My approach to teaching philosophy is to convey the creative, practical, as well as rigorous side of philosophy. This involves breaking down prejudices, giving creative assignments, and showing how philosophical method can gain clarity on hard problems.
More than teaching philosophy, I teach students. Each student brings their own life experiences to the classroom and has their own goals. I make sure to keep an open classroom where students feel comfortable expressing dissenting positions.
I like to start the first day of class with the pair of sentences on the board: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Philosophy is just a matter of opinion. Students typically believe each sentence is true even though they are in tension with one another. The philosophical discussion that follows helps to break down prejudices about what philosophy is and its usefulness. The main lesson we draw from the discussion is the distinction between the political freedom to say or believe whatever one wishes and holding epistemically justified beliefs that are truth tracking. It is the goal of philosophical method to root out unjustified beliefs.
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Human Nature
Tutor for: Information Technology and Values
History of Philosophy
Philosophy of Technology
Philosophy of Social Sciences
Group Film Project
In both my Ethics and Human Nature courses I have assigned students a group film project. Students are placed in groups of 4 or 5 and each group is given an individualized prompt on one of the topics discussed in class. Students then produce a 3-5min. film that exemplifies the concept.
The goal of the project is for students to see the creative and collaborative aspect of philosophy. Students develop skills in working as a team to complete a shared task and communicating abstract ideas in a visually narrative format.
(sample student videos are available upon request)
In Class Debates
For this assignment students engage in traditional debate contests. Students work in small teams to build either affirmative or opposition arguments for a particular position. Students have time to prepare their side of the debate in advance and are aware of their opponents.
The goal of the assignment is for students to see strong arguments for both sides of an issue. Students gain skills in communicating abstract ideas clearly in a public speaking context.
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