Philosophy of Human Nature (Fall 2015 & Spring 2016):
In this course, we will investigate the complex, multi-faceted nature of what it means to be human. Specifically, we will focus on four main features of human being and the philosophical questions and problems that these features raise: (1) Human Choice (freedom vs. determinism), (2) Human Cognition (the possibilities and limits of human knowledge), (3) The Unity of the Human Being (the relation between mind and body), and (4) The Social and Affective Aspects of the Human Being (the importance of friendship, art production and appreciation, citizenship, etc.). In addition, we will consider the ways in which these four areas of philosophical inquiry contribute to living an “examined life” and what it means to lead such a life. This will be accomplished by reading works of many of the central figures of the Western philosophical tradition from the classical period to the present. [Syllabus]
Human Nature and the Social Order I (Fall 2016 & Fall 2017):
This class is the first part of a two-semester course exploring the nature of social and political life. This half consists of an exploration of classical Greek, medieval, and early modern conceptions of social and political life. Together, we will chart the changing ideas about how such a life ought to be lived and how it should be organized that are presented by these various traditions. Each period and each thinker offers a unique conception of why and how we ought to live together, how best to structure society, and what ideals ought to guide it. We will carefully consider both the similarities and differences between these models and the similarities and differences between them and our own contemporary social and political life. Reading these texts is not a matter of mere historical curiosity. Rather, each of the works we will read pose unique challenges to our own deeply held notions about these issues. We will ask crucial questions about what we have to learn from the important ideas of the past and in what ways we may improve upon them. [Syllabus]
Historical Perspectives on the Social Order II (Spring 2018):
In this course, we will explore questions about the nature of the practice of history, whether there is progress in history, and to what extent we can discern the work of reason in history. More specifically, we will consider whether historical facts are objective, relative, or somewhere in between; we will question whether, with the great leaps in technological advancement, human beings can be said to have made any progress with respect to social relations and if not, why not; we will consider the notion of progress itself; and finally, we will think about whether human history seems to be pointing toward some rational end, or whether it is merely an assemblage of contingent events.