At CMC I teach a variety of classes in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and logic. I also supervise undergraduate theses in these broad areas.
Courses that I regularly teach:
FHS 10: Life, Death and Meaning
The Sisyphus of myth was condemned to an eternal punishment of rolling a stone up a hill, only to have that stone roll back down so that he was forced to begin his task anew. While Sisyphus’s fate thereby epitomizes meaninglessness, many writers have thought that we are in no better of a position. Do our lives have meaning, or are we no better off than Sisyphus? If we’re doomed to meaninglessness, what kind of attitude should we take to our existence? And regardless, how should we view death? Given my own background as a philosopher, this course will approach these issues largely from a philosophical perspective. Our class will be almost entirely discussion-based.
Philosophy 95: Fundamentals of Logic
This course serves as an introduction to formal logic. Formal logic aims to represent certain aspects of human reasoning in a formal (symbolic) language. The use of a formal language brings to the surface the logical connections between different claims and thereby enables us to use mechanical techniques for evaluating arguments. There will be four different components to our study: (1) learning a formal language for sentential (propositional) and predicate logic; (2) learning how to “translate” English sentences into sentences in the formal language, and vice versa; (3) learning how to construct proofs of validity for arguments in the formal language; and (4) learning the semantics (or model theory) for the formal language.
Philosophy of 126: Metaphysics
The study of metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. The questions we will consider this semester include: What kinds of things exist? What is the nature of time? Is time travel possible? What makes an object the same object over time? What makes a person the same person over time? What is the metaphysical nature of race?
Philosophy 128: Metaphysics of Persons
This course investigates how we should conceive of ourselves as persons. What is a person, and what is it that makes someone the same person over time? Is there such a thing as the self, and if so, can it be conceived of as a unified entity? We will also explore the relationship between the metaphysical nature of persons and various important moral, legal, medical, and psychological issues.
Philosophy 134: Experience
What is experience, and how does it transform us? Are there some experiences that provide us with access to information that would be in principle unavailable to us otherwise? Are there some experiences that are in principle inaccessible from a human perspective? In this class we’ll explore a series of metaphysical and epistemological questions about experience using not only traditional philosophical thought experiments but also actual case studies. Our discussions will range across many different types of experience and experiential perspectives.
Philosophy 135: Philosophy of Mind
Our mental processes – our thoughts, our perceptual states, our sensations, our emotions – seem unlike anything else in nature. They are private and subjective. They are also representational. For these reasons, they have defied easy scientific explanation. Can we fully account for the mind in scientific terms, i.e., would a completed neuroscience tell us everything that there is to know about the mind, or would additional questions remain? In addressing this question, we will look at various philosophical theories that attempt to explain the nature of mind. We will also explore several related issues: Can computing systems have minds? What are the boundaries of the mind? Can introspection be trusted to teach us about the mind?
I also occasionally teach:
Phil 188: Philosophy Through Science Fiction
In their essay on “The Philosophical Appeal of Science Fiction,” philosophers Fred Miller and Nicholas Smith note that science fiction and philosophy share a fundamental goal: “the discovery of what is essential and valuable in reality.” It is thus no surprise that philosophers have long turned to the science fiction literature to help us bring into focus the abstract ideas with which we deal. In this class, we will use the works of such noted science fiction authors as Asimov, Bradbury, Dick, Heinlein, Le Guin and Zelazny (among others) to explore some of the most fundamental philosophical problems facing humankind. Our inquiry will be in large part metaphysical, that is, we will be addressing issues about the nature of the world in which we live. And for this in particular, it is especially fitting that we turn to science fiction. As author Kate Wilhelm has noted, “Metaphysics attempts to discover the ultimate nature of reality, and in this sense, the innerspace of science fiction is metaphysical fiction.”
Phil 198: Advanced Seminar in Imagination
Philosophy 198 is a course designated for advanced study of selected topics in philosophy. This semester our topic is imagination. We will begin by attempting to understand the nature of imagination and its relationship to other mental states such as perception, belief, delusion, etc. We will then turn to the role of imagination in such phenomena as empathy, moral understanding, our engagement with fiction, creativity, and so on.