CURRENT COURSE, FALL 2022
This course will meet in person on campus at NYU.
GREAT WORKS IN PHILOSOPHY
This course provides a general introduction to western philosophy through the study of some of the most influential writings in its history (up to the present day). Some of the questions to be discussed include the following: Can we know that there is an external world outside of our minds, or are there any reasons for skepticism? Can we prove the existence of God? Can we know anything with absolute certainty? What is the self? Are we free to act, and believe, at will? What obligations do we have to other people? What makes for a just society? We will discuss answers to these questions from authors including Epicurus, Descartes, Pascal, Locke, Hume, Mill, James, Rawls, Nozick, and Korsgaard.
SPRING 2022 COURSES
These courses will meet in person on campus.
Graduate Seminar (Bioethics MA, required* - see below, 3 credits)
ADVANCED INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC HEALTH ETHICS
Meets Tuesdays 6:45-8:45 PM
This course examines the ethical foundations of public health and ethical issues that arise in the context of public health work. Topics will include, for example, balancing individual autonomy and community health, rights to health and healthcare, culturally respectful global health interventions, and the risk of generating stigma through public health campaigns. We will also discuss the ethics of public health research, exploring topics such as privacy considerations in data gathering and informed consent in a community health context. Attention will be paid to the unique ethical challenges that arise in the context of responses to natural disasters and to public health emergencies such as the current coronavirus pandemic.
*Note to students: Bioethics MA students in this year's cohort can take either this course or the Advanced Introduction to Environmental Ethics this term to fulfill the degree's course requirements. For students who have already fulfilled that requirement (e.g. in spring 2021), this course can be counted toward the MA as an elective.
Graduate Seminar (Bioethics MA elective, 4 credits)
TOPICS IN BIOETHICS: CONTROVERSIES AND POLITICS
Meets Thursdays 6:45-8:45 PM
While medicine may aspire to objectivity, it remains a human practice that is often shaped by our personal values and political commitments. In this course, we will examine some of the ways in which medicine is ‘value-laden’ and in which our political commitments may inform our medical practices. We will ask questions like: how do we define health and disease? How do we draw the line between mental illness and mere mental difference? What role should a medical professional’s personal values play in their practice? Should doctors have a right to refuse to perform medical procedures that violate their personal moral commitments? To what extent should medical systems accommodate patients’ religious and cultural practices? We will address these questions, among others, by reading work from philosophy, political theory, and by examining case studies.
*Note to students: Last year's syllabus is available upon request. Given the nature of the course, I'll be making updates to this year's syllabus over the winter break. While COVID-19 public health policy is obviously one of the current "controversies" in Bioethics, I'll seek to keep the overlap in readings and topics to a minimum between this course and my other course for the term, the "Advanced Introduction to Public Health Ethics." Students may enroll in both for credit toward the MA in Bioethics.
PREVIOUS COURSES, CENTER FOR BIOETHICS
Fall 2019, 2020 & 2021, Graduate (Required for Bioethics MA, 3 credits)
ADVANCED INTRODUCTION TO BIOETHICS
Meets W 6:45-8:45 PM
This seminar is intended to introduce students to the central methods and concerns of contemporary bioethics. We will consider topics including the grounds for respecting human (and other) life, the concepts of well-being and autonomy, decisions about future people, and justice in distribution of scarce medical resources. Students will develop familiarity with these concepts as well as the conventions and standards of bioethical debate.
Spring 2020 & 2021, Undergraduate
ETHICS & IDENTITY: DISABILITY, GENDER AND RACE
Meets M/W 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
*This course will be offered in a synchronous "hybrid" format with in-person, on-campus class meetings each week; students can also elect to attend these class meetings from home live online via Zoom. Depending upon final total enrollment (and given classroom space constraints), students who wish to attend in person will be able to do so either every week or every other week in an A/B cohort system.
This course will involve an examination of a variety of ethical issues of contemporary significance that arise in connection with our evolving understanding of disability, gender and race. We will address foundational metaphysical questions such as: What is disability? What is gender, and how might it be different from biological sex? What defines race, and to what extent are these factors natural or social? We will focus especially on ethical questions regarding how disability status, gender or race should affect (or should not affect) how we treat others. For example: Should we regard a person's own self-identification with a particular racial group as fully authoritative? Should new medications be tested for safety and efficacy separately in men and in women? What would justice for the disabled involve? Is there something ethically objectionable about using modern medical technology to prevent children from being born with disabilities?
NYU Dept. of Philosophy
Spring 2019, Undergraduate
TOPICS IN METAPHYSICS & EPISTEMOLOGY: "MORAL EPISTEMOLOGY AND THE DEBATE OVER MORAL REALISM"
“You shouldn’t lie to your sister.”
“It is wrong to harm an innocent creature for personal gain.”
“Parents have a moral duty to take care of their children.”
Claims like these, which express moral demands, strike many of us as obviously true. Yet how do we know them? What kinds of evidence could we provide to justify our beliefs in these claims? Unlike “descriptive” claims about how the world is, moral claims instruct us about what to do. If there are facts about what morality demands of us, these facts would have to be importantly different from the many other sorts of descriptive facts with which we are familiar, such as facts about astronomy, geology, medicine, psychology, economics, and history.
Some philosophers, precisely because they find it so difficult to explain how it is that we could acquire any evidence that bears directly upon the answers to moral questions, have argued that this point undermines the “realist” idea that there are objective facts about what we are all morally obligated to do. Unlike the answers to scientific questions, the answers to moral questions cannot be observed via the senses, encountered in nature, or tested in a laboratory experiment. According to some “antirealist” views, the moral facts are not objective and mind-independent (as are facts about protons and galaxies), but are instead dependent upon us; moral claims are made true by things like our desires, values, or cultural norms. Other antirealists defend the view that there aren’t actually any facts about morality at all.
In this course, we will learn about how epistemological considerations regarding the ways in which we acquire and justify our moral beliefs might (or might not) help us to resolve this debate regarding the nature of the moral facts. Our readings will consist mostly of recent journal articles and book excerpts by philosophers.
Before enrolling in this course (Topics in M&E), students should already have completed at least one of: Epistemology (Phil-UA 76) OR Metaphysics (Phil-UA 78) OR Philosophy of Science (Phil-UA 90).
Fall 2018 (Lecture) & Summer 2018 (Seminar), Undergraduate
CENTRAL PROBLEMS IN PHILOSOPHY
This course will provide an introduction to some of the classic and enduring problems in philosophy and to the methods that philosophers use for tackling them. Our readings, assignments, and class discussions will be structured around four central questions: What is knowledge? What is the relationship between the human mind and the physical body? Is our world causally determined, and does that preclude the possibility of free will? What is required for moral responsibility? We will compare historical discussions of each of these issues with work by more recent philosophers. Some class time will be devoted to discussing what makes for good philosophical writing.
Summer 2017, Undergraduate
PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
This course will provide an introduction to some of the major themes and ongoing debates in the Philosophy of Mind. Our readings and class discussions will focus on questions such as the following: What is the relationship between the mind and the body (especially the brain)? Can mental states, like belief and intention, be explained wholly in physical terms? How does the mind represent information about the external world? What is the self - Am I identical to my mind? What is consciousness? Does it come in degrees, for example with humans possessing higher degrees of consciousness than lower animals like mollusks? What other sorts of things, if any, could be conscious? Previous background in philosophy is not a requirement for enrollment in this course.
Summers 2015, 2016 & 2017, Undergraduate
HISTORY OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY
This course will provide an introduction to the works of some major figures in philosophy from the 17th and 18th centuries. Authors will include (but are not limited to) Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will compare their views on a variety of topics in metaphysics & epistemology including knowledge and skepticism, causation, essence and identity, the relationship between the mental and the physical, and the role of God. Students will be encouraged to engage critically with the arguments of each author.
As Teaching Assistant, NYU Dept. of Philosophy
TEXTS & IDEAS
Theme: Attachment, Loss, and the Passage of Time
(Part of the College of Arts & Science Core Curriculum)
Spring 2018, for Sharon Street
HISTORY OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY
Spring 2016, for Anja Jauernig
Spring 2015, for Kristin Primus
HISTORY OF ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY
Fall 2015, for Jessica Moss
EXISTENTIALISM & PHENOMENOLOGY
Fall 2014, for John Richardson