Category Archives: Teaching

Experience and Knowledge PHL 220

Have you ever wondered whether other people see colors the way you do?  Perhaps when you look at newly sprouted grass, it looks to you the way ripe tomatoes look to me. Yet if it does, how could I ever know that it does? We could both take tests that are used to identify color blindness and that would require us to do such things as identify numerals written in red on a background of green. However, this would not resolve the issue since it could be that when you see the red numeral two, you see the same color I see when I look at grass, the only difference being that you have learned to call that color “red.” If only I could jump into your skin and find out what your experience of the numeral was like, then I would know whether you see the color red the way I do. But since that is impossible and since there seems to be no test that could reveal an answer, it seems that we are left with an irresolvable mystery: I can never know what it is like to have your experiences.

Paper topics Phl 220

Guidelines for Writing a Paper


Reading 1:What Experience Doesn’t Teach

Reading 2: preface

Reading 3: Chapter 1

Reading 4: Chapter 2

Reading 5: chapter 3

Reading 6: Chapter 4

Reading 7: Chapter 5

Reading 8:Chapter 6

Reading 9: Chapter 7

Reading 10:Chapter 8

Philosophy of Science

Steven Baumann and I are co-teaching the Philosophy of Science in the nursing doctoral program at the Graduate Center (NUR 700). In it, we investigate questions such as: What is Science?  How can we tell the difference between science and pseudo-science?  What is distinctive about scientific reasoning and explanation? How are we to understand scientific revolutions? What role does gender play in science?


Introduction to Philosophy Fall 2014

What is the meaning of life? What is the relation between the mind and the body? How ought I to live? Does God exist? We shall explore these and other big questions of philosophy via the work of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and various contemporary philosophers.


Syllabus: Welcome to Introduction to Philosophy

Midterm: Introduction to Philosophy Midterm

Experience and Knowledge PHL 220: What is it like to be really good at something?

What is it like to be really good at something?  If you are an expert soccer player, do you need to think about what you are doing as you are doing it?  If you’re a guitarist and you think about the position of your fingers while playing, will this mess you up?  Are expert ballet dancers really performing effortlessly, or does their movement only look effortless?  More generally, after you have developed a high level of skill, do you have explicit knowledge of your actions as you are doing them, or does it all just happen without a “you” even being there? In this course, we’ll delve into these and other questions concerning the relations between thought, action, experience and knowledge.


Metaphysics, Graduate Center PHIL 77000, Fall 2013

Metaphysics: On How it All Hangs Together


The early twentieth century physicist Sir Arthur Eddington famously described how, in settling down to the task of writing, he must draw up his chair to two tables: the one, familiar to him from his earliest years, is extended, comparatively permanent, colored and, above all, substantial, while the other, a more recent acquaintance, is almost entirely empty space. “Yes,” he exclaims, “there are duplicates of every object about me—two tables, two chairs, two pens.” Philosophers, with their similar predilection for tables and chairs, have also been interested in how higher-level substantial objects are related to the physicist’s streams of particles rushing about in mostly empty space and recently such interest has given rise to a burgeoning literature on the question of “grounding,” that is, on how higher-level things are metaphysically dependent on (relatively) fundamental things. In this course, we shall delve into this literature as well as the related topics of levels of organization, physicalism, and fundamentality. We shall also consider whether a priori metaphysics, as it is exemplified in much of the current literature on grounding, is a viable means of investigation into the topic at hand.

For students in the class, readings are posted on a password protected post. Prior to our first meeting, please read the syllabus regarding access.