Teaching

At Duke

The Philosophy and Science of Imagination and Memory (PHI 555/NEUROSCI 555; Teaching Assistant for Felipe De Brigard): Memory plays a pivotal role in our mind. We can report our perceptions, for instance, in part because we can retrieve them from memory. We know which foods we like and which movie styles we dislike because we can remember. We know what the square root of 36 is because once we learned the answer we stored it in our memory. And we know which gate to go to at the airport, in part, because we can remember why we were there to begin with. Imagination also plays a critical role in our mental life. We decide what to get for lunch, for instance, because we imagine ourselves eating a certain dish in the next few minutes. We make career choices because we forecast a future self enjoying certain tasks or living a certain kind of life. We use imagination whenever we play, tell stories, or wonder what would have happened had we made a different choice in the past. But the relationship between memory and imagination is not totally clear. Some philosophers and scientists consider that memory and imagination are completely independent faculties. After all, memory is about the past—what happened—while imagination deals merely with possibilities—what could have or may happen. However, others think that memory and imagination share many of their operations, and even others have suggested that they are one and the same cognitive faculty. In this class we will discuss the relationship between memory and imagination, and we will read texts from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience.

 

At Notre Dame

Philosophy of Neuroscience (PHI 20646/STV 20646): Philosophy of neuroscience is the study of the goals, methods, and commitments of neuroscience, especially as these relate to philosophical puzzles of scientific practice. We will discuss what makes for a good model of the brain, how we can construct this model, and what the implications of having this kind of model might be for society. Topics include the norms of explanation, what kind of evidence neuroimaging techniques provide, the evidential value of computational models, cognitive architecture and ontology, neuroscience and folk psychology, machine learning, legal responsibility, and whether neuroscience can tell us anything about living an ethical life.

God and the Good Life (PHI 10111; Teaching Assistant for Meghan Sullivan): In God and the Good Life (GGL), you’ll have the opportunity to wrestle with the big questions about how to live and what makes your life meaningful. The course tackles such issues as what justifies your beliefs, whether you should practice a religion, and what sacrifices you should make for others. We’ll learn what the Greats like Aristotle, Plato, and Descartes have to say about how to live well.  We’ll reason through real-world case studies where philosophical considerations underlie major business and life decisions.  We’ll talk in small intensive dialogue groups and in large, raucous debates about how we answer these questions.

Early Modern Philosophy (PHI 30302; Teaching Assistant for Sam Newlands): The 17th and 18th centuries brought about not only revolutionary changes in science, society, religion, and politics, but also crucial intellectual developments in philosophy. The so-called “modern philosophers” were deeply engaged in developing new approaches to understanding the relationships between God, nature and human beings. These philosophers decisively shaped the debates of intellectuals, scientists, and political and religious leaders in their own time and ever since. In this course, we will explore the central themes of modern philosophy, including issues such as: the nature and knowledge of God; the nature of the human mind and its relationship to the body; conceptions of the self and of human rationality; scepticism and knowledge of the external world; the nature of causation; the possibility of human freedom and its role for morality, religion, and politics; explanations of evil and human suffering. We will pay particular attention to the way in which the problems, methods, and proposed solutions that were central for the modern philosophers still inform our debates in philosophy (and beyond) today.

Death and Dying (PHI 20240; Teaching assistant for Fritz Warfield): This course investigates metaphysical and ethical questions of death, particularly in medical contexts (e.g., euthanasia and organ transplantation).

 

At Westville Correctional Facility (PHI 201)

Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy is the study of things that we cannot study scientifically. We will be focusing on three core questions: (1) What are the distinctive characteristics of persons? (2) Are animals and machines persons and, if not, how should we treat them? (3) What is our relationship to the world around us?

 

At Saint Louis University

Ethics (PHIL 205): Ethics is the study of goodness, badness, rightness, and wrongness. In this course, we will focus particularly on the latter two terms. In addition to thinking about right and wrong, in this course we will think about the relationship between ethical theory and decision-making procedures as well as looking at some contemporary ethical debates. Here are some of the questions we will examine in this course: What makes it the case that something is the right or wrong thing to do? What habits are associated with right behavior? What is the relationship between happiness and right behavior? What role must the mind or brain play in the production of behavior that is fit for moral evaluation? Do we need God to make sense of right and wrong? What is an ethical theory? What is the purpose of ethical theory? What is relativism, and can one rationally maintain that ethical relativism is true? In addition to these abstract questions, we will also consider the moral status of abortion, eating meat, criminal punishment, sexual perversion (and whether there is such a thing as sexual perversion in a moral sense), and charity.

Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 105): Philosophy, in part, is achieved through taking a critical stance on one’s own way of looking at the world. This class is designed to look at various features of contemporary American life with a view to seeing the theoretical background to these features of everyday experience. Thus, we will be principally concerned with questions that dig at the heart of ordinary life: What is a good life? What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to be human? How should we be governed? Is culture valuable? What is love and is it good for us? How can we be happy? All of these will, in some way, guide our discussions throughout the course of the semester.