One of the things that I worked on in 2018 was a dissertation about the roles of reflective reasoning in philosophy, morality, and bias. Pending a follow-up study for one chapter, every chapter is written and has enjoyed at least one round of comments—and some of the chapters are under review. As the chapters find homes in journals, I will be sure to post preprints and links to the online publication on my blog and in my social media feeds. So, ya know, follow those if you want more updates. In this post, I’ll give you drafts of the abstracts for each chapter, so that you can get a birds-eye view of the dissertation project.†
Below are the syllabus and materials for my Introduction to Philosophy course. You are welcome to use any of the material as a student or as an instructor. The usual creative commons license applies to my portion of this—i.e., only the stuff to which I would have a copyright. (If you are my student, remember that you can be quizzed on the contents of the syllabus.)
I. Introduction to Philosophy
Did you know that people who study philosophy make significantly fewer reasoning errors than others? (See Livengood et al 2010 and Byrd 2014). And did you know that philosophy majors outperform basically everyone else on the GRE? And did you know that the median mid-career salary for people who major in philosophy is $81,000? And did you know that philosophy majors were projected to be the top-paid humanities major in 2016? Find out more about philosophy majors here. And if you’ve never taken a philosophy class, you might want to read this 3-4 page intro. Continue reading Introduction to Philosophy: A Free Course
Early in graduate school, I attended a writing workshop that began with a Writing Bloopers activity: in small groups, outline a really bad paper on a topic with which we’re all familiar. Unsurprisingly, the activity was fun. But the activity was also instructive. I learned how some of my writing habits can annoy my readers. And more importantly, I realized just how easy it is to write badly.
1. Modified Writing Bloopers Activity
I sometimes wonder if the Writing Bloopers activity would work with high school or college students. When I pitch the idea to other teachers, they are sometimes skeptical. The skeptics worry that the students do not sufficiently understand what makes writing good or bad. After all, students sometimes turn in papers that contain comically bad writing.
I take the skeptic’s point. However, I wonder if the activity could be modified to work for less experienced writers. For example, perhaps I could present examples of bad writing and let students explain how they are bad. I find that this works well for teaching students about arguments. So it perhaps it would work for teaching students about writing as well. If you’ve done a Writing Bloopers activity, then feel free to share your experience in the comments.
2. A List of Writing Bloopers
Here’s a (growing) list of writing bloopers that could be used for the activity. Feel free to add writing bloopers in the comments.
“From the beginning of time, philosophers have argued about abortion.”
“Since the beginning of time, there has been American history.”
“Since the dawn of time, man has wondered whether computers can think.”
“Since the dawn of time the sun has risen in the East. (Well, that first dawn? The sun may have risen all over at once, but after that things settled down.)”
“Throughout history, man has wrestled with the concepts of cyclic versus linear time.”
“Since the invention of the Nintendo game controller in the 1980’s, scientists have been increasingly worried that computers will take over the world…”
“Throughout the ages, women have been the cause of trouble for men. I, personally, have seen this.”
When my students ask about how to write a philosophy paper, I tell them to aim for three or four criteria. And if they want more guidance, I give them writing tips. Below are the four criteria — in order of importance — with a few tips for each criterion.†
What this means: It should be difficult for me to misunderstand you.††
So don’t waste time crafting long sentences with big words. Instead, aim for a 6th- to 9th-grade reading level. Yes, I know: that’s not how many academics write.††† Do as we say, not as we do.
1st Writing Tip: Continue reading How To Write A Philosophy Paper: 4 Criteria, 9 Tips
Did you enroll in a philosophy class? Cool! You might have heard a few things about philosophy. But — on average — few people know much about academic philosophy. So here’s a quick introduction to your first philosophy class. It’ll cover the basics of what your philosophy teacher cares about and what they probably expect from you.
1. Forget What You Already Believe
Good judgment matters in many contexts. It matters when we’re voting, when we’re raising children, and when deciding how to spend our time, etc. In each of these cases, we need to be able to
- find information.
- understand information.
- explain information.
- evaluate information.
And this is similar to what we will do in a philosophy class. So your grade in a philosophy class is a matter of how well you understand, explain, and evaluate information — where “information” is just the stuff you read and discuss for class.
But that’s not very specific. You probably want to know how to evaluate and explain the information we come across in a philosophy course. For instance, is it enough to say, “I disagree with So-and-so because I believe that _______”? The short answer: no.
In a philosophy class, it doesn’t really matter what we believe. Academic philosophers care more about Continue reading 3 Tips For Your First Philosophy Class
Once upon a time, I loved footnotes and PDF documents. Now I don’t. I prefer eBook format and endnotes. I admit that footnotes are handy sometimes. For example, when I read visually, it’s nice to have the notes on the same page as the body text. However, footnotes are not so handy for auditory reading. Neither are PDF documents. For instance, footnotes wreak havoc on auditory reading. They interrupt the audio stream of the main body of text — sometimes mid-sentence. And since many people have to rely on auditory reading to consume academic research, this means that PDF documents and footnotes decrease the accessibility of research. That’s bad. If we can avoid this bad, we should. And we can avoid it. So we should.
1. Books vs. Articles
Sometimes academic books are available in an eBook version that is amenable to auditory reading — e.g., Amazon’s Kindle format and Apple’s iBook format. And some academic books have a proper audiobook version — e..g, Amazon’s audiobooks. This is great, but… Continue reading The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF