Classes

Spring 2022

In Spring 2022 I will be teaching PHI2010 Introduction to Philosophy and PHH6425, a graduate seminar on the philosophy of Descartes.

PHI2010 Introduction to Philosophy

This course is a general introduction to philosophy. The class will be divided into three sections. The first section will look at the philosophy of religion, focusing on arguments for and against the existence of God. The second section will consider topics related to the meaning of life. We will discuss how such things as pleasure, morality, love, and work relate to the value and meaning of life as a whole. The third section will look at some of the dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.

Throughout our discussion of these topics, we will have two main aims. The first is to come to understand some views that philosophers have had on these issues. The second is to develop your own skills in such matters as careful reading, critical thinking, and clear writing.

The class involves both lectures and discussion section meetings. Assessment will involve a three papers, a final exam, and regular in-class clicker quizzes. (We will use the iClicker Cloud system. The app is now free for UF students, and you do not need to purchase a physical clicker.)

There are two required books for the class: Torin Alter and Robert J. Howell, The God Dialogues (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), ISBN 9780195395594, list price $24.99; and Plato, Five Dialogues, second edition (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), ISBN 0872206335, list price $10.50.

PHH6425 Descartes

This is a graduate seminar on the philosophy of Descartes. Our central primary text will be the Meditations, including the Objections and Replies that were published with it. For the first third of the semester, we will focus on our own reading of that text. In the rest of the semester, we will discuss a number of recent papers on aspects of Descartes’s philosophy. These address such issues as Descartes’s theory of substance; his views about the true and immutable natures of mathematical objects; the metaphysics of mind-body union; consciousness; clear and distinct perception; and the nature of the self.

Fall 2021

In Fall 2021 I am teaching PHH3400 Modern Philosophy and PHH4420, a class in the history of the philosophy of religion.

PHH3400 Modern Philosophy

PHH3400 is an introduction to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophy. In the class, we will focus on four prominent works of the period: René Descartes’ 1641 Meditations, G.W. Leibniz’s 1686 “Discourse on Metaphysics”, John Locke’s 1689 Essay concerning Human Understanding, and David Hume’s 1748 Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. We will also look, more briefly, at the views of some of their contemporaries, including Thomas Hobbes, Princes Elizabeth of Bohemia, and Mary Shepherd. The course will focus on the philosophers’ views in metaphysics and epistemology, but will also consider views in the physical sciences and in ethics. Assessment will involve two papers, a final exam, and some other smaller items.

This course, together with PHH 3100, aims to give students an understanding of major questions addressed in the history of Western philosophy, the range of answers offered to these questions, and the methods employed in addressing them. As well as meeting requirements for the Philosophy major and minor, PHH3400 counts towards the Humanities (H) general education requirement.

PHH4420 Topics in Modern Philosophy / History of Philosophy of Religion

In this class, we will look at the approaches to religion taken by two prominent seventeenth-century philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and Benedict Spinoza. We will also look, by way of contrast, at the rather different approach taken by the sixteenth-century Spanish theologian Francisco de Vitoria.

While considering the work of these philosophers, we will ask a range of questions in the philosophy of religion. For instance: Are there any good arguments for the existence of God? What should we think about reports of miracles and visions? If an eternal being exists, what is it like? What views about eternal beings count as theistic, and what as atheistic? If God exists, what is the metaphysical relationship between God and human beings? Is there a special relationship between religious knowledge and happiness or virtue? How should religion relate to politics and the structure of the state?

In thinking about these questions, our main goal will be to understand the philosophers’ view and arguments. This project may well also help us as we think about the same questions today.