Upcoming Courses, Spring 2020

NYU Center for Bioethics


GPH-GU 1008

Topics in Bioethics: Controversies and Politics

Graduate Seminar, 4 units

Meets W 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.


Ethics and Identity: Disability, Gender and Race


Meets M/W 9:30 - 10:45 AM


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?

Previous Course, Fall 2019

NYU Center for Bioethics


Advanced Introduction to Bioethics

Graduate Seminar


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.

Previous Courses

NYU Dept. of Philosophy


Topics in Metaphysics & Epistemology: "Moral Epistemology and the Debate Over Moral Realism"

Spring 2019

Course Description:

“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).

Central Problems in Philosophy

Summer 2018, Fall 2018

Course Description:

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.

Philosophy of Mind

Summer 2017

Course Description:

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.

History of Modern Philosophy

Summers 2015, 2016 & 2017

Course Description:

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.

Previous Courses

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

History of Modern Philosophy

Spring 2015 & Spring 2016

History of Ancient Philosophy

Fall 2015

Existentialism & Phenomenology

Fall 2014

Syllabi from my previous courses, and additional sample syllabi, are available as part of my Teaching Portfolio on the next page.


©2016 by Michelle M. Dyke