- The Social World (Fall 2018; Dartmouth)
This course will investigate issues in social ontology, focusing on contemporary research within the analytic tradition. In the first unit of the course, we will examine various accounts of social construction. Questions to be addressed include: What is social construction? Which things are socially constructed, and how? Are social constructs real? We will discuss examples such as money, political borders, race, gender, sexuality, and mental illness. In the second unit of the course, we will consider whether there is a fundamental difference between the kinds and categories of the social sciences, on the one hand, and the kinds and categories of the natural sciences, on the other. Questions will include: What is a natural kind? Are there natural kinds in the social sciences? Are there socially constructed kinds in the natural sciences? In the third unit of the course, we will explore in more depth the nature of some specific social objects such as social groups, states, and debt.
- Philosophy of Race, Gender, and Sexuality (Winter 2018; Dartmouth)
This course will investigate issues in the philosophy of race, gender, and sexuality. Questions to be addressed include the following:
- Are there really such things as races, or is race an illusion?
- If race is not an illusion, is it a biological or a social phenomenon?
- Are sex and gender distinct? If so, what does it mean to be, e.g., a woman?
- Do the received accounts of gender unduly exclude transgender individuals? If so, is there an alternate account of gender that is more inclusive?
- What is sexual orientation?
- Philosophy and Gender (Winter 2019; Dartmouth)
This course will introduce students to central topics in feminist philosophy and the philosophy of gender. Feminism is often characterized as a movement to end sex oppression. But what is sex oppression? And how do we end it? In the first part of the course we will consider three different approaches to these questions, from both historical and contemporary sources. The second part of the course will focus on the questions: What is gender? What is sex? More specific questions to be addressed include: are sex and gender distinct? If so, what does it mean to be, e.g., a woman? Is it a matter of your social position, your self-identification, or something else? And is your gender an essential part of who you are as an individual? In the third part of the course we will discuss a handful of applied topics including misogyny in society today, and several topics to be chosen by the class.
- Philosophy and Economics (Spring 2018, Spring 2019; Dartmouth)
This course will examine economic phenomena such as money, property, markets, and income inequality through a philosophical lens. In the first part of the course we will read some classic historical texts championing capitalism and its founding tenets, as well as prominent critiques of capitalism and consumerism. Readings will include selections from Aristotle, Locke, Proudhon, Smith, Marx, and Veblen. We will consider questions such as: Is the institution of private property ethically justified? If so, what justifies property rights? Does capitalism promote the interests of society as a whole, or does it only promote the interests of a privileged few? What motivates people to accumulate wealth, and is this accumulation morally objectionable? In the second part of the course we will turn to the issue of inequality under capitalism. We will focus on the question: When are economic and social inequalities in a capitalist society morally justifiable? We will also consider whether each of us has an individual moral obligation to help those who are worse off than ourselves. The readings in this part of the course will be drawn from contemporary sources, and will include selections from Rawls, Dworkin, Anderson, and Singer. In the last part of the course we will consider whether everything should be up for sale, or whether there should be moral limits to markets.
- Ethics of Freedom, Paternalism, and Intervention (Fall 2017; Dartmouth)
This course will serve as an introduction to two branches of philosophy: ethics and applied ethics. The first half of the course will introduce students to foundational issues in normative ethics, which is the study of right and wrong action. We will consider questions such as: Is the right act always the one that will produce the best overall outcome? Or is it sometimes wrong to perform the act with the best overall consequences? More fundamentally, what are the principles that determine whether an act is right or wrong? In the second half of the course, we will apply some of the theory from the first half of the course to practical questions concerning freedom, paternalism, and intervention. In particular, we will consider whether governmental policies that some deem to be paternalistic (e.g. laws mandating the wearing of seatbelts and helmets) are ethically justified, and if so, what that justification consists in. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources, and will include works by Sarah Conly, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Nagel, John Rawls, Seana Shiffrin, Henry Sidgwick, Cass Sunstein, and Bernard Williams.
- Philosophy of Science (Summer 2014; NYU)
In this course we will cover central issues in the philosophy of science, focusing in particular on the following questions:
- What is science and how does it differ from other forms of inquiry?
- How does science make progress?
- Does science get at the truth, or is it just a useful instrument?
- What is the nature of scientific explanation?
- Logic (Fall 2016, Spring 2017; NYU)
This course serves as an introduction to the basic techniques of sentential and predicate logic. Students learn how to put arguments from ordinary language into symbols, how to construct derivations within a formal system, and how to ascertain validity using truth tables or models.
- Aesthetics (Summer 2013, Spring 2017; NYU)
This course will explore philosophical issues concerning the nature of beauty and art. We will begin with some foundational questions in the field of aesthetics: Is beauty in the eye of the beholder, or are there objective facts about what is beautiful? If there are objective facts, what makes something beautiful? And what is the nature of aesthetic experience? We will then turn to topics in the philosophy of art, including the definition of art and the connection between art and knowledge. We will conclude by considering some philosophical questions about specific art forms including literature and music.