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 students’ 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 one!
My primary teaching interests are in practical philosophy including normative ethics, political theory, and gender and feminist philosophy. I also have extensive experience teaching experience in applied courses that deal with contemporary public issues, bioethics, and environmental ethics. In addition, I have taught modules on other topics as diverse as as epistemology, philosophy of identity, and historical perspectives on thinkers like Nietzsche.
For more information on my teaching philosophy, commitment to inclusive pedagogy, as well as other teaching materials (including teaching evaluations) please check out my teaching portfolio.
- Introduction to Philosophy
Taught Summer 2019 at Northwestern University, Syllabus Link
Our course begins with ‘epistemology,’ which is the label philosophers use for an examination of knowledge and knowing. 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 to 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 (asynchronous) in the Summer 2020 at Northwestern University, 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 its lack). We will discuss how to understand freedom and the authority of democracy and we 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 will focus on asking how it ought to be arranged. After taking this course students will be prepared to articulate and evaluative proposals about how the world should be.
- Environmental Ethics: What Do We Owe to The Earth and Its Denizens
Taught Remotely (synchronous) in the Summer of 2021 at Northwestern University. Syllabus Link
This is a course in environmental ethics. Together we will consider normative questions related to the environment; rather than asking how we in fact relate to the environment we will ask how we ought to interact with it. This exploration comes in two parts: The first focuses on who or what has moral status while the second explores the moral responsibilities that follow from our understanding of the status question.
We will analyze arguments that suggest those with moral standing include all (and only) human beings, sentient life generally, all living beings—including plants, natural collectives like the Chicago River Watershed or the Congo Rainforest, or even non-living natural objects such as the Himalayas or Amazon River. The next part of the course asks us what our conception of moral standing means for our individual and collective responsibilities. Is it ever permissible to eat other animals or might veganism be morally obligatory? What does the prospect of environmental degradation or climate change mean for our individual consumption choices or the politicians we support? Might developed countries owe climate reparations to developing ones? And does the prospect of a warming planet or animal exploitation legitimate acts of civil disobedience, ‘monkeywrenching’, or (possibly violent) protest?
4. Bioethics (or Ethics and Medicine)
Taught In-Person Winter Term (2021-22) at Phillips Academy – Andover Syllabus Link
This is a course in ethics and moral philosophy. This course deals with normative questions around what is (morally) valuable and how we, individual agents, ought to act in response to these values. In particular, it is an applied ethics course because our target is the field of bioethics (ethics of life).
We begin by jumping right into ethical thinking. We will start our first two weeks exploring the question of animal experimentation. What moral status do other animals have and are we justified in using them for experimental purposes—if so, what justifies our treatment of them? We’ll explore this question from the perspective of three sorts of moral theories. After the winter break, we’ll turn some other questions of bioethics, questions that will be up to you! These might include discussion of abortion, an exploration of public health (especially as it relates to pandemic policies we know so directly), the moral legitimacy of the profit motive in healthcare, or questions of consent for medical treatment (or cessation).
NOTE: The actual content for this class as taught is included in the linked syllabus. We covered animal experimentation, abortion, several issues in biotech with a focus on the (possible) distinction between ‘enhancement’ and medical therapy, and we wrapped the course up with some discussions of political philosophy and healthcare which included whether me have a right to healthcare, an exploration of whether the delivery of healthcare as such might foster oppression.
5. Introduction to Ethics
Taught In-Person Fall 2021, Winter 2021-22, and Spring 2022 at Phillips Academy – Andover Winter Syllabus Link
This is an introductory level philosophy course in ethics and moral philosophy. This course deals with normative questions around what is (morally) valuable and how we, individual agents, ought to act in response to these values.
We start this course by doing ethics on day 1. The term start by trying to answer whether it is ever ok to judge others morally and discuss moral and cultural relativism. We will then explore the possibility that we have serious obligation to those suffering from ills like poverty. These discussions will help us 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. We will then use these tools to think about some questions in political philosophy related to distributive justice. The class concludes by spending several sessions exploring environmental ethics. We’ll see how some consequentialists, Kantians, and virtue theorists think through questions of ‘who’ matters morally and what we might owe—if anything at all—non-standard moral subjects like non-human animals.
- 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 us 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.
This is an intermediate level philosophy course dealing with key questions relating to gender, sex, and power. 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 mean 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 developing subfield in philosophy of technology dealing with the ethical issues related to the development of Artificial Intelligence. By the course’s 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 as an object of moral reasoning for human beings. 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 (a) alter the labor market and change the distribution of wealth and work, (b) put human existence at risk, perhaps because they become superintelligent and surpass human beings in rationality, or (c) be participates in 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.