Graduate Studies: Seminars offered in 2024-2025 by the Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts
Department of Philosophy
Graduate studies
The Thinker made of geometric shapes
Here are the graduate seminars offered by the Department of Philosophy in 2024-2025.


  • PHI5345 A (3 credits)

FALL 2024

  • PHI5333 B (3 credits)
  • PHI5333 A (3 credits)
  • PHI5344 A (3 credits)
  • PHI5733 A (3 crédits) (en français)
  • PHI5323 A (3 credits)
  • PHI5743 A (3 crédits) (en français)


  • PHI5331 A (3 credits)
  • PHI5342 A (3 credits)
  • PHI5742 A (3 crédits) (en français)
  • PHI5324 A (3 credits)


PHI5345 A (3 credits) - Ethics: Heidegger on Ethics

Professor: Sonia Sikka


Despite the controversy surrounding his politics, Heidegger's writings, both early and late, contain intriguing reflections on topics related to ethics, understood as the appropriate way to be in the world with others. His account of authenticity and conscience in *Being and Time* sketches a situationist ethic grounded in the act of decision and is accompanied by an idea of the self that is indebted to Kant's conceptions of personhood and character. In this and other works of the same period, Heidegger adopts an understanding of humanity grounded in a contrast with animality, a typical—but questionable—gesture within Western philosophical anthropology and moral philosophy. In his post-war works, Heidegger turns towards what may seem like a less anthropocentric vision of being in the world, challenging "humanism" and developing a critique of the domineering and exploitative relation to nature that he sees as underlying modern technology. In these later writings, however, the special character of humanity, which Heidegger continues to affirm, rests in the capacity to relinquish the will to aggressive conquest, to be something other and higher than an animal equipped with reason.

We will examine and assess these elements of Heidegger's thought, with a view to philosophical discussions about moral universalism vs. relativism; moral realism and the concept of value; the relation between self and other; animal ethics; environmental ethics.

FALL 2024

PHI5333 B (3 credits) - Modern Philosophy: Philosophies of Nature in German Idealism

Professor: Jeffrey Reid


Much of the ambiguity in our contemporary attitude toward nature stems from the strange mixture of Romantic and Enlightenment thought that we have inherited. Is nature an expressive source through which we may experience the good, the true, and the beautiful, or is nature something alien, to be known, controlled, and exploited technologically? The fundamental conflict between these two views of nature is played out, in different ways, in the philosophies of Schelling and Hegel. Each, in his own way, responds to challenges and philosophical avenues evoked in the philosophies of Kant (natural determinacy, the purposiveness of nature) and Fichte. Long ignored and even ridiculed as misguided, failed attempts at a priori (i.e., non-empirical, non-experimental) science, German Idealist philosophies of nature have recently become the object of renewed interest. Hegel's *Philosophy of Nature*, the central section of his *Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences*, can be seen as a coherent epistemological grasp of the natural sciences of the time. Schelling's dynamic philosophy of nature prefigures contemporary notions of the unconscious mind, embodiment, and anticipates ideas of natural evolution and process philosophy. Most fundamentally, perhaps, the systematic philosophies of German Idealism represent remarkable efforts to reconcile nature with the possibility of human freedom.

PHI5333 A (3 credits) - Modern Philosophy: The Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason

Professor: David Hyder


The central division in the *Critique of Pure Reason* lies between the Transcendental Analytic and the Transcendental Dialectic of the Doctrine of Elements. This split in Kant's text reflects, and has replicated, a series of fundamental divisions within philosophy. First, the division between theoretical and practical philosophy. Second, the division between the temporal and non-temporal worlds. And thus, third, the division between natural philosophy and supernatural philosophy, that is to say, theology. Finally, the division between analytic and continental philosophy coincides with Kant's division between analytical and dialectical thought. Since these divisions reinforce one another, it comes as no surprise that work on Kant's *Critique* is highly "clustered." Thinkers whose interests lie on either side of one of these dichotomies tend to read exclusively the Analytic or the Dialectic, and mainly each other's commentaries on those sections, a trend that began already in the 19th century within the strands of neo-Kantianism that developed into the various 20th-century schools of thought (logical empiricism, phenomenology, existential phenomenology, logicism, linguistic foundationalism, structuralism, formal semantics, etc.).

One consequence of this is that the Dialectic is rarely read on its own terms, above all because few of Kant's successors (starting with Trendelenburg) took seriously Kant's fundamental thesis, which is that time is ideal. Thus, it was viewed as either largely superfluous or as a mere source text for a later dialectical tradition. Since, however, it can be shown that Kant's theory of the ideality of time is not merely defensible, but in many respects the most conservative position to take in regard to our current state of physical knowledge (Eberhard 1978), much of the Dialectic can be rehabilitated within a contemporary context, which would in turn mean that certain of the above dichotomies break down. If time-order is an emergent property experienced by only certain types of things, then an investigation into the nature of human action ceases to be a merely practical question and becomes a theoretical question about the physical origins of the kind of being that is so structured in time. How and why did such entities evolve? Are the actions they believe themselves to carry out really changing the future? And if not, why would they come to believe that they were?

In this course, we will read through these "secret passages" of Kant's *Critique*, beginning with a quick refresher of the Analytic and an overview of Kant's and Einstein's "no-time" theories. That is, we will do the whole book, but will skim only the essential from the Analytic, in order to focus on the Dialectic. In the last part of the course, we will read selections from Kant's practical philosophy, as well as selections from the works of his immediate successors.

PHI5344 A (3 credits) - Philosophical Anthropology: The Humanism of William James

Professor: Paul Forster


This course offers a systematic examination of the philosophy of William James (1842-1910). James is best known as a pioneer in scientific psychology and a founder of pragmatism—the first home-grown philosophical movement in the United States. On his characterization, pragmatism is first and foremost a method for resolving seemingly interminable metaphysical disputes, one that combines the rigours of scientific empiricism with the humanistic and spiritual concerns of transcendentalism and absolute idealism.

Critics have long dismissed James as a mere popularizer of philosophy. They have scorned his theory of truth—thinking it collapses the distinction between what is true and what individuals find useful to believe—and disdained pragmatism for reducing the pursuit of beauty, truth, and goodness to matters of practical expediency, privileging the instrumental value of science, morality, art, and spiritual pursuits at the expense of their intrinsic worth. These criticisms have persisted despite repeated protests by James that they are unfair.

One reason myths about James continue is that his writings on pragmatism and truth are read apart from his other work in philosophy and psychology. In this class, we will view pragmatism as part of a broader attempt by James to unite insights into human behaviour drawn from psychology, biology, and physiology with insights into the nature of agency and moral experience to yield a comprehensive worldview. From this humanist perspective, it becomes clear that James is not the crude thinker his opponents suppose and that his views about the human condition are not only far from easily dismissed but highly relevant to contemporary philosophical discussions. No previous experience with pragmatism or James is required.

PHI5733 A (3 crédits) (en français) - Philosophie moderne : Tragique et tragédie à l'époque moderne

Professor: Mitia Rioux-Beaulne


La thématisation philosophique du tragique est plus généralement associée au XIXe siècle, et plus spécifiquement au romantisme allemand (et encore plus spécifiquement à Hegel). Il n'en demeure pas moins que, depuis Aristote, philosophes et théoriciens du théâtre se sont efforcés de définir la spécificité de la tragédie comme forme poétique et, ce faisant, de déterminer ce qui constitue son essence et les modalités de sa mise en œuvre. Une grande partie des textes qui ont participé de ce qu'on nomme aujourd'hui la naissance de l'esthétique au XVIIIe siècle est en effet consacrée à cette question, notamment dans la foulée des transformations que le genre subit chez Shakespeare, Corneille, Racine, puis au cours du XVIIIe siècle avec l'entrée en scène du drame bourgeois.

L'objectif général de ce séminaire est de brosser un portrait de ce qui se joue au fond réellement dans le travail sur la tragédie qui s'effectue au cours de la période moderne, en prenant pour objet non seulement les textes théoriques, mais certaines des plus grandes tragédies écrites dans cette période. Nous analyserons le dispositif tragique lui-même, en étudiant des œuvres majeures du répertoire tragique (et au-delà) de la période moderne, et en mettant ces dernières en regard des théories esthétiques (D'Aubignac, Du Bos, Hume, Diderot, Rousseau ... ) qui essaient d'en dégager les ressorts et motifs essentiels.

Parmi les questions qui seront abordées, on trouvera bien sûr la question des plaisirs paradoxaux (pourquoi éprouve-t-on du plaisir à l'émotion tragique?), celle de la production des émotions et du fonctionnement de l'identification, et, évidemment, celle de la nature propre du tragique. À ces questions esthétiques se grefferont inévitablement les enjeux éthiques, politiques et métaphysiques qui sont impliqués par la représentation théâtrale et le dispositif tragique qu'elle met en jeu.

Ce séminaire sera donné en simultané à l'Université d'Ottawa et l'Université de Montréal et sa supervision sera assurée par Mitia Rioux-Beaulne et Daniel Dumouchel. Il aura lieu en présentiel dans chaque institution, et les deux salles seront connectées par vidéoconférence.

PHI5323 A (3 credits) - Asian and Comparative Philosophy: Right and Wrong Views in Madhyamaka Philosophy: Why Conventional Truth Matters

Professor: Catherine Collobert


This course explores the Buddhist conception of wrong and right views. Right view pertains to the noble eightfold path along with right thought, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The cultivation of the eight limbs leads to enlightenment. Wrong view is regarded as an impediment to the latter and the result of cognitive obscuration and ignorance. A wrong view is a view that maintains in one way or another a form of substantialism. There were intense debates among Indian schools and among Buddhist schools about the concept of substance (svabhava) and existence (bhava). The Madhyamaka school denies the pertinence of the concept of existence—and of nonexistence—to account for reality. The concept of existence entails permanence and independence. However, phenomena are neither permanent nor independent for they are caused and conditioned, therefore relational.

The Madhyamaka school aims to refute all the views, which as substantialist deny universal emptiness. The view of universal emptiness is the right view, which corresponds to conventional truth. The importance of refuting wrong views is based on the idea that the demonstration of universal emptiness is not enough to ascertain it. The ascertainment should include both refutation and positive establishment. The former is conducted in a specific way that is called the prasangika method. Once all the views that entail in one way or another a form of substantialism have been refuted, one is left with only one view: the view of unsubstantiality, i.e., the view of emptiness. However, there is still a need to clarify and spell out the view of an unsubstantial reality. It is done in demonstrating that as constantly arising and ceasing, phenomena cannot be but unsubstantial. The establishment of right view is thus a two-step establishment, which are intertwined in Madhyamaka works, as we shall see.

The very first text bearing on wrong views is the *Brahmajala sutta* from the Pali Canon, in which the Buddha deconstructs 62 metaphysical views. The Madhyamaka school led by Nagarjuna with his followers Candrakirti, and Santideva take up the Buddha's deconstruction of metaphysics and give it a new twist. We will examine the Madhyamaka refutation of the substantialist views held by the orthodox schools of Samkhya and Nyaya, and by the Buddhist schools of Hinayana and Cittamatra. Moreover, we will explicate the view of universal emptiness as distinct from the views of partial emptiness that the two latter Buddhist schools defend.

The course is based on the following texts: *The Brahmajala sutta* (Pali Canon), Nagarjuna, *Exposition of Bodhicitta, The Treatise of the Middle Way*; Candrakirti, *Introduction to the Middle Way*, chap. 6; Santideva, *The Way of the Bodhisattva*, chap. 9.

PHI5743 A (3 crédits) (en français) - Métaphysique : la doctrine de l'infini d'Aristote

Professor: Antoine Cote


La doctrine de l'infini d'Aristote est une de ses contributions philosophiques majeures et une des plus influentes, puisqu'elle continue à nourrir les débats philosophiques sur la nature de l'infini jusqu'à aujourd'hui. Le séminaire consistera en une étude approfondie des chapitres 4 à 8 du livre III de la *Physique*, que nous allons lire à la lumière des interprétations anciennes, médiévales et contemporaines les plus marquantes.


PHI5331 A (3 credits) - Ancient Philosophy: Towards an Ontology of Life: Martin Heidegger's Early Seminars on Aristotle

Professor: Francisco Gonzalez

Short title: Heidegger's Early Seminars on Aristotle


It is well known that Heidegger's major work, *Being and Time*, grew at least in large part out of an intense and productive dialogue with the philosophy of Aristotle. Indeed, the book that Heidegger originally projected to write during this period of the 1920s was to be on Aristotle and one could argue that *Being and Time* is this book with the explicit discussions of Aristotle's texts left out. The full debt to Aristotle has become clear only in recent decades through the publication of Heidegger's courses and seminars on Aristotle from the 1920s. Yet many of these seminars have never been published. In this course, we will examine Heidegger's early reading of Aristotle by studying two works that have been published for some time and two seminars that have been published only partially until now. The published works are Heidegger's 1922 prospectus for the book on Aristotle he intended to write (*Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle*) and the 1924 course *Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy*. First, however, we will study Heidegger's very first seminar on Aristotle devoted mainly to Aristotle's work on the soul, *De Anima*. This seminar is available only in two student transcripts: one very incomplete one by Oskar Becker published some years ago in German and one much more complete by Helene Weiss published by me recently along with an English translation of both transcripts. The reading of Aristotle pursued in this seminar can be seen as continuing in a seminar from 1922-23 that had to be extended into the summer semester of 1923. Here Heidegger continues his reading of *De Anima* but gradually turns to the text that will be a focus of his attention in the 1924 course: the *Nicomachean Ethics*. This extremely important seminar has been available up to now only in the transcript of again Oskar Becker: a transcript so incomplete as to give little sense of the seminar's contents. But fortunately here too there exists a transcript by Helene Weiss that is detailed, long, and comprehensive. This transcript has not been published in any form, but I will make an English translation of it available to those taking this course. Students will also be able to consult my constructions and discussions of these seminars in my book-length study of them just published by Indiana University Press.

To follow what Heidegger is doing in these seminars, we will of course need to read the Aristotelian texts he interprets. These are: *De Anima* Books 2 & 3; *Metaphysics* Book 7; *Nicomachean Ethics* Book 6; *Physics* Book 3. It is in the last part of the 1924 course that Heidegger turns to a detailed reading of *Physics* III, but he had been telling his students since the first seminar of 1921 that a comprehension of the *Physics* was required to understand all the other texts. Thus, this early reading of Aristotle can be said to culminate in Heidegger's reading of *Physics* III.

The goal of this course is not simply a better understanding of Heidegger but also a better understanding of Aristotle since the dialogue between them illuminates the two. A virtue of Heidegger's reading of Aristotle, as his students noted at the time, is its ability to make Aristotle speak to us today. And the issue at the center of Heidegger's early reading of Aristotle is one that has certainly lost neither its importance nor its difficulty: how are we to understand the distinctive way of being that characterizes those beings that are alive. For reasons we will need to consider, this question is eventually narrowed in Heidegger's reading of Aristotle to the question of what is our, human distinctive way of being: a question that will find its response for Heidegger in the existential analysis of Dasein in *Being and Time*.

PHI5342 A (3 credits) - Epistemology: Stanley Cavell and Skepticism

Professor: Patrice Philie


Cavell has a complicated relationship with skepticism. His discussion of it goes in many directions: it involves skepticism about the external world as well as about other minds and it is intimately connected to his controversial readings of Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Emerson, and Thoreau (amongst others). It is also intertwined with his study of films in the golden age of Hollywood. The objective of this seminar will be to investigate Cavell's 'epistemology' through his interpretation of these films and philosophers.

PHI5742 A (3 crédits) (en français) - Philosophie anthropologique : Humain renouvelé ou post-humanité ?

Professor: Valérie Daoust


Ce cours tente de réfléchir sur les concepts d'une humanité renouvelée ou de la post-humanité. On part de la remise en question de la subjectivité moderne articulée en France, au 20e siècle, par Michel Foucault, Lu

ce Irigaray, et Gilles Deleuze/Félix Guattari. On s'intéresse à ces critiques sous leurs formes négatives, mais on essaie aussi de tenter une articulation, là où c'est possible, d'une forme positive de nouvelles possibilités subjectives. On s'intéresse d'abord au dernier Foucault, entre autres à ses textes de l'*Histoire de la sexualité*, où il appelle à une conversion de soi et à la possibilité de s'inventer autrement. On poursuit, ensuite, avec les textes tardifs d'Irigaray qui cherche à créer une nouvelle façon d'être un humain sexué. Finalement, on aborde les textes de Deleuze/Guattari qui introduisent l'idée de l'homme-machine, remettant en question le paradigme psychanalytique qui, pourtant, avait déjà ébranlé les fondements du sujet dualiste et d'une humanité unifiée. À la lumière de ces critiques, de ces malaises profonds ou trop humains, ainsi qu'en réponse à l'appel d'une humanité nouvelle ou à dépasser, on cherche à évaluer, en dernière analyse, des pensées qui revendiquent aujourd'hui une post-humanité comme refus des frontières traditionnellement établies entre l'humain, la nature, et les technologies de soi. Ces techniques peuvent comprendre la chirurgie esthétique, la prise d'hormones et le changement de sexe ou des procédures technologiques qui augmentent la performance de l'individu dans les sociétés capitalistes avancées.

PHI5324 A (3 credits) - Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science: Merleau-Ponty on Consciousness and Perception

Professor: Nigel Desouza


This seminar will centre on a close examination of two of Merleau-Ponty's earliest works: *The Structure of Behaviour* (La structure du comportement, 1942) and *The Phenomenology of Perception* (La phénoménologie de la perception, 1945). In these two works, respectively, Merleau-Ponty grapples with a philosophical understanding of the relationship between consciousness and nature and of how to move beyond the inadequate traditions of intellectualism (rationalism) and empiricism in order to win through to a more (phenomenologically accurate) understanding of perception and the perceptual bases of knowledge. A central leitmotif running through the analyses of both texts will be what role embodiment plays in the human being's cognitive relationship to its world.