Which Essays Should All Philosophy Graduate Students Read?


A philosophy professor tasked with teaching the required proseminar for incoming graduate students has a question for Daily Nous readers.

He writes:

This fall I’m again teaching the mandatory proseminar for incoming graduate students, and so once again I’m wondering: what essays should all philosophy students read? It would be helpful to know if other people have a list of 10-25 papers that they want all their students to know something about.

Proseminars like this function differently in different departments, but a relatively common goal for them is to give students a somewhat broad introduction to what today’s philosophers think of as the central problems of various subfields of philosophy, as well as provide them with some shared background knowledge as they embark on their studies. Which articles or book chapters should be included in a one semester version of such a course?


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Matthijs A.
Matthijs A.
11 months ago

Famine, affluence and mortality by Peter Singer because he so gracefully builds his argument, which is incredibly hard to refute, and simultaneously poses a serious moral dilemma for all that have read it.Report

Greg Gianopoulos
Greg Gianopoulos
Reply to  Matthijs A.
11 months ago

The Singer Solution to World Poverty is another one by Peter Singer that was published in the NYT and is great for younger students.

https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/05/magazine/the-singer-solution-to-world-poverty.htmlReport

AD
AD
11 months ago

Alvin Plantinga “Is belief in God Properly Basic?” Because it explains (causally) a lot of the recent work on religious epistemology.

Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat”
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Duncan Purslow
Duncan Purslow
Reply to  AD
8 months ago

Russell’s ‘Problems of Philosophy’ : he gets caught up in sense-data theory but it is still a good introduction. Ryle’s ‘The Concept of Mind’ is easy reading and essential for all future learning. Frankena’s ‘Ethics’ covers the main theories of moral philosophy. Report

James A DeHullu
James A DeHullu
11 months ago

Let me suggest Willard Van Orman Quine’s essay “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.”

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Bart
Bart
Reply to  James A DeHullu
11 months ago

Seconded, with the addition of Quine’s ‘On what there is.’

(I think many people nowadays don’t realize that Quine was often right/insightful, even if he was dead wrong with the behaviorism.)Report

Phil Sci Grad
Phil Sci Grad
11 months ago

There are obviously many competing desiderata for proseminars. However, insofar as the *only* goal is to introduce graduate students to what’s going on in contemporary philosophy of science *and* I had only two papers or so to cover the subject area, then I would assign the Machamer, Darden, and Craver 2000 paper on mechanisms (I believe the most cited phil sci paper of the last two or three decades) and one of Alisa Bokulich’s papers on explanation (a nice contrast to MDC, allows me to bring in discussion of idealizations (a current hot topic), and explanation seems to be the hottest thing going). Report

Grad student
Grad student
11 months ago

Kristie Dotson’s ‘How is this paper philosophy?’

Addresses fundamental questions about the nature of philosophy and attempts to bridge two competing conceptions. Report

Daniel Greco
Daniel Greco
11 months ago

For a couple of papers that would give students an introduction to one of the main threads in epistemology over the last half century or so, Alvin Goldman’s “what is justified belief?” And Laurence Bonjour’s “externalist theories of empirical knowledge” (chapter three of “the structure of empirical knowledge”) could be a good pairing.Report

Kenny Easwaran
11 months ago

From spending the last several years in a very pluralist department, I’m not convinced that there is *anything* that *every* graduate student in “philosophy” should read. However, I do think that for graduate students specifically working in the analytic or post-analytic traditions, most of the following would be essential:

Frege, “On Sense and Reference”
Quine, “On What There Is”
Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”
Kripke, “Naming and Necessity”
Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”

I think there are also many significant strands of work that are essential to engage with to some degree, but may not have specific canonical papers like this set at the intersection of language and metaphysics (other than Gettier).Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
11 months ago

I would also campaign for Ramsey’s “Truth and Probability” to be added to this list, but it hasn’t reached the sort of canonical status yet for analytic philosophers outside formal epistemology.Report

Eric Schliesser
Eric Schliesser
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
11 months ago

But it would set them up nicely for philosophy of economics!Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
11 months ago

For an integrated approach to a proseminar, I count 28 “Essential Readings” in the ten chapters of Alex Broadbent’s _Philosophy for Graduate Students: Metaphysics and Epistemology_ (Routledge, 2016).

Table of contents, preview, and “Request Inspection Copy” links at Routledge site:

https://www.routledge.com/Philosophy-for-Graduate-Students-Metaphysics-and-Epistemology-1st-Edition/Broadbent/p/book/9781138930506

Not on website, but worth mentioning.

From “Introduction” (p. x):

“The topics in this book are drawn primarily from metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. These fields certainly do not define the whole discipline. But they _serve_ the whole discipline. Key distinctions (e.g. between physical and logical necessity) and concepts (e.g. supervenience), which have their home in these fields, are useful and sometimes essential for work in quite different fields such as ethics, political philosophy, or philosophy of medicine. … So this book seeks to link topics together in a way that enables a general and useful understanding of a core set of ideas and distinctions.”

Each chapter has a helpful section, “Key Concepts and Distinctions” to drive this integrating point home.

From “How to Use This Book” ( p. xi):

“This book is designed so that it can simply be read, but so that it can also be used as the basis of an entry-level graduate course covering core topics in metaphysics and epistemology. If used as the basis of a course, each chapter should be read to provide a general background to the topic at hand, and then some of the readings listed at the end of each chapter should be tackled. Each chapter identifies a handful of essential readings, and some further readings to take you deeper into the topic or closer to contemporary debates. … Some topics will be greatly assisted by a grasp of elementary formal logic, which should be covered separately, either before or alongside this course of readings.”

Very well written; I have found his exposition quite helpful. Essential Readings and Further Readings alone may be worth the time of OP – and others – to peruse. Report

Benjamin
Benjamin
Reply to  Paul Wilson
11 months ago

Thanks for the suggestion, I am on my way to graduate school and just bought a copy!Report

gradstudent1
gradstudent1
11 months ago

I think everyone is supposed to read Russell’s “On Denoting” right?Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  gradstudent1
11 months ago

There’s a major backlash against that paper though. It’s a danger sign for a putative piece of required reading that there’s a whole literature dedicated to the thorny question of what the central argument in the paper (the “Gray’s Elegy” argument) is even trying to say.Report

WiseGuy
WiseGuy
11 months ago

Korsgaard, “The Normativity of Instrumental Reason”
Street, “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value.”
Foot, “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives.”
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Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Thomson. “A Defense of Abortion”
(These two have the advantage of appearing in the same issue of P&PA (the very first)
Rachels, “Active and Passive Euthanasia”
Bennett, “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn”, and “Whatever the Consequences”.
Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”
Railton, “Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality”.
Quine, “Two Dogmas”
Van Inwagen, the classic free will one, currently blanking on title and too much work to do to look it up.
Frankfurt, the other classic free will one about levels of desire.
Foot, “Utilitarianism and the Virtues”
Heller, “The Proper Role for Contextualism in an Anti-Luck Epistemology” (the best introduction to epistemic contextualism, short and clear).Report

Spencer Jay Case
Spencer Jay Case
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

What? No Norcross on that list?Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Spencer Jay Case
11 months ago

Well, I assume I don’t need to tell them to read my stuff. The clear light of reason does that.Report

roland kristo
roland kristo
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

I’ll do it then. For the less enlightened ones of us.
Puppies, pigs and people – for applied ethics
Two Dogmas of Deontology – for normative ethics

That’s my take, at least
Report

Spencer Case
Spencer Case
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

Comparing Harms: Headaches to Human Lives would be my recommendationReport

Paul J Edgeworth
Paul J Edgeworth
11 months ago

Analytic or Continental philosophy!Report

Chris
Chris
11 months ago

Like Kenny, I’m in a pluralist department that has abandoned its proseminar requirement years ago.
However, some of the readings included;
Carnap “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” – a natural pairing with the Two Dogmas
Rawls “Two Concepts of Rules”
On logic/philosophy of logic (these have the advantage of being non-technical):
Carroll “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles”
Hacking “What is Logic?”
Haack “The Justification of Deduction”
Phil science:
Goodman, Fact Fiction and Forecast (chapter III on the new riddle of induction)
The Good/Hempel debate on instance confirmation
Mind/language/epistemology etc.
Putnam “Meaning and Reference”; Kripke Naming and Necessity; van Cleve ” Foundationalism, Epistemic Principles and the Cartesian Circle”
History: Wilson “History of Philosophy in Philosophy Today: the case of sensible qualities” (there are obviously lots of more recent papers one could choose here..)

If you have a relatively unified department around analytic phil language, you can of course borrow from the MIT model (syllabus available as part of their open coursework project): Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Moore, Austin, Ryle, etc. Report

Animal Symbolicum
Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Chris
11 months ago

I really like the philosophy of logic suggestion. Among the many frustrating metaphilosophical lessons I learned in grad school is that while many teachers, students, and writers of philosophy are, unsurprisingly, fluent in the various canonized logical systems, very few of that lot have reflected on just what it is they are doing in using those systems or just what it is to articulate a logical system in the first place. Metalogical and model theoretic forays abound, of course, but that’s just more of the same: one can apply a model theory or unspool soundness, completeness, or decidability proofs without reflecting on just what one is “talking about” in doing so. This lack of reflectiveness is surprising given how centrally logic figures as an instrument, or sometimes even a medium, in analytic philosophy.

One way the lack is felt is when many a high-powered paper and the sub-industry it spawns assume that in following the derivation of their theorems or the provision of their set-theoretic models one is learning about the metaphysical structure of reality. Whether that assumption is correct is beside the point. The point is that it goes unquestioned. (But maybe that’s the whole idea: accept the rules of a contrived world in order to exhaust, by manufacturing paper after paper, the allowable moves in that world.)Report

Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

Interesting point, Justin, about some papers being likely to have already been assigned at the undergrad level. I would be wary of making too many assumptions, though. I have encountered grad students who never read Thomson’s “Defense of Abortion” or Singer’s “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” as undergrads. It shocked me, but there it is. If they don’t read them as undergrads, they certainly need to read them in grad school. One more that I thought of is Foot’s “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect”. It’s not a very good paper (certainly not a good account of the DDE), but it’s very influential. It was the origin, I’m pretty sure, of the now-ubiquitous trolley problem. I certainly think all grad students should be familiar with the origins of the trolley problem, if not with the serpent-windings of deontology that it has spawned.Report

Elizabeth S.
Elizabeth S.
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

I agree that making assumptions about what grad students already know can be problematic. I think it is important to remember that not all grad students enter grad school with an undergraduate degree in philosophy. I did not and found it difficult at times to catch up on what others had already covered. I didn’t read many of these papers until I was TA for classes that assigned them to undergrads. That said, I knew when I began that I wouldn’t have the same knowledge that my peers who had already spent four years studying philosophy had and expected that it would take me a bit of extra legwork to familiarize myself with contemporary discussions. Report

Clement
Clement
Reply to  Elizabeth S.
11 months ago

Some of us as undergrads went to great-books programs. We didn’t read articles from philosophy journals but delved exclusively into the works by major philosophers (Plato, Kant, Aquinas, etc.) I don’t think I was disadvantaged by focusing exclusively on primary texts in this way for those four years. Grad school seemed to be the right place for encountering journal articles. Just wanted to register this alternate approach. Report

ADAM W
ADAM W
11 months ago

What is the point of equality? Elizabeth Anderson. Report

Daniel Propson
Daniel Propson
Reply to  ADAM W
11 months ago

The structure of this response delights me. Here it is in haiku form:

What is the point
Of equality?
Elizabeth Anderson.Report

Tom
Tom
11 months ago

Definitely Jonathan Schaffer’s ‘On What Grounds What’. It’s one of the papers that led to the ‘grounding-craze’ in current metaphysics and is quite accessible.
http://www.jonathanschaffer.org/grounds.pdf

Also, Ross Cameron’s ‘Turtles All the Way Down’. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40468234?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

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Michel
Michel
11 months ago

I’ll give it more thought later, but two articles immediately spring to mind:

(1) Linda Nochlin’s “Why have there been no great women artists?”. It’s an oldie, and by an art historian (with a BA in philosophy, however!). But it completely changed academic art history, it’s a very important piece of feminist philosophy of art, and it touches on a number of issues that are relevant across several subfields of philosophy, not just aesthetics (e.g. feminist philosophy, genius, privilege, aesthetic value, the power of social conventions, etc.). It’s a fantastic illustration of the value of philosophy outside philosophy, too. And it’s fun, provocative reading.

(2) Elisabeth Lloyd’s “Pre-Theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality”. It’s an astonishing piece on evolutonary psychology’s blindspots and the perils of bad, unreflective science. The examples she marshals are breathtakingly bad (and hilarious), and I think we’d all do well to bear these lessons in mind as we go about theorizing from the armchair. While the focus is relatively narrow, I think that the lessons are useful and important for any subfield with tendencies towards naturalization or, indeed, biological/evolutonary explanation, from metaphysics to aesthetics, epistemology, and political theory.Report

Ben B
Ben B
11 months ago

The proseminar I took selected papers for what they had to teach about philosophical method rather than content. Three of the ones we read were:

David Lewis’s “The Paradoxes of Time Travel”
Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “The Trolley Problem”
Warren Quinn’s “The Puzzle of the Self-Torturer”

Not all the papers were about paradoxes the way these three obviously are, but these three struck with me. (I only remember one more of the papers we read, and that one because it didn’t meet my adolescent expectations of what “analytic” philosophy should be, and I’m retrospectively ashamed not to have put in the work to understand it.) I think this is because they made me feel that some puzzles were pointing to something deep and important and others were just a sign that thinking had gone badly off the rails somewhere, and so motivated me to try to cultivate a sense of which was which.Report

Elliott
Elliott
11 months ago

The consensus in this thread appears to be belief is “Lockean”
I think the consensus would be challenged with these two essays:

David Wisdo “Self-trust and the ethics of belief”

John McDowell “Wittgenstein on following a rule”Report

Elliott
Elliott
Reply to  Elliott
11 months ago

Here are more essays that have a challenging epistemology:

Nancy Fraser “Rethinking the Public Sphere”
Sarah Ahmed “Cultural Politics of Emotion”
Linda Martin Alcoff “The Problem of Speaking for Others”
Laila Lalami “So to Speak”Report

John Schwenkler
11 months ago

I taught a class like this last fall, though it was just the “Theoretical Philosophy” half of a two-term proseminar. Here’s what I had on the syllabus (I think we ended up doing all of it except the chapter by Stanley — sorry, Jason):

Week 1: Gottlob Frege, “On Sense and Reference” (1892)
Bertrand Russell, “On the Notion of Cause” (1912)
Week 2: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (1953), §§151-242
Week 3: Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (1949), chs. 2-3 (“Knowing How and Knowing That”, “The Will”)
Week 4: G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention (1956/1963), §§4-18
J.L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses” (1963)
Week 5: P.F. Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment” (1962)
Anscombe, “Causality and Determination” (1971)
Week 6: Donald Davidson, “Actions, Reasons, and Causes” (1963)
Davidson, “Mental Events” (1970)
Week 7: Jerry Fodor: “Special Sciences (Or: The Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis)” (1974)
Daniel Dennett, “True Believers” (1981)
Week 8: Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity (1970/1980), Preface and Lecture I
Week 9: Kripke, Naming and Necessity, Lectures II-III
Week 10: Hilary Putnam, “Brains in Vats” (1981)
John McDowell, “Singular Thought and the Extent of Inner Space” (1986)
Week 11: David Lewis, “Causation” (1973)
Lewis, “Elusive Knowledge” (1996)
Week 12: Timothy Williamson, Knowledge and its Limits (2000), Introduction and chs. 4 and 9 (“Anti-Luminosity”, “Evidence”)
Week 13: Williamson, Knowledge and its Limits, ch. 11 (“Assertion”)
Jason Stanley, Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), ch. 3 (“Knowledge Ascriptions and Context-Sensitivity”)

By no means would I put all of this on a list of “things that must be read” — indeed, the only such candidate might be Naming and Necessity, and even that demand feels dated. But I do feel that it’s a selection of readings that helps to provide context for a lot of ongoing work in theoretical philosophy. One thing to add: I also spent a fair amount of time on “professional development” broadly construed, and would HIGHLY recommend doing this in any seminar designed for first-year students.
Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  John Schwenkler
11 months ago

Would be very interested to know *how* you covered professional development.Report

John Schwenkler
Reply to  Michael Kremer
11 months ago

Sure, here are the topics we covered:

General advice; how to prepare for seminar and be a good participant
How to give a seminar presentation
Philosophical writing
Academic and non-academic careers (visit from the FSU Career Center)
Working as a Teaching Assistant
Doing philosophical research
Giving feedback on the work of others
Setting goals and managing responsibilities
Forming relationships with faculty and fellow students
Attending academic conferences
Giving a talk
Figuring out what interests you
Building a CV and marketing yourself
Getting your work to publication

My approach was pretty relaxed: I began with 5 or 10 minutes of planned remarks and then we had open discussion for up to 20 minutes. But Errol Lord and Brandon Warmke both shared with me some really detailed and polished handouts from when they did this sort of thing themselves.Report

Jeremy Goodman
11 months ago

“On sense and reference”
“On denoting”
Naming and necessity
“A puzzle about belief”
“Quantifying in”
“Demonstratives”
Counterfactuals (chapters 1,2,4)
“Scorekeeping in a language game”
“Attitudes de dicto and de se”Report

E
E
Reply to  Jeremy Goodman
11 months ago

Message received: Women don’t do philosophy. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  E
11 months ago

Better: Women don’t do philosophy that all grads should read. Even better: Jeremy Goodman thinks that philosophy papers grads should read are written by men. Best: Jeremy Goodman thinks that *some* philosophy papers grads should read are written by men.Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Jen
11 months ago

For what it’s worth, I received a similar message from the whole thread. Doing a quick glance at the suggestions up-thread, I think I found that 83% of those suggestions were of men’s work and 99% of the suggestions were of work from white folks. Surely that’s a problem, right?

So as to not be entirely critical, some of my suggestions would include:

Ambrose, Alice. 1952. “Linguistic Approaches to Philosophical Problems.” The Journal of Philosophy 49, no. 9: 289–301.

Anderson, Luvell. 2017. “Hermeneutical Impasses.” Philosophical Topics 45, no. 2: 1–20.

Antony, Louise. 1993. “Quine As Feminist: The Radical Import of Naturalized Epistemology.”

Berges, Sandrine. 2015. “On the Outskirts of the Canon: The Myth of the Lone Female Philosopher, and What to do About it.” Metaphilosophy 46, no. 3: 380–397.

Bright, Liam Kofi. 2017. “Logical Empiricists on Race.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 65: 9–18.

Bright, Liam Kofi, Malinsky, Daniel, and Thompson, Morgan. 2016. “Causally Interpreting Intersectionality Theory.” Philosophy of Science 83, no. 1: 60–81.

Brozek, Anna. 2017. “Maria Kokoszynska: Between the Lvov-Warsaw School and the Vienna Circle.” Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 5, no. 2: 19–36.

Chapman, Siobhan. 2013. Susan Stebbing and the Language of Common Sense. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Clough, Sharyn. 2003. Siblings Under the Skin: Feminism, Social Justice, and Analytic Philosophy. Colorado: Davies Group.

Crary, Alice. 2018. “The Methodological is Political.” Radical Philosophy Issue 2.02, Series 2.

Crenshaw, Kimberle Williams. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6: 1241–1299.

Curry, Tommy. 2010. “Concerning the Underspecialization of Race Theory in American Philosophy: How the Exclusion of Black Sources Affects the Field.” The Pluralist 5, no. 1: 44–64.

Davis, Angela. 2016. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Diamond, Cora. 2000. “Ethics, Imagination and the Method of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In The New Wittgenstein, A. Crary and R. Read (eds.). New York: Routledge: 149–173.

Dotson, Kristie. 2012. “A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 33, no. 1: 24–47.

Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903. “The Souls of Black Folk.”

Dutilh Novaes, Catarina. 2018. “Carnapian Explication and Ameliorative Analysis: A Systematic Comparison.” Synthese.

Dutilh Novaes, Catarina and Geerdink, Leon. 2017. “The Dissonant Origins of Analytic Philosophy: Common Sense in Philosophical Methodology.” In Innovations in the History of Analytic Philosophy, S. Lapointe and C. Pincock (eds.). London: Palgrave Macmillan: 69–102.

Gordon, Lewis. 2008. An Introduction to Africana Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.

Gordon-Roth, Jessica and Kendrick, Nancy. 2015. “Including Early Modern Women Writers in Survey Courses: A Call to Action.” Metaphilosophy 46, no. 3: 364–379.

Haslanger, Sally. 2012. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. Oxford University Press.

Kukla, Rebecca. 2014. “Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice.” Hypatia 29, no. 2: 440–457.

Marcus, Ruth Barcan. 1961. “Modalities and Intensional Languages.” Synthese 13, no. 4: 303–322.

Marcus, Ruth Barcan. 1980. “Moral Dilemmas and Consistency.” The Journal of Philosophy 77, no. 3: 121–136.

Mills, Charles. 1997. The Racial Contract. Cornell University Press.

Mills, Charles. 1998. Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race. Cornell University Press.

Mills, Charles. 2015. “Decolonizing Western Political Philosophy.” New Political Science 37, no. 1: 1–24.

Mills, Charles. 2017. Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism. Oxford University Press.

Mohawk, John. 1986. “Prologue.” In The White Roots of Peace, Paul Wallace. The Chauncy Press.

Park, Peter K.J. 2013. Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780–1830. Albany: SUNY Press.

Pateman, Carole. 1988. The Sexual Contract. Stanford University Press.

Russell, Gillian. 2014. “Metaphysical Analyticity and the Epistemology of Logic.” Philosophical Studies 171, no. 1: 161–175.

Saliba, George. 2011. Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Sen, Amartya. 2011. The Idea of Justice. Harvard University Press.

Stebbing, L. Susan. 1932. “The Method of Analysis in Metaphysics.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 33: 65–94.

Stebbing, L. Susan. 1933. “Logical Positivism and Analysis.” Proceedings of the British Academy 19: 53–87.

Stebbing, L. Susan. 1939. Thinking to Some Purpose. Penguin Books.

Stebbing, L. Susan. 1941. Ideals and Illusions. Watts and Co.

Warren, Karen. 1990. “The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism.”
Environmental Ethics 12, no. 2: 125–146.

Yap, Audrey. 2010. “Feminism and Carnap’s Principle of Tolerance.” Hypatia 25, no. 2: 437–454.

Zack, Naomi. 2002. Philosophy of Science and Race. Routledge.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

“Doing a quick glance at the suggestions up-thread, I think I found that 83% of those suggestions were of men’s work and 99% of the suggestions were of work from white folks. Surely that’s a problem, right?”
Why is it a problem? The judgments of philosophers and would-be philosophers who have posted a list suggest that the overwhelming majority of work that all grads should read is written by WMs. There is no surprise here, given these peoples’ likely backgrounds. They’re likely people trained in analytic philosophy. It is not surprising if it turns out that being trained in analytic philosophy makes you more likely to believe that that stuff is the best sort of philosophy. If analytic philosophy has been dominated by WMs, it’s no surprise that the majority of the philosophy analytic philosophers believe to be best is written by WMs. It is not clear why I should believe there is a problem.Report

Stefan H
Stefan H
Reply to  Jen
11 months ago

“Why is it a problem?”
It’s absolutely not. Philosophy needs another generation of white men to publish responses to Jeremy Goodman’s responses to David Lewis.Report

ehz
ehz
Reply to  Stefan H
11 months ago

I am astonished by this comment. Do you find the hypothetical responses to responses to responses worthless because they are written by white men?Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Jen
11 months ago

My apologies. I didn’t think that I needed to explain why this would be a problem. And I mean that genuinely—not in the passive-aggressive, sarcastic way that things like this are often said. I only bring it up in the first place because I think Luvell Anderson’s “Hermeneutical Impasses” article can actually explain the communicative situation we find ourselves in. That aside, I’d like to provide this explanation. Importantly, I think one such explanation has already been provided by Alexander Guerrero down-thread. Since his comment wasn’t intended to be a part of this dialectic, I’ll try to sketch my own (cf. Amartya Sen on plural grounding from “The Idea of Justice”).

Again, trying to be sensitive to the very particular conversation we’re having, I will be responding directly to Jen’s argument. I take the argument to be that there being 83% suggestions of men’s work and 99% suggestions of white folks’ work is not a sign of any problem because the blog’s commenters are “likely people trained in analytic philosophy” and “If analytic philosophy has been dominated by WMs, it’s no surprise that the majority of the philosophy analytic philosophers believe to be best is written by WMs.” Notice that while these give much of the argument’s structure, it is still somewhat enthymematic. So, I ultimately see us working with something like the following:

P1: The blog’s commenters are people trained in analytic philosophy.
P2: If the blog’s commenters are trained in analytic philosophy, then they will think the best philosophy is written by analytic philosophers.
P3: If the blog’s commenters think the best philosophy is written by analytic philosophers, then they will suggest whatever has dominated analytic philosophy for the proseminar.
SC1: The blog’s commenters will suggest whatever has dominated analytic philosophy for the proseminar. (P1, P2, P3)
P4: Analytic philosophy has been dominated by WM.
SC2: (It is no surprise that) The blog’s commenters will make suggestions dominated by WM. (SC1, P4)
P5: If it is no surprise that the blog’s commenters will make suggestions dominated by white men, then there is no problem that the blog’s commenters will make suggestions dominated by white men.
CONCLUSION: There is no problem that the blog’s commenters will make suggestions dominated by white men. (SC2, P5)

I can see problems at every step of this argument.

P1: Wouldn’t it be a problem that the blog which sometimes gets characterized as taking diversity and inclusion concerns overboard only attracts analytic philosophers?

P2: I’m trained as an analytic philosopher exclusively (philosophy of language and logic). I still think that much of the best philosophy is written in traditions outside of analytic philosophy. And why wouldn’t I? Analytic philosophy is ~120 years old and has primarily been done in the west. Philosophy is 4000 years old and has been done all around the world.

P3: Why would the best and what has been most dominant necessarily go together?
P4: Yes, but this hasn’t been because WM have just been doing the best work. Analytic philosophy has been a part of explicitly racist and sexist institutions throughout its existence.

P5: Just because there’s an explanation of the blog’s commenters primarily suggesting WM, that doesn’t mean we should be happy with it. Again, in so far as it’s true that analytic philosophy has been dominated by WM, it has been in a seriously insidious fashion. One would think we should fight against that so as to not perpetuate those problems. This is especially the case given that creating a syllabus with folks other than WM is really quite easy. Looking at Jeremy Goodman’s suggestions, one could teach a course on the very same ideas with nothing but work written by women and people of color easily. Instead of the Frege, Russell, Kripke, Kaplan, and Lewis, they could teach: Delia Graff Fara (2011, 2015), Ruth Barcan Marcus (1946, 1947, 1961, 1980, 1990), Gillian Russell (2008), Dorothy Edgington (2003, 2004), Sally Haslanger (2012), and GEM Anscombe (1975).

This is not meant to pick on Goodman’s suggestions in particular at all. They just happened to be the ones which started this conversation. More generally, if one wants to teach Moore and Russell, you could do the same work by teaching Stebbing and Dutilh Novaes. If one wants to teach Wittgenstein, you could do the same work by teaching Crary. If one wants to teach the logical empiricists, you could do the same work by teaching Bright, Dutilh Novaes, and Yap. If one wants to teach Austin and Grice, they could do the same work by teaching Kukla and Anderson. If one wants to teach Kripke, you could do the same work with Barcan Marcus. If one wants to teach Quine, you could do the same work with Antony, Haslanger, and Mills. If one wants to teach Rawls, they could do the same work with Mills and Pateman. I’m not trying to give an argument that such a course should be taught only with the work of women and people of color. I’m just saying if that could be done, surely there’s something problematic about suggestions that are 83% men and 99% white folks?
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Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

I appreciate that you took time to do this, and I think your response is in good faith. For these reasons I’ll respond. However, I confess that I’m not highly impressed by your reconstruction of an argument. This is partly because I’m not arguing that there’s no problem. At most, I’m giving a reason for thinking that there’s nothing apparently racist or sexist suggested by the data we’ve got in these comments. And I’m not impressed by your responses to the premises of the argument.

Your response to P1 is to suggest a problem with the interest garnered by the blog. I’m not sure why this is a problem, but I’m simply uninterested in this, even if it is a problem.

Your response to P2 is to cite your preferences, and it would undermine P2 on the straightforward reading of it. However, I certainly do not endorse the premise and never did. Here’s the closest thing to such an endorsement: “It is not surprising if it turns out that being trained in analytic philosophy makes you more likely to believe that that stuff is the best sort of philosophy.” This is, of course, no endorsement of P2.

Your response to P3 is to question the thought that there is a correspondence between what dominates analytic philosophy and the best philosophy. But I’ve never endorsed P3. The closest to doing so is when I wrote: “If analytic philosophy has been dominated by WMs, it’s no surprise that the majority of the philosophy analytic philosophers believe to be best is written by WMs.” Still, I’m confident there is a strong correspondence, and it is related to the methodology and history of analytic philosophy. To say much more would take us too far from the discussion.

Your response to P4 is to agree and to point out that the domination of WMs in analytic philosophy is partly due to racism and sexism. I agree, but I’m inclined to believe this is irrelevant to our conversation if our judgments of what work is best are not themselves motivated by racism and sexism.

Your response to P5 is to point out that we should be unhappy with and actively oppose the insidious domination of WMs in philosophy. I never endorsed P5, and I never argued nor even meant to suggest that there was no problem. I simply wrote: “It is not clear why I should believe there is a problem.” Furthermore, we can agree with your response without changing our preferences for what we assign our grad students, as long as we do other things to actively oppose the insidious domination of WMs in philosophy.

By the way, when choosing which books and papers to assign, many of us don’t simply consider what ideas to teach. We consider, among other things, which things are examples of good philosophical writing, which arguments have been most convincing, the interests of faculty, and the interests of the students. So even if it is true that the same ideas can be taught using work by WMs or using work by others, it would be only slightly relevant.

I’m probably too busy to spend much more time on this, so I don’t think I’ll be responding to any reply. Thanks again for the conversation. Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Thank you for the conversation as well, Jen. I have lots of responses, but I don’t want to address them to nobody. So, I’ll just say two things:

(1) You say that “Your response to P4 is to agree and to point out that the domination of WMs in analytic philosophy is partly due to racism and sexism. I agree, but I’m inclined to believe this is irrelevant to our conversation if our judgments of what work is best are not themselves motivated by racism and sexism.” One of my biggest points is intended to be that judgments of what work is best can be CONDITIONED by racism and sexism even if not MOTIVATED by racism and sexism. I’d argue that these judgments are so conditioned and that we have a duty to fight against that.

(2) You say that “when choosing which books and papers to assign, many of us don’t simply consider what ideas to teach.” I couldn’t agree more. My thought was that one such reason to assign work in a proseminar is aspirational– what do we want the discipline to be like going forward? I’d like for it to be open to ideas from folks regardless of social identities. I think we need to pay attention to the social identities of those we assign if that is ever going to happen.

Okay. I said I wouldn’t say anymore to nobody. If anybody happens to want to continue this conversation, please let me know.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Matt LaVine writes: “One of my biggest points is intended to be that judgments of what work is best can be CONDITIONED by racism and sexism even if not MOTIVATED by racism and sexism. I’d argue that these judgments are so conditioned and that we have a duty to fight against that.”

If the Matt LaVines point above ought to be taken seriously, it appears that the following point ought to be taken seriously: Judgments of which method of inquiry is best can be CONDITIONED by racism and sexism even if not MOTIVATED by racism and sexism. I’d argue that these judgments are so conditioned and that we have a duty to fight against that.

I’m sure I’m not alone in judging that rational inquiry which makes use of, among other things, evidence, logic and argumentation is best. This is a judgment conditioned by racism and sexism, and in the same way as my judgments about what work is best. Do I now have a duty to revise my judgments and advise students to consider nonrational inquiry? Or to consider inquiry that does not make use of evidence, logic and argumentation? Anyone who takes seriously claims like those above–concerning conditioning of judgments by racism and sexism–but thinks we have no duty to advise students to consider alternatives to rational inquiry of the sort described, must be able to point out a relevant difference.

I do not take seriously the claims mentioned, so I do not have to point out a relevant difference. What about you Matt LaVine?Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Matt LaVine writes: “My thought was that one such reason to assign work in a proseminar is aspirational– what do we want the discipline to be like going forward? I’d like for it to be open to ideas from folks regardless of social identities. I think we need to pay attention to the social identities of those we assign if that is ever going to happen.”

The discipline can be open to ideas from anyone even if we maintain our judgments about what work is best. I’m not sure why anyone would think otherwise.Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Two relevant differences to me seem to be that:

(1) I think the ONLY way we end up with suggestions of 83% men’s work and 99% work of white folks is with those judgments being conditioned by racism and sexism. There are independent reasons to support rational inquiry.

(2) I think that suggestions of 83% men’s work and 99% work of white folks perpetuates racism and sexism. I think supporting rational inquiry does no such thing. In fact, I think supporting rational inquiry is an important part of anti-racist and feminist work. I do think supporting a logic of domination (cf. Karen Warren (1990) above) where logic and emotion are taken to be at odds with each other is very problematic. But, this can be avoided.Report

ehz
ehz
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Matt, is “being conditioned by racism and sexism” really the only way we end up with suggestions of 83% men’s work and 99% work of white folks?

Let us consider the proportion of works by men to works by women, if we limit ourselves to works that have received some attention in the literature. We have some data on this from Kieran Healy’s analysis[1]. Healy found that only 3.6% of the top 500 cited works (in 4 leading journals) are by women. Suppose that is more or less representative of works in general that at least some members of the profession are familiar with. Then suppose that one picks suggestions from this group based purely on the quality of their content. Assuming a similar level of quality between works of men and women, the resulting suggestion list would contain roughly the same ratio of men to women: only about 3.6% works by women. I think it is fair to assume that the same would hold for works by whites vs non-whites.

Now, you might say that sexism significantly contributed to there being only 3.6% works by women in the most cited philosophical works. That may be so. But given that state of the literature, even the most fair-minded individual would end up with a suggestion list heavily skewed towards white men. So, I don’t think we need to claim that people making such suggestions (e.g. the commenters on this post) are sexist or racist in order to explain the ratios we get. That is certainly not the only way we end up here.

[1] https://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/19/lewis-and-the-women/
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Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Thanks for the question, ehz. You’ve largely acknowledged the response I would give with “Now, you might say that sexism significantly contributed to there being only 3.6% works by women in the most cited philosophical works.” Oppressive structures and institutions straight-forwardly made this the case. Many of the original works I linked to give the details there if you’re interested.

Also, I agree that we do not need to say that individuals were motivated by racism or sexism in order to get the ratios we got. That was my point in distinguishing between being conditioned by vs. motivated by racism & sexism. I just don’t see how that’s a morally relevant difference, though. If we contribute to/perpetuate oppression because we have animus or because we’re wildly ignorant due to the animus of people before us, the result is still largely the same. And, the result is one that we ought to fight against. We ought to do so for the sake of justice. But, we ought to do so for the sake of good philosophy too. We miss out on lots of AMAZING philosophical work if we’re basically restricting ourselves to the work of white men. I genuinely find it difficult to understand how that’s controversial. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Matt LaVine writes: “I just don’t see how [the difference between being motivated and being conditioned by racism and sexism is] a morally relevant difference, though. If we contribute to/perpetuate oppression because we have animus or because we’re wildly ignorant due to the animus of people before us, the result is still largely the same. And, the result is one that we ought to fight against. We ought to do so for the sake of justice.”

You are making controversial assumptions. You are assuming that to judge Frege’s work to be among the best/most worth reading (or to express the judgment) is to contribute to or perpetuate racism and sexism, given that the judgment is conditioned by racism and sexism. This is controversial. Why think this? You are assuming that judging Frege’s work best because of racist or sexist motives, has “largely the same” result as judging it best because of its content. That’s controversial. The results are, of course, the same in certain respects, but it is not at all clear that they are the same in relevant respects–i.e., as they pertain to justice. You can, after all, judge Frege’s work best and yet encourage and acknowledge the importance of work from women and people of color. How is this incompatible with justice?

Your previous responses to my prior comments make similar controversial assumptions. Because many fail to acknowledge these assumptions or fail to acknowledge that they’re controversial, they are contributing to the difficulty so many in our profession face when carrying on these conversations.Report

Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Hello again, Jen. A few thoughts…
(1) I made no such assumption about judging Frege’s work or judging any individual’s work. I feel like I’ve been pretty clear from the outset about the fact that I’m talking about the suggestions taken collectively.

(2) “You can, after all, judge Frege’s work best and yet encourage and acknowledge the importance of work from women and people of color.” Agreed. This is why my point was about the collective suggestions. And, notice, the possibility you’ve suggested hasn’t been actualized. Where are the acknowledgments of the importance of work from women and people of color? Where is the encouragement of work from women and people of color? What I’ve seen here is quite a lot of energy put into discouraging the encouragement of work from women and people of color.

(3) I’m open to hearing which other controversial assumptions I’ve made in my previous responses (again, I genuinely mean that—I hate the lack of conversational context that makes it so easy for things to come off as passive-aggressive. I promise I’m not trying to sound that way). I also don’t know what you’re referring to when you talk of difficulties people in our profession run into. That might be because I don’t know what the extent of “these conversations” is supposed to cover, though.

(4) Also, since you brought up Frege, here’s an example involving Frege of the kind of thing I’m trying to avoid with my encouragements and my comments… Frege begins the Grundlagen with the following “In arithmetic, if only because many of its methods and concepts originated in India, it has been the tradition to reason less strictly than in geometry, which was in the main developed by the Greeks.” This is an extremely Eurocentric statement. Frege would do well to remember the contributions of the Hindu-Arabic numerals—invented by various mathematicians in India like Brahmagupta and Bhaskara I, but systematically defended and popularized by al-Kindi and al-Khwarizmi—to the rigor of the study of arithmetic. (This is not to even mention the role that al-Khwarizmi played in the development of algebra—a tool absolutely necessary to modern logical rigor). If Frege would have been open to more work developed by different types of people, he might have recognized the silliness involved in his statements. He also might have learned a great deal more about logic and mathematics by reading these folks and Ibn Sina, Ibn al-Haytham, al-Farabi, etc. He also might have understood why we should engage in such work a lot better.
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Jen
Jen
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

I used Frege’s work for illustrative purposes. The point, more generally, is that you’re assuming that judgments contribute to or promote oppression, given that they are conditioned by racism and sexism. But that is controversial. The other point I made applies more generally too: we can collectively judge these works best and yet encourage and acknowledge the importance of encouraging work from women and people of color. That is compatible with justice.

The encouragement and acknowledgement of the work of women and people of color can be done in other ways, obviously. For example, by actively searching for talented women and people of color in order to mentor them and encourage their work. You seem to be assuming that the only way to encourage and acknowledge the work of women and people of color is to say that the work already done by such people is among the best. This assumption is controversial.

About the quotation from the Grundlagen, you’re assuming that there is no other interpretation than the Eurocentric one. Here’s an alternative: Frege is suggesting an explanation for why the traditions in geometry are different from the traditions in arithmetic, and the explanation is that whereas the concepts and methods of geometry derive from one geographic location (Greece), that of arithmetic derive from another geographic location (India). Why assume this is not the correct interpretation?

I’m not inclined to point out all of the assumptions you have made in previous comments, in addition to pointing out all of the assumption you continue to make. It’s time-consuming and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m busy.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Matt LaVine
11 months ago

Just a quick follow-up recommendation on Brozek’s great article on Kokoszynska. Why not also read Kokoszynska’s “The Relativity of Truth”? It’s a tremendous original piece of work!

Of course, you’ve got quite a comprehensive list already, so it may be that you won’t be able to add it.

Others in the Lvov-Warsaw School that I’d recommend are Izydora Dambska and Janina Kotarbinska who were tremendously influential.
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Matt LaVine
Matt LaVine
Reply to  Joe
11 months ago

Yes, Joe. I couldn’t possibly agree more. If folks aren’t familiar with these members of the Lvov-Warsaw school, another great article that’ll give you more places to look is:

Brozek, Anna and Jadacki, Jacek. 2018. “Izydora Dąmbska: The First Lady of the
Twentieth-Century Polish Philosophy.” In The Lvov-Warsaw School: Past, and
Present. Birkhauser.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
11 months ago

And if we want the most accurate: Some philosophy papers Jeremy Goodman thinks all grads should read are written by men.Report

Dodge
Dodge
Reply to  E
11 months ago

No reasonable person would interpret his list as suggesting that women can’t do philosophy. Report

Michael Thompson
Michael Thompson
Reply to  Jeremy Goodman
11 months ago

It is odd to read ‘Attitudes de dicto and de se’ and not Anscombe, ‘The First Person’, which propounds the same principal thesis some years earlier. Report

chonos
chonos
11 months ago

Here are some that haven’t been mentioned yet:

Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs.”
Nagel, “Subjective and Objective.”
Laudan, “Dissecting the Holist Picture of Scientific Change.”
Kitcher, “1953 and All That: A Tale of Two Sciences”
Kim, “Mechanism, Purpose, and Explanatory Exclusion.”
Woodward, “Mental Causation and Neural Mechanisms.”
Latour, “Why has Critique Run Out of Steam?”
Boghossian, “What the Sokal Hoax Ought to Teach Us..”

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Mark van Roojen
11 months ago

It seems like a fool’s errand to give a content-based version of this. (There can’t be anything that all phil grad students should have read anymore given limited human life spans.) And if I did recommend such and if I also stuck with the standard way of viewing that approach, I would recommend Lycan’s short Phil Language book that distills many of the standard analytic/phil language offerings into a really nice read.
The unconstrained versions seem much harder. I’d be inclined to go to puzzle papers, that raise an issue without settling it. A good idea of the range of things that have been part of philosophy and the range of lines of thinking that led to them would be of some interest and use. And still it would miss a lot.
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Emily M
Emily M
11 months ago

I noticed many of the readings in the comments are things that we often assign to undergrads/I covered in my undergrad courses.

Out of curisosity – is there a reason for reassigning them if the main point is to make sure the articles have been read? I understand that rereading articles is a good idea – but that doesn’t seem to be what the post is asking about. So let me ask the question this way, are there readings that graduate students, specifically, should read that they likely were not exposed to in their undergraduate courses? Report

Emily M
Emily M
Reply to  Emily M
11 months ago

I see some have noticed this as well – I apologize for the repeat comment

As for assuming what has been read previously, could this be avoided by simply distributing a reading list that includes readings often assigned in lower levels such that any incoming student who had not read them should be expected to do so in their own time? This way time in seminar is more constructive? Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Emily M
11 months ago

One idea is that it might be important for every grad student not just to have read some paper, but also read it in the context of a discussion by a philosophical community (whether an undergraduate or a graduate classroom). Even if most people got it in undergrad, I’d want to make sure the grad students got it too, and for the ones that got it in an undergrad classroom, they probably will get a lot more out of the discussion this second time in the particular context it’s in.

But there’s definitely an interesting question of what are things that grad students *should* read that probably *shouldn’t* be assigned to undergrads that don’t already have the background.Report

Louis
Louis
11 months ago

In re contemporary classics, a category to which a number of pieces mentioned here belong, I’d think the opening few chapters of _A Theory of Justice_ would make the list, for those who didn’t read Rawls as undergrads. And maybe, because it’s memorable and somewhat controversial, the chapter on “supreme emergency” in Walzer’s _Just and Unjust Wars_.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
11 months ago

I am skeptical that the purpose of a pro seminar is really to “give students a somewhat broad introduction to what today’s philosophers think of as the central problems of various subfields of philosophy, as well as provide them with some shared background knowledge as they embark on their studies”. I think it is much more about teaching philosophical skills, establishing departmental conventions on how seminar discussion is to work, and bonding the first year cohort together.

From that point of view, more or less anything broadly cohesive, high-quality, and coherent with the department’s general approach (if any) will do fine.Report

Gustav G
Gustav G
11 months ago

I would highly recommend “John Rawls” by Søren Flinch Midtgaard.
It takes a look at Rawls theory of Justice, but it’s focus is in its short coming, under application in a democratic state.
Good book, for anyone interested in either foreign philosophy, or Rawls.
It’s a short book, så it works well as introduction to the theory.Report

Olly
Olly
11 months ago

I haven’t seen anyone mention Tarksi. Tarski’s work is often not covered at undergrad because of it’s technical nature. It was, obviously, extremely influential and game-changing. Grad school seems to be a good place to introduce Tarksi to students.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Olly
11 months ago

I think the general ideas of Tarski and the Tarski formalism are very good to get – but they’re probably not best gotten by reading “Über den Wahrheitsbegriff in den Formalisierten Sprachen”, either in German or Polish or English. A lot of the technical moves have been polished by later writers so that you don’t have to go through the 1930’s understanding of them.Report

Alexander Guerrero
11 months ago

It is interesting to me how limited the vision is here. I, too, had a standard Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Strawson, Quine, Goodman, Kripke, Kaplan, Lewis, with a bit of ethics–maybe Nagel and Williams?–mixed in. I can’t remember exactly.

I don’t mind having learned those things, of course, but I don’t think learning any of it (a) prepared me for any of my own philosophical research, (b) helped me feel that I better understood what was going on in subfields other than my own, or (c) gave me a sense of what people are currently up to in philosophy, even in analytic philosophy.

And of course it not so subtly communicates what is central, important, genius, and constitutive of the “core” of philosophy in the analytical tradition (which of course is now most of philosophy in most research universities in the anglophone world), as well as who writes philosophy and (somewhat to a lesser extent) how it is written.

Analytic philosophy is generally pretty ahistorical in its orientation, but there remains a kind of obsession/genuflection with going through this early history. It strikes me as largely unconsidered or simply a matter of tradition: this is how I came through it, so this is what I will have others go through.

It’s obviously heavily tilted toward a certain philosophy of language origin story, with a bit of epistemology, metaphysics, and mind overlaid and blended in. But I would think it gives people a very poor sense of the way in which, say, contemporary analytic metaphysics is done, or the way in which philosophy of language is now so heavily infused with linguistics and psych/cognitive science, or how empirically grounded and scientifically responsive philosophy of mind has become, or how variously formal or social (legal, political) epistemology has become. And it leaves out, almost entirely, the development of metaethics and the surge in interest in normative ethics, ethical analysis of real world problems, and social, legal, and political philosophy. I could imagine a version of the course that started at Quine/Lewis, or brought in Ramsey, or did more with Moore…

I’ve seen some versions that focused on different methodological approaches within philosophy, including empirically infused work, formal work, historical work, personal/literary/socially-embodied/emotionally-engaged work, old school arm chair cases and intuitions work, and so on. That seems valuable, and makes some sense as a required course. I’ve also seen courses that were more like ‘here are 12 papers that I think are really great, and why’ courses. That also seems valuable, if done well. But it seems an odd and misguided plan to identify some smallish set of papers ‘that everyone should have read,’ or to force some fake origin story on all of the various work that is being done now. And that seems particularly bad if it means one feels thereby compelled to assign work entirely by men, for example.

To make a constructive recommendation of three great, provocative, influential papers that I think would add a lot if assigned in proseminar, along with some of the Quine, Lewis, and Kripke:

María Lugones, “Playfulness, ‘World’-Traveling, and Loving Perception” (1987)
Charles Mills, “White Ignorance” (2007)
Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” (2000)Report

John Burciaga
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
7 months ago

Russell’s “Problems of Philosophy” first of all.Report

Marcus Arvan
11 months ago

“Modern Moral Philosophy” – GEM AnscombeReport

WiseGuy
WiseGuy
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
11 months ago

I love Anscombe otherwise. But I think this is an extremely uncharitable (and because of that terrible) paper.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  WiseGuy
11 months ago

I’ll grant that it’s uncharitable in certain respects. But I still think it’s interesting and to this very day poses a profoundly important challenge to modern moral philosophy that (in my own view) has (mostly) not yet been met.Report

WiseGuy
WiseGuy
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
11 months ago

Fair enough. I overstated my disapproval! 🙂Report

Daniel Propson
Daniel Propson
Reply to  WiseGuy
11 months ago

I would say that it’s rude, not uncharitable. She moves quickly, which glosses over a great deal, but she doesn’t create many straw man arguments; she just insults Sidgwick and Hume (among others) rather gleefully.Report

Spencer Case
Spencer Case
11 months ago

“Could Morality Have a Source?” Chris HeathwoodReport

John Fischer
John Fischer
11 months ago

Peter Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment”
Harry Frankfurt, “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility”
Harry Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person”Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  John Fischer
11 months ago

Hi John, that second Frankfurt one was the one I was too lazy to remember the title of in my suggestions earlier in this thread. Thanks.Report

John
John
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
11 months ago

Hey Alastair,
You got it right, though!Report

Rollo Burgess
Rollo Burgess
11 months ago

As a dilettante I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but this thread is a great source of suggestions for interesting things to read, many of which are available for free on internet so thanks all for more lockdown reading material.

In the spirit of the thread, one paper that made a big impression on me as a student that I havent seen mentioned here is ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’ by Donald Davidson.Report

PhD student
PhD student
11 months ago

These suggestions make me feel like I have never studied philosophy!

Except the Dotson, I’ve read the Dotson 🙂 Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
Reply to  PhD student
11 months ago

PhD student: I’ve been a philosopher a long time, but I’ve read only about one quarter of these suggestions. The ones I’ve read are excellent, and I’m sure the ones I haven’t read are great too. But don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t read them (that is, if you’ve substituted other great stuff instead). There are lots of ways to do philosophy, and this selection represents only a few of them. Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
11 months ago

There seem to be two distinct questions here: 1. What should the reading list of the required first year grad seminar look like? 2. What are some cool and or influential papers every grad student should have read? On question 1 I tend to agree with Wallace and van Roojen that there really isn’t a good answer to that. In my grad program the reading list of the first year seminar was determined by whoever taught it (the faculty took turns). One year it was hardcore analytic metaphysics, the next modern normative ethics with a heavy virtue theory emphasis, and the year I took it “Plato’s Theory of Forms.” The point wasn’t the reading list but to introduce students to the norms and expectations of graduate seminars and graduate work and to each other. I think van Roojen is right that it’s a fool’s errand to define a list of readings everyone should know and use the seminar to make grad students read those or to put it less pejoratively it’s really presumptuous and opinionated. Five different people will come up with at least five lists and there won’t be too much overlap between those lists. On the other hand if we’re just talking about cool readings then there have been some fine suggestions here and I’ve really benefited it. As far as my own suggestions go I guess I can’t do much better than to second (or is it third by this point?) Anderson’s “What’s the Point of Equality?” One final point though: Maybe we shouldn’t focus too much on papers. A better question to my mind is “What books should all grad students have read?”Report

graduatestudent
graduatestudent
11 months ago

This is not a suggestion, so much as flagging something I noticed in the suggestions.
Of about 90 suggested readings, it appears that only two are written by people who aren’t white.

As faculty and future faculty, It’s worth thinking about what philosophy is considered valuable and essential by us for incoming grad students and what that says about our field and the message it sends to incoming grad students from marginalized groups. Report

Bryan
Bryan
11 months ago

Book I, and IX of Plato’s Republic. Scaling Reality, and Tools of Salvation from The Earth and I by James Lovelock. The Tao of Who, and The now of Pooh from The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. The Responsibility of Intellectuals, and Masters of Mankind from Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky. Economy and Conclusion, from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Report

Jonathan
11 months ago

Such a good thread. In philosophy of biology, I’d assign:

David Hull, What philosophy of biology is not
Elliot Sober, Apportioning causal responsibility
Paul Griffiths, What is innateness?
Elisabeth Lloyd, Evolutionary psychology: the burdens of proof
John Dupre, Natural kinds and biological taxa
Daniel Janzen, What are dandelions and aphids?Report

Adam Omelianchuk
11 months ago

Two works of epistemology I think are fantastically fertile for the graduate student’s imagination are “Elusive Knowledge” by David Lewis and “The Problem of the Criterion” by Roderick Chisholm. Report

Clement
Clement
11 months ago

Many professors haven’t read most of the articles listed here. Maybe I should use this thread as a reading list for me.Report

John Tilley
John Tilley
11 months ago

For those who assign Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” to students, here’s an article worth assigning along with it: Charles Pigden, “Anscombe on ‘Ought’,” Philosophical Quarterly 38(150) (1988): 20-41.
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William Peden
William Peden
Reply to  John Tilley
11 months ago

I think that Charles Pidgen’s articles in general are a great guide to how to do careful, charitable, and incisive work.

As guides for how to do most philosophy, most of the time, I’ve learned a lot from reading him, James Rachels, Helen Beebee, and Duncan Pritchard, even though they don’t (mostly) work in my exact areas of study. I take this as a sign that they’re the sort of philosopher that’s worth reading once by everyone, just to get a sense of their approach to writing philosophy. I think that almost any of their most cited papers will do.Report

William Peden
William Peden
Reply to  William Peden
11 months ago

Oh, I also have to commend the work of John Passmore (again, on almost anything) and Susan Wolf (especially the classic “Moral Saints”, which was one of the articles that convinced me to become a philosopher).Report

Roman Altshuler
Roman Altshuler
11 months ago

Looking at the lists people have provided reminds me of something important: for many, and probably *most* classic papers, reading them alone, without instruction, isn’t very useful. What makes them important is that they are foundational–that other people picked up their ideas and ran with them. But with many of the classic papers of analytic philosophy, unless you’re already privy to a certain tradition that tells you what they were about and why this was important, reading them would never tell you that.Report

LESLIE GLAZER
LESLIE GLAZER
11 months ago

jonathan Lear. “Working Through The End of Civilization”

charles taylor “interpretation and the sciences of man”

charles taylor. “overcoming epistemology”

alasdair mcintyre. “moral dilemmas”Report

gradstudent3795
gradstudent3795
11 months ago

This is a great thread!

I like the idea of a pro-sem that picks a much discussed topic in a major area of analytic philosophy, then assigning students both classics and good, recent work on that topic. Some suggestions:

In normative ethics, on the plurality of value: Stocker’s “The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories” and Nagel’s “Fragmentation of value”; Wolf’s “Happiness and Meaning: A Plurality of Values Rather Than a Conflict of Norms” and Eden Lin’s “Welfare Invariabilism”.

In meta-ethics, on the Euthyphro question: Mackie’s “Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong”, chapter one and Williams’ “Internal and External reasons”; Sobel’s “Subjectivism and Reasons to be Moral” and Street’s “Constructivism about Reasons”.

In moral psychology, on what it is to value: Frankfurt’s “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person” and Lewis’ “Dispositional Theories of Value”; Scheffler’s “Valuing”.

In political philosophy, on the ideal/non-ideal distinction: relevant sections of Rawls; Mills’ “Ideal Theory as Ideology” and Estlund’s 2014 paper “Utopohobia.

In social philosophy, on social criticism and progress: Haslanger’s “Culture and Critique” and Anderson’s “Social Movements, Experiments in Living, and Moral Progress”.

In epistemology, on the nature of knowledge: Gettier’s famous paper and Williamsons’ “Knowledge as Evidence”; Hawthorne and Stanley’s “Knowledge and Action” and Weatherson’s “Knowledge, Bets and Interests”.

In metaphysics, on whether there are fundamental existents: Quine’s “On What There Is”; Schaffer’s “On What Grounds What”.

In mind, on what separates happenings from actions: Davidson’s “Actions, Reasons and Causes” and Velleman’s “What Happens When We Act”; Arpaly’s “A Causal Theory of Acting for Reasons” and Setiya’s “Reasons and Causes”.

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John Huss
11 months ago

“Ethics and Intuitions” by Peter Singer
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John Huss
11 months ago

“On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” by Donald DavidsonReport

MC
MC
10 months ago

I agree that we need to diversify philosophy. In this historical moment, what “central problems” are more important, philosophically or otherwise, than systemic inequality?
On that note, I don’t think anyone has mentioned critical disability theory.
“Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability,” Shelley Tremain
“The Minority Body,” Elizabeth Barnes
“The Individualist Model of Autonomy and the Challenge of Disability,” Anita Ho
“The Man-Not,” Tommy Curry
Also see: https://biopoliticalphilosophy.com/2020/06/01/interviews-with-black-indigenous-disabled-philosophers/Report

Eric Steinhart
8 months ago

Gloria Anzaldua, “Now let us shift…”Report