Spring 2013

Proseminar: Metaphilosophy

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-471


Jyl Gentzler (Section 01)


The topic for this proseminar (which is one of four similar proseminars offered across the College) changes from year to year.  In 2012-13, the proseminar in Philosophy will be on Metaphilosophy.  Proseminars are designed to give students the knowledge and the intellectual and technical skills necessary to do advanced research and writing in their major.  They are most suitable for junior majors who are considering writing a senior honors thesis, and for senior majors, who are not writing a thesis, but would like to have the experience of writing a significant paper in the discipline.“Metaphilosophy,” as philosopher Nicholas Rescher put it, “is a philosophical investigation of the practice of philosophizing itself.  Its definitive aim is to study the methods of the field in an endeavor to illuminate its promise and prospects.” What is philosophy? What are its methods?  What are its objects of inquiry? Is there progress in philosophy?  If so, then why do philosophers study the history of philosophy in order to gain philosophical insight?  What constitutes progress in philosophy?  Are the discoveries of the natural and social sciences relevant to philosophical investigation?  What are philosophical intuitions, and should we trust them to give us insight into anything interesting?  Why is there so much disagreement in philosophy, and is such disagreement rationally resolvable? In this seminar, we will carefully examine the practice of philosophy as it is done by some of its best practitioners, and we will critically examine philosophical work on the very nature and methods of philosophy.  As a result, we will identify those methods required to do philosophy at the highest level and attempt to determine why these methods are effective.  In addition, through significant practice and feedback over the course of the semester, students will develop and improve their ability to apply these methods to the philosophical problems that most engage them.  This course will satisfy the seminar requirement for the Philosophy Major.Open to juniors and seniors, but priority will be given to junior majors who are considering writing a senior thesis and to senior majors who have opted not to write a thesis. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Gentzler.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014