Teaching

My teaching focuses on skill acquisition. Most of my courses feature a significant component of small-group work and discussion aimed at providing opportunities for practice of the component skills of academic "deep" reading, as well as the component skills of philosophical argumentation and theorizing.

Sample Syllabi

Phil 1700: Introduction to Philosophy (Saint Paul College)

The academic discipline of philosophy is less a body of knowledge than a set of approaches to thought and discussion, applicable to a wide variety of questions. This course covers a sampling of those questions. Some are abstract (do human beings have free will?) and some are concrete (when is civil disobedience morally permissible?). Some are ancient (what is the meaning of life?) and some are new (is it morally wrong to watch horror films?). In every case, we will take care to understand each question, and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of some important answers to them. By critically evaluating the views of others, as well as our own initial views, we will not only gain a deeper understanding of the topics scheduled on this syllabus, we will also develop philosophical skills that allow us to think more productively about any other philosophical questions that grab our attention.

Phil 3400: Biomedical Ethics (St. Catherine University)

Nearly every aspect of medical practice is liable to present ethical questions. When, if ever, is it OK for caregivers to lie to patients? What research practices should we ban on ethical grounds, even when such a ban is likely to slow the progress of life-saving discoveries? Should caregivers ever help a patient die? Under what circumstances is it permissible for a caregiver to refuse to provide care? The tools philosophers use to discuss questions like these can help us all improve our ability to think through difficult issues and to discuss them with productively others. We will proceed by examining a series of controversies in biomedical ethics, using each topic as an opportunity to practice skills of reading, reflection, and discussion.

Phil 1102: Logic (Normandale Community College)

Logic is the study of the structure of arguments. This course uses the tools of symbolic logic to examine basic logical concepts like truth, consistency, and validity. It introduces two artificial languages: truth-functional logic and predicate logic, and focuses especially on formal proofs in truth-functional logic. These analytical skills support work in a range of activities that require clear, careful, step-by-step thinking.

Phil 3311W: Introduction to Ethical Theories (University of Minnesota)

Most of us believe that it's morally good to help people in serious distress. Most of us believe it's morally bad to spread false gossip about others. Moral theories are attempts to systematize, explain, and justify moral convictions like these. This course will provide an introduction to three important moral theories: utilitarianism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics. We will study and discuss classical and contemporary texts.

Phil 3302W: Contemporary Moral Problems (University of Minnesota)

Philosophical reflection can help improve our views about political, social, and personal moral problems. Because the primary purpose of the course is not to convey information, but rather 1) to develop skill in understanding and critically evaluating arguments, and 2) to subject our own beliefs to critical examination, we will rely on small-group discussions and short, careful writing whenever possible.

Phil 4414: Political Philosophy (University of Minnesota)

This course surveys important papers in post-World-War-II political philosophy. We will use these papers to help us think through a series of long-contested concepts: authority, democracy, justice, rights, liberty, and equality.

Phil 1003W: Introduction to Ethics (University of Minnesota)

To whom or what we can have moral duties? Are moral considerations always and only considerations about how to treat other people? Or can we have moral duties to animals? Or the environment? Or the law? These questions are the focus of the first half of the semester. In the second half, our focus will shift to moral theory: what feature, if any, do all moral obligations share that makes them moral obligations? We'll discuss the views of Mill and Hume.