teaching philosophy

I constantly strive to: make the classroom a community where every voice has a chance to be heard, help each student cultivate a sense of ownership over their educational experience, and make sure that students are exposed to a diverse range of voices and topics in philosophy.

I like experimenting and coming up with new pedagogical tools. I recently started using auto-theory as an educational tool. Auto-theory has its roots in feminist philosophy and phenomenology, and challenges the boundaries between the private, e.g. the home, and the public, e.g. the seminar room. As such, auto-theory can be seen as a way of doing non-ideal theory. Very roughly, when writing auto-theory a person incorporates their personal lived experiences into a rigorous and critical engagement with theory about a given topic, which is usually of social significance, e.g. gender, race, love, or justice. I think that auto-theory is a powerful educational tool because it helps students feel personally invested in philosophy and gives students a voice on a philosophical topic from the very beginning. Furthermore, auto-theory shows many students how their lived experiences and struggles can put them in a position to make unique yet important criticisms of philosophical ideas, e.g. about love or justice.

As an undergraduate I participated in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. As a faculty member I have been a coach for an ethics bowl team as well as served as a judge for a high school ethics bowl competition. I think that the team debate format of the ethics bowl is a great platform for helping students learn to critically discuss pertinent and contentious moral issues while helping them learn to solve ethical problems as a team, which reinforces knowledge and understanding of applied and normative ethics by making students vocally explain various ethical perspective apply to real world scenarios. In the future, I would like to explore the potential of the ethics bowl as a form of outreach by focusing on building teams in high schools or community colleges that primarily serve students from low income backgrounds.

current courses

This semester (Fall 2021) I am teaching:

  • The Philosophy of Social Science - PHIL 324 (syllabus): This course will survey issues in the philosophy of social science. However, one overarching question will be: In what ways might the values and interests of inquirers shape scientific hypotheses and theories? For example, should some community of inquirer’s ontological commitments about the nature of social groups, e.g., gender, be guided by their values and interests? In what ways is acknowledging presupposed values and interests important to critically evaluating competing explanations of social phenomena? What role does the cultural perspective of some community of inquirers play in their interpretation of the evidence, e.g., in archaeology?

  • Deductive Logic - PHIL 214 (syllabus): This course will cover sentential logic and monadic predicate logic. We will do this in three parts. First, we will examine and apply the artificial language of sentential logic, e.g. learn how to compute truth values and symbolize natural language sentences. Second, we will cover methods for checking argument validity: truth tables and natural deduction. Finally, in the third part of the course, we will look at predicate logic involving quantifiers and the proof methods used in predicate logic. Throughout the course philosophical questions regarding the relationship between formal logic, natural language, and everyday reasoning will be addressed.

future courses

These are samples of courses that I have developed and am eager to teach.

The Metaphysics of Self and Other (sample syllabus):

  • We can think of ourselves as persons in many different ways: as biological organisms, e.g. the sorts of things that medical practitioners study and treat; as psychological subjects, e.g. the sorts of things that have beliefs, dreams, goals, etc.; as narrative makers, e.g. as starring, directing, and writing our own personal biopics; and as social beings, e.g. the sorts of things that are categorized into groups like race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, etc. In addition, many of us have the belief that there is a firm metaphysical distinction between the self and other, e.g. between the “I” and “you”. In this course we will investigate the existence and nature of self and other. In particular, we will critically explore how the different philosophical conceptions of persons just outlined overlap, are sometimes in tension with one another, and are sometimes in tension with our intuitions about justice or ethical goodness.

Philosophy of Logic: Truth, Inquiry, and Society (sample syllabus):

  • This course explores philosophical questions about the relationship between logic, truth, inquiry, and culture. We start the course by looking at formal logic and its development in the analytic tradition. In the next part of the course, we will explore issues surrounding the connection between logic and rationality and inquiry, e.g. Are logical principles revisable in light of new empirical discoveries? Should we be focusing on how logic connects inquirers rather than how logic governs individual thought? If so, what role does logic play in coordinating discourse and inquiry between members of a community? In the final part of the course, we will explore how logic connects with culture and society. We will look at feminist critiques of analytic developments of logic and feminist responses to those critiques. We will also look at developments in philosophical logic from Africana philosophers and Classical Indian philosophers.

Philosophy of Poetry (sample syllabus):

  • Imagine trying to climb to the top of a ladder while at the same time having someone pull it out from under you. Seems impossible. But many poems seem to do something similar by trying to use language to express and communicate while at the same time subverting linguistic meaning. How is that possible? After looking at various connections between poetry and meaning, we will explore to what extent we can learn about the world through poetry. For example, some poems seem to provide important social and ethical arguments (often written by people who have been historically marginalized from academic philosophy). Finally, we will explore to what extent we can draw well-defined lines between poetry, prose, and philosophy. While the primary emphasis will be on poetry, throughout the course we will explore philosophical topics such as the nature of meaning, personal identity, and social justice .

past courses

The Metaphysics of Intersectionality (winter 2021)

  • The primary focus of this course is the metaphysics of intersectionality. First, we will explore the metaphysics of gender, race, disability, and class. Then we will look at how seeming intersections of these identities raise important questions about categorical and social injustices. In particular, we will explore the metaphysical assumptions underlying claims and arguments about the intersection of social groups made in social and political philosophy (sample syllabus).

Philosophy of Feminism (fall 2020):

  • This course will survey feminist perspectives on language, thought, and reality. Gender seems to be pervasive in our thought and language. One important issue we will explore in this course is how different ways of thinking and speaking connect to important gender realities and social arrangements. For example, to what extent do gender representations reinforce dominant gender dynamics, many of which are oppressive. All of this raises important questions about the possibility of language reform and how such reform relates to other social reform efforts. Throughout the course we will also explore issues about social construction and the nature of gender and other social categories such as race (sample syllabus).

Modern Empiricism (spring 2020, winter 2021):

  • This course surveys empiricist thinkers of the early Modern era of European philosophical thought. In particular we will cover five thinkers: John Locke (1632-1704), Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749), George Berkeley (1685-1753), David Hume (1711-1756), and empiricist critic Mary Shepherd (1777-1847). A more speculative theme that we will explore is the extent to which we can legitimately interpret these thinkers as primarily engaged in conceptual work rather than attempting to uncover deep metaphysical truths about the world (sample syllabus).

Nature of Social Identity (spring 2019)

  • Focuses on questions surrounding the metaphysics of social identity. Explores general questions about social construction and the existence and nature of social groups. Explores various arguments regarding the existence and nature of particular social groups: gender, race, and (social and economic) class. Applies the metaphysics to questions in social and political philosophy, e.g. the meaning of identity politics, and the role social identity plays in perpetuating moral and political injustices. This course also serves as an introduction to formal and philosophical resources being used in contemporary analytic metaphysics, e.g. social construction, grounding, conceptual engineering, and fundamentality (sample syllabus).

Philosophy of Love and Sex (fall 2018)

  • Focuses on contemporary philosophical literature on gender, romantic love, and family and the challenges that literature raises for more "traditional" expectations about what counts as "normal" when it comes to romantic love and the nature of family (sample syllabus).

Ethics (fall 2018)

  • This course surveys a number of prominent approaches to ethical theory: Kantian deontology, consequentialism, social contract theory, virtue ethics, and care ethics. In addition, we explore a number of meta-ethical issues (sample syllabus).

Symbolic Logic (fall 2014, spring 2015, fall 2015, spring 2016, fall 2017, fall 2019, spring 2020, winter 2021, fall 2021)

  • Technical course that covers sentential and predicate logic (sample syllabus).

Social and Ethical Issues in Computing (spring 2017, fall 2017)

  • Explores epistemological issues related to computing such as the spread of misinformation on the web.

  • Explores ethical and legal issues related to computing such as: intellectual property rights, the relationship between the right to free speech and protection from harassment and hate speech on the web, and diversity in STEM fields such as computer science (sample syllabus).

Introduction to Philosophy (fall 2015, spring 2016, spring 2017, spring 2018, fall 2019)

  • Introduces students to a variety of topics in modern and contemporary philosophy such as free will, personal identity, philosophy of Buddhism, philosophy of mind, existentialism, and philosophy of race and gender.

Contemporary Moral Issues (fall 2013, spring 2014, summer 2015, spring 2018)

  • Introduces students to modern and contemporary ethical theories and has them apply those ethical theories to real-world ethical questions surrounding the environment, healthcare, and government.

  • I structure the last third of the course around the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.