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CLASSES TAUGHT

Buddhist Philosophy (Fall/Winter 2023)

An intermediate-level course on the central concepts of Buddhist philosophy. The history of Buddhism is discussed, as are the differences between the Vaibhāṣika, Sautrāntika, Yogācāra, and Madhyamaka schools. Special focus is placed on the concepts of emptiness, dependent arising, no-self, suffering, impermanence, the two truths, and causality, especially as these are understood by the Madhyamaka school, and their implications for ethics are explored.

Logic, Reasoning, & Persuasion (Spring/Fall 2023)

An introductory-level course on the basics of logic and argumentation, including basic propositional logic, argument mapping, formal and informal fallacies, intellectual virtues and vices, the elements and standards of reasoning, and the practice of close reading an argumentative writing.

 

Current Moral and Social Issues (Spring/Fall 2022; Spring 2023)

 

A close look, through a critical philosophical lens, at such issues as abortion, gun control, euthanasia, war, terrorism, capital punishment, racism, sexism, immigration, government mandates, and the treatment of nonhuman animals.

Intro to Ethics (Fall 2022)

 

An exploration and evaluation of various normative ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue theory, rights theory, feminist ethics, and the ethics of care; and of various meta-ethical theories, such as moral realism, moral constructivism, moral expressivism, and moral error theory.

Social Epistemology (Fall 2021)

A close examination of the various ways social factors influence the acquisition of knowledge and belief. Topics include testimony; evidential versus pragmatic reasons for belief; collective belief and knowledge; the ethics of belief; science and the scientific method; epistemic injustice.

Food Ethics (Spring 2021)

A philosophical examination of ethical questions that arise in the production, distribution, and consumption of food: obligations to victims of famine; obligation to future generations; just access to food; food and environmental ethics; animal rights.

Media Ethics (Fall 2020)

A philosophical analysis of the ethical dimensions of communication and the media. Topics include: objectivity and neutrality in journalism, the significance of "fake news," reality and fiction in television, the impact of social networks, and ethical issues in cyberspace.

Intro to Ethics (Spring 2020)

A critical evaluation of various normative ethical theories and a brief look at some issues in applied ethics. Topics include forms of Relativism, religiously-based theories, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Egoism and Social Contract theories; self-interest, values, and other related matters; abortion, veganism, capital punishment.

RECITATIONS TAUGHT AS TA

PAPERS IN PROGRESS

  • A paper in which I argue that the phenomenon of Buddhist enlightenment can be helpfully elucidated, in terms that contemporary western philosophers can understand, by appealing to the notions of transformative experiences and phenomenal grasping. In brief, the onset of Buddhist enlightenment may be usefully understood as a "transformative grasp" of universal emptiness. I argue that this account adequately explains the fact that practitioners can have robust intellectual knowledge of universal emptiness without being enlightened; something more is required, and this is a sufficient grasp of the content of such knowledge brought about by means of the proper meditative practices.

  • A paper in which I argue that the ontic indeterminacy of Jízàng (吉藏) and the Sānlùn school (三論宗) spells trouble for the 'constructive' methodology that dominates contemporary metaphysics, according to which the metaphysician's primary task is to construct theories that purport to describe the structure of fundamental reality and to provide arguments in favor of those theories. I argue that this conception of metaphysics assumes that fundamental, or ultimate, reality possesses an objectively determinate structure—an assumption that must be false if Jízàng and his kin are right. 

  • A paper in which I explore the metaethical implications of emptiness as this concept is understood by the Madhyamaka. I argue that the universality of emptiness so understood entails the emptiness of the world's moral structure: moral reality is, as it were, dependently arisen and utterly lacking any independent reality of its own. The result, I argue, is a novel form of metaethical constructivism.

  • A paper in which I explore the concepts of causation and ontological dependence as it figures in the Buddhist notion of idaṃpratyayatā, famously expressed by the following formula: "When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. When this isn't, that isn't. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that." I argue that this formula presents us with two concepts of causation: the familiar concept that picks out a diachronic relation and a less familiar concept that picks out a synchronic relation. I then consider some ways of spelling these concepts out in familiar terms: counterfactual, regularist, and constructivist.

  • A paper in which I argue for a process-relational interpretation of (later) Buddhist metaphysics. I argue that the triad of emptiness, dependent arising, and impermanence suggests a thoroughly dynamic, processual, and relational account of reality. Moreover, I argue that a process-based interpretation makes best sense of the Buddhist's concept of rebirth and of the very possibility of enlightenment.

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