Seminar meetings: Thursday 11am-1pm, NYU Philosophy Department 2nd floor seminar room. Office hours: Thursday 4-6pm, Room 604
Overview: Structuralism is very roughly the thesis that the key to understanding the world is understanding its structure: that is, understanding the way it is organized into an abstract structure of relations. Varieties of structuralism have been developed in recent years in many areas of philosophy: perhaps most influentially in metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and social and political philosophy, but also in the philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, metaphilosophy, and other areas.
The first two-thirds of this seminar will focus on structuralism in all of these areas: distinguishing different versions of structuralism, drawing connections between them, and investigating the both the prospects and the problems for various structuralist views. The final third will examine the bearing of structuralism on issues about skepticism, and especially the prospects for what I have called the "structuralist response to skepticism". The seminar will be conducted informally and largely oriented around discussion.
Notes: (1) The seminar is "topics in epistemology" mainly because it has to be topics in something. There will be a reasonable amount of epistemology, especially toward the end, but really it is "topics in philosophy". (2) We'll be focusing more on the sort of structuralism that originates with Carnap and Russell (proceeding through Maxwell, Lewis, and others) than the sort that originates with Saussure (proceeding through Levi-Strauss, Lacan, and others), but if there turn out to be productive connections to investigate between the two traditions, it would be interesting to discuss them.
Updated versions of this page can be found at http://consc.net/class/structuralism.html.
I will set up an e-mail list, firstname.lastname@example.org for seminar discussion. I view this list as a continuation of the seminar itself. Everyone is encouraged to make contributions.
Assessment will be based mainly on a final paper. Draft papers are encouraged. Their content will be play no constitutive role in assessment, but I will give feedback for revision for a final paper. I follow the departmental policy of only giving incompletes if a draft has been submitted. All incompletes must be completed by the start of spring semester.
Here are some possible topics and readings for the course. This is highly flexible and I'm open to suggestions from seminar participants.
Scrutability and Structuralism (three weeks)