Public Philosophy & Civic Engagement Seminar (University of Pennsylvania)

Courses Taught at UNC

Ethics Research Seminar for Undergraduates

This is a capstone course in ethics designed for Parr Center Ethics Scholars who are completing the Mentored Research capstone project. The seminar will provide a collaborative learning space that will facilitate each student’s independent research and writing. This course will begin with a survey of major themes in philosophical and practical ethics before transitioning to a thematically focused study of topics based on the research interests and projects of the students enrolled in the course.

Moral and Philosophical Issues in Education

This course is about the social, philosophical, and normative foundations of education, especially education in a liberal democracy. Some of the questions we will address include:

1. What are the aims of schooling and education (e.g. autonomy, liberation, virtue, jobs training, citizenship, social efficiency)?
2. What constitutes equal treatment of students and a fair distribution of educational goods?
3. Who should have the authority to influence the way our education system works?
4. What do educators owe their students, and what does this mean for curricular content and pedagogical methods?

Throughout the course we will reflect on the ways in which these foundational and philosophical questions show up in the many disagreements about education and school policy that persist today (e.g. charter schools, patriotic education, anti-racist curricula, college admissions).

We’ll explore these and other issues by reading philosophical texts (historical and contemporary), along with case studies that highlight the ethical, moral, and political dimensions of education.

No previous exposure to philosophy or philosophical methodology is required for enrollment in this course.

Philosophy Across the Lifespan

This is a service-learning course that aims to promote experiential learning in philosophy by combining traditional elements of classroom study with service in the community. Students will have the unique opportunity to teach and learn philosophy alongside older adults in the Triangle area, thereby integrating the academic study of philosophy with community engagement. Students will grapple with foundational works of historical and contemporary philosophy, participate in regular discussions with older adults in the community, learn how to communicate complex ideas to a non-specialist audience, develop pedagogical resources on philosophy for our community partners, administer an intergenerational capstone event. Guest speakers will on occasion visit the seminar to discuss various aspects of public philosophy and to provide guidance on philosophy pedagogy and facilitation. The experiential and intergenerational character of the course will provide an occasion for students 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 at all levels. 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. We also hope to resist the narrative that adults beyond schooling years are unable to exercise their minds fruitfully, or unable to contribute to the ongoing projects of humanistic inquiry and social deliberation. This course is designed for majors and non-majors alike with an interest in public philosophical engagement and experiential learning. The seminar portion of this course will include some short lectures, but will consist largely of discussion-based learning, class-wide collaboration on pedagogical resources, student presentations, and peer assessment activities. Students will also work collaboratively with their classmates to conduct regular site visits with our community partners.

Ethics Bowl and Democratic Deliberation

In this experiential learning course, students will have the unique opportunity to combine the philosophical study of ethics with service to 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 how to facilitate productive discussions with a young audience. With this training in ethical theory and pre-college pedagogy, undergraduates will serve as coaches and advisors to new startup high school teams across the country who will be competing in a ‘borderless’ competition event near the end of the semester. This new and innovative UNC program, entitled NHSEBBridge, aims to promote equity and access within the National High School Ethics Bowl and within our education system more broadly. Students will also provide real-time feedback to high school teams and students across the country by planning and administering NHSEBAcademy pedagogy clinics and by holding NHSEBStudio office hours. Over the course of the semester, undergraduates will develop pedagogical resources on ethics, and implement educational events for our partners. The Ethics Bowl competition will sharpen the participants’ ability to reason through complex moral issues, and invite us to consider the philosophical and civic foundations of education. Students will also reflect on the ways in which our discursive practices can sustain and impede the health of our democracy. The service component of this course will be conducted online.

Independent Studies
Cicero’s Moral and Political Philosophy (Fall 2021)

Honors Thesis Supervision
“Unselfing” in the Platonic Tradition (AY 2022-2023)
Radicalization & the Ethics of Belief (AY 2021-2022)

Courses taught at penn

Social Foundations of Education

This course is about the social, philosophical, and normative foundations of education, especially education in a liberal democracy. We will begin by considering competing visions of the goals and aims of education. We will then explore various proposals for the scope and content of schooling in a pluralistic and multicultural society, and some of the challenges that arise therein. We will conclude with normative frameworks and conceptual resources that will enable you to translate abstract thinking into informed and effective leadership. 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, and how to reason thoughtfully with others about ethically and politically contested issues. This is a first-year doctoral course for the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

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.

Courses as Graduate Teaching Assistant (2016-2018)

Philosophy of Education: Teaching Philosophy in Middle Schools (Fall 2018)
Introduction to Philosophy (Online, Summer 2018)
History of Modern Philosophy (Spring 2018)
The Social Contract (Fall 2017)
Logic and Formal Reasoning (Spring 2017)
History of Ancient Philosophy (Fall 2016; funded by active learning grant)
Plato and his Predecessors (Online, Summer 2016)
Aristotle and his Successors (Online, Summer 2016)