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Teaching

Recent Courses

Fall 2015 - Race and Racism in Western Thought (Syllabus(I teach this every year at Cal Poly Pomona) 
This course is an introduction to historical and contemporary issues in the philosophy of race and racism.  Many people now say that race is “socially constructed,” but what does this mean?  What is race?  Where do our ideas about race come from?  Even if it is socially constructed, race still seems to have important consequences in the world.  What are the moral, social, and political implications of race and racism?  How do questions about race intersect with questions about ethnicity, gender, and class?  What does it mean to have a “mixed” racial identity?  What sort of non-racist world should we strive for, and what are the best practices and policies for getting us there?

Spring 2017 - Great Works in Philosophy: Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Cal Poly Pomona) (Syllabus)
This course will consist primarily in a close reading of Iris Marion Young’s Justice and the Politics of Difference. Young argues that mainstream political (especially contemporary “liberal”) thought has been excessively concerned with distributive justice, and the question how material goods (like money) should be distributed by the government to citizens. Young argues that this distribution-oriented framework is both out of touch with the real-world social movements that are fighting for equality, and fundamentally flawed on a conceptual level. Instead of focusing on how much stuff the government should take from the rich and give to the poor, Young argues that social justice and equality consist, first and foremost, in freedom from oppression and domination. Young also offers highly influential accounts of the various forms of oppression and the roles of group-based (identity) politics in just democratic decision-making. Along the way, she confronts issues including capitalism, welfare, affirmative action, body image, city life, moral responsibility, and international justice.

Winter 2017 - Cognitive Science (Syllabus) (I teach this every year at Cal Poly Pomona)
How does the mind work?  Cognitive science tackles this question with tools from a wide range of fields, including experimental psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, and others.  First, we will raise basic philosophical questions about the nature of the mind.  What must the mind be like if we can study it scientifically?  Second, we turn to questions about Artificial Intelligence.  Are our minds similar to digital computers?  Can computers think?  Third, we focus on the cognitive science of belief and perception.  Can the complex machinery of the mind be understood in terms of its basic parts?  Fourth, we conclude by critically examining claims about whether and how men and women “think differently.”  Investigating what effects, if any, gender and sexuality have on patterns of cognition will require integrating research from biology, neuroscience, and developmental and evolutionary psychology.  Spoiler alert: as we attempt to disentangle the complex interplay of “nature” and “nurture” in the formation of the mind, we will begin to appreciate just how much we still don’t know about what makes us who we are.

Fall 2016 - Ancient Philosophy (Syllabus) (I'll teach this roughly every other year at CPP)
An introduction to ancient Greek philosophy.  We will primarily study Plato and Aristotle, and we will conclude with readings on stoicism, primarily by Epictetus.  In examining these texts, we will reflect on how we ought to live and what we can know about religion, justice, virtue, happiness, love, ourselves, and the fundamental nature of reality.

Spring 2016 - The Philosophy & Psychology of Implicit Bias (Syllabus) (Teaching this again at CPP in Winter 2018)
Most people now say that racism and sexism are wrong, yet discrimination and inequality continue to be widespread.  How could this be?  Part of the answer is that we are implicitly biased.  Social psychologists have developed powerful new methods of measuring our beliefs and feelings, and they find that many of us harbor prejudices and stereotypes which we may be embarrassed to admit, or of which we may be entirely unconscious. This course will examine how this psychological research speaks to perennial questions about the nature of the mind, knowledge, and justice.  We will ask questions like: Can our conscious beliefs come apart from unconscious attitudes?  How do we know the contents of our own minds?  What makes an attitude count as “biased” or “prejudiced”?  Can our unconscious attitudes be rational?  Are we morally responsible for our implicit biases?  What can we do to be less biased?  How should we structure society in order to combat discrimination?  What changes should we make to criminal justice, education, business, and other social institutions in order to bring about a more just world?  We will also examine the methods, presuppositions, and theories of contemporary social psychology, including recent difficulties in replicating a number of key findings.

Spring 2015 - Feminist Philosophy of Science (Vassar College) (Syllabus)
Introduction to feminist approaches to science, knowledge, and human nature.  Is there an essential difference between women and men?  If so, what is the nature of this difference and what are its social and political implications?  If not, what explains the apparent differences?  Can assumptions about gender and sexuality compromise scientific objectivity?  If so, should we rethink the nature of scientific objectivity and knowledge in general?  Can social and psychological accounts of how we tend to sort people into distinct categories illuminate how we ought to understand these categories?  How do questions about gender and sexuality intersect with questions about race and cross-cultural difference?  How are these categories represented in popular scientific media?  We will focus in particular on case studies from recent evolutionary biology, psychology, and neuroscience.

Spring 2015 - Philosophical Questions (Vassar College) (Syllabus)
Are you awake or dreaming?  Could you be having the same conscious experiences either way?  For that matter, what does it mean to be conscious?  Could computers be conscious?  Could your consciousness and memories be transferred into another body?  Would the recipient of those memories become you?  Are you just a bundle of experiences, or is there some underlying soul or chunk of brain that makes you who you are?  Do you have a free will?  We will approach these questions through classic writings by René Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, John Locke, and David Hume, as well as responses to their arguments from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Fall 2014 - Social and Political Philosophy (Vassar College)
Why democracy?  Or for that matter, why have a government at all?  Would we better off in an anarchic state of nature?  If not, how should we balance government power against individual liberty and rights?  What are “rights” anyway, and which rights should we recognize?  This course will address these and other foundational questions in social and political philosophy by reading selections from major historical thinkers and contemporary authors.  We will conclude with a close reading of Elizabeth Anderson’s The Imperative of Integration, which brings the tools of philosophy, sociology, economics, and psychology to bear on pressing issues of social justice and racial inequality in 21st century America.

Fall 2014 - Philosophy and Contemporary Issues (Vassar College)
This is an introductory course in applied ethics.  We will study how general ethical principles can be applied to real-world conflicts, and how our views about real-world conflicts can enrich our understanding of general ethical principles.  We will discuss pressing moral problems such as the environment, animal rights, abortion, censorship, gender and race discrimination, and others.  The fundamental question is whether a philosophical approach can help to resolve these issues—or at least bring more clarity to debates that are often obscured by political rhetoric and “sound-byte” arguments.

Summer 2014, Fall 2012 - Feminism & Philosophy (UC-Berkeley) (Summer 2014 Syllabus) (Fall 2012 Syllabus)
Advanced undergraduate lecture course introducing philosophy students to a range of historical and contemporary feminist issues.  Topics: gender essentialism and its critics (including Beauvoir, Foucault, Butler, and Spelman); intersections with questions of race, ethnicity, and class; applications in global contexts; contemporary psychology of social cognition; representations of sex, gender, and sexuality in popular scientific media; contemporary work in feminist philosophy of science, epistemology, and metaphysics.

Spring 2014 - Phenomenology (Berkeley) (Syllabus)
This course will consist primarily in close readings of two great works in the phenomenological tradition, Heidegger’s Being and Time and Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. We will address questions such as: the essence of human experience, or the first-person point-of-view; the relationships between human beings and their physical and social environments; the role of the body in enabling or constituting experience; what it means to be an “authentic” versus “inauthentic” self; the appropriate attitude to take to human finitude and mortality; the relations between first-personal and scientific approaches to human experience; and the philosophical methodology best suited to address all of the above questions.

We will also read selections from other writers, such as Husserl, James, Sartre, Beauvoir, and Fanon. Depending on student interest, we will conclude the course either by looking back to the historical precursors of 20th-century phenomenology, such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, or by looking forward to the role of phenomenology in contemporary debates in philosophy of mind, action, and cognitive science.

Fall 2013 - Human Being, God, and Society in Western Literature (Berkeley) (Syllabus)
Introductory lecture course on classic texts in western literature and philosophy. Readings include: Odyssey, Symposium, Aeneid, Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Job, Ecclesiastes), New Testament (Luke, John, Romans), Qur’an, Confessions, Divine Comedy, Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice, Crime & Punishment, and Omeros.

Spring 2013 - Social Psychology & Philosophy (Berkeley) (Syllabus)
Graduate seminar on how empirical findings in social psychology speak to questions in mind, ethics, and epistemology.  Topics: self-knowledge, freedom, moral responsibility, character, emotion, belief, desire, and prejudice.

Fall 2011 - Contemporary Civilization in the West  (Columbia University)

Fall semester of a year-long course on the development of western moral and political thought.  Individual instructors determine selections from required readings and formulate essay topics and exams.  Readings include:

  • Plato (Republic)
  • Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, Politics)
  • The Hebrew Bible (Exodus, Isaiah, Ecclesiastes)
  • The New Testament (Matthew, Romans, Galatians)
  • Augustine (City of God)
  • The Qur’an
  • Aquinas (Summa Contra Gentiles, On Kingship, Summa Theologiae)
  • Machiavelli (The Prince, The Discourses)
  • Luther (The Freedom of a Christian Man, On Governmental Authority)
  • Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion)
  • Descartes (Meditations)
  • Hobbes (Leviathan)
  • Locke (Second Treatise, Letter on Toleration)
     

 

2010-2011 - Masterpieces of Western Literature & Philosophy (Columbia University)
Year-long course on classic texts in western literature and philosophy.  Required readings and final exam are standard.  Individual instructors formulate essay topics and midterm.  Readings include:

  • Homer (Iliad, Odyssey)
  • Aeschylus (Oresteia)
  • Sophocles (Oedipus the King)
  • Euripides (Medea)
  • Herodotus (Histories)
  • Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War)
  • Plato (Symposium)
  • The Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Job)
  • The New Testament (Luke, John)
  • Virgil (Aeneid)
  • Augustine (Confessions)
  • Dante (Divine Comedy)
  • Montaigne (Essays)
  • Shakespeare (King Lear)
  • Cervantes (Don Quixote)
  • Austen (Pride & Prejudice)
  • Dostoevsky (Crime & Punishment)
  • Woolf (To the Lighthouse)

Summer 2010 - Contemporary Moral Problems (Columbia University) (Updated Syllabus)
Introduction to applied ethics.  Topics: war, punishment, abortion, animal rights, the environment, drug legalization, pornography, censorship, affirmative action, immigration, and discrimination.

Summer 2008 - Methods & Problems of Philosophical Thought (Columbia University) (Updated Syllabus)
Introduction to philosophy.  Topics: skepticism, the nature of mind and consciousness, artificial intelligence, personal identity, and freedom of the will.

Other Courses I'd Like to Teach

Weakness of the Will (Syllabus Proposal)
Survey of classic and contemporary work in philosophy and psychology on self-knowledge, self-control, and weakness of the will. Readings by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Augustine, Nietzsche, Freud, Skinner, Davidson, Frankfurt, Velleman, Arpaly, Gendler, Holton, and others, as well as contemporary empirical research on self-regulation, goal-striving, and unconscious motivation.​

Theory of Knowledge (Syllabus Proposal)
Classic 20th-century papers and 21st-century responses.  Topics: skepticism, justification, foundationalism vs. coherentism, internalism vs. externalism, reliabilism, closure, contextualism, and the cognitive science of epistemic intuitions and self-knowledge.​

Racial Profiling: Moral, Legal, and Empirical Perspectives (Syllabus Proposal)
Topics: consequentialist and deontological arguments for and against profiling; economic and decision-theoretic models of the effectiveness of profiling; empirical research on the consequences of profiling on individuals and communities; intersectional analyses; individual and institutional reforms.

Consciousness and its Contents (Syllabus Proposal)
Survey of leading empirical theories of consciousness (incl. higher-order, global workspace, attention-based, and neurobiological approaches) and philosophical accounts of the contents of consciousness (incl. visual, cognitive, and sensorimotor phenomenology).  Readings by Dennett, Chalmers, Balog, Rosenthal, Prinz, Block, Siegel, Hurley, and Noë.

20th-Century Philosophy of Action
Introductory or intermediate survey of 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy, with a particular emphasis on action theory, agency, and moral psychology.  Readings by Moore, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Anscombe, Grice, Davidson, Searle, Frankfurt, Bratman, Korsgaard, and others.

Later Wittgenstein  
Close readings of Philosophical Investigations, On Certainty, and, depending on student interest, either Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics or Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1.

Social Knowledge, Law, and Structural Injustice
Comparing “individualist” vs. “social-institutional” approaches to understanding social injustice in debates in philosophy, legal theory, and social science. Readings by Foucault, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Charles Lawrence, Lawrence Lessig, Judith Butler, Alvin Goldman, Charles Taylor, Elizabeth Anderson, Sally Haslanger, Jennifer Saul, Miranda Fricker, Linda Martín Alcoff, and contributions to edited volume, Implicit Racial Bias Across the Lawand this "Implicit Bias Forum" by Ralph Richard Banks et al.

Other Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant (Columbia University)

2010 Spring, 2006 Fall            Philosophy & Feminism, Christia Mercer

2008 Spring                             Metaphysics, Achille Varzi

2007 Spring                             History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant, Christia Mercer

2006 Spring                             Introduction to Symbolic Logic, Achille Varzi

2005 Fall                                 Methods & Problems of Philosophical Thought, Carol Rovane

 

Advising

Cal Poly Pomona
2016-2017                              Co-Adviser for Senior Theses by Salvador Aldaz, Daphne Russell, Cory Moore,
                                               Saul Vera, and Derick Hughes, who is pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at CU-Boulder.

Vassar College
2014-2015                               Senior Thesis Adviser for Alix Masters,
                                                “Where the Wild Things Aren’t: Speciesism, Patriarchy, & Colonialism,” Distinction.

                                                Senior Independent Study with Shivani Davé,
                                                “Restructuring the Reproduction Unit: Exploring the Rhetoric and Language
                                                Surrounding Gender and Identity in High School Biology Textbooks.” (Video)

UC-Berkeley
2013-2014                               Senior Thesis Adviser for Shannon Doberneck, 

                                                “Reflective Endorsement and Social Categorization,” High Honors.
                                                2014 Departmental Citation and Undergraduate Commencement Speaker.

                                                Silver Medal Awardee: 2014 New Crop Philosophy Prize
                                                (UC-Berkeley undergraduate philosophy competition)
                                                “Gendler’s Rationality/Equity Thesis (And the Evidence that Speaks Against It)”.

                                                Bronze Medal Awardee: 2013 New Crop Philosophy Prize
                                                “The Problem of Social Categorization: What Ought We to Do?”