For descriptions of my current courses, see the UM philosophy department page.
Summer Semester 2015
Advanced Seminar: Introduction to the Philosophy of Mathematics
Mathematics raises important and difficult philosophical questions. Some of these are metaphysical questions: mathematics appears to investigate the properties of entities such as numbers, functions and sets; in what sense, if any, do such entities really exist? Other questions are epistemological: can we really have knowledge of mathematical truths, and if so can we have it independently of empirical evidence? Other questions are about the contents of mathematical talk and thought: what is the meaning of the mathematician’s assertion that there is a prime number between two and seven, or even of everyday numerical assertions such as that there are ten students in the class? In this class we take up these questions and examine different approaches to answering them. An extensive background in mathematics will not be presupposed; relevant mathematical concepts and results will be introduced as necessary during the course.
Winter Semester 2014/2015
Advanced Seminar: Possible World Semantics in Language and Mind
(co-taught with Magdalena Balcerak Jackson)
Possible world semantics is a general approach to theories of meaning that has become very widely used in analytic philosophy as a way to analyze and model a variety of linguistic and mental phenomena. A significant amount of contemporary literature in analytic philosophy can only be properly understood and appreciated if one has a firm grasp of possible world semantics and its applications. In this course we introduce you to the foundations of possible world semantics and some of its most important applications in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind and epistemology, and we examine some of the advantages and limits of this framework.
Winter Semester 2013/2014
Proseminar: Problems in the Philosophy of Language
A central feature of human language is that it is meaningful; the fact that sentences and other expressions have meanings allows us to use language to record and share information about the world, and it allows us to make public the ideas, thoughts, and emotions that make up our otherwise private mental lives. But what is linguistic meaning? One historically influential idea is that linguistic meaning is to be analyzed in terms of truth. In this course we examine this idea, and consider several important philosophical debates to which it has given rise. Along the way we gain an introductory overview of some of the most central concepts and issues in the philosophy of language.