Undergraduate Courses &

Pedagogical Research


Movies and Philosophical Conversation , Summer 2020/Winter 2021

This course will introduce students to timeless philosophical questions and issues through film. Students will read philosophical texts and watch complementary movies that lead them to think about philosophical questions from different perspectives. By pairing philosophical writings with recent entertaining movies, this course will guide students to find the joy of philosophical conversations. We will cover such topics as: the existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of mind, A.I., the problem of other minds, personal identity and moral responsibility. By discussing and writing about philosophical questions in classical texts and recent movies, students will develop their critical and analytic thinking and writing skills. *Students will be expected to watch assigned films prior to class discussions.

Introduction to Logic [Syllabus PDF] Fall 2018 -Spring 2020

There are many ways of characterizing logic. Broadly speaking, logicians are interested in studying formal features of language and the relation between those formal features and the meaning of linguistic expressions. More specifically, logic studies systematic methods of distinguishing good reasoning from bad reasoning. This course will focus on two types of formal systems: propositional logic and predicate logic. We are going to learn how to translate sentences of English into the formal language of each system and establish a formal definition of good inference using logical operators and truth functions in each system.

Logic lies at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, mathematics and computer science—especially programming languages and artificial intelligence. This course, thus, will help students acquire foundational skills and knowledge for studying these disciplines and enhance the analytic skills necessary for reading, writing and thinking at the college level.

Introduction to Philosophy [Syllabus PDF] Fall 2018-Spring 2020

This course will introduce students to several traditional topics, problems and methods of philosophy by reading, discussing and writing about historical and contemporary philosophical texts on them. The course will invite students think about life’s big questions. Does God exist? What is the argument for or against God’s existence? Can we rationally justify belief in God? What is knowledge? How can we know about what we have not observed yet? Is mind material? If so, how can an immaterial mind interact with a physical body? Where is the place for consciousness in a physical world? What makes me myself? What does it take for me to exist over time as the same person? What makes actions and people morally good or bad? Is a moral life a good life? (Specific topics may change during the term.) After mastering basic concepts and tools in philosophy and with a clear understanding of texts, students will not only learn about different philosophical views on these issues but will also learn how to navigate and discuss big, difficult questions.

Metaethics, Spring 2020

In this course, we will be asking questions about the nature of morality and deal with foundational issues in ethical inquiry. We routinely engage in debates on ethical issue, and an ethics class invites us to think about what are morally right and wrong actions and what are our moral duties and obligations. In this seminar, we are going to take a step back from particular debates on ethical issues and deal with metaphysical, semantic, epistemological, psychological assumptions and commitments we make when we engage in the debates on ethical issues. For example, are moral statements objectively true? Are moral standards culturally relative? Are there moral facts? If so, what are the difference between moral fact and scientific facts? And, where do they come from? How do we come to know about them? How might moral facts be related to other facts? What does it mean to say something is wrong or right? What is the difference between normative claims like “lying is wrong” and descriptive claims like “the sky is blue”? Is it always better to be morally good? We are going to explore various theoretical positions that provide different answers to these questions and critically discuss semantic, epistemic, metaphysical, and moral implications of them.

The Power of Words [Syllabus PDF] (Diversity), Fall 2019

This course studies philosophical theories about how language works and how it shapes the ways that we understand the world, communicate with and treat each other. In particular, this course focuses on the power of words beyond their literal meanings in various contexts. After learning theories about meaning and speech acts in philosophy of language, we are going to explore real life cases of injustice in which language plays crucial roles. For example, we are going to discuss the following questions with contemporary and historic cases of discrimination and social conflicts. How do derogatory terms have force unlike other descriptive terms? How do they affect our way of thinking and treating the members of our community? Finally, this course will extend its interest to the connections between speech and harm. We will deal with the question of what counts as speech through the debate on whether pornography is speech and should be protected by a free speech principle. This will allow us to think about how the production and distribution of certain expressive content could do harm to the members of our society and on what ground, if any, such activities and hate speech could be regulated.

Choosing Wisely: An Introduction to Rational Choice Theories and Probability [Syllabus PDF], Spring 2019

Rational choice theory is a formal study of analyzing how we (rational agents) actually make decisions and prescribing how rational agents should behave given their beliefs (information) and desires (goals). To formally understand and model rational agents’ behaviors, rational choice theory represents preference order and preference strength (I prefer x to y much more than I prefer x to z) by using numbers and represents an agent’s uncertainty and partial information in terms of probabilities. Rational choice theory is an interdisciplinary study; the product of the joint efforts of philosophers, mathematicians, economists, social scientists, and others.

This course will cover three categories of rational choice theory: (i) decision theory concerning decision making by a single agent, (ii) game theory concerning decision making and interactions of agents whose decisions affect each other, and (iii) social choice theory concerning aggregating individual preferences to come to group decisions (policies). This course will help students master the necessary skills of probabilities to learn rational choice theory. Besides becoming comfortable with the formal tools of rational choice theory, this class will primarily be concerned with some of the contentious assumptions behind the theory. We will also discuss and write about philosophical issues and real-world problems using rational choice theory.

First Year Writing Seminar : Reasoning about Moral Issues, Spring 2018, Fall 2017 @ Cornell University

Does a fetus in a woman’s body have a right not to be killed? Would a worldwide ban on eating and using animals increase the net happiness of the world? Do animals have moral rights? Do we have the right to die on our own terms? Do we owe it to other people to tell the truth about ourselves? Do we have a right to sell or use our own body for money? In this course, we are going to explore contemporary moral issues regarding abortion, assisted suicide, lying about oneself, vegetarianism, animal rights and the morality of prostitution (or selling body parts). (Subtopics may change.) Based on a clear understanding of ethical terms, concepts and distinctions, we are going to tackle philosophical arguments for and against these topics. Through reading and discussing contemporary works in philosophy on these questions, and through writing assignments, students will develop the ability to critically read, understand and write about academic texts.

First Year Writing Seminar : Philosophy and Choices, Spring 2017 at Cornell University

Life is full of choices. They shape our lives. In front of difficulty decisions, we stop and contemplate what to do and what are good choices. If there are bad choices and good choices, then what constitute good choices? What makes a decision-making process good and rational? Is it possible to make right decisions for our future selves? Are rational choices moral? Can I rationally (or morally) choose to be (or pretend to be) a different person? In this seminar, we will survey a number of different philosophical approaches to these questions through discussing several practical choices we might face in our lives. Do we have pragmatic reasons to believe in God? Do we have to be vegetarians? If so, on what ground? Is lying always morally wrong? What about lying for others’ sake or lying to make myself look better? Is a life changing decision such as a choice to have my own child a rational choice? Through reading, discussing and writing philosophical texts dealing with these questions, this class will help you develop the critical thinking abilities as well as analytical writing skills required in any discipline.

First Year Writing Seminar : Philosophy and Death, Spring/Fall 2016 at Cornell University

In this course, we will explore metaphysical and ethical issues around death in philosophy. What is death? The simple answer is “the end of life.” If there is no afterlife, is death really bad for the person who dies? Is it rational to fear death? If immortal life is possible, is living forever without death desirable? Are all deaths misfortunes? If you want to say no, then is every type of causing death morally impermissible? What about euthanasia? Or, abortion? Can suicide ever be a rational choice? Through reading and discussing philosophical texts dealing with these questions and writing philosophical essays, this class will help students develop their critical thinking abilities as well as analytical writing skills.

Poster_Central_APA2020.pdf

Developing Assignment Sequences for Argumentative Philosophical Essays, Presented in Central APA 202

This poster is about designing sequences of course assignments to help students in introductory or intermediate level college courses develop the skills necessary for writing good argumentative philosophical essays. Typical course assignments specify only the length and topic of essays, which requires students to demonstrate mastery of separate skills all at once without much guidance for skill development and leaves all but the best students unable to make incremental improvements. This poster proposes an alternative approach: designing an assignment sequence, i.e. a progression of assignments that fit together to produce a larger end product. This poster will focus on developing a sequence of tasks to help students separately master several of the skills needed to write good college essays and combine them in their final papers.