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
To be or not to be. That is the question. (Seriously.) David Benatar’s chapter “Why Coming Into Existence is Always a Harm” from his book Better Never To Have Been (2006) and follow-up paper “Still Better Never to Have Been: A Reply to (More of) My Critics” argues in favor of the latter: it’s better not to be. This comparative claim seemed intuitively plausible at first,1 but upon reflection, I find myself puzzled by it. I worry that this anti-natalism comparison involves contradiction, equivocation, or a false sense of commensurability. In this post, I’ll explain.
Continue reading The Anti-natalism Comparison: Contradiction, Equivocation, & Incommensurability
Liberals prize inclusivity and tolerance. But liberals also criticize certain things — e.g., certain things that conservatives do. So liberals aren’t inclusive after all! Liberal hypocrites! Boo liberals! …or so the story goes.
Should liberals be inclusive and tolerant of everything? Are they hypocritical if they’re not? No. Of course not. For an explanation and context, here are five thoughts about liberals, hypocrisy, and tolerance. (Spoiler: I make multiple concessions to conservatives.)
Continue reading 5 Thoughts About “Liberal Hypocrites”
What if traveling abroad were somehow bad for you? Well, a series of studies seem to find that “[traveling abroad] can lead to [lying and cheating] by increasing moral relativism” (Lu et al 2017, 1, 3). This finding has just the right combination of intuitive plausibility and surprise for us to want to share it uncritically. So, instead, let’s take a look at the methods, measures, and philosophical nuances of the topic. As usual, a bit of reflection makes the finding a bit less exciting and it reveals a need for follow-up research.
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
“…we think that the world would be improved if we could substitute for the best works of representative art real objects equally beautiful.”
—G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica (§117,¶ 2)
I don’t buy it.
Consider the statue of David. Now ask yourself, “Would this be more or less beautiful if it were an actual man standing on the pedestal?”
Continue reading Representative Art vs. The Real Thing: Which is more beautiful?
Cognitive Science investigates the mind with methods and tools from various fields like computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. Here are some popular cognitive science podcasts. I listen to almost all of them, so feel free to contact me if you have questions that are not answered in each podcast’s description below.
Continue reading 10+ Cognitive Science Podcasts