Graduate Program

Areas of Study

Epistemology and Metaphysics

The core philosophical areas of epistemology and metaphysics are well represented in the intellectual life of the UC San Diego Philosophy Department. These areas lie at the center of the research of several of our faculty members. Topics include: free will, Humean supervenience, laws of nature, spacetime, causation, natural kinds, color, the self, reduction, modality, properties, truth,realism, foundations of knowledge, foundations of logic, abstract and empirical knowledge, explanation, evidence, rationality, and perception.

Faculty

  • Craig Callender.  Various areas of metaphysics including the nature of time, Humean supervenience, and objective probability; also time, causation, laws of nature and natural kinds.
  • Nancy Cartwright. Philosophy and history of science (especially physics and economics), causal inference and objectivity in science.
  • Jonathan Cohen. Metaphysics of color, laws of nature, explanation, the metaphysics of information, the metaphysics and epistemology of representation, perception, and perceptual interaction.
  • Matthew Fulkerson. Perception, pain, reasons, motivation, and justification; focus on sense and haptic touch.
  • Rick Grush. Understanding the mind and the nature of mental representation, as well as the physically implemented information processing mechanisms that make them possible.
  • Kerry McKenzie. Metaphysics of science, especially modality, fundamentality, structuralism, naturalism, and realism.
  • Dana Nelkin. Relationship between freedom, determinism, and mechanism, and in our limits and commitments as rational agents; free will.
  • Sam Rickless. Metaphysics and epistemology that connect with the philosophy of language.
  • Gila Sher. Epistemic friction and epistemic freedom, foundations without foundationalism (foundational holism), a neo-Quinean model of knowledge, a substantivist approach to truth, the unity and diversity of truth, moderate pluralism of correspondence principles, the foundational problem of logic, logic and reality, structuralism in logic and mathematics, formality as an ontological notion.
  • Eric Watkins. Kant's metaphysical and epistemological views; epistemology: (1) In what way might sensations be relevant to justifying (empirical) knowledge (without falling prey to the so-called "myth of the given")? (2) Is there justification for thinking that we can know only how reality appears to us and not reality itself? (3) Could we know that we are free in a fundamental respect (despite the apparent hold of determinism)?

Recent Graduate Seminars in Epistemology and Metaphysics

  • Is There Truth in Ethics? (Sher)
  • Testimony, Social Epistemology, and Perceptual Justification (Fulkerson)
  • The Metaphysics of the Non-Fundamental (McKenzie)
  • Realism and Anti-Realism in the Natural and Social Sciences (Cartwright)
  • Physics and the Metaphysics of Fundamentality (McKenzie)
  • Truth and Scientific Change (Sher)
  • The Metaphysics and Ethics of Omissions (Nelkin and Rickless)
  • Laws, Modality, and Properties in Naturalistic Metaphysics (Bigaj and Wuthrich)
  • Kripke's Reference and Existence and Philosophical Troubles (Cohen and Rickless)
  • Reduction and Emergence (Wuthrich)
  • Kant, cognition, and the destruction of metaphysics (Watkins)
  • Evidence and singular causes (Cartwright)
  • The metaphysics and ethics of omissions (Nelkin and Rickless)
  • Pragmatics (Cohen)

Reading and Research Groups

Ethics and Social-Political Philosophy

The Philosophy Department has significant interests, resources, and offerings in various parts of moral philosophy, broadly understood, especially normative ethics, moral psychology, history of ethics, political philosophy, applied ethics and jurisprudence. The primary focus of the ethics program is in the analytical tradition, though the department also has significant resources in the continental tradition, especially the moral and social philosophy associated with German idealism and critical theory.

Undergraduate course offerings span most parts of value theory, including classics in moral and political philosophy, contemporary moral theory and metaethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, biomedical and environmental ethics, and aesthetics. The department participates in the undergraduate law and society minor. The department also participates in a new bioethics minor.

At the graduate level, faculty tend to alternate between seminars that cover central or foundational issues in ethical theory, history of ethics, political philosophy and jurisprudence, and seminars that focus on current research projects of faculty members. In recent years graduate students have chosen to write Ph.D. theses in ethical theory metaethics, political philosophy and the history of ethics. Interested faculty and graduate students participate in various reading groups in ethics; students may also participate in the University of San Diego Institute for Law and Philosophy activities.

Faculty

  • Lucy Allais. Kant’s philosophy and on topics related to ethics and justice such as forgiveness and punishment; interests in bioethics.
  • Georgios Anagnostopoulos. Ancient philosophy including Greek ethics, especially the moral and political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle; contemporary conceptions of liberalism and perfectionism.
  • Richard Arneson. Ethical theory and social and political philosophy, with a special emphasis on theories of distributive justice; also interested in the moral and political philosophy of J.S. Mill.
  • Saba Bazargan-Forward. Applied ethics and normative ethics; just war theory; theories of individual responsibility for collectively committed harms.
  • David Brink. Ethical theory, the history of ethics, and jurisprudence; metaethics about the objectivity of ethics and on various figures in the history of ethics, including the Greeks, Kant, Mill, Sidgwick, and Green.
  • Gerald Doppelt. Political philosophy, especially debates between liberals and communitarians about the nature of liberty, equality, and justice.
  • Michael Hardimon. History of philosophy with a focus on moral and social philosophy in the Kantian and German idealist traditions; interests in contemporary moral and political philosophy and issues involving race.
  • Monte JohnsonEarly Greek Ethics, Aristotle’s Practical Philosophy, Hellenistic Ethics and Political Science.
  • Andy Lamey. Applied ethics, normative ethics and political philosophy.
  • Dana Nelkin. Moral psychology; free will and moral responsibility; moral theory.
  • Sam Rickless. Greek ethics, especially Plato's ethics; history of ethics, moral theory, and jurisprudence.
  • Donald Rutherford. Early modern philosophy including interests in early modern moral philosophy, especially that of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Leibniz.
  • Other UC San Diego Philosophy faculty with significant interests in value theory include Craig Callender (environmental ethics), Jonathan Cohen (metaethics), and Eric Watkins (Kant's ethics).

Recent Graduate Seminars in Ethics

  • Legal Interpretation (Rickless)
  • Global Justice (Arneson)
  • Metaethics Classics (Brink)
  • Complicity (Bazargan)
  • Friendship, Freedom, and Morality (Nelkin)
  • Spinoza’s Ethics (Rutherford)
  • The Philosophy of Race (Hardimon)
  • The Morality of Self-Defense and War (Bazargan)
  • The Metaphysics and Ethics of Omissions (Nelkin and Rickless)
  • Distributive Justice: Basic Issues (Arneson)
  • 19th and 20th Century Ethics (Brink)

Reading and Research Groups

  • Moral and Political Philosophy Seminar
  • Research Ethics and Biomedical Ethics
  • Political Theory Group (Political Science)

History of Philosophy

UCSD offers extensive opportunities for coursework and research in the history of philosophy. In addition to graduate seminars and dissertation supervision, faculty participate in the History of Philosophy Roundtable (where graduate students and faculty present their research), facilitate translation groups, organize reading groups that discuss recently published books of general interest, maintain web-resources, and host conferences that bring leading scholars to UCSD. The wide range of faculty interests and expertise, the variety of historiographical approaches pursued, and the numerous activities available to graduate students create a lively intellectual environment, making UCSD an excellent place for students interested in the history of philosophy.

Faculty

  • Lucy Allais. Kant’s philosophy, topics related to wrong-doing and justice such as forgiveness and punishment; interests also in bioethics.
  • Georgios Anagnostopoulos. Ancient philosophy - both Aristotle and Plato – centered around ethics, metaphysics, science, technology and human values.
  • David Brink. Ethical theory, history of ethics, and jurisprudence; in the history of ethics, emphases on the Greeks, Kant, Mill, Sidgwick, and Green.
  • Michael Hardimon. Hegel and the development of ethical thought in German philosophy from Kant to Nietzsche, as well as its relevance for contemporary ethical theory; also has strong interests in Kant and Nietzsche.
  • Monte Johnson. Ancient philosophy and its influence on medieval and early modern philosophy with special interests in natural philosophy (especially cosmology and biology) and scientific method in order to interpret and reconstruct Greek philosophy.
  • Sam Rickless. Wide range of topics in the history of philosophy, with emphasis on 17th and 18th century Western European philosophy, and strong interest in ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Plato).
  • Donald Rutherford. Early modern philosophy and the reception of ancient philosophy in the early modern period, focusing on topics in metaphysics and ethics; secondary interests in eighteenth-century European philosophy and Nietzsche.
  • Clinton Tolley.  History of philosophy of logic, in particular, on the history of attempts -- and criticisms of attempts -- to provide metaphysical and/or epistemological foundations for logic; interests also in nature of concepts in Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Frege.
  • Eric Watkins. Kant's theoretical and practical philosophy and the history of modern philosophy more generally, both before and after Kant; interests in metaphysics and the history of philosophy of science.
  • Other UC San Diego Philosophy faculty with significant interests in the history of philosophy include Richard Arneson (Mill), Rick Grush (18th and 19th century philosophers of mind), Dana Kay Nelkin (Kant’s ethics), and Gila Sher (Kant’s theoretical philosophy). 

Recent Graduate Seminars in the History of Philosophy

  • Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Hardimon)
  • Wisdom in Ancient Philosophy (Johnson/Rutherford)
  • Kant’s Ethics (Allais and Watkins)
  • Consciousness and Intentionality in German Idealism (Tolley)
  • Spinoza’s Ethics (Rutherford)
  • Justice and Equality in Plato and Aristotle (Anagnostopoulos)
  • Pyrrhonian Scepticism (Johnson)
  • Kant, Cognition and the Destruction of Metaphysics (Watkins)
  • Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science: the Posterior Analytics (Johnson)
  • Plato and Aristotle on the Individual and Common Good (Anagnostopoulos)
  • Kant and the Limits of Knowledge (Tolley and Watkins)
  • Greek Ethics (Brink)
  • History of Ethics: From Aquinas to Locke (Rutherford)
  • Eighteenth-Century Ethics (Rickless)
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Ethics (Brink)
  • Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science (Johnson)
  • Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Watkins)
  • Russell: Metaphysics and the Theory of Meaning (Tolley)

Reading, Research and Translation Groups

Philosophy of Mind and Language

Our program is highly ranked in the areas of Philosophy of Mind (Philosophical Gourmet speciality ranking group 5), Philosophy of Cognitive Science (Philosophical Gourmet specialty ranking group 3), Mathematical Logic (Philosophical Gourmet specialty ranking group 4). 

The areas of Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Perception, Philosophy of Language, and Cognitive Science are longstanding strengths in the UC San Diego Philosophy Department. We have several noted faculty members working in these areas, on a diverse range of topics including theories of mental representation, the nature of perception and its modalities, temporal experience, bodily awareness, pain, the philosophy of neuroscience, phenomenology, semantics, theories of reference, and explanation in cognitive science.

Many of these topics connect directly with philosophical issues in metaphysics, epistemology, moral psychology, and the philosophy of science. In many cases, it also connects directly with work done in other fields, especially in cognitive science, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, and psychology. Work in this area is enhanced by the Department's connections with the UC San Diego Cognitive Science Program as well as the Philosophy Department's less formal connections with several other UCSD departments including Linguistics, Neuroscience, and Psychology.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Cohen. Metaphysics of color, the metaphysics and epistemology of representation, perception, philosophy of psychology, perceptual interaction, philosophy of language, semantics, and pragmatics.
  • Matthew Fulkerson. Perception, pain, motivation, and justification with a focus on haptic touch and bodily awareness.
  • Rick Grush. Understanding the mind and the nature of mental representation, as well as the physically implemented information processing mechanisms that make them possible.
  • Sam Rickless. Metaphysics and epistemology that connect with the philosophy of language.
  • Clinton Tolley. Phenomenology (especially Brentano, Husserl, and the early Heidegger).

Recent Graduate Seminars in Philosophy of Mind

  • Beyond Perception: A Philosophical Exploration of the Sensory Frontier (Fulkerson)
  • Pain and Pleasure (Fulkerson)
  • Seminar on Philosophy of Language: Context sensitivity and the sexiness of the hidden (Cohen)
  • Seminar on Pragmatics (Cohen)
  • Seminar on Temporal Experience (Grush)
  • Philosophy of Language: The Varieties of Reference (Grush)
  • Consciousness and Intentionality in German Idealism (Tolley)

Reading and Research Groups

Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of Science studies the methodology, foundations and implications of science. It seeks answers to general questions, such as the nature of scientific evidence or laws, and also questions restricted to particular sciences, such as the measurement problem in quantum mechanics or the nature of selection in biology. It can also bear on science policy, for example, on the use of "evidence-based" medicine, on genetically modified food, or on climate modeling. In all of its forms philosophy of science is and has been a major strength of the UC San Diego Philosophy Department for over 30 years.

Many of our faculty members are distinguished researchers in this broad field, especially in

  • philosophy of psychology and cognitive science
  • philosophy of perception
  • philosophy of biology
  • philosophy of social science
  • philosophy of physics
  • general methodological and philosophical issues in science

If they wish, students pursuing a PhD in philosophy of science have the option of applying to do interdisciplinary degrees with either of the following:

The Philosophy Department has a partnership with the Department of Logic, Philosophy & Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. The program with LSE is an exchange where graduate students can apply to go to LSE for a quarter during their study. Philosophers of science also benefit from the Department's close association with the Salk Institute across the street from campus, UC Irvine, UC Davis, and members of many different departments on campus.

Faculty

  • Lucy Allais. Bioethics.
  • William Bechtel. Philosophy of life sciences, including cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, and cognitive science.
  • Craig Callender. Philosophy of physics, philosophy of time and the philosophy and metaphysics of science.
  • Nancy Cartwright. History and philosophy of science (especially physics and economics), causal inference, and objectivity in science.
  • Jonathan Cohen. Topics at the intersection of philosophy of mind, language, and perception, particularly as these are informed by psychology, linguistics, and vision science; color and color vision.
  • Gerald Doppelt. Conflicts between empiricist, historicist, and pragmatic conceptions of science (including social science), especially concerning the role of observational data in validation.
  • Matthew Fulkerson. Philosophical issues that arise from the investigation of human haptic touch, multisensory experience, spatial representation, the affective character of perception, and the relationship between perception and bodily awareness.
  • Rick Grush. Theoretical cognitive science and the metaphysics of mind and representation.
  • Monte JohnsonHistory and Philosophy of Greco-Roman Science; Influence of Ancient Philosophy on Medieval and Early Modern Science.
  • Kerry McKenzie. Metaphysics of science, especially modality, fundamentality, structuralism, naturalism and realism.
  • Eric Watkins. History of philosophy of science, specializing in Kant's philosophy of science and its historical context (i.e., Leibnizian and Newtonian natural philosophy) as well as the role of matter, the laws that govern it, and the forces that are active in it. 

Recent Graduate Seminars in Philosophy of Science

  • Race, Biology & Medicine (Hardimon)
  • Objectivity (Cartwright)
  • Philosophy of Natural & Social Science (Cartwright)
  • Heat, Time and Roulette Wheels (Callender/Wüthrich)
  • Biological Mechanisms (Bechtel)
  • Time (Callender)

Reading and Research Groups

  • Medical Humanities Reading Group
  • PhilSci Reading Group (PSRG)
  • Philosophy of Biology Research Group (PBRG)
  • Philosophy of Physics Research Group (PPRG)

Staff Contact

Anna Shonle
Graduate Program Coordinator
Phone: (858) 534-3076
Email: ashonle@ucsd.edu

Faculty Contact

Eric Watkins
Director of Graduate Studies
Phone: (858) 822-0082
Email: ewatkins@ucsd.edu