I began my career as an educator in Mississippi with Teach for America, receiving the Rotary Award for Excellence in Education Service and the Segal Americorps Education Award. Since beginning graduate school, I have taught or assisted with courses at the University of Arizona, Northern Illinois University, and Olivet Nazarene University. See below for course descriptions. Syllabi available upon request.
The Moral MindThis course is an introduction to the moral mind from the philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific perspective. The interdisciplinary field of moral psychology is relatively young. For a long time, philosophy and experimental psychology have been conducted separately and only in the last two decades have philosophers and psychologists started working together in order to address questions about the origin and nature of moral thought. This collaboration has proven tremendously fruitful. As we will see, many traditional philosophical problems about morality are illuminated by current work in psychology and neuroscience. The other way round, philosophical concepts and theories can inform, guide, and help to interpret empirical research in psychology. In this course, we will look at several prominent issues in moral psychology, including moral judgment, agency, the self, and punishment.
Ethics and Economics of Wealth CreationThe pursuit of economic prosperity is a main focus of our lives and our civilizations. Partly as a result of this focus, modern societies are more affluent than any that have existed before. But prosperity is not just a product of willpower: it can also be traced to the political and economic institutions that channel human effort into socially productive activities. In this course, we will explore the institutions that have enabled societies to lift themselves out of poverty and to achieve unprecedented wealth. We will also ask whether the outcomes produced by economic processes are “fair” and what we ought to say about those who have not shared in global prosperity.
Environmental EthicsEnvironmental problems have taken a prominent place in our public discourse in recent decades. These problems challenge us because of the inherent complexity of natural, social, economic, and political systems. But some of our biggest obstacles in addressing environmental problems come from the difficulty of identifying what would even count as solutions. Environmental problems force us to grapple with wide-ranging questions about the proper relationships between humans and their natural environments, as well as about our relationships with one another. This course will examine and analyze some of these thorny issues. We will begin by exploring the historical emergence of environmental concern in Western civilization. We will then investigate a variety of connections between environmental outcomes, political institutions, and the incentives faced by individuals. Finally, we will tackle a series of “hard cases” in which conceptual ambiguities and competing considerations yield controversies about what would count as “solving” environmental problems at all.
Business EthicsInvestigation of moral and ethical issues that arise in the context of business practices, addressing questions such as: To what extent should considerations other than profits determine business decisions? Who should be held responsible when corporations act immorally or break the law? What rights and obligations do employees and employers have with respect to one another? What obligations, if any, do businesses have to their consumers or to the general public? This course is designed to teach students about normative ethics in the context of the workplace and the business world. We will discuss corporate responsibility, preferential hiring and affirmative action, advertising practices, corporate whistleblowing, and environmental responsibility.
The Philosophy of HappinessWhat is happiness? It seems like we all know what this is, but can we develop an accurate account of what happiness involves, one that encompasses the various dimensions of happiness? Our course will begin with this task. And we will also investigate what sources of happiness are, the things that produce happiness. In the second part of our course we examine the value of happiness -- is happiness a valuable thing? -- and the larger question of what a good life would be for the individual that leads that life. In other words, how does happiness relate to personal well-being? And what does personal well-being itself involve? In the course we will examine various answers to these questions that have been offered in the history of Western Philosophy and contemporary approaches as well. Ultimately an aim of the course will be that students develop their own views about the nature of happiness, personal well being, and what it means to live a good life.
Introduction to PhilosophyStudents will explore the most fascinating questions in major areas of philosophy: What is a person? Will I survive the death of my body? How can I know that any of my beliefs are true? Does God exist? Why is there so much evil in the world? What is morality and how can I decide what's right to do? Students will develop the intellectual tools to study these topics in greater depth and to think critically about issues that impact their everyday life.
Logic and Critical ThinkingStudents will develop rational thinking skills through a combination of theory and practice. They will discuss good and bad thinking habits, learning to apply the former and to avoid the latter. This class includes an introduction to truth-tables and rules of inference in symbolic logic. The aim is to improve students' capacity for rational reasoning, question widely held beliefs, resist empty rhetoric and propaganda, distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations, and construct sound arguments.
Knowledge and JustificationAn investigation of contemporary epistemology will give students a general overview of current work in epistemology. What is knowledge? Why is knowledge more valuable than mere true belief? What is the difference between a justified belief and an unjustified belief? Which of our ordinary beliefs, if any, are justified? How do we know we’re not stuck in the Matrix? Have psychologists demonstrated that our belief forming mechanism are largely unreliable? Are we entitled to ignore our evidence and believe whatever we want? In Knowledge and Justification, we will investigate philosophical answers to these (and other) questions about the nature, sources, structure, and scope of knowledge and justified belief.