Recent Courses Taught

Introduction to Modern Philosophy (Winter 2019 – Ryerson University)

Course Description:

This course examines the foundations of contemporary conceptions of knowledge through a study of the two dominant philosophical traditions of the 17th and 18th centuries – Rationalism and Empiricism. The philosophers studied will include Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Kant. The themes examined will include the nature of knowledge, the origin and formation of beliefs about the external world, the threat of skepticism, and the relation between mind and body.

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Introduction to the Humanities (Fall 2018 – Ryerson University)

Course Description:
In this course students learn to identify a humanistic perspective, and analyze how this perspective can infuse our understanding of the world around us. Students are also introduced to the various ways in which this perspective is applied in Arts and Contemporary Studies—in particular in the program’s subject-based and interdisciplinary options—while gaining some of the academic skills relating to effective research, writing and expression that they will require to excel in a university setting and beyond.

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Topics in Philosophy of Science: Social Epistemology of Science (Fall 2016 – University of Toronto)

Course Description:
Knowledge is generated in social contexts. Of course, that’s uncontroversial. After all, there’s a general scientific community and science is divided into smaller communities and structures: sub-fields, research teams, etc. The important issue is whether, and if so in what ways, social context is ever relevant for generating scientific knowledge. Is it ever relevant for how we distinguish between science and pseudoscience?

In this course, we will first work through Thomas Kuhn’s famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which has had a profound effect in many threads in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. After we work through Structure in Unit 1, we will explore several ‘post-Kuhnian’ debates/threads in Unit 2. In Unit 3, we will focus on a different and recent approach: select issues in analytic social epistemology.

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Introduction to Philosophy of Religion (Fall 2016 – University of Toronto)

Course Description:
Is the existence of evil logically incompatible with theism? Does evil constitute evidence against theism, making it less likely? What is the philosophical significance of religious diversity, or of religious disagreement? If theism is correct, should it be reasonable to believe otherwise?

In Units 1 and 2, we will consider and evaluate some of the main historical and contemporary arguments for and against theism. In Unit 3, we will explore other questions. It’s widely believed that science and religion are fundamentally at odds. Is this correct, or are a growing number of philosophers and historians correct to disparage what they call the conflict myth? It’s also widely believed by theists, atheists, and agnostics alike that the only adequate grounds for objective morality is a hypothesis like theism. If so, then atheism implies moral skepticism, the idea that there are no objective moral truths. Is this correct, or can we understand objective morality as being independent of theism? Last, while philosophers, theologians, and many others have been debating for centuries about whether theism is correct, few have considered whether we should want theism to be correct. Time permitting, we will close this course by considering this recent and intriguing issue.

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Introduction to Ethics (Summer 2016 – University of Toronto)

Course Description:
What’s morally right and what’s morally wrong? Do I determine what’s right and wrong for me? Does my culture? Or is what’s right and wrong independent of what I or my culture take them to be? Is it always wrong to kill, or is it justified in special circumstances? Is it wrong for me to spend money on comforts and hobbies when other people are starving and without shelter? Is there a right way for me to conduct my life?

This course is divided into three parts. In the first part, we will examine influential moral theories. Utilitarianism and Kantianism each attempts to provide a systematic account of the difference between right and wrong action. We will then explore two different kinds of approaches, Virtue Ethics and Care Ethics. In the second part of the course, we will examine several skeptical challenges to morality. Are there objective answers to moral questions? Is morality relative to one’s culture? A matter of personal opinion? Can there be morality without God? In the final part of the course we will explore two moral issues: global poverty and war & terrorism.

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Courses Prepared to Teach

Introduction to Epistemology

Course Description:
Epistemologists are concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief. One historical problem in epistemology is the relationship between knowledge and certainty. We will take this problem up in week 2. We will then discuss central figures of early modern epistemology—Descartes, Locke, and Hume—particularly their views about our basic sources of knowledge, and about the nature and grounds of scientific knowledge. In Unit 2, we will explore what is called the knowledge problem. In 1962, Edmund Gettier sent epistemologists on long hunt for the missing condition for knowledge beside justification, truth, and belief. We will survey influential proposals and how they led to what is called to the externalist turn in epistemology. In Unit 4, we will consider how the more recent social turn in epistemology occurred. The main issues to be determined here whether we depend in salient ways on others for acquiring knowledge (or justification) and, if so, what those ways are.

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Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Course Description:
In this course, we will explore central historical and contemporary topics in the epistemology and metaphysics of science. In Unit 1, we will start with Aristotelian-Medieval “science” (i.e. “natural philosophy”). This was the dominant worldview for two millennia. We will then track how the Aristotelian-Medieval worldview gave way to the New Science. Here it will be useful to compare Descartes’ more successful replacement of the Aristotelian-Medieval worldview with Copernicus’ unsuccessful attempt. We will then consider influential criticisms of Descartes’ proposed foundation for the New Science. This should bring us sufficiently up to speed for exploring recent and contemporary philosophy of science.

In Unit 2, we will study logical positivism, the dominant early-20th-century view about meaning and the distinction between science and pseudoscience. We will consider Thomas Kuhn’s work, which put the last nail in positivism’s coffin, and which had profound effects in the philosophy, history, sociology, and other approaches to science.

In Unit 3, we will explore a central and overarching topic in the philosophy of science, the debate between realists and anti-realists. Very roughly put, realists contend that our theories ‘get at’ how reality really is or that they approximate reality more and more closely over time. Very roughly put, anti-realists contend that we cannot know, or justifiedly believe, that this is so. We will also consider Hacking’s pragmatic realism.

We will conclude the course with two ‘bonus’ topics in Unit 4: (1) feminist critiques of certain aspects of scientific thought and activity, and (2) divergent views about what constitutes a law of nature.

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Critical Reasoning

Course Description:
This course stresses the development of skills necessary for effective intellectual analysis and argumentation. This will be accomplished through short writing assignments and regular quizzes. Students will learn about the basic components of valid and sound arguments and come to recognize common fallacies of reasoning. This course also includes introductions to categorical and truth-functional logic. Students will translate written arguments from assigned readings into formal structures that can be evaluated for validity and soundness. In short, this course aims to foster skills for clear thinking, persuasive argumentation, and concise, cogent writing.

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Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

Course Description:
What is the nature of the relationship between the mind and the brain? Is the mind identical to the brain, a product of the brain, or something (in-part) distinct from the brain? What is the relationship between the mind and behaviour? Between the mind and body? Between the mind(, body,) and the external world? Can machines think? Is the mind just like a computer? How does consciousness fit into a scientific view of reality? We will answer these and other questions about the nature of the mind from the major historical and contemporary philosophical perspectives on offer, with supplementary insight from work cognitive science and psychology.

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Knowledge & Reality

Course Description:
In this course, we will explore core topics in two fundamental areas of philosophy, epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemologists are concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief. How are certainty and knowledge related? Are all justified, true beliefs knowledge? Do I depend on others for acquiring knowledge? What’s special about scientific reasoning and knowledge? Metaphysicians, on the other hand, are concerned with the fundamental constituents of reality. What are the most fundamental principles and concepts? What is the relationship between the brain and the mind? Do I have free will?

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Introduction to Political Philosophy

Course Description:
What is the state? Why should citizens allow the state to exercise control over various aspects of life within that state? Are there limits to the exercise of that control, and if so, how does one determine them? What type of obligations, if any, do governments have toward the poor? How does one understand the government’s role in protecting various rights of its people? Political philosophy is not primarily about politics, but instead is about the foundation of societies that allows political discourse to be possible. In this class, students will be introduced to these questions and will explore various answers to these questions from the history of philosophy and from contemporary discussions. Students will engage the answers provided in class as a means of formulating their own understanding of the state and its relationship to the people in it.

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