Fall Course Descriptions





PHI 556 Topics in the History of Philosophy: Nietzsche

Dr. Richard Cohen
Wednesday, 4:10 PM – 6:50 PM
Register for Class #: 23730

Nietzsche did not wish to be understood. “I am no man,” he wrote of himself, “I am dynamite.” Not one of a kind, but one without kind, a “solar solitude,” the “loneliest of all men.” To be sure, there is a better-known Nietzsche, whom we will examine, the critic, polemicist and iconoclast. The Nietzsche who shatters the fundamental pillars of the West, the tripod or trinity of Christianity, science and morality, which he exposes for the sickness, weakness, slavishness, herd mentality, in a word, the nihilism they would mask. These foes counterattacked, to be sure, dismissing Nietzsche as mad or mendaciously falsifying him as Christian, Moralist or Scientist. We shall waste no time on such supercilious nonsense. But we shall study and explicate his incendiary “doctrines,” Will to Power, Eternal Return, Genealogy, Nihilism, Übermensch, Revaluation, without mistaking them for Nietzsche.  In this course, covering all of Nietzsche, we will pursue two traces without hope of catching him, or catching our own breath: Nihilism, devastated battlefield he left behind; Greatness, the future beyond all understanding.

PHI 556 Parfit’s Metaphysics & Ethics

Dr. David Hershenov
Tuesday, 2:00 PM – 4:40 PM
Register for Class #: 24219

Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons was one of the most influential books of 20th century metaphysics and ethics.  He challenged the so-called non-reductionist conception of the person that underlay much of our ethical thinking. He provided radically new and startling answers to questions about what we are, how we persist, whether our identity should matter to us, the rationality of prudence, the nature of harm, the justification for paternalism, the separateness of persons and the significance of distributing goods equally across lives.

PHI 556 American Philosophy and Contemporary Relevance

Dr. Barry Smith 
Monday, 1:00 PM – 3:40 PM and Saturday-Sunday, September 25-26, 2021
Register for Class #: 24218

This course will provide an introduction to the pragmatist tradition of American philosophy.  It will focus on the philosophical ideas of the leading figures of this movement, including Pierce, James, Mead and Dewey.  At the same time it will explore the influence and contemporary relevance of pragmatist philosophy, particularly as concerns developments in psychology and in the social sciences.  The course will include a two-day intense weekend seminar focusing on the influence of American pragmatism on 20th-century German philosophy.  

A detailed course schedule and list of suggested readings are provided at http://ncorwiki.buffalo.edu/index.php?title=American_Philosophy_and_Its_Contemporary_Relevance.


PHI 598 Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Dr. James Lawler 
Wednesday, 1:00 PM – 3:40 PM
Register for Class #: 24225

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is a massive work of nearly 500 pages in the English translation.  What makes it more difficult for teaching purposes is that each of these pages is a highly compact condensation of thought that requires considerable elaboration for adequate appreciation.  Hegel himself found it unteachable, and attempted to present courses on particular aspects of the Phenomenology, such as his lectures on Philosophy, Art, and Religion, or on the State-topics that take up relatively limited spaces in the Phenomenology.  In doing so he abandoned the essence of the Phenomenology, in which such topics should be considered as integrated in a totality of forms of an evolving consciousness.

This course will provide a general understanding of the structure of this totality, while giving detailed attention to certain parts, with special attention to the Introduction, in which Hegel criticizes Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, the first chapter on Sense Certainty, and then the continuous dynamic that goes from the Life and Death Struggle to the Master-Slave Relation to the development of Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciouness.  We conclude with Hegel’s examination of modern natural science in the chapter on “Observing Reason” that follows the Unhappy Consciousness of the Middle Ages.

All course materials will be supplied.

Dr. Barry Smith

Register for Class#: 25347
Cross-listed with Computer Science and Engineering: Special Topics CSE 510410 LEC SMIT
Registration: Computer Science

Day/time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p,m, October 2 and 3, 2021
Venue: Park 280

Course Description: The course will begin on day 1 with an introduction to how AI works. AI works well in those domains where we can create models based on physical laws or simple rules. But the complexity of the relations involved in many other types of domains prevents successful AI modeling. It is for this reason that we face difficulties when we try to build self-driving cars or to predict the behavior of financial markets. On day 2 we will use what we have learned on Day 1 to address the opportunities and limits of AI in modelling and emulating

  • human consciousness and self-consciousness
  • human language understanding and conversations (including the Turing test and the Chinese room argument)
  • social behaviour and ethics
  • transhumanism, life extension, digital immortality

We will show that AI will not bring cures for (most) deadly diseases, it will not replace human police with intelligent robots, and – except along certain narrow tracks, including game-playing and image recognition – it will not reach a level of intelligence that surpasses that of human beings.

The course is designed to be of interest to both philosophy and computer science and engineering students at both graduate and advanced undergraduate levels

This is a one-credit hour course. Students who take this course in 2021 will be eligible to supplement it with a 2-credit hour online course in ontology in the Spring Semester of 2022.

Individual Tutorial Course Sections

See HUB Registration site for Individual Tutorial Course Sections with Philosophy Department Faculty, to be arranged with permission of instructor:

            PHI 599  Graduate Tutorial  
            PHI 701  MA Thesis Guidance Tutorials (Arranged with Professor)
            PHI 703  Dissertation Guidance Tutorials (Arranged with Professor)