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PHIL 401
Senior Seminar: Metaphilosophy Fall 2020
Division II

Class Details

Put simply, metaphilosophy is reflection on the nature of philosophy, i.e., What is it? What is its aim? Its purpose? Its methods? Are such questions meaningful or important? Can the discipline be unified? Should it be? Unsurprisingly, philosophers have proffered a variety of answers to these questions, prompting one philosopher to remark, half-jokingly, that “there are as many definitions of philosophy as there are philosophers…” Thus, Plato described the philosopher as “the one who beholds all Time and all Being.” Wilford Sellars regarded as uncontroversial, the view that it is “an attempt to see how things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.” Critical theorists regard philosophy as social and ideology critique. Some understand its aim to be to answer normative questions about the nature of truth, justice, goodness and rationality. Finally, there are those who do not think philosophy can contribute much at all to answering such questions. In this senior seminar we will read a range of philosophical texts (Analytic, Pragmatist, and Continental or European) that either engage meta-philosophical debates or exemplify particular philosophical styles and methods in order to enrich our understanding of the discipline and of the value of meta-philosophical inquiry itself.
The Class: Format: seminar; This will be taught remotely. The professor will consult with members of the class to devise the optimal formats to ensure educational value and active engagement by the students. Students should expect to meet in a seminar format once a week, and in regular smaller tutorial style groups either weekly or every other week unless we decide on a different format.
Limit: 10
Expected: 8-9
Class#: 2549
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: short (750 word) weekly seminar or tutorial response papers, several 6000 word tutorial papers, and a 12,000 word final paper.
Prerequisites: required of, and open only to, senior Philosophy majors
Enrollment Preferences: senior Philosophy majors only
Unit Notes: Required for all majors
Distributions: Division II

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