What makes one discipline different from another can be brought out by the difference in the types of questions that each considers interesting and worth trying to answer. In my philosophy classes, I emphasize questions and the skill of generating questions. One of my tasks in teaching is to strike a balance between incorporating and taking seriously the interests of my students, on the one hand, and teaching them what is interesting, on the other. I urge my students to ask themselves: What makes for a good question, and why? This is difficult to spell out, but I suspect if they can get a sense of what makes for a good philosophical question, students are well on the way to understanding something deep and fundamental about this discipline. For example, in my introductory classes, I seek to demonstrate how philosophy often arises out of apparent paradox, out of wanting to have something both ways. Students seem intrigued by questions that make the world seem strange. This strangeness can be brought out by the problem of other minds, of free will, of skepticism, and many of the other fundamental questions of philosophy. In addition to identifying a particular set of concepts and a collection of arguments that I want my students to master, I try to engage with the larger issues of importance lying beyond the particular class being taught. (This applies even in my logic classes, where I’ve encouraged students to begin to ask what it would mean to create a language, or to devise rules of consistency, for example.)
There are two things I seem to do a lot of in my philosophy courses: court confusion, and unearth students’ confusion. As a practice that involves clarifying concepts and the relations between them, in teaching philosophy there is always the question of whether to warn students away from confusion or let them experience it, evaluate it, and try to find their way out. I believe that the experience of confronting one’s own puzzlements as such works better for honing one’s philosophical skills. Of course, allowing the space for this is risky, because one has less control over what will arise in the classroom. Over the years I've gotten a little better at anticipating how students might respond, so this practice is now more tightly planned than might seem. Even so, teaching remains a partly cerebral and partly intuitive activity, a result of a mix of planning ahead and spontaneously responding in the moment.
|Columbia University||Reason and Value metaethics seminar: Desires, Sentiments, and Science|
|Moral Philosophy: On 20th century metaethics|
At Le Monde with Barnard Senior philosophy majors in 2012.
|Barnard College||Moral Philosophy|
|Mind and Morals|
|Senior Seminar: On the Emotions|
|First Year Seminar: Immortality, Death, & the Meaning of Life|
|What is Philosophy, Anyway?|
|Philosophy & Human Existence|
|Washington University, St. Louis||Mind and Morals|
|Problems in Philosophy|
|New York University||Belief, Truth, and Knowledge|
|Ethics and Society|
|Rutgers - New Brunswick||Medical Ethics|
|Philosophical Perspectives on Death and Dying|
|Current Moral & Social Issues|
|Gateway Retention Program for developmental students|
At Symposium (the restaurant) with Barnard first-year writing students.