MAP: Courses 2024/2025

Programme 24/25
Programme 24/25

Master in Philosophy

1 Febbraio 2024

We are very pleased to announce the courses offered at the MAP during the Academic Year 2024/2025!

In the attachment (right column of the page), you can find the schematic list of courses. Below, the descriptions of the courses.

 

Index

Core courses

  • Metaphysics
  • Logic
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Physics
  • Ancient and Medieval Metaphysics
  • Research Skills in Philosophy
  • Research Seminar

Electives

  • 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 British Philosophy in the XX Century
  • Discrete Strucutres
  • Information and Physics
  • Summer School on Philosophy of Cosmology

 

Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Fabrice Correia

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 6

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.

 

Logic (Core Course 1st year)
People: Franz Berto, Léon Probst (TA)

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 6

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.

 

Philosophy of Mind (Core Course 1st year)
People: Kevin Mulligan

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 6

Types of mental acts and states

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).

 

Philosophy of Physics (Core Course 1st year)
People: Christian Wüthrich
Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

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:

  1. Organization and introduction: what is philosophy of physics, what are physical theories, and what is determinism?
  2. Substantivalism vs relationalism: Newton, Leibniz, Kant, and time in Newtonian physics in general
  3. Time in special relativity: relativity of simultaneity, Minkowksi spacetime, and implications for the metaphysics of time
  4. Time in general relativity, cosmology, and beyond
  5. Moving backward and forward in time: time travel in modern physics
  6. Quantum mechanics: phenomena and theory
  7. 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.

 

Ancient and Medieval Metaphysics (Core Course 1st year)
People: John Marenbon, Anna Marmodoro

Semester: Annual (half of the course in Autumn and half in Spring)
ECTS: 6

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.

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.

 

Research Skills in Philosophy (Core Course 1st year)
People: Many MAP professors hold this course

Semester: Annual (half of the course in Autumn and half in Spring)
ECTS: 4

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.

 

Research Seminar (Core Course 2nd year)
People: Alessandro Giordani, Paolo Natali

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

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.

 

Topics in Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stephan Leuenberger

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

Grounding

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 Philosophy of Mind (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Bence Nanay
Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

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.

 

Topics in Logic (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Alessandro Giordani

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

Deontic Logic

We use deontic logic to model our intuitions concerning prescriptive concepts, such as prohibition, permission, and obligation, and to provide appropriate formal
frameworks for analyzing deontic problems, conceiving deontic procedures, and assessing existing deontic systems. At the beginning of this century we
have witnessed an impressive revival of interest in this field, related both to the exploration of new formal tools for studying the deontic aspects of ideal and
ordinary communities of agents and to the application of these tools to classical deontic problems. The present course aims to provide a general introduction
to the basic concepts related to deontic logic and action theory 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 the notions of obligation and permission. Then, we will go
on by highlighting the limits of this kind of semantics for modeling the way in which the actions of ordinary agents are regulated by norms. 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.
The course is divided into three parts.

  1. Part I is devoted to study deontic logics of states. (ought-to-be logic, sein-sollen logic).
  2. Part II is devoted to study deontic logics of states. (ought-to-do logic, tun-sollen logic).
  3. Part III is devoted to study logics of both states and actions.

Prerequisite: propositional logic; introductory modal logic.

Topics in Ancient Philosophy (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Paolo Crivelli

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

Aristotle’s Metaphysics IV

The Aristotelian treatise that has come down to us with the title Metaphysics has the following structure: the first book (Α) presents the authoritative views of earlier thinkers on the subject with which Aristotle’s planned science will be concerned; the third book (Β) expounds the difficulties, or problems, which the planned science must address; the fourth book (Γ) solves some of those problems, outlines the strategy be means of which the remaining problems must be addressed, and begins implementing that strategy; the remaining books implement the rest of the strategy. Thus, the fourth book is the beginning of the pars construens of Aristotle’s ontological project. This position endows it with a special importance. This importance is however matched by the book’s difficulty, which is due to two factors: on the one hand, the argument of Aristotle in these pages are extremely abstract and obscure (even by Aristotle’s standards); on the other hand, some of the theses and the methods adopted here by Aristotle are connected with what he says in other treatises but seem not to match them. The present course will go through the fourth book of the Metaphysics chapter by chapter and will unravel some of the difficulties it presents to the reader. Particular attention will be given to Aristotle’s defense of the Principle of Non-Contradiction, which occupies the largest portion of the book.

 

Topics in Philosophy of Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Christian Wüthrich

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

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 2025, 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.

Accessibility and Prerequisites. Participants should have successfully completed the course Introduction to Philosophy of Physics, or be similarly prepared.

 

Topics in Philosophy of Mathematics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Øystein Linnebo

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

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.

 

Metaphysics and Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Claudio Calosi, Achille Varzi

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

Formal Ontology and the Metaphysics of Physics

The seminar first provides an introduction to formal ontology and (alleged) formal notions such as parthood, extension, location, dependence and the like. It then goes on to explore different applications of said notions to central debates in the metaphysics of physics, such as physics-based answers to the special composition question, the physics of extended simples, relativistic supersubstantivalism, and quantum monism to mention a few.

 

Logic and Metaphysics
People: Timothy Williamson

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

Higher-order Metaphysics

The course will introduce formal higher-order languages, their syntax and proof theory, set-theoretic and homophonic approaches to their semantics, standard and non-standard (Henkin) models, relations between natural languages and higher-order languages, mathematical, semantical, and metaphysical motivations for theorizing in higher-order languages, their relation to unrestricted generality and their capacity to make the traditional ‘problem of universals’ obsolete, higher-order definitions of modality, intensionalist and hyperintensionalist versions of higher-order logic, Russell-Myhill paradoxes and the nature of propositions. Readings will be selected from Peter Fritz and Nicholas Jones (eds.), Higher-Order Metaphysics (Oxford University Press, 2024).

 

Mind and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Thomas Sattig

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

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.

 

Advanced Logic and Metaphysics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kit Fine

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

The standard view of Mereology is one in which wholes are flat, at the same level as their parts. But there is an interesting alternative conception of Mereology, in which wholes can be at a higher level than their parts (and the parts at a higher level than other parts). In the course, we shall discuss this alternative conception of Mereology and its implications for various questions in metaphysics.

 

Advanced Philosophy of Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Tim Maudlin

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

Quantum Mechanics

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.

 

Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Barry Smith, Jobst Landgrebe
Semester: Spring
ECTS: 4

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?)

 

Lugano Philosophy Colloquia (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Many professors collaborate in this course

Semester: Annual (half of the course in Autumn and half in Spring)
ECTS: 4

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.

 

A Map of Social Ontology (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kathrin Koslicki

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

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?

 

A Map of the World (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Kevin Mulligan

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

Categories in Metaphysics

This course provides an introduction to contemporary discussions of the main categories in ontology and metaphysics. The categories dealt with are: Abstracta, Concreta, Dispositions, Events, Incomplete Objects, Kinds, Modalities, Modes of Being, Properties, Relations, Space, States of Affairs, Substances, Time, Tropes, Universals, Values and Worlds. It also examines different ways of arguing for the relations between these categories and some of the main types of systematic metaphysics – extensional, intensional and hyper-intensional (Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque, what Calosi has called deserts, gardens and jungles). Some applications of metaphysics and ontology to other branches of philosophy – epistemology, philosophy of science, and practical philosophy will be considered, if there is time and interest.

 

A Map of British Philosophy in the XX century (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Peter Simons

Semester: Autumn
ECTS: 4

Bertrand Russell

No history of philosophy in the 20th century can avoid its greatest exponent, Bertrand Russell. Scion of an aristocratic family and an early architect of analytic philosophy, Russell dominated the discipline for two generations and permanently transformed it. One of the foremost logicians in history, he discovered, confronted, and overcame antinomies at the heart of pure mathematics, helped to create modern logic, and oversaw its application to metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind. A radical and outspoken public commentator on moral, social and political life, Russell aroused controversy beyond academia by word and action. Ever subject to change in the light of new challenges, his prolific and highly readable philosophy defies formulaic summary, but his development and principal achievements can and will be outlined, explained, and evaluated in this course.

 

Discrete Structures (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stefan Wolf

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 6

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).

 

Information and Physics (Elective Course 1st and 2nd year)
People: Stefan Wolf

Semester: Spring
ECTS: 3

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.

 

Summer School on Philosophy of Cosmology (Elective for 1st and 2nd year)
People: Jim Owen Weatherall, Chris Smeenk

ECTS: 4

For more information please check the website of the summer school.

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