Spring 2021: Intergenerational Philosophy

In this experiential education course students will have the unique opportunity to teach and learn philosophy alongside older adults in the Triangle area. Students will grapple with foundational works of historical and contemporary philosophy, participate in regular discussions with our partners, learn how to communicate complex ideas to a non-specialist audience, and administer a capstone event for our community partners. The experiential dimension of the course will provide an occasion for us to reflect on the nature and aims of education, including the prospect and value of lifelong learning beyond schooling and the social and civic ends of education. By creating spaces for intergenerational dialogue, we hope to draw on the wisdom and experience of older adults in the community, and to facilitate understanding across generations.

Fall 2020: Ethics Bowl & Democratic Deliberation

PHIL 292 FlyerIn this experiential learning course students have the unique opportunity to combine the philosophical study of ethics with virtual service in the community. Students will master the major ethical frameworks philosophers use to think about the rightness and wrongness of actions, our obligations to others, and moral life more broadly. Students will also learn how to distill complex philosophical ideas and to facilitate productive discussions with a young audience. With this training in ethical theory and pre-college pedagogy, undergraduates will serve as virtual coaches and advisors to new startup high school teams across the country who will be competing in a ‘borderless’ regional event in January. This new and innovative partnership, called ‘NHSEBBridge’, aims to promote equity and access within the National High School Ethics Bowl and within our education system more broadly. The ethics bowl competition will sharpen the participants’ ability to reason through complex moral issues, and invite us to reflect on the importance of moral and civic education in our democratic society. Over the course of the semester, undergraduates will develop pedagogical resources on ethics and implement a virtual educational event for our partners.

University of Pennylsvania

Summer 2020: Social Foundations of Education (Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, Penn Graduate School of Education)

In this course you will have the opportunity to scrutinize the ethical, political, and philosophical principles underlying our educational practices. In the first part of the course we will consider competing visions of the goals and aims of education. We will then explore various proposals for the scope and content of schooling in a democratic and multicultural society. To conclude the first part, we will discuss the ways in which educational values and considerations of justice interact. In the second part of the course we will bring our theoretical reflections to bear on concrete cases of educational leadership and decision-making. We will examine two ethically fraught case studies that center around the fundamental issues we grappled with in the first part. After learning how to approach seemingly intractable questions with rigor and charity, teams of students will have the opportunity to engage in civil and deliberative dialogue with another on a final case that draws upon our foundational commitments. Throughout the course you will learn how to read historical and contemporary works of scholarship with analytical precision, how to distill complex ideas for a wider and non-specialist audience, how to reason thoughtfully with others about ethically and politically contested issues, and how to translate abstract and philosophical thinking into effective and thoughtful action.

Summer 2020: History of Ancient Philosophy

What is philosophy? How does it differ from science, religion, literature, and other modes of human discourse? This course traces the origins of philosophy as a discipline in the Western tradition, looking to the thinkers of Ancient Greece and Rome. We will examine how natural philosophers such as Thales, Anaximander, and Heraclitus distinguished their inquiries from the teachings of poets such as Homer and Hesiod; how ancient atomism had its origins in a response to Parmenides’ challenge to the assumption that things change; how Socrates reoriented the focus of philosophy away from the natural world and toward the fundamental ethical question: how shall I live? We will also examine how Plato and Aristotle developed elaborate philosophical systems addressing the nature of reality, knowledge, and happiness. Finally, we will examine the ways in which later thinkers such as the Epicureans and Stoics transformed and extended the earlier tradition.

Spring 2020: Public Philosophy & Civic Engagement

In recent years professional philosophy has witnessed numerous efforts to break down the barriers that stand between the academy and its neighboring communities. Such work has invited a lively discussion across the discipline about the role philosophy can and should play outside the classroom. This course gives Penn students and our community partners the opportunity to make a substantive contribution to this timely issue both by reflecting upon and engaging in ‘public philosophy’. Undergraduates will have the opportunity to read, discuss, and distill philosophical texts on a range of topics in moral and political philosophy, especially topics that pertain to civic life in democratic society. Topics include theories of punishment, duties & obligations (e.g. the duty to vote), varieties of oppression & injustice, cosmopolitanism, patriotism, civil disobedience, civic distrust, anger & forgiveness, propaganda, fake news, and the future of political liberalism. Public philosophy takes many different forms. We will focus our efforts on cultivating the skill of short-form writing, broadly construed so as to include a range of creative outlets for philosophical expression. One such genre of philosophical writing, of which we are fortunate to possess many excellent examples, is the ‘philosophical op-ed’. Over the course of the semester Penn undergraduates will guide the high school students in the creation of a piece of public philosophical writing, which will be given a platform in a major venue or publication. Writing philosophy is a way of inviting others into a shared space of reasoning and thinking. It is in this space that we can speak to others, and more importantly, embrace a wide range of voices and viewpoints. The ability to navigate this space is a civic virtue.