I teach philosophy because I believe the reasoning skills constitutive of good philosophical argument enable students to become better moral actors; an especially important skill as our globalizing world puts us in contact with an ever-increasing number of people from diverse backgrounds with distinct ways of life.
To that end my pedagogy focuses on developing my student’s critical reasoning capacities. Nevertheless, I am consistently pleased to find that many of my students also come to share my estimation that philosophy’s subject matter is itself a rich and enjoyable!
My primary teaching interests are in practical philosophy including normative ethics, political theory, and gender and feminist philosophy. I also have extensive experience teaching applied courses that deal with contemporary public issues, bioethics, and environmental ethics. In addition, I have experience teaching on topics as diverse as epistemology and philosophy of identity to historical courses on Nietzsche.
Click here for more information on my teaching philosophy, commitment to diverse pedagogy, and student evaluations as well as other teaching materials outlined in my teaching portfolio.
- Introduction to Philosophy
Taught Summer 2019, Syllabus Link
Our course begins with a discussion of knowledge, what philosophers call ‘epistemology.’ We’ll struggle with the problem of skepticism and the possibility that we’re being tricked by an evil demon to perceive an external world that isn’t there. We’ll then discuss the problem of personal identity and the self. If I enter a teleporter that copies my body, cell by cell, and rebuilds a copy on Mars, did it rebuild me? We’ll then shift our attention to the questions of moral and political theory and try to answer questions like: “What is the scope and demandingness of morality? How much do I owe the poor or other nonhuman animals?” We’ll also engage more theoretical questions like “What would make a good moral theory?” We next widen our focus to the level of society. We’ll first think about what justice entails using a veil of ignorance thought experiment. We’ll also explore an analogical argument that bosses are like dictators and that as with the state, the workplace should be more democratic. In another class we’ll ask if a camping trip can demonstrate the moral superiority of socialism. In our final class we ask whether we can legitimately judge other people, societies, and cultures, or if instead truth is more relative.
After a few intense weeks of study students will leave this course with a better sense of what they believe, how to argue for it, and how to listen to and understand the views of their interlocutors.
- Political Philosophy; The State, Economy, and Society
Taught Remotely/Online in the Summer 2020, Syllabus Link
This course begins with a brief introduction to political philosophy wherein we will look at two tools of philosophy, deductive argument and thought experiments. In addition, I’ll give you all a quick and dirty introduction to moral philosophy. In the second part of the course we will focus on the authority of the state (or it’s lack). We will discuss how to understand freedom, the authority of democracy, and will even consider some anarchist objections to the state generally. We then turn our attention to the economy and distributive justice. Here we will evaluate justifications for capitalist and socialist property schemes as well as the justification of the market. In the last part of this course we will look at several different topics of applied political theory. Topics in this section will include: global poverty and effective altruism, the moral standing of non-human animals and the permissibility of eating them, power and oppression, epistemic injustice, and the justifiability of rioting (even in democratic states).
This course deals with normative philosophy. Rather than asking how the world is arranged we’ll focus on how it ought to be. After taking this course students will be prepared to articulate and evaluative proposals about how the world should be.
- Moral Philosophy
This is an introductory level philosophy course in moral philosophy for majors and nonmajors. This course deals with normative questions around what is (morally) valuable and how we, individual agents, ought to act in response to these values. The course prepares students to articulate their own ethical thinking and the justification for it while fairly engaging with the values of those they disagree with.
This course begins by jumping right into ethical thinking. We will begin by trying to answer whether it is ever ok to judge others morally. We will then look at what moral responsibilities some philosophers argue we have to the global poor. These discussions will help up see the need for theories to answer moral questions and so in our next set of classes we will consider three sorts of ethical theory: consequentialism, virtue ethics, and Kantian deontology. With these tools in hand, we will look at the scope of morality and ask ‘who’ or ‘what’ matters morally via a discussion of nonstandard moral subjects including non-human animals, Artificial Intelligence, and even future people. In the final section of this course, we’ll devote our attention to important questions related to oppression. We’ll ask how individuals might be oppressed as members of certain groups based on sex, gender, race, and economic class. We’ll then conclude our course with a topical discussion touching on the legitimacy of protest or riot.
- Gender, Politics, and Philosophy
This is an intermediate level philosophy course dealing with key questions relating to gender, sex, and power. By the end of the course students will be able to engage effectively (and charitably) with a diverse collection of arguments in feminist philosophy about the importance of sex and gender in social and political theory.
It begins with brief overview of two concepts important to philosophy: ‘validity’ and ‘soundness’ and an introduction to normative philosophy and critical theory. In week 2 we dive right into the content of this course; feminist philosophy especially as it engages with social and political questions. We will spend three weeks trying to answer the question “What does it means to be a woman” which will allow us to explore the concepts of sex and gender; the ‘gender binary,’ sexual orientation, and trans experience. In week 5 the class turns toward the critical. We will look at liberal feminist critiques of cultures that include sexist or openly misogynistic elements and we will explore the sort of near-term reforms of existing institutions that might protect the liberal human rights of women. In week 6 our critical theorizing becomes more radical as we consider the interaction and intersection of sexist or gendered oppression with oppressions arising from race and economic class. In particular we’ll engage with Black feminism as well as socialist and Marxist feminism. In the final weeks of this course, we’ll turn our attention to finding a way forward and away from oppression. Is the solution separatism (as advocated for by some radical lesbian feminists) or solidarity? We’ll also ask about where men (and masculinity) fits with all of this.
- Ethical Problems and Artificial Intelligence
This is an intermediate to advanced level philosophy course in ethics and social-political philosophy for majors and nonmajors. The objective of this course is to introduce you to an aspect of a vibrant and development subfield in philosophy of technology dealing with the ethical issues related to the development of Artificial Intelligence. By the course end you’ll be prepared to engage thoughtfully with the ethical issues posed by artificial intelligence and to articulate your reasons for a particular ethical orientation to them.
This course deals with normative questions related to and arising from present and (likely) future developments in ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) including ‘Artificial General Intelligence’ (AGI), the sort of AI that approaches and surpasses human capacities in reasoning and intelligence. The first half of the course explores ethical and political ramifications of AI for human beings as an object of moral reasoning. The second half of the course explores AI as subjects of moral reasoning exploring the possibility that we might owe things to AI. In particular we will explore how AI might (i) alter the labor market and change the distribution of wealth and work, (ii) put human existence at risk, perhaps because they become superintelligent and surpassing human beings in rationality, or (iii) be objects of relationships of friendship or sex with human beings. Our attention will then shift to AI as subjects of morality. We will explore whether (i) AI might have sentience that garners them moral standing, or (ii) if they might be moral persons capable of the full gamut of moral life. (iii) We will explore whether AI deserve legal or political rights and (iv) whether they might be able to live a good life at all. (v) We’ll also investigate the relationship between morality and rationality and (vi) whether AI might be good moral agents like you or I hope to be.