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Teaching

Recent Courses

Fall 2015 - Race and Racism in Western Thought (Cal Poly Pomona) (Syllabus)
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 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

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?”