Philosophy of Risk (PHIL351, SF State, Fall 2017 & Fall 18, instructor) Syllabus 1, Syllabus 2

Philosophical issues about risk assessment and risk management, with attention to their scientific and ethical dimensions. Philosophical analyses of cases such as climate change, energy consumption, water related environmental risks in California, allocation of scarce medical resources, and genetic testing.
In a broad sense, risk involves uncertainty and stakes. We will discuss issues that arise from trying to identify, model, assess, and handle uncertainty, assets, and values. We will ask such questions as: Is risk merely a psychological phenomenon? Is it possible to quantify risk? When and how does risk affect scientists’ work? What factors enter a policy decision under risk? How different frameworks of moral reasoning allow for judgments under risk? Do we have a moral obligation to consider the possible harm of future generations?

The Art(s) of Quantitative Reasoning (PHIL111, SF State, Spring 2018, developer and instructor) Detailed course description

A new General Education course offering from the College of Liberal & Creative Arts, developed by a team of faculty from the music, art history, and philosophy departments.
This course will introduce students to a set of technical difficulties in quantitative reasoning that have shaped the history the arts (for instance, issues of visual perspective and projection, and the problem of tuning and temperament in music). Students will learn the underpinning technical (i.e., mathematical) difficulties, as well as possible strategies to overcome such difficulties. The course will also cover the artistic, philosophical, and societal ramifications of attempting to solve such quantitative issues in the arts.

Graduate Seminar in Current Issue in Philosophy: Probabilistic Reasoning (PHIL890, SF State, Spring 2018, instructor) Syllabus

This graduate-level seminar will address issues surrounding, e.g., the nature of probabilities, their role in physics and epistemology, and their ability to model our reasoning. No prior mathematical background is required. After an introduction to the basics of probability calculus, weekly meetings will be centered on student presentations and discussions of a selection of texts (finalized after the first meetings so as to reflect the interests of the entire group). The evaluation will consist in a take-home exam, and one final paper submitted twice (a preliminary draft and a final draft). We will ask such questions as: What are probabilities? If they only describe our beliefs or our uncertainty, how can we use them to describe the world? What probative value does uncertain or partial evidence have? Should our expectations of plausibility affect hypothesis testing, or should we prefer methods that leave our opinions out? Does probability account for such explanatory virtues as simplicity or unification? To what extent should we expect new findings to be replicable, and how often? Does probability capture the logic of scientific confirmation? To what extent do puzzles of confirmation challenge its relevance? Can probability reframe traditional problems about, e.g., the role of indexical knowledge?

Graduate Seminar in Philosophical Writing (PHIL715, SF State, Fall 2017 & Spring 2018, instructor) Syllabus

This graduate-level seminar in philosophical writing is intended to allow students to develop the analytic, interpretive, and expressive skills essential to the writing of philosophy. Students will learn and practice the research and writing methods required to write a Master’s thesis.

Improving the Teaching of Physics (NS540-549 ITOP, Boston University College of Arts & Sciences and School of Education, 2009-11, co-instructor) Program description. Link.

The Project ITOP sequence consists of ten two-credit courses that merge physics content with readings from the history of physics, the philosophy of science, and the education research literature. The courses are blended in nature. The instructional approach of Project ITOP to teaching physics is based on the physics education research literature. The history and philosophy of physics is included to enrich the understanding of the physics concepts. Our goal is for participants:

  • to develop a conceptual understanding of physics;

  • to implement science education research findings in their lessons;

  • to develop a repertoire of examples, analogies, and metaphors drawn from the history of science, as well as everyday experience; and,

  • to significantly improve problem-solving and laboratory skills for themselves and subsequently for their students.

Graduate Seminar on the Nature of Research in Science (NE491, Boston University, Fall 2011, helped design course) Syllabus

The purpose of this project is for class members to provide a description of their research activities over the semester, and place their experience into the context of the understanding of the nature of science and research they have developed over the semester.