To see what I’m currently teaching you can search MHC’s course catalogue.
We are fallible creatures, prone to making all sorts of mistakes. How should we accommodate evidence of our own epistemic imperfection? Should such evidence lead us to doubt ourselves and our beliefs? Or are we rationally permitted to dismiss it? One way in which we might get evidence of our own error is through disagreement. The discovery that someone you respect disagrees with you can make you lose confidence in, or altogether abandon, your belief in the disputed proposition—but should it? Does disagreement provide evidence of error? Is it epistemically significant, or simply unpleasant? We will approach these questions by looking at current work on the epistemology of disagreement. This will lead us to more general considerations about evidence and rationality that are central to both recent and traditional debates in epistemology.
This course will focus on classic and contemporary work on central topics in ethics. The goal will be to see whether there is anything to be said in a principled way about what to do and how to live. The core of the course will be an examination of the central traditions in moral philosophy in the West, typified by Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. We will also examine vexing contemporary moral issues with an eye to whether moral theories can give us practical guidance. Finally, we will step back and ask whether the any of the moral theorizing we have been engaging in is really capable of uncovering objective moral truths.
If all our actions are causally determined, is free will possible? Might we be justified in blaming, praising, rewarding, or punishing people even if their actions are not free? Abstract metaphysical questions about freedom intersect in important ways with everyday problems we face in our relationships with others and our attitudes toward moral ignorance and madness. This course will examine these issues side by side in the hope of improving our understanding of freedom and responsibility.
Undergraduate first year seminar
This course will introduce students to philosophy and its methods by looking at what philosophers, past and present, have said about three important and interrelated topics: God, morality, and freedom. We will ask questions such as: Does God exist? Is it rational to believe in God? What should I do if I want to do the right thing? When is it ok to criticize other cultures? How much do I owe to others? Do we have free will? Can we ever be held responsible for anything? The hope is that students will come out of the class better thinkers, better writers, and better equipped to tackle difficult questions like these with rigor and care.
This course will focus on a handful of epistemic challenges to morality. We will consider questions such as: How is moral knowledge possible? Can we gain moral knowledge from testimony? What are the implications of the prevalence of moral disagreement? Do our evolutionary origins pose a challenge to our moral beliefs?
This course will focus on some topics to which feminist thinking has made important philosophical contributions including objectification and consent, as well as applied topics such as pornography and prostitution. We will draw on a variety of philosophical resources, ranging from liberal and feminist political theory, to speech act theory. The goal will be to see how careful philosophical thought can help us with pressing issues of gender.
Some think that a kind of coherence (among action, will, and values) suffices for moral responsibility. This seems implausible when applied to the indoctrinated son of an evil dictator. He is coherent and yet plausibly less blameworthy for his murders than we might be for ours. An analogous worry arises for those who take coherence to be sufficient for rationality. Some ideally coherent characters, such as the evidence twisting conspiracy theorist, seem less than fully rational. What is the difference, if there is one, between “normal” agents like us and these coherent eccentrics? We’ll consider the ethical and epistemological issues in parallel to see if they could be mutually illuminating.
We will examine the place of liberty and equality in a just society by looking at classic and contemporary topics in social and political philosophy. We will consider big questions such as the following: what is liberty and why is it important? What about equality? Do these values conflict? Or can a society ensure both? We will also consider more narrow, practical questions about immigration, culture, capitalism, and paternalism.