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Graduate Seminars

For an official and real-time list of courses, please see Enrollment Services Course Search feature.

Below, you may find examples of seminars taught in the Department.


Spring 2024

PHIL 9020.01 Ethics and Animals (T2) T 4:15-6:35 

Professor Raskoff

This seminar focuses on the morality of our treatment of nonhuman animals. We start with questions
about moral status. What is the nature of moral status and what does it take for something to have it? Is
moral status an all-or-nothing sort of thing, or does it come in degrees? Can something have rights
without also having duties? Next, we turn to questions about our treatment of animals. Do we have a right to harm or kill some animals in order to benefit or save others? We consider these questions from a
variety of moral perspectives, including consequentialism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and feminist
ethics. Finally, we apply these ideas to the morality of our treatment of animals in food, focusing in
particular on questions about ethical consumption and effective animal advocacy.

PHIL 9010.01 American Ethics (H5) W 3:35-5:55

Professor Heney

One way of understanding the history of moral philosophy is as the collected offerings of thinkers who
have studied the terrain around moral problems. Such philosophers have dedicated themselves to the
study of central questions of moral life, questions like: How should we live? What motivates people to be
or do good? What is it to be good or do good? How does the pursuit of moral goodness contribute to
human happiness? This course explores the moral philosophy developed over the span of a hundred years by a group of thinkers united by their methods and their meliorism: the American pragmatists. We are likely to engage with the works of Charles S. Peirce (1839-1914), William James (1842-1910), John
Dewey (1859-1952), Jane Addams (1860-1935), George Santayana (1863-1952), Ella Lyman Cabot
(1866-1934), Clarence Irving Lewis (1883-1964), and Alain Locke (1885-1954).

PHIL 9020.02 Liberalism (T5) W 6:10-8:30

Professor Talisse

Contemporary political philosophy has largely been devoted to developing, assessing, criticizing, and
revising a distinctive framework known as liberalism. Roughly put, liberalism holds that the state exists
for the sake of the people living within its jurisdiction, and thus must be justifiable to them. Several
questions arise: What is a state? What does it mean for it to exist for the sake of people? What would a
successful justification look like? Accordingly, there is a wide variety of conceptions of liberalism in
currency, and correspondingly many critiques. Paying special attention to the lineage of “public reason”
liberalisms, we will examine both the current internal debates among liberals, and external debates
between liberals and proponents of various alternatives.

PHIL 9010.02 Recognition and Relations of Right in Classical German Philosophy (H4) TH 1:25-3:45pm 

Professor Ng

In this course, we will explore classical German Rechtsphilosophien or “philosophies of right,”
represented by figures such as Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. We will focus on two features of Recht
developed in this tradition: first, rather than rights as entitlements, right is conceived primarily in terms of
a particular kind of relation, both between persons and things and persons and persons; second, the fully
developed concept of right requires relations of recognition, which form the basis of a rightful condition.
Through the lens of and with an emphasis on the concept of recognition, we will investigate topics such
as property rights and their limits, contracts, the relation and separation of morality and right, the role of
the state, international right, and the limits of right as a concept for social and political theorizing.


Previous Graduate Seminars

 View a list of Vanderbilt philosophy department graduate seminars from previous academic years here.