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National Graduate Courses in Philosophy

The national graduate courses in philosophy are offered primarily for master and doctoral students enrolled at Swedish universities. The typical format is 7,5 ECTS, with teaching concentrated to one week. Please contact your home department for more information about the programme.

Upcoming courses

Spring semester 2024

The Ethics of Praise

Time and place: Lund University, LUX building (room TBD). May 13-17, 2024
Teacher: Daniel Telech
Contact Information: daniel.telech@fil.lu.se (Also: ylva.von_gerber@fil.lu.se)

Course Description: While blame has traditionally received considerably more attention among philosophers than has praise, in recent years theorists interested in the moral (/more broadly, normative) psychological dimensions of our responsibility practices have grappled with questions concerning the nature and norms of praise.

In this course we will think about the various kinds of, especially moral, norms that may govern our responses of praise, and we will do this with an eye toward developing a better understanding of the nature of praise itself. Questions to be discussed include: Can praise be unfair (only comparatively)? Can one (in some interesting, i.e., direct, way) wrong another by praising them? Can it be wrong (even if it does not wrong the praisee) to praise excessively or indiscriminately? Do excessive (or indiscriminate) praisers somehow dilute the value of praise (or perhaps simply, their praise) by praising excessively (/indiscriminately)? Can reflection on flattery inform our understanding of the norms of praise? How ought we to respond to the praise of others? Is it possible for one to lack the standing to praise? While our focus will be on praise in interpersonal contexts (particularly, directed toward other agents), we will devote some time also to related questions concerning self-praise.

Philosophy of action

Time and Place: University of Gothenburg, March 18-20 and April 3-5, 2024. March 18 and April 3 are half-days with teaching only in the afternoon. NOTE: The course is divided into two periods of teaching with a two week intermission between them (for reading).

Instructor: Olle Blomberg, olle.blomberg@gu.se 

Course description: The course is an in-depth introduction to central topics in contemporary analytic philosophy of action. Topics covered include: What are actions? What is the nature of everyday explanations of actions? What are intentions? How is it possible for an agent to act intentionally against her own judgment about what she ought to do? What sort of knowledge does an agent have of her own intentional action? Does action have a constitutive aim? Can groups or organizations act or be agents?

The course is a 7.5-ECTS course (equivalent to five weeks of full-time study, or 200 hours), but the teaching is condensed to two blocks three-day blocks.

Contents: The course closely follows the structure of Sarah K. Paul’s Philosophy of Action: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, 2021): https://www.routledge.com/Philosophy-of-Action-A-Contemporary-Introduction/Paul/p/book/9781138642744. The readings for each session will generally consist of one chapter in the book as well as a core reading on the topic (along with suggested additional readings).

Examination: Student presentation and a course essay. Students will present and frame the discussion of a core reading during the course (exactly how this will be organized depends on how many students sign up for the course) and they will also each write an essay.

Contact and registration: Philosophy PhD students can register for the course at https://fubasextern.gu.se/fubasextern/info?kurs=FP30100 (the linked reading list is a very preliminary one that will change). Please also email olle.blomberg@gu.se when you register and let him know that you have done so.

Game Theory for Philosophers and Cognitive Scientists

Time and place: week 16 (April 15-19, 2024) at Filosofiska institutionen i Lund

Teachers: Lectures will mainly be given by Erik Mohlin, with guest appearances by Peter Gärdenfors, Emmanuel Genot, and Patricia Rich.

Cource description:

Introduction. Game theory is a formal framework for describing and analysing interactive decision situations. Despite its name, game theory can be applied not only to classic games like poker and chess but to virtually all forms of social interactions – whether they involve cooperation or conflict, individual actors or organisations, market exchanges or personal relationships. Within philosophy game theory has been used to address questions regarding linguistic meaning, social epistemology, social ontology, and distributive justice among other things. We believe that there are plenty of other potential applications awaiting development. This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to game theory geared at the needs and interests of PhD students in philosophy and cognitive science.

Contents:

  • Introduction. Decision theory (von Neumann Morgenstern expected utility) and concepts of utility. Different perspectives on game theory: normative, prescriptive descriptive?
  • Strategic form games with complete information. Definition, including mixed strategies.
  • Dominance reasoning and higher order beliefs about rationality. Nash equilibrium. Interpretation of mixed equilibria and multiple equilibria. Motivation of equilibrium: rationality and reasoning vs learning.
  • Bounded Rationality. Evolutionary game theory and learning. Social learning and biological evolution. Level-k theory. Probabilistic choice. Coarse reasoning
  • Strategic form games with incomplete information. Definition: the concept of a type. Bayes-Nash equilibrium. The role of priors.
  • Extensive form games with complete information. Definition: trees, nodes, information sets. Backward induction and subgame perfect Nash equilibrium. Strategic moves: deterrence and hold-up.
  • Extensive form games with incomplete information. Adding nature as a player. Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium. Signalling games.
  • Repeated Games. Finite vs infinite (indefinite) repetition. Sums of discounted payoffs. Folk theorems Reputation.
  • Evolution and institutions of cooperation. Mutual enforcement: community responsibility, direct reciprocity. Community enforcement: reputation systems, indirect reciprocity. Third-party enforcement and policing.
  • Pro-social preferences. Experimental evidence, including cross-cultural variation. Models of pro-social motivations: inequity aversion, efficiency concerns, reciprocity. social signalling, internalised social norms. Anti-social punishment and spite.
  • Philosophical applications (selection). Social norms and conventions. Language games and linguistic meaning. Team reasoning and collective intentions. Distributive justice – contractarian and evolutionary arguments. Social epistemology of science. Evolutionary debunking arguments. Belief-formation on social networks, polarisation.

Practicalities:

Lectures. Lectures will take place in person during a single week in Lund, week 16 (April 15-19, 2024). Two weeks before course starts there will be an introductory online lecture. In the intervening time students are encouraged to solve some exercises in preparation for the course.

Problem sets. Game theory is something that one needs to learn by doing. Problem sets will therefore be an integral part of the course. Students will be given time to solve and discuss exercises during the week in Lund, but are expected to do some additional work in advance as well as afterwards.

Course materials. Lecture notes, handouts, problem sets, and assorted academic papers will be provided. The following book, available in pf format online, is recommended: Gibbons, R. S. (1992). Game theory for applied economists. Princeton University Press.

Examination. Students are examined on a term paper discussing some aspect of game theory that is of relevance to their research.

Contact and application. This course is open to all students in Sweden studying for a magister, a master degree or a Ph.D degree. We particularly encourage students in philosophy and cognitive sciences, but welcome anyone who is interested. Send your application to both David Alm david.alm@fil.lu.se (director of studies) and ylva.von_gerber@fil.lu.se (student councillor). If you have any questions about the contents of the course, please do not hesitate to contact the teacher erik.mohlin@nek.lu.se.

Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies

Time and Place: Lund University, Feb. 12th –16th 2024

Teacher: Asger Kirkeby-Hinrup, Asger.kirkeby-hinrup@fil.lu.se

Course description

The field of interdisciplinary consciousness studies (ICS) — as revealed by the name — is massively multidisciplinary in the sense that it is located at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience, with additional roads stretching to biology, artificial intelligence, and physics. The field converges (approximately) on the belief that understanding the brain’s role in relation to consciousness is central to understanding consciousness per se, as well as its associated concepts (e.g. experience, cognition, meta-cognition, emotion, action, and perception). Overall ICS has been blossoming over the last decades, and most theories and debates now turn on both conceptual work (from the philosophy of mind), methodological considerations (from the philosophy of science), and empirical data (from related mind-sciences).

The course content will cover the most central aspects of contemporary work in ICS. This includes an introduction to the most prominent theories of consciousness and their associated empirical evidence, how to assess and compare theories, the role of empirical evidence in the debates, and related conceptual issues pertaining to consciousness studies.

The course examination consists in writing an essay on a course topic agreed upon with the teacher.

The teaching activities consist in an intensive one-week workshop in February of 2024, with two seminars a day. The seminars will be composed of a mixture of lectures by the teacher, presentations by the students, group work, and discussions. All seminars will be held in English.

The relevant student backgrounds for the course reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the field. Consequently, the course is suitable for (but not limited to) students from philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, medicine (neuroscience or psychiatry), computer science (AI).

Contact person at the department: ylva.von_gerber@fil.lu.se

Past courses

2023

Presupposition, Implicature, and Communicative Commitment (Umeå University)

Place and dates: Umeå university, September 25-29 

Teacher: Julia Zakkou, https://juliazakkou.net/

Summary of the content: 

We often say explicitly what we think and want. Sometimes, however, we communicate indirectly. We speak in a roundabout way and rely on others to read between the lines. The ways we do that are multifaceted, and the communicative intentions with which we do it can be varied. This course is about the various forms of indirect communication, and the communicative commitments these forms of communication involve. We start from well-known phenomena such as conventional and conversational implicatures as well as semantic and pragmatic presuppositions and discuss whether they exhaust the spectrum of indirect communication or whether we should acknowledge further indirect means of communication such as implicitures and explicatures on the one hand and entailed and merely associated contents on the other. One central topic will be advantages and disadvantages of classical and more recent diagnostics for these different forms of indirect communication. Another topic will be the epistemic norms pertaining to these indirect forms of communication. Are implicatures and presuppositions for instance governed by a unified norm? Are any of these indirect forms of communication governed by the same norm as assertions, the most pertinent form of direct communication, or are these norms different in kind? A third topic will be the reasons that drive and the moral challenges caused by the use and abuse of indirect communication. Can we plausibly deny indirectly communicated contents while we can only implausibly deny what we communicate directly? Is it indeed harder to address indirectly communicated contents rather than directly communicated ones? 

Practical:

The course gives 7,5 credits (ECTS) and corresponds to five weeks of full-time work. It is expected that the student will prepare by reading the relevant literature before the start of the course. The course will be examined by a written essay.

Contact information:

Lars Samuelsson (subject coordinator for philosophy at Umeå University), lars.samuelsson@umu.se (There will be a number of travel grants to cover [at least parts of] the travelling costs for incoming students; when signing up for the course, please indicate if you are interested in the travel grant.)

Ethics and Climate Policy (University of Gothenburg)

Time and place: 24th-28th April 2023, University of Gothenburg, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science – hybrid format available

Credits: The course will be 7.5 credits

Summary:

The course will address the main ethical issues related to public policies for the climate transition, both domestically and globally. The course is suitable both for those who have experience in climate policy and wish to explore the ethical aspects involved, and for those who are new to climate policy and justice issues. The approach of the course will be mainly forward-looking, and will focus in particular on the issues of effectiveness, equity and social efficiency arising from the climate policies needed to achieve climate neutrality by the middle of this century, or in other words to 'keep 1.5 °C alive'. The course will be conducted through the discussion of a series of papers, most of them quite recent, and accessible to participants from different academic backgrounds.

Course Content:

The first part of the course will introduce the ethical underpinnings of the main concepts and tools of climate policy, such as the carbon budget, the social cost of CO2, and the discount rate of future social utility.

The second part will focus on the ethical analysis of the main mitigation policies, in particular regulation and carbon pricing, discussing the most important arguments and objections in the literature.

The third part will deal with some intergenerational and global issues related to climate policy, e.g. whether it is fair for the present generation to pass on some of the costs of the climate transition to future generations, whether it is fair to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism, whether emissions embedded in goods and services should be put on the books of exporting countries or instead of importing countries.

Open to: all students in Sweden studying for a Master degree or a PhD degree

Contact and application: Fausto Corvino, fausto.corvino@gu.se

Preliminary literature (subject to change):

Afionis, S., Sakai, M., Scott, K., Barrett, J. and Gouldson, A. (2017). “Consumption-based carbon accounting: does it have a future?”. WIREs Climate Change, 8: e438.

Broome, J., & Foley, D. K. (2016). “A World Climate Bank”. In Institutions For Future Generations, edited by I. González-Ricoy & A. Gosseries, 156–169. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Caney, Simon (2014). “Climate change, intergenerational equity and the social discount rate”. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 13 (4): 320-342.

Duus-Otterström, G. (2022) “Sovereign States in the Greenhouse: Does Jurisdiction Speak Against Consumption-Based Emissions Accounting?” Ethics, Policy & Environment, 25:3, 337-353

Fleurbaey, M., M. Ferranna, M. Budolfson, F. Dennig, K. Mintz-Woo, R. Socolow, D. Spears, an S. Zuber. (2019). “The Social Cost of Carbon: Valuing Inequality, Risk, and Population for Climate Policy”. The Monist, 102: 84–109.

Gardiner, S. M. (2017). “The threat of intergenerational extortion: On the temptation to become the climate mafia, masquerading as an intergenerational Robin Hood”. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (2-3): 368–394.

Goodin, R. E. (1994). “Selling environmental indulgences”. Kyklos, 47: 573–96.

Mintz-Woo K. (2018). “Two Moral Arguments for a Global Social Cost of Carbon”. Ethics, Policy & Environment, 21: 60-63.

Mintz-Woo, K. (2022). “Carbon pricing ethics”. Philosophy Compass, 17 (1), e12803.

Nordhaus, W. (2020). “The Climate Club: How to Fix a Failing Global Effort”. Foreign Affairs, 99: 10-17.

Stern, N., (2022). “A Time for Action on Climate Change and a Time for Change in Economics”. The Economic Journal, 132 (644): 1259–1289.

Value Incommensurability: Ethics, Risk, and Decision-Making (Lund University)

Time and place: Philosophy department at Lund University, May 8-12.

Summary:

Comparisons play an essential role in our lives. When considering what patients should get treated first in the emergency room, we compare health conditions. We compare how promising different TV shows are when we decide how to entertain ourselves. We compare the menus of lunch restaurants to decide where to eat. We compare destinations before planning weekend trips. We compare career prospects before choosing what to study – and so on. Many comparisons like these are made without hesitation. To many, but, of course, not all, it is obvious that patients with gunshot wounds should be treated before those with sprained ankles, that The Sopranos is better than Days of Our Lives, that the local Italian restaurant is better than McDonald’s, that a weekend in Paris is better than a weekend in Slough, and that the career prospects of a lawyer are better than those of a race car driver. However, some comparisons are not easy. Feelings of being at a loss and struggling when trying to determine what option is best are familiar to most of us.

This course is about those hard comparisons when no option is at least as good as all the alternatives. It is about the situations in which it seems impossible to rank options in conventional ways and it seems as though conventional comparisons themselves are impossible—the course is about what can be broadly called “incommensurability.” Examples of incommensurability abound. When Sartre’s student, during World War II, faced the choice of joining the French resistance in England to fight the occupying Germans or staying in France and taking care of his elderly mother, the alternatives seemed incommensurable (Sartre 1975). When asked if Mozart or Michelangelo is the better artist, many think that they are incommensurable (Chang 2002), and when contemplating whether deafness reduces one’s health more or less than muteness, the health conditions seem incommensurable (Hausman 2015). Even though the stakes and values involved may differ significantly, these comparisons have one thing in common: they are comparisons in which we cannot determinately judge which alternative is best nor do the alternatives seem equally as good. This course addresses how to make sense of examples such as these, incommensurability in general, its role in ethical theory, and its implications for decision-making.

Course Content:

The course is divided into five themes:

  1. Introduction to value incommensurability
  2. Possible accounts of value incommensurability
  3. Consequences for decision theory
  4. Applications of value incommensurability
  5. Population ethics, spectrum arguments and value incommensurability

The course gives 7,5 credits (ECTS) and corresponds to five weeks of full-time work. It is expected that the student will prepare by reading the relevant literature before the start of the course. The course will be examined by a written essay. There will be a possibility to present the essay at a workshop on Value Incommensurability in Lund on the 25-26 May. The presentation is, however, optional and will not be graded.

Contact and application:

This course is open to all students in Sweden studying for a magister, a master degree or a Ph.D degree. Teachers are Anders Herlitz Anders.Herlitz@fil.lu.se and Henrik Andersson Henrik.Andersson@fil.lu.se. Applications are to be sent to both teachers and student councillor ylva.von_gerber@fil.lu.se.

Preliminary literature (subject to change):

Anderson, E., 1997, “Practical Reason and Incommensurable Goods,” in Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason, R. Chang (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

H. Andersson and A. Herlitz (eds.), Value Incommensurability: Ethics, Risk, and Decision-Making, Routledge

Broome, J., 1997, “Is Incommensurability Vagueness?” in Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason, R. Chang (ed.), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chang, R. 1997 “Introduction”, in Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason, R. Chang (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Chang, R.  2002 “The Possibility of Parity,” Ethics, 112: 659–688.

Hare, C., 2010, “Take the Sugar,” Analysis, 70 (2): 237–247

Elson, L., 2017, “Incommensurability as Vagueness: A Burden-Shifting Argument,” Theoria, 83 (4): 341–363.

Herlitz, A., 2019, “Nondeterminacy, two-step models, and justified choice,” Ethics, 129 (2): 284–308.

Parfit, D. (2016), ‘Can We Avoid the Repugnant Conclusion?’, Theoria 82/2:

110–127.

Raz, J., 1986, The Morality of Freedom, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Rabinowicz, 2008, “Value Relations,” Theoria, 74 (1): 18–49

Schoenfield, M, 2014, “Decision Making in the Face of Parity,” Philosophical Perspectives, 28: 263–277.

2022

Global Distributive Justice (University of Gothenburg)

Summary: Wherever you’re reading this, the chances are you’ll be surrounded by objects and materials that have been worked on by thousands, if not millions of hands from across the globe, all as part of an interlocking global system of production and consumption. This deep global interconnectedness is - at least on first glance - in some tension with the way we organise ourselves politically, with each of us being citizens of a bounded territory where our citizenship comes with rights and entitlements that others are excluded from accessing. Notably, not all citizenship is created equally – being born in Sweden or Ireland gives someone a pretty huge leg-up in living a safe, prosperous, flourishing life compared to being born in Burundi or Eritrea. In recent decades, many have called the justness of this arrangement into question, asking whether we do not have more onerous responsibilities to people outside our borders than we are currently willing to fulfil. In this course, we’ll look at the growing body of philosophical literature which debates this very issue, particularly as it relates to distribution. Distributive justice is concerned with determining the rightful principles for allocating morally-significant goods and costs between persons. It is concerned with the distribution of everything from money to emissions rights, from territory to credit.

The aim of this course is to give the student both a familiarity with some of the key theoretical questions on the nature of global distributive justice, as well as to introduce them to several of the most pressing contexts in which philosophical debates about just distribution arise today, including trade, intellectual property, immigration, climate change, and national debt. At the end of the course, the student is expected to write an essay that critically analyses some of the selected readings.

Course content: This course will cover (provisionally, at least – there is scope for adjusting the content according to participants’ needs and interests):

-the scope of justice: whether and to what extent demands of justice are best understood as being statist, internationalist, or cosmopolitan in character. Required readings might include e.g. Rawls (1999), Pogge (2002).

-the nature of (global) justice: whether our duties are grounded in our ability to help, our culpability for past wrongdoing, or our participation in shared social systems; how does the specific nature of our relationships to others shape our duties to them. Required readings might include e.g. Caney (2005), Barry and Øverland (2016), Walton (2020), McLaughlin (2022).

-the currencies of justice: what, ultimately, it is that we ought to be distributing justly amongst people - is it welfare or material resources? Opportunities or outcomes? Does it even make sense to try and reduce distributive justice to a single currency? Required readings might include e.g. Sen (1980), Cohen (1989).

-areas of application: applying broader theoretical frameworks to think through concrete questions, e.g. whether global poverty requires rich countries to open their borders; where individuals and companies should be required to pay tax; how should the gains of international trade be shared among countries; must states pay the debts accrued by unaccountable past leaders; on what basis does anyone have a right to have their intellectual property protected; who owns the earth’s resources; and how do we divide the burdens of mitigating climate change. Required readings might include James (2014), Kern (2020), Deitsch and Rixen (2014), Blomfeld (2013), Oberman (2015).

Credits: The course will be 7.5 credits

Time and place: 7th-11th November 2022, Gothenburg

Contact and application: Tadhg Ó Laoghaire, tadhg.olaoghaire@gu.se

2021

Instrumentalism about Moral Responsibility
(University of Gothenburg)

The University of Gothenburg will offer a doctoral course on moral responsibility in September 2021 (week 38). The course is open only to doctoral students. If you are interested in the course, please contact Per-Erik Milam (below), so that we can estimate the number of students interested in the course and plan accordingly.

Summary: Theories of moral responsibility try to explain what it takes for an agent to be morally responsible for their behaviour and when it’s appropriate to hold them responsible for their behaviour. Instrumentalist or forward-looking theories try to justify our responsibility practices, especially blame, as means to other valuable ends. For example, one might defend the practice of blaming agents for their offenses by arguing that doing so encourages them to act better (individual level) or that doing so promotes social cooperation (social level). The aim of this course is to examine and evaluate instrumentalist theories of moral responsibility, from its early proponents in the mid-20th century to the recent resurgence of interest in these theories during the last decade. 

This course will cover: 
-Early instrumentalist theories: early instrumentalist claims and arguments; the motivation for these accounts in the context of philosophical debates about free will and moral responsibility; and normative ethical frameworks often deployed by instrumentalists. Key readings: Moritz Schlick (1939) and J.J.C. Smart (1961).
-Objections to instrumentalism: prominent critiques of instrumentalism, both its normative ethical commitments and as a way of understanding moral responsibility. Key readings: P.F. Strawson (1962), R. Jay Wallace (1994), and T.M. Scanlon (1998). 
-Recent instrumentalist theories: the motivation to rehabilitate instrumentalist accounts in light of recent developments in debates about moral responsibility and the ethics of blame; the parallel development of background normative ethical frameworks. Key readings: Richard Arneson (2003), Manuel Vargas (2013), and Victoria McGeer (2015). 
-Competitors: a brief survey of prominent alternatives to instrumentalism, including reasons-responsiveness, normative competence, and self-expression theories; the structure of instrumentalist and non-instrumentalist theories. 
-Applications: contemporary challenges to moral responsibility and the justification of blame (e.g. cognitive bias, implicit bias, ignorance, and difficulty); possible instrumentalist responses to these challenges; possible applications of instrumentalist theories to questions in applied ethics of responsibility (e.g. medical decision-making, criminal law, and psychiatric care). 

Contact and application:
Please contact Per-Erik Milam for more information, per-erik.milam@gu.se 

Climate Ethics (Stockholm University)

Summary: The aim of this course is to introduce some of the main ethical issues raised by actions—both public and private—that cause greenhouse gas emission and thereby contribute to climate change. We will for instance consider whether private actions, such as flying and eating meat, causes unjust climate harms. Relatedly, we will discuss whether individuals can meet their obligations by offsetting the greenhouse gas emission they cause. When it comes to public actions, we will examine questions such as how to estimate the total (expected) harm of climate change and compare it to the total cost of reducing greenhouse gas emission; for instance, what role we should give to the well-being (and existence) of future generations when making such comparisons.

The course is 7.5 credits.

Schedule, litterature and more information available at the course website at su.se 

Contact and application: Please contact H. Orri Stefánsson for more information, orri.stefansson@philosophy.su.se 

 

To add a course, please send a summary of the content, along with course name, number of credits, course dates and contact information to kalle.grill@umu.se. Also state if the course is open to phd students, master students or both. 

Latest update: 2024-02-16