PHIL 285 -- The Constitution of Experience
Spring 2016

Instructor:    Clinton Tolley
   office:   HSS 8018
   hours:   Friday 1230-2pm
   email:   ctolley [at]

Instructor:  tbd
   office:   tbd
   hours:   tbd
   email:   tbd


Time:        Thurs 1:00pm--3:50pm (most weeks)
Location:  Philosophy Seminar Room (7th fl, HSS 7077) [map]

Required textbooks

{all required texts will be made available electronically}

Recommended textbooks


Course description

In this course we will focus on the history of 'constitution' theories of experience -- theories according to which experience is an achievement built up (constituted, constructed) out of other activities and states (mental and otherwise). 
  We will begin by tracing this theory-type back to some of its Aristotelian and Kantian roots.  Next we will look at what might be called the 'classical' age of such theorizing, i.e., the late 19th and early 20th century, which culminates in Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap, and classical phenomenology (here: Edith Stein), and which ultimately sets much of the course for more recent philosophy of mind/psychology. 
  We will then turn to the emergence of a second 'critical' turn, with its roots in Marx and Freud (among others), which sets out to problematize the narrowness of the classical conception of the conditions for experience, and ultimately to generalize the classical analysis to incorporate social, political, economic, and other cultural ('spiritual') forces.  Here we will read texts by Ernst Cassirer, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Marx himself -- along with authors who attempt to broaden even further still this critical analysis, to highlight the differentiation in the forms of 'lived experience' across differences in gender (Simone De Beauvoir) and race (James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon).

Topics to be covered will include:
Topics to be covered will include: 
* the notion of a mental capacity;
* the distinction between mental capacities, and their acquisition;
* the distinction between mental activity and its content;
* the notion of a complex mental act;
* the notion of a complex mental content;
* the idea of an order or progression among mental acts/contents;
* the question of the dependence of acts on contents, vice versa;
* the specification of experience in terms of a complex act/content;
* the idea of an order of conditions on the possibility of experiences;
* the role of other mental acts/contents (sensing, awareness, memory, imagination, conceiving) in experience;
* the 'subject' of experience (animal, ego, person; individual, group);
* the nature of the 'conditions' on experience (mental (psychological), logical, biological, social, cultural);
* the scope (universality, necessity) of these conditions;
* the role of value (moral, political, aesthetic) in the constitution of experience.

Course requirements

* attendance
* weekly brief (~3min) presentations in opening discussion
* weekly brief (~2pp) written responses to primary texts
* medium-length (~3000 word) final essay: critical engagement with one of our authors, related secondary literature

Schedule of topics

* week 1: Aristotle
* week 2: Kant
* week 3: Russell
* week 4: Carnap
* week 5: Stein
* week 6: Cassirer
* week 7: Merleau-Ponty
* week 8: Marx
* weeks 9: De Beauvoir
* week 10: Baldwin, Fanon

Satisfaction of grad program distribution requirements

This course can satisfy the history of philosophy requirement and the philosophy of mind/language requirement.  If you'd like to satisfy a different requirement, please contact me directly.

Reference links

{stanford routledge encyclopedia entries}

Course URL

last updated: March 27th, 2016