Below you can find syllabi and course descriptions from some of the classes I've taught. See further below for information on forallx@syr, the logic textbook I use in my introductory logic course.
As you can see, most of my teaching is in the philosophy of language and logic, though I've also taught some general intro to philosophy and intro to ethics classes. Courses I've thought about teaching in the future include a class on the history of analytic philosophy (focusing on Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein), and another advanced logic class (either on modal logic or on computability and Gödel's incompleteness theorem, can't decide). I'm also open to requests from students!
- Logic (PHI 251) [expand] [pdf] Syracuse, ongoing
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.
- Logic and Language (PHI 451/651) [expand] [pdf] Syracuse, ongoing
The aim of this course is to provide students with a background in various concepts, methods, and results from mathematical logic that are of philosophical importance. Topics that we will cover include basic set theory, topics in the model- and proof-theory of propositional logic, first-order logic, and modal logic, and applications of formal techniques to the study of meaning in natural language.
This course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and will move at a fairly rapid pace. Undergraduates must have taken PHI 251 or an equivalent introductory logic course; additional background in logic, mathematics, or relevant areas of philosophy is beneficial.
- Seminar: Opacity [expand] [pdf] Syracuse, Spring 2020
Referential opacity is exhibited by a linguistic environment if the substitution of coreferring terms inside that environment can bring about a change in truth value. For example, while it is a priori knowable that Hesperus is Hesperus, it seems not to be a priori knowable that Phosphorus is Hesperus, so 'it is a priori knowable that' creates an opaque environment. On the face of it, opacity looks like it gives rise to failures of Leibniz’s Law, since e.g. Hesperus and Phosphorus are one and the same, but seem not to share the property of being a priori knowable to be identical to Hesperus. And Quine argued that quantifying into opaque environments is incoherent, and that quantified modal logic should be rejected. In this seminar, we will look at issues to do with opacity, Leibniz’s Law, and quantifying-in in different contexts, focusing on attitude reports and epistemic modals. We will begin by working through some of the classic literature by philosophers like Frege, Quine, and Kaplan, and then move on to more recent engagements with the topic.
- Seminar: Self-Reference and Self-Knowledge [expand] [pdf] Co-taught with Kim Frost, Syracuse, Spring 2018
The paradigmatic expression of self-consciousness in English is the first person pronoun 'I'. First- personal language and thought is commonly taken to be sui generis, irreducible to language or thought not containing the first-person pronoun or corresponding concept. In this seminar we will explore this topic from the crossroads of philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and epistemology. We will read classic texts by Frege, Anscombe, Perry, Lewis, and Evans among others, as well as a variety of more recent works on the topic.
- Philosophy of Language (PHI 400) [expand] [pdf] 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.
- Seminar: Properties and Predication [expand] [pdf] 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.
forallx@syrIn 2019 I put together the forallx@syr textbook for my introductory logic class. This is an open source logic text licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, based on Tim Button's forall x: Cambridge, which is in turn based on P.D. Magnus' original forall x. You can download forallx@syr here:
- I've changed the first chapter to more closely reflect my own introductory lecture, by e.g. elucidating the modal notion of validity using possible worlds, and emphasizing logic's traditional focus on formal validity a bit more.
- I've added more on the semantics of truth-functional and especially first-order logic, particularly as concerns the construction of countermodels.
- I've made some changes to set of natural deduction rules in both parts.
- I've reordered the presentation of various topics and revised the practice problems.
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