- Science, Values, and Democracy (graduate)
- Philosophy of Technology (undergraduate)
- Science, Technology, and Values (grad & undergrad)
- Cognition, Culture, Communication (graduate)
- American Pragmatism (graduate)
- History and Philosophy of Science (undergraduate)
- Bioethics and Human Enhancement (grad & undergrad)
- Introduction to Philosophy (undergraduate)
- John Dewey and American Philosophy (graduate)
- Creativity in Science and Technology (graduate)
- Understanding Scientific Inquiry (undergraduate)
- Science and Pseudoscience (undergraduate)
- Existentialism (undergraduate)
I have ambitious objectives and apply rigorous standards in my courses. I aim to acquaint students with the key elements of philosophical activity: critical habits of mind, painstaking care in thinking things through, and creative play of ideas. While it is important for students to be aware of the distinctive problems and insights of the philosophical tradition, it is also important not to limit their philosophical attention to the narrow problems of professional philosophy, but to reorient them to the wider problems of life and intelligence. While it is important to teach the particular theories and tools of philosophy, students should also be encouraged to engage philosophically with other areas of thought. In my classes, I emphasize careful reading and interpretation of texts, crafting of rigorous arguments based on evidence and sound reasoning, as well as a thorough and accurate understanding of the issues and conversations they are engaged with, thoughtfulness and insight in interpretation and argument, and, where feasible, creativity and originality of ideas and approach. Often, as the subject-matter allows, I stress social responsibility and public engagement through service learning projects in addition to traditional academic assignments. For instance, for my philosophy of technology courses, students have created projects aimed at disseminating information about sustainable technologies for rural communities in the developing world, video games that discourage online bullying, and humorous videos encouraging viewers to recycle batteries.
The most important activity in teaching these skills and habits is face-to-face philosophical discourse, as well as writing papers. Class participation and written assignments thus form a core of the assessment mechanism in my courses. I have found that students often underestimate the time, effort, and skill necessary for writing and discussing well, and overestimate their own abilities in research and writing. To address this problem, I have developed and refined ways of breaking down the reading, discussing, researching, and writing processes into component activities, often in order to force the students to slow down and take care, and second to provide midstream feedback. Some of the relevant assignments include weekly discussion questions, small-group discussions, annotated bibliographies, paper proposals, reverse outlines, and peer editing. Students occasionally grumble at what they perceive as a greater workload, but in the end the results are improved.
I currently have several courses that are now on regular rotation at UT Dallas. At the graduate level, I have frequently taught a version of the course entitled “Science, Values, and Democracy” or “Science, Technology, and Values.” This course focuses on the discussions in philosophy of science about the role of values in science and the role of science in a democratic society, also drawing in relevant discussions from philosophy of technology, political theory, and sociology of science. My course on “American Pragmatism” is also on regular rotation, an overview of the tradition of philosophical pragmatism from its origins in the late nineteenth century into the late twentieth. At the undergraduate level, I have most often taught courses on philosophy of science and philosophy of technology, which are required for the Arts and Technology (ATEC) undergraduate students.
Some of my other courses are more specific topics within the broader headings of my courses mentioned above, e.g., my courses on “Bioethics and Human Enhancement” (within the broader heading of science and values) and “John Dewey and American Philosophy” (as a special focus in American pragmatism). Many of my course topics are related to the annual theme of the Center for Values lecture series, not only “Science, Values, and Democracy” and “Bioethics…” but also “Creativity in Science and Technology” and the upcoming courses on science, technology, and gender that I will teach in Spring 2015.
While there is a growing interest in scientific humanities and history and philosophy of science amongst the graduate students, I have developed those courses to make better connections with the interests and needs of the students, including broadening my courses to include technology in a way that better serves ATEC and Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) students. While my courses on American Pragmatism offer significant value to humanities students focusing on American history or on intellectual history, I have also developed two courses aimed at other groups of students: a course on interdisciplinary “Comics Studies,” a field that’s a tertiary interest of mine, and a course aimed at ATEC, EMAC, and Cognitive Science students in the School of Brain and Behavioral Sciences (BBS) on “Cognition, Culture, and Communication.” Two students from my “Comics Studies” course presented this year at the academic “Comics Arts Conference” that takes place in conjunction with “Comic-Con International” in San Diego.
At the undergraduate level, a major challenge is that there are undergraduate programs, such as ATEC, that require certain upper-level philosophy courses (like PHIL 4310, Philosophy of Technology), but many of those students do not have the necessary prerequisites to succeed in the course. This presents me with the dilemma of either allowing unprepared students into the course, or sticking to the prerequisites, keeping enrollments lower, and frustrating students who need such a course to graduate. I volunteered to teach “Introduction to Philosophy” in Fall 2011, in hopes of contributing early to undergraduate interest in philosophy and provide more spaces in the lower-level courses, and will do so again in the future.
Beyond organized courses, I work with a number of graduate and undergraduate students independently. For graduate students I am co-chair on one student’s dissertation, serve on several other students’ committees, and supervise comprehensive exams; I have chaired one M.A. portfolio committee, and one of my colleagues said that the student had some of the best, most polished papers she had seen in some time. I have also advised honors theses and capstone projects for undergraduate students. During my leadership of the Center for Values, I have created the “Values in Science Research Laboratory,” through which I mentor several students working independently on research projects. Through our NSF grant, I also support and mentor a Research Assistant who is an masters’ student in both EMAC and BBS.