Courses Winter Semester 2013 / 2014
Please note that we have René Brouwer (Utrecht) as a visiting professor at Berlin during this wintersemester. Replacing Stephen Menn this semester he is teaching several courses--see below. Please spread the word about these excellent opportunities!
- Barnes, Joseph: Argumentation and Speech: Paradoxes
Thurs 14-16 / Sophienstr. 22a, 4.11
We'll discuss paradoxes from all corners of the philosophical landscape, and practice effective verbal communication of precise arguments. Paradoxes to be discussed will include: Zeno's paradoxes of motion, the liar, Newcomb's paradox, the Sorites, Moore's paradox, and others as time and interest dictate. This course will be taught in English. Enrollment will be limited; please email joseph.a.barnes|at|gmail.com to enroll.
- Barnes, Joseph: HS Socratic Moral Psychology
Wed 16-18 Sophienstr. 22a, 4.11
Socrates' claims about virtue and the good put pressure on his moral psychology, and recent scholarly literature offers a plethora of views about the moral psychology which results. In this seminar, we'll survey that literature in conjunction with primary texts. We'll pay special attention to two connected questions. First, what role is the distinctive epistemic status of knowledge supposed to play in explaining action or virtuous action? Second, what role are desiderative states supposed or allowed to play? The seminar will be in English.
- Beere, Jonathan: VL Plato and our Grasp of Perceptible Objects
Wed 10-12 / HAN 6
These lectures form a unit with the corresponding proseminar. Participating students have to enroll for both courses. In certain passages Plato seems to claim that it is impossible to have knowledge about perceptible objects: one can only have opinions about these objects. Nevertheless, Plato was not a relativist. We will follow Plato’s deliberations on knowledge through different texts (Meno, Phaedo, Politeia, Theaetetus) and discuss the following questions: what is knowledge according to Plato? Why is it impossible to have knowledge about perceptible things? Why is it that some opinions about perceptible objects are epistemically better than others, although knowledge is impossible? How is knowledge about non-perceptible things supposed to improve our grasp of the perceptible world? While we will have to discuss the forms as objects of knowledge, our main focus will be on the cognition of perceptible objects.
- Beere, Jonathan: PS Plato and our Grasp of Perceptible Objects
Wed 12-14 / HAN 6
This proseminar forms a unit with the corresponding lectures. Participating students have to enrol for both courses. In certain passages Plato seems to claim that it is impossible to have knowledge about perceptible objects: One can only have opinions about these objects. Nevertheless, Plato was not a relativist. We will follow Plato’s deliberations on knowledge through different texts (Meno, Phaedo, Politeia, Theaetetus) and discuss the following questions: What is knowledge according to Plato? Why is it impossible to have knowledge about perceptible things? Why is it that some opinions about perceptible objects are epistemically better than others, though knowledge is impossible? How is knowledge about non-perceptible things supposed to improve our grasp of the perceptible world? While we will have to discuss the forms as objects of knowledge, our main focus will be on the cognition of perceptible objects.
- Beere, Jonathan: Philosophical Introduction to Ancient Mathematics
Tue 10-12 / UL 6, 3103
This Hauptseminar is an introduction to philosophical questions that come up in the context of Greek mathematics. The main text is Euclid’s “Elements”. We will pursue several questions: Why was the text written in such a repetitive and formulaic way? What is the role played by definitions and axioms? What is the between the proofs and the diagrams? How are the propositions related to each other, deductively and “rhetorically”? There are two kinds of propositions, usually called “theorems” and “problems”: What is the relation between them? What (if anything) would be lost, if one reformulated problems as theorems? We will look into the following things: the Pythagorean theorem in book I and its generalizations in book II; the definition of “equal proportion” (which corresponds to the Dedekind section) and theorems of proportions (book v) in general; applications of proportions to geometry (book vii); especially, theorems of parallelograms and of combinations of proportions. The class does not presuppose mathematical knowledge beyond high school level, but participants should have some experience with mathematical proofs. This seminar can serve as preparatory course for a graduate seminar in the summer semester 2014 which deals with more sophisticated issues (like Appollonius’ conic sections) and will be jointly taught with Ben Morison (Princeton). (But the current seminar is not mandatory.)
- Beere, Jonathan: Philosophical Colloquium
Tue 12.30-15 / UL 6, 3103
Topics in ancient philosophy. Prospective participants should confer in advance with the convener of the colloquium. In order to enroll mail to:
jonathan.beere [at] philosophie.hu-berlin.de
- Brouwer, René: VL Ancient Theories of Justice / Antike Theorien der Gerechtigkeit
Thurs 10-12 / BE 1, E 34
In this series on ancient political thought an overview will be given of the most important theories of justice that were developed in classical antiquity, by especially Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics. Plato presents justice as the main theme of his Republic, discussing it as a quality of a human being as well as of a society. Building on Plato’s work, Aristotle deals with justice in more specific senses in his Ethics and his Rhetoric. Epicurus presents an altogether different theory: according to him, justice has a contractual basis. For the Stoics justice is rather understood in relation to nature, thereby engaging themselves explicitly with Plato. We will not only pay attention to the contents of these theories, but also to the form in which they are presented as well as to the political settings against which they were developed. The series will be offered in English.
- Brouwer, René: PS Sokrates' Ethik in Platons Euthyphron, Apologie und Kriton
Mo 14-16 / HAN 6, 1.03
In diesem Proseminar werden wir uns mit Sokrates’ praktischer Philosophie beschäftigen, wie Platon sie im Euthyphron, in der Apologie und im Kriton beschrieben hat. Der Dialog Euthyphron bietet ein Beispiel von Sokrates’ Suche nach dem guten Leben; in der Apologie verteidigt Sokrates diese Suche den Athenern gegenüber; und im Kriton schließlich erweist sich Sokrates’ Entscheidung gegen eine Flucht aus dem Gefängnis als mit dieser Suche im Einklang. Sokrates’ Verständnis vom guten Leben, aber auch von Politik, Recht und Gehorsamkeit dem Recht gegenüber werden bei der sorgfältigen Lektüre dieser grundlegenden Texte eine zentrale Rolle spielen.
Zu Beginn des Seminars sollte der Euthyphron bereits gelesen sein, z.B. in der Übersetzung von Otto Leggewie, Stuttgart: Reclam 1986; Apologie und Kriton werden wir im Seminar gemeinsam lesen in der Übersetzung von M. Fuhrmann:
Platon, Apologie des Sokrates. Kriton, Übersetzung, Anmerkungen und Nachwort von M. Fuhrmann, Stuttgart: Reclam 2011 (ISBN 9783150008959).
- Brouwer, René: HS Stoicism and Cicero ́s On Duties / Die Stoa und Ciceros Über die Pflichten
Tue 14-16 / HAN 6, 1.03
In this course we will study Stoicism as Cicero presented it in his On Duties, a book of which the influence in the Western tradition can hardly be overestimated. Although the theory formulated in the 3rd century BCE by the founders of the Stoa was very popular in antiquity, virtually nothing of the writings of these early Stoics has survived the ages. For an understanding of Stoic thought we thus have to rely on later authors like Cicero. In this course we will become acquainted with the Stoic interpretation of the concepts of the happiness, excellence, and duty. We will also have to pay attention to Cicero’s own agenda, asking ourselves how he adapted Stoicism, applying it in a practical, Roman context, while even adding or at least reinterpreting important concepts like dignity and humanity.
In this seminar we will use the translation by M. Griffin and E. Atkins: Cicero, On Duties, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 (ISBN 9780521348355), which will have to be bought in advance. In case this book should not be available, please contact: kerstin.helf@hu- berlin.de
The course will be offered in English, but students should feel free to offer their contributions in either English or German.
- Brouwer, René: CO Philosophisches Kolloquium / Philosophical Colloquium
Thurs 14-16 / HAN 6, 1.03
The colloquium will offer a possibility to master students to present and discuss their work. Students who are interested in participating are kindly invited to join the first meeting or to contact email@example.com
- Lo Presti, Roberto: HS Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium
Mo 4-6 / UL 6, 3059
The Epistulae ad Lucilium contains 124 letters by the Roman philosopher, naturalist dramatist, and statesman Lucius Annaeus Senecea who wrote these letters towards the end of his life. As philosophical collection of letters they are a unique phenomenon in the Latin literature, even though Senecea took over the idea from Plato and Epicur. The letters count as a masterpiece of Roman philosophy and form one of the most important Stoic sources.
Opting for the format of letter Sencea tries to give the philosophical dialogue a paraenetic form, a form, in other words, apt for an ethical education. Seneca covers all the main question of Stoic philosophy: Why should one practice philosophy? What is time and what is its relevance for human life? How can one—and why should one—strive for the highest good? What is the relation between reason and the concept of gods? How should we think of pain, illness and death, and how should we deal with them? Do we have reason to fear death and can we free ourselves from that fear? What are the features of a life that accords with nature and reason?
Reading a selection of Seneca’s letters we will deal with all these questions. We shall focus on the contents of the letters as well as on their stylistic, linguistic and rhetorical aspects.
- Lo Presti, Roberto / Kouloumentas, Stavros: HS Cosmogony and Cosmology of Greek Antiquity
Thurs 16-18 / UL 6, 3053
Which philosophical views of the world, of its genesis and of its inner structure and outer visible properties were developed in the ancient world? How were cosmic processes described? And the materials out of which everything is composed – how were they described? Which laws or which (divine or rational) powers were taken to be responsible for the cosmic order? What is the difference between materialistic/deterministic and teleological cosmologies? Which (political, technological, mathematical or biological) models were applied to the description of the world and its properties? Is there a relation between cosmology and anthropology, especially in Plato’s “Timaeus” and the medical texts of the Corpus Hippocraticum? What were the contributions of the Hellenistic philosophical schools to ancient cosmology?
We will consider cosmological doctrines that were developed in ancient Greece between 800 B.C and 300 A.D. After the introductory session, which is devoted to methodological and historiographical problems, we will consider the so-called “pre-philosophical” Greek cosmologies (Hesiod, Alcman, Pherecydes) and the Near Eastern cosmologies. Next we will turn to doctrines of Anaximander, Parmenides und Anaxagoras. One session will be devoted to a medical text: the Hippocratic “De Virtu”, which contains a detailed cosmology (book I). Our discussion of the Platonic cosmology will be based on passages from the Timaeus. Concerning Aristotle, we will read passages from De Generatione and De Coelo. Afterwards, we will focus on Stoic, Epicurean and Neoplatonic cosmologies. In the last session we will give an overview of modern cosmological doctrines and have a general discussion.
The seminar is open to students of philosophy and of classics. It presupposes basic knowledge of Greek philosophy and of Ancient Greek and Latin. All texts will be provided in the original language and in translation (in German or English). Teaching will be in both English and German; students can contribute to discussion and give presentations in either English or German.
- Rosen, Jacob: HS Aristotle's Logic
Fri 10-12 / Sophienstr. 22a, 4.11
From 'some fish are shiny' and 'all shiny things are pretty', it follows that some fish are pretty. From 'all fish are shiny' and 'some shiny things are pretty', nothing follows about the prettiness of fish. Aristotle produced the earliest known systematic, theoretical treatment of facts such as these. We will study selections from his De Interpretatione, in which he discusses the constituents of statements (such as names and verbs) and certain fundamental properties of, and relations among, statements (such as contradiction). Then we will study the system of valid argumentation, known as the assertoric syllogistic, presented in Prior Analytics Book 1 (chapters 1-2 and 4-7). Finally, we will turn to Aristotle's account of scientific knowledge in Posterior Analytics Book 1, which includes influential discussions of explanation and introduces the ideal of an axiomatized science, among other topics. Overall, then, in this course we will be dealing with questions of signification, consequence, explanation, and knowledge.
- Winterling, Aloys / King, Colin Guthrie: HS Aristotle's Politics
Mo 12-14, Friedrichstraße 191-193, 5009
The eight books of Aristotle’s Politics contain a theory of political organization which differs from most modern, post-secular political theories in at least three major respects. 1. Assuming that human communities are organic or naturally occuring instead of contractual, Aristotle bases his theory of them upon a theory of the household (Book 1), from which he thinks political communities arise. 2. The ancient Greek concept of a »constitution« (politeia) contains more than the workings of government; it is meant to describe also social norms and institutions. Thus his critique of other theories of best constitution and his own observations concernig constitutions existing during his time (Books 2–4) contain more than we would expect from a contemporary theory of political constitutions. 3. His political theory comes with an accompanying theory of the good life which provides a normative, ethical basis for the evaluation and even planning of political communities (as evidenced in Books 5–8, on the pathology and proper creation of political communities). – With regard to selected parts from each of these theoretical aspects we shall seek to understand Aristotle’s theory against the background of historical facts concerning ancient economy, slavery, democracy and oligarchy.
This Hauptseminar on Aristotle’s Politics is offered as part of the English-language curriculum at the Humboldt-Universität (and hence in English).
Literature: The Greek-English edition of the Politics in the Loeb series will serve as our text.