Teaching

Teaching Philosophy

Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of Mind

Environmental Ethics

Teaching Philosophy

Mission. Students can make decisions that have tremendous and lasting consequences. They can vote (and/or choose not to vote). They can serve on juries. They can create other humans. You get the idea. Since students can make such momentous decisions, I try to introduce them to resources and methods that lead to better decisions. I do this by revealing our bad reasoning habits, challenging unreflective views, and offering tools for reasoning. [Jump To Top]

Open Access. Obviously, the tools of cognitive science and philosophy are interesting and useful beyond the classroom. So I try to share some of my teaching beyond the gates of universities. This is partly why I post to social media, write blog posts, and co-organize an open access conference. [Jump To Top]

Videos, Podcasts, Etc.. To make my courses more freely accessible and/or online education, I plan to turn course material into videos, podcasts, and other media. [Jump To Top]

1. Philosophy of Science

Science has become something of a fad. By that I mean that lots (LOTS) of nonscientists are interested in it. Oddly, some of these people say things about science that are just false. For example, people often say that science “proves” or “disproves” things. If you take a careful look at science, however, you find that this just isn’t true. And even scientists seem to misunderstand science. They say things like, “we don’t need philosophy.” However, this claim is obviously self-refuting since the claim, itself, cannot be justified without philosophy. People also say that science describes reality, that science is objective, that there is a single scientific method, etc. These claims sound right at first, but they are difficult to defend. [Jump To Top]

The problem. We don’t seem to know what we thought we knew about science. So what can we say about science? To borrow a refrain from Carol Cleland: science works; Exactly how and why science works, however, is less clear. [Jump To Top]

The primary theme of this course is just that: how and why science works. When you finish this course, you will be familiar with crucial moments in science, a few puzzles about science, and a few potential solutions to these puzzles. More generally, you will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose your own argument, how to make an objection to an argument, and how to respond to an objection to your argument. [Jump To Top]

2. Philosophy of Mind

We all have a folk theory about how our minds work: We believe stuff. We desire stuff. Some beliefs are true — others, false. Some desires are intermittent and weak — others, persistent and irresistible. Our behavior is the result of an interaction between our minds and our bodies …or so our theory says. [Jump To Top]

The problem. The finer details such theories are very difficult to explain. For instance, many of our assumptions about beliefs and desires lead to absurd conclusions. And the relationship between mind and body often sounds mysterious. So perhaps our understanding of our minds is an illusion. [Jump To Top]

This course reviews a few ways that we can understand minds and how they work. We will find that many of the proposals on offer are dissatisfying in some way(s). Then we will discuss what a satisfying account of the mind should be like. In the end you will understand various theories about minds and explain the problems with these theories. More generally, you will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose your own argument, how to make an objection to an argument, and how to respond to an objection to your argument. [Jump To Top]

3. Environmental Ethics

You might have a rough idea of what environmentalism is. For starters, it’s about the environment. More specifically, it’s about protecting the environment. That sounds about right. But what do we mean by ‘environment’? And why should we care about the environment? What about when we have to choose between protecting one part of the environment and protecting another part of the environment? Which part do we protect? How do we make the right choice? [Jump To Top]

The problem. It turns out that most popular environmentalists and conservationists didn’t explicitly answer these basic questions. Philosophers have tried to answer these questions, but with imperfect success. [Jump To Top]

In this course, we’ll review some environmentalists’ and conservationists’ implicit assumptions and consider problems with these assumptions. Then we will turn to more careful academic treatments of environmental ethics and consider the merits and demerits of each view. Finally, we will apply each view to contemporary and forthcoming environmental problems. By the end of this course, you will understand the terms used by environmental ethicists, some of the problems they study, and many of the views they offer. More generally, you will understand why some arguments don’t work, how they are supposed to work, how to compose your own argument, how to make an objection to an argument, and how to respond to an objection to your argument. [Jump To Top]