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Courses

Philosophy of Intelligence (PKU, Spring 2021)

Artificial intelligence will radically transform our lives. By many accounts, it has already begun to do so. The rapid technological development in this area raises important questions that require careful philosophical attention. Can machines be made to learn? Can machines be made to think for themselves? Can machines be conscious? Can machines have subjective experience? Might machines deserve or require moral consideration? What measures should we take to direct the development of such machines? What will happen if machines’ capacities come to exceed our own? Does the advent of super-intelligent machines pose an existential threat to humanity? This course will give a thorough introduction to these kinds of questions and possible answers to them. It will include an overview of the history of computer science and the basics of machine learning. We will also study seminal works by past and present philosophers.

The Philosophy of Nietzsche (PKU, Spring 2021)

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher, who famously proclaimed the death of God and challenged the foundations of traditional morality. In many ways, Nietzsche’s philosophy remains as powerful and relevant as ever. This course offers an introduction to it. We will study Nietzsche’s mature writings including Beyond Good and Evil (1886), On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) and Twilight of the Idols (1888). And we will examine his key ideas, including nihilism, affirmation of life and the will to power, as well as his criticisms of Judeo-Christian morality, the will to truth and the ascetic ideal.

Philosophy Workshop (PKU, Autumn 2020)

The fundamental objective of this course is for students to have regular, intensive practice of doing philosophy, both individually and in collaboration. In this way, the course will significantly improve each participant’s philosophical knowledge and skills.
The specific course contents will be determined by the students themselves. After an introductory first meeting, all course meetings will be devoted to a discussion of individual students’ own written work (for example, an essay or thesis chapter; note that this may be written work that has been completed for other courses or degree requirements). Each student chooses a piece of work to submit, which will be circulated so that other participants can share written comments in advance of the meeting; during the meeting, the author will give an oral presentation, followed by a formal response by another student and then an open discussion.
Each week, the teacher will also assign some additional background reading, which will normally consist of some seminal articles within the relevant field. Participants will thus both study a variety of philosophical topics and, most importantly, learn to do philosophy, and do it well, by engaging in the kinds of activity that have been fundamental to the practice of all great philosophers.

Analytic Philosophy (PKU, Spring 2020)

Analytic philosophy is the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world, and it is now steadily growing in the non-English-speaking world. This course is a detailed study of the analytic tradition—its nature, history and practice—and it will help to transform students into better, more analytic philosophers. The course will offer an introduction to the great works of early analytic philosophy by Gottlob Frege (1848–1925), G. E. Moore (1873–1958), Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) as well as excellent recent and contemporary work in analytic philosophy ranging from epistemology and metaphysics to ethics, aesthetics, and more.

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