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Recent Courses

PHIL 390: Seminar in Special Topics: Philosophy at the Margins

Spring 2021 (in-person)

This is a seminar course that offers an intensive exploration and discussion of selected topics in philosophy. This year we will focus on the question “What is philosophy? (And who decides this anyway?)” by exploring articles and book chapters that are written in areas of philosophy that have traditionally been ignored and/or are written by marginalized people and/or are otherwise considered to be outside the core areas of philosophy.

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PHIL 211: Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Marginality in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Science, and Medicine

Fall 2020 (remote)

Why is it that almost all ancient philosophical texts focus solely on the views of the elite male members of Greek society? What happened to the voices of the women, the foreigners (or ‘barbarians’ as the Greeks referred to them), and the less-than-privileged? In this course, we will study – through the examination of several infamous, ignored, or otherwise uncharted Greek texts of the classical period – the views about gender and race as presented in ancient Greek philosophy, medicine, and science. Our aims are to generate a new understanding of how the male elite used such views to further promote or justify (or perhaps challenge) the existing marginalization and silencing of women, foreigners, and less privileged men and to maintain their own social, political, and intellectual privilege. We will also consider how ancient perspectives about these issues remain current and influential today.

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PHIL 411: Aristotle

Spring 2020 (online after Spring break)

This course offers a high-level survey of the Aristotelian Corpus with the aim to provide students with a more thorough understanding of the key texts, doctrines, notions, and ideas in Aristotle’s philosophy as a whole. We will read about two entire books of some of the most significant Aristotelian treatises for every class meeting, complemented by one or two (‘classic’ or recent) high impact articles. Every class meeting will include a close reading of at least one famous passage or argument in Aristotle (such as the ‘rainfall-example’ in Phys II 7, the ‘function-argument’ in NE I 7, or the argument for ‘cosmic teleology’ in Meta L 10). Readings will include Categories and Posterior Analytics II; Physics II and Generation and Corruption II; On the Soul II-III; History of Animals I and Progression of AnimalsParts of Animals I-II;Generation of Animals II and IV; On the Heavens II and Movement of AnimalsNicomachean Ethics I-II; Politics I and VII-VIII; Metaphysics Zeta and Lambda; Rhetoric II and Poetics. Additional selections will be determined by the students.


PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy: Main Problems

Maymester 2021 (online), 2020 (online), 2019, 2018; Spring 2021 (online), 2015; Fall 2016, 2013 (honors)

This course offers an introduction to philosophy in the western analytic tradition by combining traditional reading with more novel approaches to doing philosophy, such as music, film, and podcasts. We will discuss core problems in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics (e.g. what is knowledge? What is the relation between our mind and our body? What constitutes a right action? Is morality connected to happiness?), but also issues that are of more recent concern in, for instance, feminist epistemology (e.g. is knowledge a social construct, and if so, do traditional accounts of knowledge hurt women or non-western-males?), in cognitive psychology (e.g. can the concept of alief introduced by Tamar Gendler help to make sense of and address phenomena such as implicit bias?) and in the intersections of animal ethics, philosophy of race, and feminist ethics (e.g. does speciesism lead to racism? Does the objectification of female bodies as meat make animal welfare a feminist issue?).


PHIL 210: Ancient Greek Philosophy

Fall 2019, 2018, 2014, 2012; Spring 2013

This course offers an examination of the high-water marks of ancient Greek science and philosophy, focusing on the Pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. A wide range of philosophical problems will be discussed, including the nature of the world, the possibility and justification of scientific knowledge, the nature of the good life, the organization of the just city, and the immortality of the soul. Attention will be paid to how these problems unfolded in their historical context and to the methodological problems involved in the study of ancient texts. We will also discuss how the ancient treatments of philosophical problems compare to contemporary efforts. Classes will generally proceed by lecture, but there will be ample time for discussions of the texts and for in-class group assignments.


PHIL 765: Virtue Ethics

Spring 2018

Virtue ethics is often thought to be one of the major kinds of ethical theory, alongside consequentialist and deontological theories. In this course, we will take an in-depth look at contemporary virtue ethical theory and practical applications. We will also draw from Aristotle’s ethics and moral psychology and discuss both classical and contemporary theoretical questions such as: what are the virtues? How is action shaped by social context and is that compatible with a robust view of virtue? Does flourishing as a virtuous person have anything to do with happiness? Can a theory of virtues be action guiding? We will then turn to practical applications of virtue ethics in contemporary contexts and consider such topics as character development in education, virtue and medicine, environmental ethics, business ethics, and what virtue requires in our treatment of non-human animals. Undergraduate students enrolling in this course should have at least some background familiarity with ethics and moral theory. 

Co-taught with Rebecca Walker.


PHIL 411: Aristotle's Politics

Spring 2017

In this course, we will discuss Aristotle’s Politics in the context of his wider philosophy, with special attention to his moral psychology and his biology. Topic covered include Aristotle’s division of the soul; ethics as a political science; animal locomotion and human action; happiness, human function, and virtue; the notions of cities and citizenship; the ideal constitution; eugenics; habituation and musical education; and Aristotle’s treatment of women, barbarians, and ‘natural slaves.’

Co-taught with C.D.C. Reeve.


PHIL 994: Dissertation Research Seminar

Spring 2020 and Spring 2017

This course is intended for advanced graduate students to present their dissertation research to each other. The course is centered around weekly presentations by students on their own dissertation research. Every student will be asked to give a roughly hour-long presentation of their work, with discussion to follow. Students will also be asked to provide comments on the presentations of their peers, and to chair the Q&A (this by way of practicing chairing and commenting at conferences). You will receive feedback on each of these components from your instructors.

The goal of this course is to get you feedback on your dissertation research, to acquaint each other with your research, to get some experience giving professional presentations, and to give feedback on such presentations. Presentations are encouraged to be in a way that would be suitable in a professional setting outside of UNC.

Co-taught with Tom Daughtery (2020) and Alex Worsnip (2017).


PHIL 411: Aristotle's Metaphysics

Spring 2015

This course will explore different aspects of Aristotle’s metaphysics or ‘first philosophy,’ including his understanding of the concepts of being, substance, essence, unity, definition, form, actuality and potentiality, and the unmoved movers. The central text will be Aristotle’s Metaphysics, of which we will read large parts.

Co-taught with C. D. C. Reeve.


PHIL 51: First Year Seminar: Who Was Socrates?

Summer 2019, Fall 2014, 2013, and Spring 2012

Socrates is by far the most famous Greek philosopher and, perhaps, the first real philosopher known in the Western tradition. In this course, we explore the intellectual and historical context within which Socrates is thought to have revolutionized philosophy so as to better understand his significance for his contemporaries and for us. Our focus, however, will be on the large and perennial human questions that Socrates made his own: How should we live? What is virtue? What sort of society should we strive to provide for our families and for ourselves? And: what is philosophy and what role should philosophy play in our lives? Each week we will read a part of one of the primary texts and discuss it carefully in class. These discussions will serve both as a testing-ground for ideas and as preparation for the writing assignments. By learning to talk and write in an engaging but disciplined way about books and ideas that are both exciting and significant, we will not only be finding out about Socrates but also be taking up the Socratic challenge to live the examined life.


PHIL 411: Aristotle's Natural Science and Philosophy of Science

Spring 2014

This course offers an examination of Aristotle's philosophy of living nature and scientific methodology. We will read a wide array of works of Aristotle, as well as relevant secondary sources. Topics that will be discussed are (among others) Aristotle's notions of nature, movement, teleology, and necessity; the notions of essence, substantial being, and definition; Aristotle's account of the soul and of soul-functions; his biology (including embryology); his bio-cosmology; and, in general, his theory of scientific demonstration, explanation, methods of inquiry, methods for evaluating evidence, and use of thought-experiments. The primary readings will include (selections from) the Posterior Analytics, the PhysicsOn the Soul, the biological works, and On the Heavens. Special attention will be paid to the interactions of Aristotle with his predecessors in his discussions of philosophical problems and to the methodological problems involved in the study of Aristotle's treatises, many of which are notoriously difficult and obscure.


PHIL 460: Animal Ethics

Fall 2012

This course will address topics in, and related to, animal ethics including: moral status and rights, pain and death, animal consciousness, and specific practical moral issues such as eating animals, use of animals for entertainment, animal companionship, and biomedical experimentation. Readings will draw from both historical and contemporary philosophy and relevant contributions from the life sciences.

Co-taught with R. Walker.


PHIL 411: Aristotle's Moral Psychology

Spring 2012

The course will explore different aspects of Aristotle's moral psychology, including his understanding of human function, virtues, and their acquisition, and the role of the intellectual virtues in human flourishing. The central text will be the Nicomachean Ethics, but we will also read selections from Aristotle's psychological treatises, On the Soul and Movement of Animals, as well as from other natural, metaphysical, and scientific treatises.

Co-taught with C.D.C. Reeve.


PHIL 310: Aristotle's Philosophy of Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

Fall 2011

This course offers an in-depth examination of Aristotle’s philosophy of life (as presented mainly in his biological treatises) and the way it shapes his conception of what it means for humans to live a happy life (as presented in the ethical treatises). We will read a wide array of works of Aristotle (including – selections from – On the SoulThe Parts of AnimalsGeneration of AnimalsOn the Heavens, the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics), as well as relevant secondary sources. Topics that will be discussed are, among others, Aristotle’s account of the soul and of soul-functions; his biology (including embryology); his bio-cosmology; Aristotle’s views on the ‘special’ status of human beings; his views about women and natural slaves; and his views about the role of virtue and friendship in living a happy life. Special attention will be paid to interactions of Aristotle with his predecessors in his discussions of philosophical problems and to the methodological problems involved in the study of Aristotle’s treatises, many of which are notoriously difficult and obscure.


Teaching: Courses
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