Lecturer @ University of Stirling
In addition to supervising MA, BA, and LLB dissertations in philosophy, law, and politics, I lecture on the following courses:
Political Emotions (course designer)
Emotions figure in many areas of public life, and a number of pressing political issues (from fear in the evaluation of biomedical promises, to compassion in the criminal courtroom) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both political theory and practice are often left at a loss. The first two parts of this course will study prominent theories of emotion, asking about the relationship between emotion and the good life. These parts take a philosophical approach, but are also informed by advances in neuropsychology and cognitive science. We then turn to the public stage, asking how specific emotions figure in political questions: fear, disgust, empathy, dignity, blame, and revenge. Political topics considered will include risky technologies, wrongful legal conviction, capital punishment, the Universal Basic Income, and assisted dying. In the final part of the course, we turn to the role of emotion in media politics and protest movements, assessing how compassion can be manufactured and mediated through political rhetoric, social media, social privilege, and popular fiction. We end with possibly the most crucial political emotion of all: boredom.
- Punishment (course designer)
"Throughout the greater part of human history punishment was not imposed because one held the wrongdoer responsible for his deed, thus not on the presupposition that only the guilty one should be punished: rather, as parents still punish their children, from anger at some harm or injury, vented on the one who caused it--but this anger is held in check and modified by the idea that every injury has its equivalent and can actually be paid back, even if only through the pain of the culprit. And whence did this primeval, deeply rooted, perhaps by now ineradicable idea draw its power--this idea of an equivalence between injury and pain? ... in the contractual relationship between creditor and debtor, which is as old as the idea of 'legal subjects' and in turn points back to the fundamental forms of buying, selling, barter, trade, and traffic." - Nietzsche, On the Geneaology of Morals
Why do we punish? What justifies the inflection of pain and suffering? In this course, we shall consider both the philosophical issue of whether it is moral to punish at all, as well as competing theories as to why we punish. But we shall also turn to numerous practical issues: (1) What actions merit punishment? For example, should someone be legally punished for using marijuana if they do not harm others? for committing adultery? (2) Who should be punished? For example, should we punish those who are insane? drug addicts? juveniles who had a rotten social background? someone who breaks the law but was entrapped? (3) How much punishment is appropriate? For example, should we punish those who agree to plea guilty less severely than those who insist on their innocence? Is capital punishment ever appropriate? If, all else equal--including the wrong committed--one subject to a punishment experiences significantly more suffering than another, have we failed to punish equally? These problems will be our focal point for considering major concepts at the intersection of moral, legal, and political philosophy--authority, justice, wrongdoing, and the surprisingly capitalistic notion of punishment-as-payment. We draw on a variety of sources: classic texts on punishment; contemporary works in philosophy, psychology, political theory, and law; court decisions; and films/documentaries.
The main objective of this module is to provide students with the knowledge of the fundamental theoretical issues on which the law is based. In addition to the classical topics of jurisprudence some applied aspects of the subject will be taught as well in order to make students aware of the important links between the philosophical problems of law and everyday legal practice. The first part of the module deals with the important, if abstract, question of what the law is, and of the connection between law and morality. Must we, as natural lawyers argue, give an account of the objective basis for morality if we are to adequately explain what makes law ‘lawful’? Or can we, as positivists maintain, understand law as a set of social facts with no intrinsic normative significance? In the second part of the module, we will tackle a range of more particular issues which connect in various ways with the general questions discussed during the first part: these among others include liberalism; justice; equality; freedom; order; and autonomy.
Should we accept the election of "racist bigots" to the Presidency? Why should we ever obey the government? Do my duties to my co-nationals differ to my duties to foreigners? How can we understand the role of social and political structures in perpetuating sexual and racial oppression? What is justice? This module will allow students to critically examine these and related questions in political philosophy through study of key historical and contemporary philosophical writings. The first part of the module focuses on historical theories of the state and political obligation, coupled with critiques and challenges offered by anarchism and civil disobedience. We then examine competing conceptions and formulations of central concepts including equality, freedom, and justice. The remainder of the module surveys a number of contemporary issues in political philosophy, including global justice, gender, race, and punishment.
Mind, Value, and Reality
Does God exist? What is consciousness? On what does our personal identity depend? Are we motivated only by self-interest? In this module we will examine these and other questions bearing on the nature of human beings, their place in the world, and the obligations to which they are subject, addressing metaphysical topics from the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind, along with issues concerning human motivation and values.
Philosophy: What's it all about?
What is knowledge and how, if at all, can we ever be certain about anything? What is the mind and how does the mind relate to the body? Is freedom compatible with determinism--the view that for every event there is a cause sufficient to bring it about? Is morality subjective or objective? These are among the topics explored in this module, which provides a general introduction to philosophy. My lectures focussed on freedom, determinism, and moral luck.
Plato to Existentialism
This module offers a philosophical examination of several challenging and influential theoretical discussions of the relation between the individual and society. We begin with two dialogues, The Apology and Crito, in which Plato’s Socrates, facing imminent execution on a charge of corrupting the young, expounds his conception of what it is to live well. The Socratic vision of the good life contrasts vividly with the vision of life in the state of nature offered by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan. For Hobbes an individual’s life without civil society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. A government with absolute authority is required to save people from themselves. The question of the relation between the individual and the state is pursued very differently in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract. Rousseau agrees with Hobbes that absolute sovereignty is necessary, but he holds that this sovereign power can only be exercised by the people as a whole, in accordance with what he terms the ‘general will’. While his sympathisers regard Rousseau as a democrat and defender of freedom, critics contend that he subordinates the individual to society. The tensions between individual and society are at their starkest in the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism is a polemical presentation of the existential challenge confronting the individual in a world where individual choice is the only source of value.
“Excellence in Teaching in the School of Arts and Humanities” and “I <3 My Tutor” award nominations in the 2016 RATE Awards
Lecturer @ University of Edinburgh
- Normative Theory
This course provides a systematic comparison of some of the major normative ethical traditions. Our main text is Derek Parfit’s eagerly-anticipated 2011 book, On What Matters. Parfit’s work in moral theory has made him one of the most influential philosophers of our time. On What Matters explores the reasons why we act the way we do, the role emotions play in ethical decision-making, what actions and consequences are best, the rationality of being good in a bad world, and just how much we ought to trust our moral intuitions. Thoughtful evaluation of a host of hotly-debated moral issues—including free will, consent, distribution of wealth, and positive discrimination—will lead the way to a discussion-based evaluation of Parfit’s powerful and controversial conclusion: the modern possibility of a “supreme principle of morality”.
- Ancient Theories of Existence
The history of Western thought has had an enduring, founding influence on the way our society is run. It is embedded in the language we speak, the politics we engage in, the laws we follow, the religions we practice, and the social norms we’ve come to take as given. Studying ancient philosophy is thus not only a way to understand the way our world works, but it offers us the tools to shape it further. In this course, we get to the very heart of what moves the world and examine different theories of being and reality. We discuss influential Presocratic approaches to the problem of being, Plato’s revolutionary Theory of Forms, Aristotle’s theory of substance, and the ontologies of the most prominent Hellenistic schools.
Supervisory Duties @ University of Edinburgh
- Co-supervision of a Joint-honours (Philosophy and Mathematics) MA dissertation on Plato’s moral psychology, 2013-2014
Seminar Leader @ University of Edinburgh
Taught weekly 1-hour text- and discussion-based seminars, marked essays and exam scripts, and held weekly office hours for the following pre-honours courses:
- Morality and Value (x6 sections of 12-15 students each), Autumn 2015
The aim of this course is to present some of the most important—and interesting—problems and concepts in moral philosophy and to develop students’ ability to understand and critically evaluate philosophical ideas and arguments. Questions to be considered include: What is moral judgment? Can morality be objective? What is at stake in the debate between hedonistic and non-hedonistic theories of value? between consequentialist and deontological theories of right action? What are the key ideas in contractualist approaches to moral and political philosophy?
- Morality and Value (x6 sections of 12-15 students each), Spring 2011
- Greats: From Plato to the Enlightenment (x6 sections of 12-15 students each), Autumn 2010
Through careful reading, study, and discussion of several of the great texts in the history of philosophy, students in this course are introduced to the principle topics and problems of the discipline with emphasis on epistemology and metaphysics. Primary texts are at the centre of this course and include: Meno, Phaedo (Plato); Physics (Aristotle); Meditations on First Philosophy(Descartes); and The Principles of Human Knowledge (Berkeley).
- Morality, Rationality, and Value (x6 sections of 12-15 students each), Spring 2010
- Greats: From Plato to the Enlightenment (x6 sections of 12-15 students each), Autumn 2009
Nominated “Best Tutor”, “Best Feedback in Marking”, “Best Teaching in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences”, “Innovative Teaching”, “Best Dissertation Supervisor”, “Supporting Students’ Learning“, and “Overall High Performer” by the University of Edinburgh Student Association
Student Support Assistant @ University of Edinburgh
- Knowledge and Reality, Spring 2014
- Philosophy of Religion, Spring 2014
- Knowledge and Reality, Fall 2013
- Early Modern Philosophy, Fall 2013
Teaching Assistant and Seminar Leader @ Trinity Western University
Led discussion seminars and marked papers and projects for the following undergraduate classes:
- Political Philosophy (1 section of 30 students)
This course explored key themes in the history of political thought including justice, statecraft, citizenship, power, the good life, charity, war and peace, crime and punishment, duty and piety, freedom, equality, erôs, disobediance, and death. Texts included:Republic, Apology, Statesman, and Symposium (Plato); The Clouds, The Assembly of Women (Aristophanes); Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle); and The City of God (Augustine). The second half of the course examined questions of distributive justice, property and markets, why have (or obey) a state, individualism, anarchism, rights and duties, and moral responsibility. Texts included: The Prince, (Machiavelli); Two Treatises of Government, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Locke); Utilitarianism, On Liberty (Mill); Leviathan (Hobbes); The Social Contract (Rousseau); and A Theory of Justice (Rawls); as well as contemporary literature in analytic moral philosophy.
- Studia Humanitatis (1 section of 12 students)
An interdisciplinary introduction to the influential thinkers of the Western tradition, this course sought to stimulate discussion and debate on key issues in philosophy. The role of the liberal arts in contemporary education was investigated and assessed, with specific reference to the aims and influences of the humanist tradition as a foundation from which to evaluate contemporary problems in philosophy. Texts included: Categories, Metaphysics (Aristotle); The Consolation of Philosophy (Boethius); Pensées (Pascal);Meditations on First Philosophy (Descartes); and A Treatise of Human Nature (Hume).
- Introduction to History & Political Studies (1 section of 10 students)
Intended for first-year undergraduates entering the Department of History and Political Studies, this course provided students with research training and project planning methods for scholarly research. An introductory survey of practices such as the preparation of a literature review and bibliography, archival and web-research, and departmental codes of ethics. Emphasis was placed on the standards of writing for an academic audience, and the development of analytical skills including the ability to evaluate and assess arguments and the concepts they employ. The course also included problem-based learning in Logic.
- Sutton Trust Summer School in Philosophy (2015)
The Summer School programme gives 16 year olds from non-privileged backgrounds the chance to experience university life, in order to help them make informed decisions about their future. I spent a week tutoring on an introductory philosophy course, covering metaethics, free will, climate ethics and the moral status of future people, and the metaphysics of time travel.
- Substitute Teacher, Dublin California School District (2007-2008)
Taught classes of 10-30 junior and senior high school students (ages 12-17) in the following subjects, Advanced Placement (similar to UK A-Levels) denoted by “AP”:
Greek Literature, Russian Literature, English Literature (AP), Philosophy, Art History (AP), German (beginning to AP), French (beginning), Ancient and World History, U.S. History (AP), Government, and Economics.