I love to teach! Since I began teaching in 2007, I've taught dozens of courses for colleges and universities across the country.
Courses I have taught as primary instructor include:
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Technology
Philosophy of Biology
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Ethical Theory
Ethics in Medicine
Ethics for Engineers & Scientists
Social & Political Philosophy
Critical Thinking & Reasoning
Introduction to Symbolic Logic
Philosophy of Human Nature
Samples of my teaching are available on my YouTube channel, Owl of Minerva [click for link]
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Minds & Machines (Johns Hopkins University - Summer 2022)
Is the mind identical to the brain? In what sense is the mind (or brain) a computer? Could a computer ever think, be conscious, feel emotions, or be ethically culpable? How have digital technologies altered our minds and how are they likely to do so in the future? In this course we approach such questions philosophically and historically. In particular, we study how developments in computer technologies have influenced approaches in psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience and vice versa. We begin by looking at early mechanistic models of mind and behavior from the “mechanical philosophy” of 17th and 18th century Europe, 19th- and 20th-century scientific challenges to mechanism such as organicism, romanticism, and field theories, and the rise of digital computer technology (what Alan Turing famously called the “universal machine”) in the 20th century. This is followed by a review of late twentieth-century debates about the nature of the mind including arguments for and against functionalism, computationalism, “identity theory” (that the mind is identical to the brain), connectionism, externalism, embodied and extended cognition, and the physical irreducibility of consciousness. In conjunction with this history we examine early computational models of thinking, learning, and the brain, and the history of modern artificial intelligence research and its interpretation (e.g. Turing, McCullough & Pitts, H.A. Simon, Kurzweil). We close with questions raised in contemporary discussions such as: In what sense could our minds and identities be “uploaded” to a machine, and how could we refute or confirm the conjecture that we are living in a simulation?
Philosophy of Biology (Colby College – Spring 2021)
What is life? How does it work? And how do we know? The interdisciplinary field of philosophy of biology addresses such questions through critical reflection on the concepts and methods of the biological sciences. Debated topics in the field include: Can living things be understood entirely mechanistically, or are purposive, experiential, or evaluative concepts crucial to understanding them? Is natural selection the primary process in biological evolution or do other factors like genetic drift and non-genetic inheritance also play a central role? What does our rapidly developing grasp of microbiology reveal about selfhood and the relation between living things and their environments? In this course we review a handful of such controversies with the help of readings in the field. Though we’ll cover some technical material, the emphasis is on conceptual understanding. No prior training is presumed.
Philosophy of Technology (Colby College – January Term 2021)
What is technology? How do technologies matter for societies? What are the promises and risks of technologies for human and social values such as liberation, self-determination, well-being, and justice? In what ways are technologies and their uses manifestations of desire or fear; human nature or local cultures; idealistic vision or brute struggles for power? And in what ways do new technologies shape these factors as well? In this course we critically review some exceptionally bold answers to these questions – from Aristotle, Marx, Heidegger, Latour, and others – on the way to forming our own views. Finally, we creatively apply our choice among these concepts and methods to the analysis of contemporary technologies such as AI, big data and surveillance, the role of social media in social movements, human enhancement, water management systems, and domestic labor-saving devices.
Ethics for Engineers and Scientists (University of Nevada – Las Vegas – Spring 2020)
Science, technology, and engineering improve our lives and societies but also introduce new puzzles and problems. What should be done about personal privacy in a world that is increasingly shaped by big data, surveillance, and cyber-warfare? What should be done about the environment in an era of unprecedented pollution and global warming but also of unprecedented population growth and energy demands? What should be done about human enhancement technologies when prosthetic limbs, performance enhancing drugs, and genetic engineering can create super-soldiers and super-athletes?
Engineers and scientists also face problems specific to their careers. For instance, when an organization’s policies violate fairness, honesty, or the welfare of the public, when does a professional engineer or researcher have an obligation to reveal the problem to outside authorities (that is, to whistleblow)? What level of risk to consumers or to the public is acceptable in a designed product or policy proposal? Who has a right to use proprietary information or procedures? And who is responsible when a project or product “goes wrong” and causes harm or damage to consumers or the public?
These are questions in the ethics of engineering and science. In this course we conduct a survey of current discussions of such problems, considering both the approaches to them that have thus far been proposed and developing our own theories and judgments about them.
Philosophy of Human Nature (University of Nevada – Las Vegas – Summer 2019)
What are human beings? Where have we come from? Where are we going? Why do we do what we do? In this course we address such questions in two linked movements. First, we look at contemporary accounts of human origins in the fields of paleo-anthropology and evolutionary biology. We then explore connections between these scientific accounts and broader concerns about politics, religion, and the meaning of human life with the help of philosophers (e.g. Heidegger, Plessner, Blumenberg) and film-makers (e.g. Kubrick, Malick, Kaufman). The rationale behind this procedure is that our understanding of "what we are" as humans should depend both on what is held true by the natural sciences and on what we ourselves, as interpretive beings, can invent or imagine. We read scientific research papers, philosophical essays, and watch films on these topics. The picture of us that emerges from this procedure is that of a special kind of ape – one that oscillates between bare apehood and adorned humanity and carries both its animality and its adornments in more or less evident forms wherever it goes.
Introduction to Philosophy (Richard Stockton College - Spring 2014)
The course introduces students to philosophy in roughly four installments: (1) Speculation about the fundamental structure of the cosmos, conducted in conjunction with a brief survey of early Greek speculations on the topic; (2) A brief, intensive workshop in techniques of reasoning and argumentation, achieved through a close-reading and analysis of a number of passages (mostly about justice, politics, and morality) in Plato’s famous dialogue The Republic; (3) A longer meditation on two especially deep and interconnected problems associated with our understanding of human persons – namely, the question of what (and how) human beings can know, and the question of how human mental and bodily existence are related – pursued with the assistance of René Descartes’s Meditations and the reflections of a number of other 'modern' (17th- to 20th-century) philosophers; and (4) an inquiry into the most fundamental structure and tendency of human societies in modern times (19th- to 21st-century). This last topic will be approached with the help of four extremely original and insightful thinkers of the past 220 years: the atheistic culture-critic Friedrich Nietzsche; the Christian mystic Simone Weil; the Enlightenment universalist Immanuel Kant; and the contemporary anarchist David Graeber.
Philosophy of Science (Rowan University - Fall 2013)
'How is science different from non-science?' 'What makes for a good scientific explanation?' 'Do scientific theories describe a reality beyond our own minds and language, or merely provide a framework for organizing our observations?' Such questions have often emerged within reflections on the sciences, and the answers are hardly settled. In this course we raise and seek to address these questions, as well as: What is the distinction and relation between theory and observable data in the sciences? What is induction, is it reliable, and why or why not? Does the history of science show any regular patterns or tendencies? How do social factors like political affiliation and funding sources make a difference to what research is conducted and what theories are accepted? We also discuss currently debated theoretical issues in the natural sciences themselves, such as the scope of natural selection in evolution, what genetics and neuroscience can teach us (if anything) about human behavior, and how best to interpret apparently paradoxical concepts and theories in modern physics such as non-locality, the collapse of the wave function, and Everett's many-worlds interpretation.
Philosophy of the Human (Temple University - Fall 2011)
What is a human being? Much of the art, science and philosophy of the modern period has been devoted to this question. In this course we examine a range of methodologies for the study of human beings, including self-reflexive/ autobiographical, mechanistic/ causal, zoological, existentialist, and ethnographic approaches. We’ll also discuss the methods of philosophy and discuss what philosophy in particular can contribute to the understanding of human beings. The questions we'll confront in detail include: In what ways are human beings like or unlike other animals? What role do embodiment, sociality, sex, and power play in our humanity? What does a study of these things contribute to our understanding of human beings, including our personal self-understanding? Is there a 'human nature' that underlies or transcends human difference? What are the implications of an understanding of this nature (or lack thereof) for politics and personal choice?