Recent Teaching

Reference, truth, and paradox from a medieval perspective: John Buridan's Sophismata (Fall 2018)

In this course we will investigate the fascinating and comprehensive work of the medieval logician and philosopher Jean Buridan on the topics of reference, truth, ontology, and paradox. Since there has been much recent discussion of paradox, we will compare Buridan's treatment of the "sophisms" to some contemporary solutions.

Theory of knowledge (Spring 2018)

In this course we will study the nature of justification and knowledge. We will look at sources of justification, such as perception, memory, reason, and testimony. We will discuss analyses of knowledge, and the problem of skepticism.

Introduction to philosophy (Spring 2018)

This course provides an introduction to some of philosophy's perennial problems. What is knowledge, and can we know anything? Are the mind and body distinct? Under which conditions is one morally blameworthy or praiseworthy? Is free will compatible with determinism? Can we prove the existence of God? What exists, e.g., are there numbers or abstract objects, and is a thing identical to its constituent matter?

Theories of modality (Fall 2017)

Modality concerns what might or must be the case. We directly perceive the non-modal natures of things, e.g., that a rose is a certain shade of red, but we do not seem to perceive their modal natures, e.g., that it could have been a different shade. In virtue of what, then, do things have their modal natures and how do we come to know them? Is modality a primitive and unanalyzable feature of reality, or is it reducible to more fundamental and potentially less mysterious notions?

Modality is a central topic in metaphysics and its analysis has inspired analyses of conditionals, dispositionality, causation, and truth in fiction, to name a few. In this course we will look at competing theories of modality and compare them along a variety of dimensions including (i) ontology, (ii) explanatory power, and (iii) epistemology. A partial list of such theories includes modal realism (David Lewis), combinatorialism (David Armstrong), modal normativism (Amie Thomasson), and rationalism (Christopher Peacocke).

Introduction to philosophy (Fall 2017)

This course provides an introduction to some of philosophy's perennial problems. What is knowledge, and can we know anything? Are the mind and body distinct? Under which conditions is one morally blameworthy or praiseworthy? Is free will compatible with determinism? Can we prove the existence of God? What exists, e.g., are there numbers or abstract objects, and is a thing identical to its constituent matter?

John Buridan's Sophismata (Fall 2016)

In this course we will work through John Buridan's Sophismata (sophisms or paradoxes). We will use G. Klima's English translation of Summulae de Dialectica, 2001. We will concern ourselves primarily with the eighth chapter on self-reference, but we will also work through some of the first and second chapters on signification and truth. The most famous of the sophisms to the present-day philosopher is the so-called liar paradox, 'I am now uttering a falsehood'. There has been much recent discussion of such paradoxes and Buridan provides his own solution of them. To put things into perspective, we will compare Buridan's treatment of the sophisms to some contemporary solutions.

The philosophy of time (Summer 2016)

What does it mean to persist, to exist from one time to another while undergoing change? Is the future open or indeterminate, and if so, how? Is tense a primitive, ineliminable notion? Is time travel possible, or does the idea face insuperable difficulties? In answering these questions and more, we will look at competing views about:

  1. persistence
  2. the open future
  3. tense
  4. the possibility of time travel

For each of the topics we will look at seminal essays from each side of the debate to gain a fair perspective on the relevant issues.

Non-classical logic (Summer 2015)

This course provides an introduction to non-classical (propositional) logic. We will look at both the formal (model- and proof-theoretic) aspects of non-classical logics, as well as their philosophical applications and motivations. Some of the logics covered include: intuitionistic, relevant, many-valued, paraconsistent, and counterfactual or conditional logics. One aim of the course is to gain familiarity with some of the ways formal methods are applied in philosophy, and what the advantages, disadvantages and limitations are of the use of such methods. For instance, we will look at logics for reasoning about conditional obligations; that is, obligations one has only if certain conditions hold. For example, we are not obligated to punish Smith unless he does something punishable.

On the plurality of worlds (Summer 2015)

The study of modality, of what is possible and necessary, has been an important topic at least since Aristotle who systematized basic modal reasoning. Modal arguments have been used, e.g., to prove the existence of God, to show that determinism is incompatible with free will, and to show that two distinct things may occupy the same spatial region at precisely the same time. Modality has also been used to analyze a wide variety of philosophically central concepts including knowledge, causation, and natural language conditionals.

This course will be devoted to David Lewis's fascinating and influential book "On the Plurality of Worlds" (1986). This book is Lewis's most sustained defense of modal realism, the view that (i) possible worlds exist and that they are as real (concrete, of the same kind) as our own, and (ii) that modality is grounded in these worlds. One of the main virtues of Lewis's modal realism is that is the only well-developed account of modality that reduces modal notions like possibility to non-modal ones. This is arguably virtuous, as the non-modal notions Lewis appeals to are thought to be much less mysterious than the modal ones they replace.

Non-classical and conditional logics (Fall 2013)

This course provides an introduction to non-classical (propositional) logics and their applications, with a focus on conditionals. Some of the logics covered include logics of counterfactual conditionals, as well as relevant, many-valued, and paraconsistent logics. We will look at both the formal (semantic and proof-theoretic) aspects of non-classical logics, as well as their philosophical applications and motivations. In particular, we will evaluate how well non-classical approaches to the semantic paradoxes fair against each other.