Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
philosophy masthead
David Sosa, Chair 2210 Speedway, WAG 316, Stop C3500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4857

Paul B Woodruff

Professor PhD, Princeton

Professor; Distinguished Teaching Professor
Paul B Woodruff

Contact

Biography

Well-known for his influential articles on Socrates and Plato, Professor Woodruff has also published a critical edition of Plato's Hippias Major (1982) as well as translations of Plato’s Ion(1983) and (with Alexander Nehamas) Symposium(1989) and Phaedrus (1995). He has also written on topics in aesthetics and ethics and translated works by Euripides, Sophocles, and Thucydides. His recent publications include The Necessity of Theater (Oxford University Press, 2008), The Ajax Dilemma (Oxford University Press, 2011), Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (2d Edition, Oxford University Press, 2014), and contributions The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy (1999), A Companion to Aristotle (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Cambridge Companion to Ancient Skepticism (2010), and A Companion to Sophocles (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has twice directed NEH seminars on ancient philosophy.

Interests

Ancient philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy and literature

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41780-41790 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 1
show description

The aim of this semester is to introduce topics in epistemology and metaphysics, initially through the works of two major philosophers, René Descartes (f. 1640) and David Hume (f. 1745). They will serve to introduce two main themes: the nature of knowledge and skepticism; and the nature of the human mind and action.

Descartes is known for two highly influential ideas. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris.

Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is famous for supposedly arguing for a form of skepticism that Descartes did not explicitly consider: skepticism about whether the future will resemble the past. His discussion of this issue is closely intertwined with a remarkable theory of causation, a theory which led him to hold that an action can be free, and so can merit praise or blame, even though it is causally determined. We will also discuss some aspects of Hume’s philosophy of religion, notably his section on miracles, and his presentation of the problem of evil. 

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

43190-43200 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm WAG 214
show description

The aim of this semester is to introduce topics in epistemology and metaphysics, initially through the works of two major philosophers, René Descartes (f. 1640) and David Hume (f. 1745). They will serve to introduce two main themes: the nature of knowledge and skepticism; and the nature of the human mind and action.

Descartes is known for two highly influential ideas. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris.

Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is famous for supposedly arguing for a form of skepticism that Descartes did not explicitly consider: skepticism about whether the future will resemble the past. His discussion of this issue is closely intertwined with a remarkable theory of causation, a theory which led him to hold that an action can be free, and so can merit praise or blame, even though it is causally determined. We will also discuss some aspects of Hume’s philosophy of religion, notably his section on miracles, and his presentation of the problem of evil. 

PHL 381 • Plato

43505 • Spring 2014
Meets M 630pm-930pm WAG 312
(also listed as GK 390 )
show description

MON., 12:30 - 3:30

Graduate standing and consent of graduate advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

The course will be a study of Plato’s approach to ethics, from Socrates’ nagging questions to the grand speculations of the Republic, in the light of recent work in ethics and meta-ethics.  This will be more philosophy than archaeology—more about whether Plato’s ethics stands up to criticism than about how to read the text.

We will begin with Socrates’ questions:  What do they presuppose about common human resources?  What do they presuppose about matters such as reverence and justice?   To what extent is Socrates committed to these presuppositions?  To what extent is the questioning defined by the pretensions of Socrates’ partners to know or to teach virtue?  In particular, is Socrates really committed to defining virtue as knowledge, or is this a consequence of his partners’ claims to teach virtue?  If he thinks virtue is knowledge, and truly thinks he does not have that knowledge, how does he think he manages to live a decent life?  After that, we will give special attention to Socrates’ arguments with those who appear to reject ethical values as folly, such as Thrasymachus and Callicles.

Plato was closely related to men whose ethical failures were colossal, leaders among the thirty tyrants.  Not surprisingly, he was driven by a passion to avert ethical failure in educated people, and this drive led him to important insights about the nature of education and effect of knowledge and ignorance on behavior.  With this in mind we will study Socrates’ response to Glaucon’s challenge, as well as his unblinking realization that even the ideal state will decay as a result of ethical deterioration.  This appears to be due to a number of factors, which we will investigate.

Not everyone will read all of the texts; we will to some extent divide and conquer.  If one or more members of the class wish to read texts in Greek we will set aside time for that outside class time, not in it.

Grading

Initial paper, first week, 5%.

Class presentation, in week assigned, 25%.

Rated on basis of the focus of the talk, clarity, quality of engagement with audience, use of texts, effectiveness of arguments.  (By “focus” I mean that the presentation may not be a summary; it must be organized around a thesis or a question/)

Notes assembled for class presentation, 20%.

Rated on focus, organization, clarity, judicious use of secondary material, definitions of terms used.

Participation, 30% 

Members of the class are expected to contribute to each week’s discussion.

Paper, developed from the notes, due two weeks after the presentation, 20%.

Texts

The Cooper edition of Plato’s dialogues, with commentaries and scholarly works as appropriate for individual student projects.

All will read Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Gorgias, and Republic. 

Some will read Charmides, Laches, Lysis, Hippias Major, Alcibiades, Symposium, or Phaedrus.

 

 

This course satisfies the History requirement

     

PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

42580-42590 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JGB 2.218
show description

The aim of this semester is to introduce topics in epistemology and metaphysics, initially through the works of two major philosophers, René Descartes (f. 1640) and David Hume (f. 1745). They will serve to introduce two main themes: the nature of knowledge and skepticism; and the nature of the human mind and action.

Descartes is known for two highly influential ideas. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris.

Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is famous for supposedly arguing for a form of skepticism that Descartes did not explicitly consider: skepticism about whether the future will resemble the past. His discussion of this issue is closely intertwined with a remarkable theory of causation, a theory which led him to hold that an action can be free, and so can merit praise or blame, even though it is causally determined. We will also discuss some aspects of Hume’s philosophy of religion, notably his section on miracles, and his presentation of the problem of evil. 

PHL 381 • Justice In Ancient Philosophy

42600 • Fall 2011
Meets M 600pm-900pm WAG 312
(also listed as GK 390 )
show description

Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required. 

Course Description

Very new and very old approaches to the age-old problem of justice, with attention to questions such as these:  Can justice be, at the same time, a political virtue and a virtue of character?  Is compassion compatible with justice?  What kinds of difference in individuals justifies difference in expectations, whether of benefits or of duties?  Must justice be principled?  Can it be consequentialist?  What sort of commitment could a particularist have to justice?  What is fairness in relation to justice?  Can there be justice among nations?  Across nations?  Among species?

We will bring new eyes to ancient texts, and we will cast eyes steeped in ancient lore on very recent ones.  After a very brief survey of early Greek thought about justice (including tragic poets), we will spend a few weeks on Plato, then Aristotle, then John Stuart Mill.  That will take less than half the semester.  After that, we will divide up modern authors.  Members of the seminar may choose from the list below or introduce authors they are interested in themselves.

Grading Policy

Two shortish papers (well under 2000 words), both to be presented in class (assuming the class is fairly small).  After the first month, there will be at least one paper presented per week.  One paper about a topic in ancient philosophy, and one paper about a recent work chosen by you (not necessarily from the list above).  The papers will count 40% each, and seminar participation will count 20%.

Reading

I will order no books, as I assume you will have most of these already, or else we will be reading different books.  For Plato, I prefer Hackett translations (Crito, Gorgias, Republic (Grube-Reeve version, 1992).  For Aristotle I prefer Reeve's Politics (Hackett, 1998) and Ostwald's Nicomachan Ethics (LLA 1962) 

Otherwise, lay in what books you wish, borrow from me, or depend on photocopies, as we will be reading what the class decides to read, and not all the same things.  We will allow one week for a brief review of Rawls (Political Liberalism, Expanded Edition 2005).  Among recent authors, I suggest, in alpha order:  Gillian Brock (Global Justice, 2009), G.A. Cohen (Rescuing Justice and Equality, 2008), Raymond Geuss (varia), Richard Kraut (What is Good and Why, 2007)), Martha Nussbaum (Frontiers of Justice, 2007), Joseph Raz (varia) , Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (2009), David Wiggins (in Ethics, 2006).   I promise not to read all of these, and you will not do so either.  We will divide up the work in order to achieve a general view of current work in this area. 

 

This seminar satisfies the History requirement

PHL 610AQ • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

43195 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 800-930 WAG 302
show description

Problems of Knowledge and Valuation
Phl 610QA—Fall 2009   (Unique numbers 43195-205)

Paul Woodruff
Office hours, Tuesdays, 4-5 PM in WAG 331, Thursdays, 4-5 PM
in FAC 406, and by appointment, 475-7000, pbw@mail.utexas.edu

Garrett Holmes
Office hours, Thursday, 10-11:30 in WAG 421,
and by appointment, gholmes@mail.utexas.edu

Themes

    What questions led thinkers to take a distinctively philosophical point of view?  And what is that point of view?  Does it look the same from pagan Greece as from classical China or the Christian era?  How does it look today?
    The first semester concerns classical questions about the good life. What sort of wisdom would enable a human being to live a better life? Can we come to know the nature of virtues such as justice and courage?   Is human nature good or bad?  Does education fulfill human nature or violate it?  We start with Plato (Euthyphro, Crito, Apology, Republic (selections), Phaedrus) because his work gives philosophy its first definition. After this we will turn to great ethical thinkers of the modern period), Kant (Groundwork), and Mill (Utilitarianism). Then a visit to China, with close readings of major texts and special attention to the problem of human nature (Confucius, Meng Tze, Hsun Tze).  At the end, we will come to grips with Aristotle’s Ethics, which will pull together most of the themes addressed by our earlier readings.
    The second semester will take up knowledge and reality—a little more Plato and Aristotle, then Descartes, Hume, and Kant.  Then we will review recent work on philosophy of mind along with—for a complete change of attitude—a look at recent neuroscience. 
    You will have to write a medium-length paper each semester (<1000 words), and this must be revised substantially at least once.   In the second semester you must do this and also deliver one brief, but highly polished, oration, either in class or in discussion section.  During both semesters you will write your thoughts about philosophy in a journal composed of response papers, to which Professor Woodruff or Mr. Holmes will respond five times each semester.

Requirements and Grading

First semester:  Discussion, 10%; mid-term exam, 25%; final exam, 35%; quizzes, 10%; paper, 20%. 

Response papers will be graded pass/fail.  For each response paper that is missing, late, or failing and not revised, a deduction equivalent to one minus will be made from the final cumulative grade (for example, from a B to a B-minus, or a B-minus to a C-plus). 

For the medium-length papers, penalties for late submissions (including topic statements and drafts) are as follows:  a deduction from the final grade of the equivalent of one half minus for each day the paper is late.

Papers will be submitted on Blackboard.

Students will have an opportunity to improve their grades by rewriting parts of their midterm exams.

Plus/minus grading will be in effect. 

Course Policies

Attendance is required at all lectures and discussions. The penalty for unexcused absence from discussion sections is the equivalent of a minus for each class missed. For lectures, the penalty is different:  If absent and not excused, you will miss the quiz for that day.  Quizzes will be frequent and unannounced.

The use of laptops, phones, and other gizmos for non-class related purposes will not be tolerated.  If you are texting, gaming, or otherwise distracted you will be asked to leave and marked absent from the class.  Cell phones should be put away during class; laptops may be used for note taking. 

If you use words or ideas that are not your own, in any paper or presentation, you must cite your sources.  Otherwise you will be guilty of plagiarism.  Uncited paraphrases are plagiarism.

The course will respect all religious holidays.  Let me know if this affects your attendance or other work in the course.

If you have a disability, the course will adapt to your needs in accordance with University policy. Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.  Again, let me know if this affects you.

Regular drop policies at UT:  9/11 is last day to drop for refund, 9/23 last day to drop without academic penalty, October 21, last day to drop.

Class materials will be posted on Blackboard, including advice on how to complete assignments.  You will be responsible for announcements made on Blackboard and sent to your email address.

About the Professor

Paul Woodruff loves ancient Greek philosophy and literature.  In recent years he has been studying the place where these meet, especially the clash between poetry and Plato’s writings.   He rows a single on Lady Bird Lake, builds furniture, plays the cello, and indulges in administration in his spare time.  His latest book is The Necessity of Theater.  He is currently writing a small book entitled The Ajax Dilemma:  Leadership, Justice, and the Management of Rewards. 

 
Calendar

Lectures, 8—9:30 AM, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Discussions, Tuesday mornings in WAG 210
Unique class 43195 at 9:30, 43200 at 10:30, and 43205 at 11:30

We will divide the class into two groups, the Virtuous and the Principled, with response papers due in alternate weeks from each group.  All response papers are due on Thursdays.

Lectures in a given week will deal with issues raised in the reading for that week.  In some cases, we will continue a Thursday topic on the following Tuesday.  Discussions on Tuesdays will concern the readings of the previous week.

Week 1.   August 27.  
    Judging claims to wisdom. 
    Plato’s Apology.   Read and prepare to discuss before the first class meeting.  Form the habit of reading assignments in philosophy at least twice.
       
Week 2.  September 1,3. 
    Testing claims:  Elenchus in Plato’s Euthyphro.
    Reasoning without wisdom in Crito.  
    Virtuous response paper #1.

Week 3.  September 8, 10.
    Persuasion, seduction:  Plato’s Phaedrus
    Principled response paper #1. 

Week 4.  September  15, 17.
    Seeking ideal justice:  Plato’s Republic (Grube/Reeve) Books 1, 2 (up to 378a), Book 3 (from 401b), and all of Book 4.
    Virtuous response paper #2.

Week 5.  September 22, 24. 
    Knowledge of justice:  Plato’s Republic (Grube/Reeve) Books 5, 6, and 7 (up to 521d).  (PBW will try to summarize the arguments of the books and passages in the Republic that are not assigned.)
    Principled response paper #2. 

Week 6.  September 29, October 1.
    Rational ethics:  Kant’s Groundwork (in Wood’s edition), Sections 1 and 2       
    Virtuous response paper #3.
    Guest lecture to be announced September 29. 

Week 7.  October 6, 8.
    Continue Kant, Section 3.
    Principled response paper #3.

    Topic statements due, Friday October 9, 5:00 PM.  These should be of about 100 words, outlining the question you will try to answer in your paper.  Do not answer it at this stage.  You should keep an open mind until you have done some further reading on the topic.  But do indicate the strategy you will take.  See the examples in “How to choose a paper topic.”
       
Week 8.  October 13, 15.     
    Review the Groundwork, read your choice from the four essays—at least one.
    Midterm exam, October 15, covering all reading to date.
   
Week 9.  October 20, discussion only.
    The greatest happiness:  Mill, Utilitarianism (in Basic Writings,) 1863
    Virtuous response paper #4.

    No lectures this week.  Sleep late if you wish.  We will make up the two classes with a special session Sunday evening, 6 to 9 PM.  Dinner will be served.  Place to be announced. For those who have a conflict with this time, we will schedule a second event to meet the same needs.
   
Week 10.  October 27, 29.
    Justice:  Mill, The Subjection of Women, 1869
    Principled response paper #4. 
   
Week 11.  November 3, 5.
    Confucian tradition:  Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self-Cultivation
    Drafts of term papers are due November 6, at 5:00 PM.


Week 12.  November 10, 12.
    Sorting selected bites of wisdom:  The Analects (Slingerland)
    Note:  I will supply a handout to help you navigate the Analects.  This will help you work out how to study for the final exam.
    Virtuous response paper #5.

Week 13.  November 17, 19. 
    Finding a wordless way:  Tao Te Ching (Addis and Lombardo)
    Principled response paper #5.
   
Week 14.  November 24. 
    Seeking eudaimonia: Aristotle’s Ethics Books 1 and 10.
    Thanksgiving.  Make a Turkey feel wanted.

Week 15.  December 1, 3.
    Seeking virtue:  Aristotle’s Ethics, Books 2 and 3.
    The meaning of life.  Possible lecture.
    Term papers are due December 4, 5:00 PM. 

    Final examination: Saturday, December 12, 9:00–12:00 noon, room TBA.  Cumulative. 


 
Books 

These Are Required in the Translations Specified Below

You will not recognize passages quoted in the exams if you read other translations.  In addition to the books listed here, you will be responsible for knowing the content of handouts made available in class.

Reeve, C.D.C.    The Trials of Socrates. Hackett Publishing Company (2002).   
    This includes Plato's Apology, Euthyphro, and Crito. 0-87220-589-4   

Plato, tr. Nehamas and Woodruff.    Phaedrus. Hackett Publishing Company  (1995).      0-87220-220-8

Plato, tr. Grube, rev. Reeve.  Republic.  Hackett Publishing Company (1992).
     0-87220-136-8

Kant, ed. Wood.  Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.  Yale (2002).
     0-300-09487-6

Mill, John Stuart.  Basic Writings. Modern Library pbk. edition  ( 2002).          0-375759182

Ivanhoe, Philip J.  Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. Hackett Publishing Company (2000).  0-872205088

Slingerland, Edward. Confucius Analects. Hackett Publishing Company (2003).     0-87220-635-1

Lao-Tzu, tr Addiss & Lombardo.  Tao Te Ching. Hackett Publishing Company (1992).   0-87220-232-1

Aristotle, tr. Ostwald.      Ethics.  Prentice Hall (1962).      0-02389-530-6

bottom border