PHIL 540: Rationality and non-cognitive attitudes
Beliefs seem to have, as part of their job description, the carrying of information about the world around us. Perhaps this can help explain why beliefs can be rational or irrational: rationality gets its purchase on beliefs because it is a reasonable guide to the facts that beliefs are meant to track. It makes sense to talk of a rational change in belief, say, because we are confronted with evidence that pulls in one direction or another. But there are many other attitudes, in particular conative and affective attitudes (non-cognitive attitudes, for short), whose role seems to have little to do with tracking features of the environment. Does this mean that there can be no substantive rationality constraints on non-cognitive attitudes? If there are, what is their source? Is there such a thing as a rational change in non-cognitive attitudes?
The first and second parts of the seminar will revolve around the question of whether and how rationality constraints conative and affective attitudes. The final part of the seminar will be focused on the question of whether and how non-cognitivists views in meta-ethics can account for the ways in which moral thought is rationally constrained.
PHIL 428: Anglo-American Philosophy since 1950
We will look at some of the major philosophical works written during the second half of the twentieth century. We will focus on questions about meaning, the prominent role they played throughout the later half of the century, and on the resurgence of metaphysics. Along the way, we will touch on questions about reductionism, naturalism, and its rivals. Authors will include Ludiwg Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, R. M. Hare, Nelson Goodman, W. V. O. Quine, Saul Kripke, Donald Davidson, Paul Grice, and David Lewis.
ARLT 100g: Minds, Machines, and Language (syllabus)
Imagine you had all the time and money you could ever want. All the brain power you could ever need. Could you build a machine that could think?
Alan Turing famously said this question was ‘too meaningless to deserve discussion’. The point of this course—in a nutshell—is to try to prove Turing wrong. Or at least, to see whether there are more meaningful questions in the vicinity that do deserve discussion. Candidates will include: What is it to have thoughts? Does having thoughts require understanding some language or other? What does it take to understand a language? Could a machine do that?
Spring 2011 (at MIT)
24.118: Paradox and Infinity
The notion of infinity gives rise to a number of puzzles and paradoxes. We will look at some of them, with an eye to engaging with their philosophical implications. Along the way, we will introduce some basic notions in set theory, computability, and decision theory, and look at attempts (some more successful than others) at taming infinitary notions.