1. Teaching Philosophy
  2. Teaching Interests

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

The study of philosophy is the study of a wide range of possibilities, or ways the world could be and, in some cases, ought to be. Because there are so many possibilities to consider, so many differing viewpoints and seemingly strong objections to take into account, students of philosophy are often frustrated at feeling adrift in a sea of competing ideas. For students at the introductory level, the feeling of pointlessness is most salient. They often feel like philosophers are just arguing for the sake of arguing, and diving into the philosophical dialectic might not even be worth the effort, since their ideas will inevitably be shown to be false. For advanced students, the aspect of competition is often felt most palpably. These students often view philosophy as a kind of argumentative competition, wherein the most devastating objection scores the most points. Either kind of student, however, can benefit this piece of advice: it is worthwhile to pursue the development of ideas so that we might appreciate unique insights that we otherwise might miss. As a philosophy teacher, my most important goal is to guide students past their frustration with the abstract nature of philosophy and to an appreciation of this advice. I follow different strategies for achieving this goal depending on the student’s philosophical background.

At the introductory level, the most important thing that a philosophy teacher can do is to train students to look for value in different ways of thinking about things. This may seem like a simple goal to achieve; most students would readily describe themselves as open-minded and ready to consider alternative possibilities. Even so, philosophical attempts to actually consider alternative possibilities can seem excessively abstract and distant from the real concerns of everyday life. Students dispirited by perceiving philosophy in this way are likely to tune out.

To keep students from tuning out, I pursue a variety of practical strategies. I stress the connections between abstract lines of thought and real issues (such as the connection between a moral philosophy like utilitarianism and the real issue of whether and how much we should give to charity). I develop and make use of case studies and ask students to imagine the advice a particular philosophy might give us. I make extensive use of discussion in small groups, which exposes students to different and sometimes dissenting viewpoints. In their written work, I require students to examine the view of someone who holds a different viewpoint. I stress the advantages of a particular line of thinking, and I try to motivate the viewpoint for the students, so that they might avoid dismissing the idea out of hand.

Students at a more advanced level do not need quite as much help seeing value in different ideas. But they may retain a frustration left over from their first encounter with philosophy: inevitably, my ideas will not be good enough. Someone will come up with a devastating objection to me. So they are far less likely to put forth ideas of their own, and far more likely to develop objections of their own out of a simple competitive impulse.

Developing objections, naturally, is important to the pursuit of truth. But if a student’s motivation is a simple competitive impulse, the pursuit of truth does not get off the ground. With advanced students, I am committed to providing regular appropriate feedback on early drafts of written work. This feedback can take several forms. It can help students develop a line of objection, clarify an idea, shore up the motivation for an idea, or point out further implications that it would be worth pursuing. In advanced classes, I utilize the techniques of peer evaluation and class presentation so that students can continue to practice the skill of looking for value in different and possibly dissenting viewpoints.

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Teaching Interests

Normative and Applied Ethics

I am eager to teach courses on a broad range of topics in normative theory and applied ethics. At multiple institutions, I taught or helped to teach introductory courses on ethical theory and contemporary moral problems. Some such classes emphasized theoretical issues and applied theory to contemporary problems; another such class emphasized contemporary problems and brought in the resources of theory as needed. For reference purposes, I have included a syllabus from the Fall 2011 semester Ethics course at Avila University in this teaching dossier.

I am also prepared to teach more focused courses in applied ethics. At the University of Nebraska, one such introductory ethics course that I helped to teach was an introduction to environmental ethics. As part of my work as a Preparing Future Faculty fellow, I was invited to give a guest lecture on the relationship between Kantian, consequentalist, and contractualist ethical theory and environmental ethics at Metropolitan Community College, which was well-received by the students and my faculty mentor. At Avila University, I worked with a professor of biology to team-teach an interdisciplinary course on biomedical ethics, covering issues such as the doctor-patient relationship, the concept of death, reproductive technology and cloning, and the just distribution of medical resources and the right to health care. I have included a sample syllabus based on the bioethics course syllabus at Avila University, but modified with the assumption that I would be the sole instructor. I would also be interested in teaching courses in professional and research ethics, and would draw on my experience teaching biomedical ethics to construct such a course.

In addition, I regularly incorporate issues in theory of well-being in my introductory ethics courses, and would be eager to teach a seminar on the theory of well-being, incorporating theories such as hedonism, preferentialism, pluralist theories of well-being, Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach.


I regularly incorporate some metaethical issues in my introductory ethics course at Avila University, such as moral relativism, error theory, and moral objectivism. I would be eager to incorporate these issues into a variety of different courses on metaethics. I would combine these issues with a discussion of other metaethical topics such as moral motivation, reasons and rationality, naturalism and non-naturalism, and the meaning of moral terms.

Social and Political Philosophy

I incorporated the issue of distributive justice and equality into the Introduction to Philosophy course that I taught at the University of Nebraska, having students read John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and G.A. Cohen, and I would be excited to teach courses that discuss, distributive justice, the nature of liberty, and political legitimacy. I would be especially interested in teaching a course that combined ethical theory with theories of liberty (and I have included a sample syllabus for such a course). I would incorporate feminist critiques of the Western political tradition into any survey course on political philosophy as well.


A large part of my introductory philosophy course at the University of Nebraska concerns metaphysical issues such as the relationship between the mental and the physical, the freedom of the will, and identity over time. I would be interested in and prepared to teach survey courses and topical courses that incorporated those issues in addition to the nature of time and the persistence of objects across time. I would be especially excited to teach a course combining issues from ethics and metaphysics, such as the nature of personal identity, the degree of free will necessary for moral responsibility, the concept of death and harm, and the nature of moral properties.

Logic and Critical Thinking

I have twice taught an intensive five-week undergraduate summer course on formal logic at the University of Nebraska which covered propositional logic through monadic and relational predicate logic with identity, and did so using truth tables, proof trees, and natural deduction. In addition, I have helped to teach an introductory course on critical reasoning which introduced students to basic propositional logic and probabilistic reasoning. I would be happy to teach both kinds of courses again.


As part of my introductory philosophy course at the University of Nebraska, I introduced students to the issue of external world skepticism through a close reading of Descartes’s Meditations, as well as the justified true belief account of knowledge through the dialogues of Plato and Edmund Gettier’s well-known contemporary work. I would be interested in teaching survey courses and topical courses that incorporated skepticism, the concept and structure of knowledge, and the sources of knowledge and justification.

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