Here are past syllabi from courses I've taught. (NOTE: If you are a student taking one of these courses now, please check Blackboard for the current syllabus)
This course is a partial survey of some important strands in the Western intellectual history. We will start with ancient Greek speculations in cosmology, philosophy, and medicine. Then we will look at some important subsequent developments in these areas and how they were influenced by the Greek tradition. These include, among other topics, the magical tradition that flourished during the Renaissance period. The latter half of the course will focus on the profound intellectual transformations which constitute what we often call The Scientific Revolution. The great scientific achievements of figures such as Descartes, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton will be discussed in detail. Overall, this course is meant to provide a broad picture of some of the most important elements in the Western intellectual tradition and their interactions in history.
A scientist announces that the sun contains a new, so-far unknown chemical element, even though there is no hope of getting a sample. Another is sure that a famous predecessor has faked his data, even though he has seen nothing but the perfect, published results. Astonishingly, both claims prove sober and sound. We will explore the approaches and methods that make such miracles part of the routine of everyday science. The course is intended for students with little or no background in science.
Ethical dilemmas in the practice of health care continue to proliferate and receive increasing attention from members of the health care profession, ethicists, policy makers, and the general public as health care consumers. In this course we will examine a number of ethical issues that arise in the context of contemporary medical practice and research by analyzing articles and decision scenarios. Topics to be covered typically include the physician-patient relationship; informed consent; medical experimentation; termination of treatment; genetics; reproductive technologies; euthanasia; resource allocation; and health care reform. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to identify and analyze different philosophical approaches to selected issues in medical ethics; have gained insight into how to read and critically interpret philosophical arguments; and have developed skills that will enable them to think clearly about ethical questions as future or current health care providers, policy makers, and consumers. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0612 (Mind and Medicine) but may be taken independently. The course is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students.
This course is designed as an introduction to the philosophical issues that exist at the intersection of psychology and medicine. Among others, we will examine the following questions: What does it mean to be healthy? Can one define health and sickness purely objectively? Should human medical judgments (e.g., clinicians’ judgments) be replaced by purely automatic, computerized procedures? What is the nature of medical expertise? Are medical judgments influenced by various biases and can these biases be overcome? Are psychiatric disorders real? How should scientists explain psychiatric disorders? What are mental states anyway? The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these philosophical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, psychology, and medicine is not needed for this class. Key notions and theories in these fields will be introduced progressively.
This course is on normative and applied ethics, specifically as it is likely to impact engineers. We will examine various questions, both hypothetical and historical. Students will give presentations, ideally from their own particular area of expertise.
In this course we will try to look at the reasons behind our ethical views—often they will be solid, but frequently they willprove deficient or inadequate. Sometimes a person hears an argument or claim that sounds compelling, and they come to claim it as their own definitive position. But it is much harder to reason through a complex issue, from basic assumptions to a conclusion. In order to approach ethical questions systematically, we will explore what ethical judgments are, and what systems philosophers have devised for making consistent ethical judgments.
Introduction to Ethics (AU 2013)
Does it make sense to talk about a supreme being? If it does, do we have any substantial evidence for or against the existence of such a being? If God does exist, why does he allow so many horrible things to happen? What should we make of the claim that people have directly experienced God? When, if ever, is it rational to have faith? What, if any, relationship is there between God and ethics or the meaning of life? Should religious belief inform public policy? These are the main questions that will occupy our attention in this course and you will have the opportunity to evaluate the answers given by instructors who approach these issues from different perspectives. One of your instructors approaches these issues from a background informed by religious faith, the other without. The end goal is for each and every student to foster her own critical thought and assessment of issues in the philosophy of religion.
Philosophy of Religion (WI 2013)
Philosophy is the art of thinking critically about the world. Many times this can take the form of academic discussions with little direct relevance for how we live our lives. A lot of the issues we will be examining are difficult to avoid; so most of us will approach the conversation with definite opinions. In this course, we will devote time and energy to evaluating our core beliefs and seeing if they are justified. Insofar as it is possible, we will try to be open to reasoned arguments—both to make our own beliefs stabler, and, perhaps, to provide a basis for revising them.
Introduction to Philosophy (SU 2012, AU 2012)
This course examines what it is and what it takes to reason well. Specifically, we will look at arguments, and what differentiates good ones from bad ones. An argument, as we'll see, is a set of statements intended to support one particular statement (the conclusion). You make arguments every day. Most of the time you attempt to persuade anyone of anything, you will end up making an argument. Perhaps more importantly, you are constantly bombarded by arguments made by other people, designed to convince you of something, be it to vote a certain way, go to a certain place, or buy a certain product. One thing you will come to appreciate is that many of these arguments are actually fairly bad. However, sorting the good from the bad, both in others' reasoning and your own, can be very difficult.
Introductory Logic (AU 2009, SU 2010, SP 2012)
In this course we look at "hot-button" issues in the United States. We will learn some fundamental theories of ethics, and then attempt to use them to address arguments regarding some of the most pressing issues of the day. Topics will include abortion, affirmative action, and torture, among many others.