Action in Ancient Greek and Contemporary Analytic Philosophy Fall 2016

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1 Action in Ancient Greek and Contemporary Analytic Philosophy Fall 2016 Course Instructor: Evgenia Mylonaki T/Th & by appointment Class Meetings: DAY Tuesdays/Thursdays HOURS Course Description (Photo: Milk by Jeff Wall) Does this caption from Jeff Wall s photograph Milk of 1984 show milk exploding from a carton, or a man forcing milk out of a carton? What hits the eye in both cases is the same and yet the two things are radically different: the one is a mere happening and the other is an action. But what is the nature of action? What sets it apart from a mere happening? The aim of this course is twofold: 1. to explore the fomulation of this question in the analytic philosophy of the 20th century; what has come to be called the philosophy of action, and 2. to examine the roots of this question in ancient Greek philosophy. Thus, in the first part of the course we will study the way Plato and Aristotle formulated the question. And we will read Plato s Protagoras and the Republic and parts of Aristotle s De Anima, the Metaphysics and the Nicomachean Ethics. In the 2 nd part of the course we will examine the passage to modernity which leads up to Hume s and Kant s conceptions of action. And in the 3 rd part we will examine the way 20th century analytic philosophy formulated the question. To do so, we will read: Davidson, Anscombe, Hornsby, Bratman, Frankfurt, Korsgaard, McDowell, Thompson, Hyman, etc. Page 1 of 11

2 Course Resources and Activities Reading: We will read works of both primary and secondary literature. Analyzing and interpreting: Each class will motivate and answer one philosophical problem by reading abstracts from the texts in class, interpreting and discussing with each other. Discussions: In this class philosophy is being taught as an activity and not a mere body of doctrine. As a consequence we will all try to do what Socrates, Plato and Aristotle did: engage in dialogue with each other, starting from what we know and experience and trying to move on to a philosophical understanding of each of the concepts and problems we will be reading about in class. Writing: The dialogue of this class will also take place in writing. Writing will be divided between free writing and academic writing. In your weekly reflections you will be asked to write freely about anything at all in the readings and the class discussions that may interest you. In your research paper(s) you will be asked and taught to write academically in order to participate in the professional activity of philosophy as it is today. Presentations: In this class you will be able to set the agenda for the course by choosing readings relevant to the course that you would like to present to the class. Peer review: In this class you will have the opportunity if you so wish to read and comment on each other s final papers before they are due. Guest Lectures: In this class you will have the opportunity to engage directly with guest lecturers who are renowned specialists in some of the subject matters we will be dealing with. Names, dates and times will be announced at the first day of classes. Learning Objectives It is the ambition of this class to present the contemporary philosophical problem of action in its historical dimension and to enable all of us to do philosophy together. In this class you will be able to: 1. Familiarize yourselves with a relatively new field of philosophical discourse: the philosophy of action. 2. Trace the connections between this new field and major philosophical movements in the history of philosophy and in particular in the history of ancient, modern and 20 th century philosophy. 3. Learn how to work both with primary and secondary literature in order to conduct philosophical research. 4. Learn how to produce high quality research in the field. Page 2 of 11

3 Course Requirements Weekly Reflections: You will be asked to turn in one weekly 1-2 page Reflection (a free report or reaction to the readings of the upcoming class) that will be delivered to my address every week a day before the first or the second class of the week (Τ or Th). The reports will be briefly commented on and returned to you but not graded separately. You will be graded just for turning them all in on time. You will get an A if you ve turned them all in on time and an F if there is more than two reports unjustifiably missing or written in such a manner as to convey that the reading was not actually done. Late assignments will not be read but not commented on. Paper(s): To complete the main writing assignment of this class you have the following option: either write two shorter research papers (7 pages for the midterm and 10 pages for the final) or write one longer research paper (15 to 20 pages) on which you will be working throughout the semester (deliver the first draft during midterms week and then spend the rest of the semester rewriting it). The deadline for the midterm paper or draft will be on the 25 th of October and the deadline for the final paper or draft will be on the 15 th of December. Guidelines for writing a research paper will be discussed in class. Paper topics will be selected freely by you, after prior consultation with me. Presentations You will be responsible for presenting readings in class throughout the semester.. Participation Class Participation is mandatory. Participation rule: No-one is allowed to look down on anyone in this class. Lack of respect and tolerance will not be tolerated. Grading and Evaluation Assessment Distribution: Class participation (incl. presentations): 30% of the grade. Weekly reports: 15% of the grade. Midterm paper: 20% of the grade Final papers (incl. peer review): 35% of the grade. Grades are intended to give you a sense of the quality of a particular piece of work: roughly speaking, a B means that you have done a good job with the writing, the ideas, and the organization of the work; a C conveys that the work lacks some important qualities and has some problems, while an A means that the work is exemplary in some key ways: the writing is particularly clear, the ideas thoroughly treated, the organization of the presentation well considered and effective. (for more details, see attached rubric) Page 3 of 11

4 Use of Laptops: In-class or on-site use of laptops and other devices is permitted only if there is text we are reading online. On no other occasion. Attendance: Students are expected to report for classes promptly. CYA regards attendance in class and on-site as essential. Absences are recorded and have consequences. Illness or other such compelling reasons which result in absences should be reported immediately in the Student Affairs Office. Policy on Original Work: Unless otherwise specified, all submitted work must be your own, original work. Any excerpts from the work of others must be clearly identified as a quotation, and a proper citation provided. (Check Student handbook, pg 9) Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: If you are a registered (with your home institution) student with a disability and you are entitled to learning accommodation, please inform the Director of Academic Affairs and make sure that your school forwards the necessary documentation. Books, Course Materials, Moodle Plato: Protagoras, Republic Aristotle: De Anima, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics Engstrom, Stephen, and Whiting, Jennifer. Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Virtue. Cambridge, Kraut, Richard (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle s Ethics. Blackwell, Pakaluk, Michael, and Pearson, Giles ed. Moral Psychology and Human Action in Aristotle, Rorty, Amelie. Essays on Aristotle s Ethics. University of California, Segvic, Heda - Myles Burnyeat(Ed.) From Protagoras to Aristotle: Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention D. Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events J. Hornsby, Actions Hornsby, Simple Mindedness. Harvard, Bratman, Structures of Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2007). Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason H. Frankfurt, The Importance of What We Care About M. Thompson, Life and Action C. Korsgaard, Self-Constitution C. Korsgaard, The Constitution of Agency Sebastian Rodl, Self-Consciousness B. Williams, Moral Luck J. Hyman Action, Knowledge and the Will McDowell, Mind, Value, & Reality (1998) Smith, The Moral Problem (1994) Dancy, Practical Reality, (2000) Helen Steward and John Hyman (Ed.), Agency and Action, Cambridge, Page 4 of 11

5 Kant, Groundwork of the metaphysics of Morals Kant, Critique of Practical Reason Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature Locke s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Class Schedule (Subject to alteration as we move on) Part I: Action in Greek Philosophy (with primary & secondary literature) 1 SEP 6 Introduction to the question of action: Action, Reason, Passions, the Good and the Right 2 SEP. 8 Plato s Protagoras Description In this class we will read Plato s dialogue the Protagoras, which is a discussion between Socrates and the sophist Protagoras on the question of the nature and teachability of virtue. In this class we will explore the Socratic concept of virtue as the concept of human excellence and try to understand what sort of knowledge this excellence involves. We will also explore the first formulation of one of the most persistent philosophical questions: How is it possible for someone to know what is good and yet not do it? Or in other words how is weakness of the will possible? In this class we try to understand what Socrates means when he says that weakness of will is ignorance of the good. Heda Segvic, No-one Errs Willingly: the Meaning of Socratic Intellectualism from her From Protagoras to Aristotle; Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy Martha Nussbaum, The Protagoras, a Science of Practical Reasoning from the Fragility of Goodness 3 SEP. 13 Plato s Republic BK I Description In this class we will read the first book of the Republic and we will try to understand what Socrates means when he says that virtue is internal to the human soul. Page 5 of 11

6 SEP FT: Crete (Depart late PM on 9/13 & return early AM on 9/18) 4 SEP. 20 Plato s Republic BK IV Description In this class we will read the fourth book of the Republic and examine Plato s argument for the division of the soul into parts. A. W. Price, Plato on Practical Reasoning from his Virtue and Reason in Plato and Aristotle Jonathan Lear. Inside and Outside the Republic, Phronesis, 37 (1992): Reprinted in Essays on Plato's Psychology, ed., Ellen Wagner (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001), Terry Penner. Thought and Desire in Plato. in Plato: A Collection of Critical Essays, II: Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy of Art and Religion, ed., Gregory Vlastos (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1971), Hendrik Lorenz. The Brute Within: Appetitive Desire in Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon, 2006) A. 5 SEP 22 Aristotle s Nicomachean Ethics, BK I Description In this class we will read the sedond part of Plato s dialogue the Protagoras and explore the first formulation of one of the most persistent philosophical questions: How is it possible for someone to know what is good and yet not do it? Or in other words how is weakness of the will possible? In this class we try to understand what Socrates means when he says that weakness of will is ignorance of the good. H. Segvic, Aristotle on the Varieties of Goodness from her From Protagoras to Aristotle; Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy Korsgaard, C., Aristotle s Function Argument in Korsgaard Lawrence, G., Human Good and Human Function in Kraut Page 6 of 11

7 6 SEP 27 Aristotle s Nicomachean Ethics, BK II TO V Kosman, A., Being Properly Affected: Virtues and Feelings in Aristotle s Ethics from his Virtues of Thought Korsgaard, C., Aristotle on Function and Virtue, Lorenz, H., Virtue of Character in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Urmson, Aristotle s Doctrine of the Mean in Rorty Hursthouse, R., The Central Doctrine of the Mean in Kraut Burnyeat, M., Aristotle on Learning to be Good in Rorty Lawrence, G., «Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up» in Papaluk SEP 29 Aristotle s Nicomachean Ethics, BK VI and VII Kosman, A., Aristotle on the Virtues of Thought from his Virtues of Thought H. Segvic, Deliberation and Choice in Aristotle from her From Protagoras to Aristotle; Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy H. Segvic, Aristotle s Metaphysics of Action from her From Protagoras to Aristotle; Essays in Ancient Moral Philosophy Segvic, H., Deliberation and Choice in Aristotle, in Papaluk McDowell, J., Some Issues in Aristotle s Moral Psychology in McDowell McDowell, J., Deliberation and Moral Development in Aristotle s Ethics. in Engstrom Wiggins, Deliberation and Practical Reason in Rorty Sorabji, Aristotle on the Role of Intellect in Virtue in Rorty 1980 Korsgaard, From Duty and for the Sake of the Noble: Kant and Aristotle on Morally Good Action Weakness of Will Rorty, Akrasia and Pleasure: Nicomachean Ethics Book 7 in Rorty Price, Acrasia and Self-Control in Kraut Wiggins, Weakness of Will, Commensurability, and the Objects of Deliberation and Desire in Rorty Gottlieb, The Practical Syllogism in Kraut Price The Practical Syllogism in Aristotle: A New Interpretation Part II: Action in modern philosophy (with primary literature &secondary pending) Page 7 of 11

8 8 OCT 4 Guest Lecture: Thodoris Dimitrakos, Hellenic Open University A New Understanding of Nature: The Scientific Revolution OCT 5-9 No Classes ForumEA Conference 9 OCT 11 Mind and Activity in Descartes Meditations and in Locke s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 10 OCT 13 Desire and Reason in Hume s Treatise and Enquiry 11 OCT 18 Pure Reason in Kant s Critique of Practical Reason and Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals Part II: Action in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy 12 OCT 20 Belief desire causality of action in Donald Davidson s work Davidson, Actions, Reasons, and Causes (1963) in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events Davidson, Agency (1971) in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events 13 SATURDAY OCT 22 Belief desire causality of action in Donald Davidson s work Objections: Frankfurt, The problem of action in H. Frankfurt Frankfurt, H. Identification and Wholeheartedness, in H. Frankfurt Hursthouse, Arational actions' Davidson, Freedom to Act (1973) in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events Nagel, Freedom, Pgs in Nagel The View From Nowhere (1986) Hornsby, Agency and Causal Explanation (1997) in Hornsby Hornsby Agency and Actions Alienated Agents in Hornsby Page 8 of 11

9 14 OCT 25 Agency in Bratman s work DEADLINE FOR MIDTERM PAPERS Smith, The Humean Theory of Motivation in Smith, The Moral Problem (1994) Bratman, The Two Faces of Intention (1984) Bratman, Reflection, Planning, and Temporally Extended Agency in Bratman Intention, Practical Rationality, and Self-Governance" in Bratman Three Theories of Self-Governance in Bratman Intention, Belief, Practical, Theoretical in Bratman 15 OCT 27 Agency in Velleman s work Velleman, What Happens When Someone Acts? (1992), in Velleman The Possibility of Practical Reason Velleman, The Possibility of Practical Reason in Velleman The Possibility of Practical Reason 16 MONDAY OCT 31 Williams, Internal and External Reasons in Williams McDowell, Are Moral Requirements Hypothetical Imperatives? (1978) in McDowell, Mind, Value, & Reality (1998) Korsgaard, Skepticism about Practical Reason Quinn, Putting Rationality in its Places in Morality and Action (1993) Scanlon, Reasons, in Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (1998) Dancy, Practical Reality, excerpt (2000) NOV 1-5 FT Peloponnese 17 NOV 8 The Anscombean conception of action I: Anscombe s Intention G. E. M. Anscombe, Intention 18 NOV 10 The Anscombean conception of action II: Anscombe s Intention Page 9 of 11

10 G. E. M. Anscombe, Intention 19 NOV 15 The Anscombean conception of action III: Practical Knowledge John McDowell, I do what happens (manuscript) Elizabeth Anscombe, Intention: 8-9, 28-32, 45-46, 48 Recommended Reading: Richard Moran, Anscombe on Practical Knowledge in Hyman (Ed.) Richard Moran and Martin Stone, Anscombe on Expression of Intention Kevin Falvey, Knowledge in Intention Michael Thompson, Anscombe s Intention and Practical Knowledge David Velleman, Practical Reflection Kieran Setiya Practical Knowledge and Practical Knowledge Revisited 20 NOV 17 The Anscombean conception of action IV: Thompson s Naïve Action M. Thompson, Life and Action NOV FALL RECESS 21 NOV 29 The Neo-Kantian account of Action I: Korsgaard s view C. Korsgaard, Self-Constitution : Action, Identity and Integrity -- The John Locke Lectures DEC 1 The Neo-Kantian account of Action II: Korsgaard s view and its critique C. Korsgaard, Self-Constitution : Action, Identity and Integrity -- The John Locke Lectures 2002 Lavin "Practical Reason and the Possibility of Error" Ethics Enoch "Agency, Smagency..." 23 DEC 6 The Neo-Kantian account of Action III: Sebastian Rodl s view S. Rodl, Self-Consciousness E. Mylonaki, Action as the Conclusion of Practical Reasoning; the Critique of a Rodlian Account Page 10 of 11

11 24 DEC 8 John Hyman s View and Concluding Discussion Hyman, Action, Knowledge and Will DEADLINE FOR FINAL PAPERS Page 11 of 11

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