essentialism in different branches of philosophy, in particular in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of reasons, and alternatives to essentialism. Top page
A Map of Polish Philosophy (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Peter Simons
There has been philosophy in Poland since about 1200, but nothing that could be called Polish philosophy until 1895, when the 29-year-old Kazimierz Twardowski moved from Vienna to Lwów, then in the Austrian-administered Kingdom of Galicia. Twardowski brought a messianic vision of how philosophy should be, inspired by his teacher Brentano, but adapted to the circumstances of the new location. From modest beginnings, his mission grew to be the seminal influence on Polish philosophy from the 20th century onwards. His numerous illustrious students went on to fill chairs of philosophy, psychology and logic across the second Polish Republic of 1919–1939 and after, and included such eminent thinkers as Jan Łukasiewicz, Stanisław Leśniewski, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Tadeusz Czeżowski, Władysław Tatarkiewicz and Roman Ingarden. They and their pupils, including Alfred Tarski, Andrzej Mostowski, Jan Słupecki, Roman Suszko and many others, developed a range of brilliant expertise that had no rival in the world, and forged a scientific approach to philosophy and its neighbouring disciplines that lives on to this day. This course will trace the doctrines and influences of this amazing intellectual flowering, and will show that their achievements match those of any golden age of this world’s history. 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
Summer School on Syntax, Truth, and Paradox (Elective Summer School for 1st and 2nd year)
People: Volker Halbach, Lorenzo Rossi