Courses I've Taught
- Logic (251) [expand] [pdf] at Syracuse, S2017, F2016, F2015
In a good deductive argument the conclusion follows from the premises. But what exactly does this involve? Logic aims to answer that question by giving a mathematically precise account of the relation of logical consequence. In this course we will study three increasingly complex systems of logic: sentential logic, monadic predicate logic, and first-order logic. We will learn how to represent the logical forms of English arguments, and then develop a semantics as well as a system of natural deduction in each system to determine the validity of arguments given such formal representations. Upon completing the course students will be familiar with basic model- and proof-theoretic concepts and techniques, and be able to apply them to analyze and evaluate natural language arguments.
- Philosophy of Language (400) [expand] [pdf] at Syracuse, Spring 2017
Many creatures have thoughts about the world, but as human beings we have a unique ability to express and communicate our thoughts using language. How does that work? What, after all, are thoughts, and how do the meanings of words determine which thought a given sentence expresses? And what, for that matter, are meanings? Are they in our heads, or out there in the world? In this course we will investigate these and related questions, beginning with the classic theories put forward by Frege and Russell, and continuing on to a variety of more recent views in the philosophy of language.
- Logic and Language (651) [expand] [pdf] at Syracuse, Fall 2016
The aim of this course is to provide students with a background in various concepts, methods, and results from formal logic that are of philosophical importance. Topics that we will cover include basic set theory, model and proof theory of propositional and first-order logic, modal logic, and applications of formal techniques to the study of meaning in natural language. This course is primarily intended for beginning graduate students in philosophy, but is also open to others with prior approval from the instructor.
- Seminar: Properties and Predication [expand] [pdf] at Syracuse, Spring 2016
A characteristic feature of properties that distinguishes them from other abstracta (e.g. numbers, letters, fictional characters) is that they can be predicated of things. One would therefore expect properties to play a role in the semantics of predicates, and that reflection on semantics might in turn shed light on the nature of properties. In this seminar we will look at different theories about predicates and predication that have been offered by philosophers and linguists. We will focus especially on Frege’s concept/object distinction (including the attendant "concept horse problem"), the way Frege's ideas have come to be employed in contemporary linguistics, and nominalist theories of predication as proposed by e.g. Sellars and Davidson. Towards the end of the course we will turn our attention to the related question of the "unity of the proposition."
- Reading and Composition Through Philosophy [expand] [pdf] at Berkeley, Spring 2015
What are the principles that should govern our assessment of actions as morally right or wrong? Can we ever have knowledge about the world around us on the basis of perception, or about the future on the basis of our past experiences? What is a person, and what is involved in a person’s continuing to exist through time? Such questions have long exercised philosophers, and will be among the topics that we will investigate in this course. We will begin by looking at some classic questions in the field of ethics. Since many people, after thinking about these issues, come to wonder whether we can really know things about what’s right and wrong, we will next turn to the theory of knowledge, focusing on skepticism and the problem of induction. From there we will transition into metaphysics, specifically the topic of personal identity, which will then take us back to a question in applied ethics, namely, the permissibility of abortion.
This course is designed to teach students how to read and understand dense philosophical texts, how to critical evaluate philosophical arguments, and how to articulate that understanding lucidly in written form. The class will feature historical texts in philosophy (by e.g. Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Bentham) as well as work by contemporary philosophers, and students will produce two substantial philosophy papers. This course fulfills the university’s second-semester reading and composition (R&C) requirement.
- Individual Morality & Social Justice [expand] [pdf] at Berkeley Fall Program for Freshmen, Fall of 2014, 2013
This course provides an introduction to some of the main questions in moral and political philosophy. We will begin by thinking about what general principles should guide us in judgments of rightness and wrongness. Here we'll focus especially on utilitarianism, and various objections that have been raised against it, both at an individual and a social level. We then take a step back to address a more basic question, whether there are objective ethical facts in the first place. Is it all just a matter of individual preference or cultural background? Do objective ethical standards require the existence of a god? How do notions like right and wrong fit into a naturalistic picture of the world? We'll continue by investigating the concept of a person and of personal identity, and use that as a jumping off point for considering some especially hard questions about issues like abortion, eating animals, and climate change.
- Introduction to Logic [expand] [pdf] at Berkeley, Summer of 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009
One characteristic of a good argument is that its conclusion follows from its premises. But what exactly does this ``following from'' involve? Logic aims to answer that question. In this course we will study three systems of logic: sentential logic, monadic predicate logic, and full first-order logic. We will learn how to represent the logical forms of English arguments in each of these systems, and then develop a semantics as well as a system of natural deduction in each system to assess the validity of arguments given such formal representations. Upon completing the course, students will be familiar with the basic tools of formal logic and be able to apply them to effectively analyze and evaluate natural language arguments.