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Instructor: Thomas Hofweber. This course meets R 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 213.

Topic: Idealism and the limits of conceptual representation

This seminar aims to investigate two connected topics. The first is idealism, roughly the view that minds, in particular minds like ours, are central to reality. Idealism was a historically prominent position, but its hardly held these days, apparently for good reasons. But some philosophers have continued to aim to defend positions that are metaphorically described as there not being a ready-made word, or as the world being for us, or as aspects of reality being projections of our conceptual structure, or the like. Idealism seems to take human beings too seriously by giving them a central place in reality, but maybe there is something to the idea driving the view. Our first topic is to see what options, if any, for idealism are still on the table, which ones aren’t, and why.

The second topic is the limits of conceptual representation, i.e. what we can represent in thought or language. Are all facts that obtain such that we can, at least in principle, represent them in thought or language. If not then some facts would be ineffable for us. Do we have reason to think that there are ineffable facts? Could anything be said about them? How do they relate to effable facts? What would follow for metaphysics or our attempts to come to know about large-scale features of the world if there were such facts? Can any sense be made of an idea that there is a close connection between our concepts and the facts, in a way that could support idealism?

In this seminar we will investigate both of these topics and how they are connected. We will read a number of articles by various contemporary authors as well as some chapters of my very much work in progress book manuscript on the topic.