Teaching

Graduate Course Descriptions:

Metaphysics and Ethics (Spring 2020). This course will examine the ethical dimensions of two interrelated topics in metaphysics: time and  causation. Some of the questions we will consider include the following: Is the future real, and if not, can we have moral duties towards future generations? Is backwards time travel possible, and if so, are we morally responsible for doing what we have already done? How do we distinguish between the causal and non-causal consequences of our actions, and for which types of consequences are we morally responsible? When a bad effect of one of our actions is overdetermined, how strong is our reason against acting, if there is any reason at all? And when a bad effect of one of our actions is underdetermined by our action, how strong is our reason against acting, if there is any reason at all? This course will satisfy either one of the metaphysics/epistemology requirements or one of the value theory requirements for a graduate philosophy degree.

The Future of Humanity (Spring 2019). After we all die, what happens next? This seminar will focus on the future of humanity: we will consider whether or how it matters to us that people continue to inhabit the Earth (or other planets) after we are gone. We will also consider what moral obligations we have, if any, to future people. Finally, we will consider global catastrophic risks that threaten the continued existence of humanity, and we will discuss the strength and nature of our obligations to avert them.

Harming (Spring 2018). A complete theory of harming must have both a substantive component and a formal component. The substantive component of the theory tells us about the currency of harming, or what it is about you or your life that I impede when I harm you. Are you harmed whenever your well-being is impeded, or does harm occur only when the impediment is to some subset of your interests, desires, or rights? The formal component tells us about the metaphysics of harm, or how harm is measured. In harming you, do I make you worse off (in terms of whatever the currency of harm might be) than you were before, worse off than you otherwise would have been, or none of the above? Must my harmful action cause the harm you suffer, or is it enough that the harm you suffer depends counterfactually on the action I perform? In this course we will evaluate some competing accounts of both the currency and the metaphysics of harm. We will also consider how these various accounts of harming relate to questions about whether we can harm dead people, whether we can harm future people, whether offensive speech is harmful, and whether John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle is plausible. 

The History of Moral Philosophy (Spring 2017). This course will focus on the history of utilitarianism. The main emphasis will be on the work of Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, and G. E. Moore, but we’ll also briefly examine some of the precursors to the work of Bentham and Mill and some of the developments that followed Moore. We will also read some contemporary commentary on utilitarian thought.

Metaphysics and Ethics (Spring 2016). If the future isn’t real, can we have moral obligations to future generations? Do merely possible people have moral standing? When we evaluate the causal consequences of our actions, which theory of causation should we use? In this course we will examine these and other issues at the intersection of metaphysics and ethics. We will consider both whether our moral judgments can inform our metaphysical theories of time, reality, and causation, and whether our metaphysical theories of time, reality, and causation can inform our moral judgments.

Undergraduate Course Descriptions:

Medical Ethics (Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020). Should health care providers be allowed to help their terminally ill patients die? Under what conditions, if any, is it permissible to perform an abortion? Should doctors respect their patients’ decisions, even when those decisions appear to be irrational or harmful? This course will equip you with some of the concepts, theories, and information you will need in order to formulate and justify answers to these and other questions about medical ethics.

Contemporary Moral Issues (Fall 2015, Fall 2018, Fall 2019). The goal of this course is to equip you with the philosophical methodology and the information you will need in order to make informed decisions about moral issues. We will begin with some basic logic and some of the fundamental concepts in ethical theory. We will then critically examine a variety of issues including punishment and the death penalty; abortion; animal ethics; and poverty.

Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2017). Can we be certain that God exists? Can you really trust what you see? What are the limits of what we can know? Do we have free will? Which actions are right, and which are wrong? In this course, we will critically consider these and other questions in order to enrich our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.

Honors Introduction to Critical Thinking (Fall 2015, Fall 2016). Introduction to Critical Thinking is the first of two core curriculum courses that all students enrolled in the University Honors Program at Bowling Green State University must successfully complete, and it is intended to serve as the cornerstone of your liberal education. The main goal of the course is to improve your ability to engage with and contribute to public discourse about social issues in a way that is intellectually honest, reflective, and well informed.

Humans and Other Animals (Spring 2016). What, if anything, makes humans unique? This course will explore historical and contemporary perspectives on human nature and human value. We will read works by Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and Mill as well as numerous contemporary philosophers, and we will consider what is supposed to make us special—whether it is rationality, autonomy, higher quality pleasures, or something else altogether. We will also consider ways in which human nature may or may not be relevant to our moral rights and obligations. This course satisfies one of the history requirements for philosophy majors.

Symbolic Logic (Fall 2017, Fall 2019). Logic plays a fundamental role in our ability to reason correctly, and thus to further our knowledge in other fields of rational inquiry such as astronomy, economics, finance, law, mathematics, medicine, and so on.  But even while logic helps us advance our knowledge in these other disciplines, it is, in itself, a discipline.  In this course, you will study logic in its own right.  You will (1) learn a new language, the language of first-order logic, (2) study logical properties such as truth, validity, consistency, and necessity, and (3) improve your ability to determine whether some claim can or cannot be logically inferred from other accepted claims.