These are the classes I've taught at Bates.
If you'd like to see a syllabus, let me know!
Making Moral Minds: Nature, Nurture, and the Sources of Morality (Philosophy 233): Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2019 (also as First Year Seminar Fall 2019)
Course Description: This course examines the origins and mechanisms of moral judgment and decision-making. How much is our moral cognition shaped by culture as opposed to evolved nature? How much is it shared with nonhuman animals? What motivates us and drives our evaluations? What weaknesses, limitations, and biases might we face? In addressing these questions, we will read from classic philosophical texts, recent philosophical publications, research in psychology, and popular science writing. Along the way, we attempt to glean practical lessons for how we think about ourselves, our decisions, and our moral community.
Philosophy of Mind (Philosophy 235): Fall 2018
Course Description: The mind resists straightforward placement in the natural world. For instance, we are conscious. How could a first-person perspective arise in an unfeeling universe? Similarly, the mind has the ability to think about things out in the world. This seems to relate the mind to the world in a way no physical things are related. In light of these and other puzzles, we will ask: what sort of thing could the mind be? Is the mind just the brain? Is the mind software running on the brain’s hardware? Is it something else entirely? What can we know about other minds and how can we know it?
Philosophy of Science (Philosophy 211): Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020
Course Description: Science has become our model for what counts as knowledge. This course examines that model and discusses how far its claims are justified in light of the nature and history of science. Topics for consideration include: scientific explanation, scientific reasoning, the role of values in science, social construction and objectivity, scientific progress, similarities and differences between scientific fields, and science’s relations to society and to other views of the world. Readings include traditional and contemporary work in the philosophy of science.
Philosophy of Cognitive Science (Philosophy 210): Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2020
Course Description: Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind, including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy as its core. This course examines the conceptual foundations of cognitive science, and several different approaches to integrating findings and perspectives from across disciplines into a coherent understanding of the mind. Students address findings from each of the disciplines of cognitive science, along with issues in the philosophy of science, and issues relating to the nature of mind, self, agency, and implicit bias.
Philosophy of Evolution (Biology/Philosophy 323): Fall 2019
Course Description: Evolutionary theory raises many deep and complicated philosophical issues as well as questions about how science operates: Are concepts like function, selection, and optimality scientifically legitimate? How do we make inferences about the unobserved past? Can thinking about the evolutionary past help us understand how biological processes, such as the mind, work today? It also raises questions about who we are and where we come from: How do we relate to other species? Can we better understand our moral and intellectual strengths and weaknesses by looking to evolution? In this course, students approach questions like these from an interdisciplinary perspective, including philosophy, biology, and the cognitive sciences.
Moral Psychology (Philosophy 332): Fall 2018
Course Description: Facts about how people actually do choose and judge actions seem to matter for how we understand morality. But any attempts to trace these connections face the famous gap between "is" and "ought;" claims about how the world is versus how it ought to be. The last two decades have seen an explosion in work at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience attempting to make these connections explicit. In this course, students attempt to bridge the is-ought gap to better understand our selves, our well-being, our duties, our values, and our biases and limitations.
Animal Minds (Philosophy 321): Spring 2018, Spring 2021
Course Description: Nonhuman animals seem like us in many ways, and unlike us in many others. Sometimes they are studied as models of human minds; other times, they are studied to discover what (if anything) makes human minds unique. Beyond these questions, the cognitive abilities of animals like great apes, corvids, and octopuses are fascinating in their own right, and the task of understanding other minds presents a deep and complicated challenge to science. Students discuss these issues from an interdisciplinary perspective including philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology.