Courses at Florida International University
Phenomenology, Spring 2017
What are time and space? What is the relation between self and world? What is the relation between mind and body? What is it like to be embodied in a social world? These are some of the questions that lie at the heart of phenomenological reflection. Phenomenology is a movement in twentieth-century German and French philosophy. Our readings will include the works of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, as well as those of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir, Emmanuel Lévinas, and Jacques Derrida.
The course is divided into six units. In the first unit, we shall discuss the phenomenological method, by focusing on Husserl’s phenomenology. This first unit will give us a preliminary answer to the question, “What is phenomenology?”In the second unit, we shall turn to Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology. We shall inquire into the relation between self and world. This inquiry will shed light on the differences between Husserlian and Heideggerian phenomenology. The third unit explores the convergence of existentialist thought, another major movement in twentieth-century European philosophy, and of phenomenology, through the lens of Sartre’s works. The next two units will consider phenomenological insights into the nature of perception, in light of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, on the one hand, and the experience of being embodied in a social world, shaped by such identity categories as gender, race, and sexual orientation, on the other hand. Readings in the fifth unit will include Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. The final unit will explore later developments in phenomenology, as represented by the works of Lévinas and Derrida.
Existentialism, Fall 2016
How should I face death? How can I be authentic? How should I live? These questions lie at the heart of existentialist thinking. Existentialism is a movement in philosophy and literature that originated in the nineteenth century writings of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Although neither Kierkegaard nor Nietzsche referred to himself as an existentialist, their reflections on the significance of religion, authenticity, and nihilism, laid the ground for twentieth-century works in philosophy, most notably those of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
The course is divided into four units, each focused on a cluster of related questions. In the first unit, we shall ask whether traditional rules of morality and religious teachings are relevant to living a good life. Answering this question will allow us to better understand what kind of life we want for ourselves. In the second unit, we shall inquire into the nature of human freedom. What is human freedom? Why should we promote the freedom of others? And why does owning up to one’s freedom rather than shirking it make one an authentic individual? In the third unit, we will ask how one should face one’s death. What does it mean to face death authentically? Why do we so often fail to do so? In the final unit, we shall inquire into how various forms of oppression curtail the possibility of living authentically. This inquiry will lead us to examine whether existentialist ideas are relevant to the situations of the oppressed.
Courses at Harvard University
Gender and Race, Fall 2014
Gender and race are social categories that shape our lives on a daily basis. This course will offer an introduction to metaphysical and ethical issues pertaining to gender and race. It will address such topics as: definitions of gender and race (including the sex/gender and color/race distinctions); race eliminativism; differences between the structures of gender and race; definitions of racism and sexism; and the claims of theories of social justice which aim to combat racism and sexism. We will study the classical descriptions of gendered and raced experience found in the works of Simone de Beauvoir and Frantz Fanon, as well as the views of contemporary philosophers such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, Sally Haslanger, and Martha Nussbaum.
Aristotle’s Ethics, Spring 2013
One of the most influential ethical treatises ever written, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics offers an account of the highest good for humans: “happiness”, as it's usually translated. In developing this account, Aristotle explores such topics as: the nature of the good person; the relation between virtue and character; the human virtues; agency; self-control; justice; the role of friendship in the good life; and the relation between pleasure and the good. We aim to read the entire work closely, to try to understand the relations between these topics and the nature of the “happiness” Aristotle prizes.
My philosophy of teaching has been influenced by my understanding of philosophy as a way of life. I conceive of teaching as an opportunity to challenge my students intellectually and to invite them to change their lives through philosophy. For a fuller description of my pedagogical values, see my teaching statement The Art of Thinking, The Art of Living.