Middlebury

 

John Spackman

Associate Professor of Philosophy

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Phone: work802.443.3271
Office Hours: Monday 11:00-12:30 and Wednesday 1:30-3:00
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John Spackman earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University. He also has an M.A. in Religion from Columbia University, where he focused on Buddhist philosophy and religion, and he received his B.A. in philosophy from Grinnell College. His primary teaching and research interests are in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of religion, and aesthetics. He regularly teaches courses in all of these areas, including PHIL 0352 Philosophy of Mind, PHIL 0360 Consciousness, PHIL 0354 Philosophy of Language, PHIL 0232 Philosophy of Religion, and PHIL 0232 Aesthetics.

The focus of Professor Spackman's current research is on the relation between experience and language, and in particular on recent debates about whether various types of experience should be viewed as conceptual or non-conceptual - as mediated by concepts, or as independent of concepts. He is currently working on several articles specifically about whether everyday visual experience is conceptual or nonconceptual, but he is also interested in this question as it concerns religious experience and aesthetic experience. A background interest for these questions concerns the nature of concepts themselves, specifically whether and how they are structured, and what this structure implies about the categorization of experience. He also has a special research interest in Buddhist philosophy, and in particular on Buddhist perspectives on the relations between mind, language, and reality.

 

Courses


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indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

NSCI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
Students enrolled in NSCI 0500 complete individual research projects involving laboratory or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and approved in advance by a NSCI faculty advisor. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in NSCI 0700. (Approval required)

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
This course is for senior NSCI majors who plan to conduct one or more semesters of independent research, or who plan to complete preparatory work toward a senior thesis, such as researching and writing a thesis proposal as well as, if appropriate, collecting data that will form the basis for a senior thesis. Senior NSCI majors who plan to complete a senior thesis should register initially for NSCI 0700. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (Approval required, open to seniors only)

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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NSCI 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Senior NSCI majors who have completed one or more terms of NSCI 0700, who have a GPA of 3.3 in their major courses, and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for NSCI 0701 for the final semester of the senior thesis process. Students enrolled in NSCI 0701 write a thesis, give a public presentation of their research, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least two Neuroscience faculty members. Faculty may recommend High honors in Neuroscience after considering the quality of these components of a student’s thesis and the student’s GPA in major courses. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (NSCI 0700, Approval required)

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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PHIL 0151 - Intro Phil: Mortal Question      

Introduction to Philosophy: Mortal Questions
This course is an issue-based introduction to core philosophical questions such as the following: What is the nature of reality, and can we ever know it? What is the relation between mind and body, and could computers ever think? What is the nature of the self? Do humans have free will? Is there such a thing as an objective right and wrong? Can we say God exists in the face of all the evil in the world? Readings will be drawn from both traditional philosophers (e.g., Descartes, Hume, Locke, Russell) and contemporary reflections on the issues (e.g., Nagel, Searle, Williams). Cannot be taken by students with credit for PHIL 0150. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

EUR PHL

Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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PHIL 0232 / RELI 0232 - Philosophy of Religion      

Philosophy of Religion
In the first part of this course we will focus on philosophical reflections on the existence of God, the relation between religion and morality, the existence of evil, arguments for and against religious belief, and religious experience. We will read texts by Pascal, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, William James, and Freud. In the second part we will focus on the place of religion in society, considering what it means to live in a secular society, the relation between secularism and modernity, and the resulting modern forms of religious experience and practice. 3 hrs. lect.

CW PHL

Fall 2010, Fall 2012

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PHIL 0233 - Aesthetics      

Aesthetics
In this course we will investigate the nature of art and aesthetic experience through readings from historical and contemporary philosophers and artists. Is art essentially rational or non-rational, and can it offer a deeper insight into reality than discursive knowledge can? What is beauty, and is it essential to art? What is the relation between art and the ethical, the social, and the political? We will consider both influential traditional theories of art such as those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, and more recent modern and postmodern critiques of traditional views. Readings will also include works by artists such as Van Gogh and Kandinsky.

ART EUR PHL

Spring 2011, Spring 2013

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PHIL 0352 - Philosophy Of Mind      

Philosophy of Mind
What is the nature of the mind, and how does it relate to the body and the physical world? Could computers ever think? Do animals have mental and emotional lives? This course will explore several of the major recent philosophical conceptions of the mind. A central focus will be on evaluating various attempts to explain the mind in purely physical terms, including the project of artificial intelligence (AI). Can these theories give us a complete understanding of the mind? Other key questions will include: What is the nature of thought, and how is it capable of representing the world? What is consciousness, and can it be explained physically? 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

PHL

Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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PHIL 0354 / LNGT 0354 - Philosophy of Language      

Philosophy of Language
Speaking a language is a complex form of behavior that plays a rich and varied role in human life. The philosophy of language seeks to give a philosophical account of this phenomenon, focusing on such questions as: How does language gain meaning? How does it differ from animal communication? Is language in some sense innate? Other topics to be addressed include: theories of reference and truth; the relation between language, thought, and reality; and theories of metaphor. Readings from philosophers and linguists will include works by Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, and Pinker. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver; PHIL 0180 is also strongly recommended)3 hrs lect.

PHL

Fall 2011, Spring 2014

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PHIL 0360 - Consciousness      

Consciousness
In this course we will focus on recent philosophical issues in the study of consciousness: What is the nature of our conscious subjective experience? What is the function of conscious states? Can we find neural correlates of consciousness, and if so, can consciousness simply be reduced to them? If not, how does consciousness relate to the physical? Is there something irreducible about the qualitative features of consciousness (qualia)? Could computers ever be conscious? Are animals conscious? We will consider such questions through the writings of contemporary philosophers and neuroscientists such as Dennett, Chalmers, Churchland, Nagel, Damasio, and Searle. (PHIL 0352 is strongly recommended but not required). 3 hrs. lect.

PHL

Spring 2011, Fall 2014

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PHIL 0422 - Mind And World      

Mind and World
What is the nature of reality? Does reality exist independently of the mind (realism), or is it dependent on the minds that know it (idealism)? This seminar will consider various responses to the debate between realism and idealism in recent Anglo-American philosophy. Beginning with Bertrand Russell, twentieth century Anglo-American philosophy focused in particular on the issue of whether, and how, language "constructs" the world. We will examine the views of seminal thinkers such as Russell, James, and Wittgenstein, and then consider the shape of the contemporary debate in thinkers such as Davidson, Rorty, and McDowell. An important theme of the course will be recent efforts, stemming from Wittgenstein, to move beyond the traditional realism/idealism dichotomy by developing a new form of realism in which reality itself has subjective characteristics, and subjects are immediately in touch with reality. (Designed for junior and senior majors; open to others by waiver.) 3 hrs. lect.

PHL

Spring 2012

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PHIL 0500 - Resrch In Philosophy      

Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval requiredl.

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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PHIL 0700 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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PHIL 1025 / RELI 1025 - Buddhist/Western Phil of Mind      

Buddhist and Western Philosophies of Mind
In this course we will examine traditional and contemporary Buddhist and Western philosophies of mind, comparing Cartesian mind-body dualism and contemporary materialism with Buddhist conceptions of mind, which seek a middle path between the two. Other topics include Buddhist and contemporary Western views of self; notions of the unconscious construction of reality; and recent scientific studies on meditation. We will read works by traditional authors such as Descartes and Vasubandhu, recent authors (e.g., the Dalai Lama and Owen Flanagan) who combine Buddhist and Western views, and articles on contemporary philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and phenomenology. The course will also include a practicum on meditation as a method for investigating consciousness directly. This course counts as elective credit towards the Religion major or as elective credit towards the Philosophy major.

CMP NOR PHL WTR

Winter 2012

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