*Join the new Metaethics class running Saturdays 5pm-7pm ET in March 2018! In order to schedule your free trial as a brand new student, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or, even better, friend me and write to me on Facebook.
*If you need a new section on the topic that fits your schedule, please write me with your available weekly times you could meet and I will schedule it so it fits your calendar!
*Click here for more current 2018 course offerings!
Metaethics: Debating the Nature of Morality: This is a course for digging in deep to all the foundational questions about the nature of morality itself. Using a century’s worth of cutting edge philosophical work as our guide, we will explore the following questions and similar ones:
-What kind of reality does morality have?
-What does it mean to be either a “moral realist” or a “moral antirealist”?
-Is morality a matter for objectivity, subjectivity, or intersubjectivity?
-Is it constructed or discovered?
-What are the meanings of central moral terms like “good”, “bad”, “right,” and “wrong”?
-Is there anything that makes a moral norm necessarily binding?
-Are moral arguments capable of rational resolution in principle or do they all just boil down to the rationalizations of arbitrary feelings and preferences?
-Is there any such thing as moral knowledge and, if so, how can it be attained?
-Can there be a form of moral objectivity that accounts for the diversity of moral systems around the world and throughout time?
-Can morality be objective even if it involves situational judgments and changes in values over time?
-What does it mean for morality to be mind-independent and does it have to be so in order to be legitimately binding upon agents?
-Do moral judgments involve believing in fictitious entities?
-Do moral judgments and value assertions merely expression emotions or attitudes?
-Do moral statements state anything factual or do they merely give imperatives and express commitments to norms?
-Are they merely a form of social demand analogous to laws but only more informally propounded and enforced?
-Or are moral truths in some sense part of nature itself or, at least, logically derivable from facts about nature?
-Can scientific findings tell us what we must do morally?
-Can science help us understand the nature of fundamental moral legitimacy?
-Are fundamental moral concepts a priori concepts somehow akin to mathematical ones?
-Is God necessary for the existence, nature, or authority of moral truths?
-Can the existence of morality provide evidence for the existence of God?
-What ramifications do discoveries in evolutionary biology have for our understanding of the origins, nature, and legitimacy of moral judgments?
-What can psychological investigations into moral judgment making tell us about whether moral claims are legitimate or not, or rational or not?
-Can purported moral facts be “explanatory” about the world in ways comparable to how scientific facts can?
-Does the persistence of moral disagreement (even among putative experts) indicate that there is no such thing as moral truth?
-Is value a merely subjective matter?
-Is there any way to determine an objective good that all rational agents should maximize, when there are a range of from candidates such as pleasure, well-being, preference-satisfaction, thriving, dutifulness, and more that have each been plausibly proposed by philosophers?
As with all of my classes this is a live, dynamic, interactive small group class. It is held using Google’s videoconference technology (the easy to install and use service called Google Hangout). The class is tailored to student’s specific interests in the material as vigorous, rigorous, and potentially wide-ranging class discussions emerge when students respond to my lecturing and to our mutual close readings of screen-shared philosophical texts.
No outside reading will be expected or required. I take it as my responsibility to catch students up to speed on the ideas we’re covering so that students are able to fully engage with the concepts for themselves without independent research. Frequently we will read aloud, explicate, and criticize portions of books and articles looking at them together on a screen share in order to help us orient our discussion more concretely. Students interested in outside reading will be provided with suggestions upon request. But I find that these classes work best (and students attend most frequently) when they fit into students’ otherwise busy schedule as a once weekly source of rest, intellectual reinvigoration, and mentally stimulating social interaction, rather than as a source of work throughout the week.
There is no university credit for attending these class sessions.
The first session is a FREE TRIAL for newcomers who have never attended one of my class sessions before. For more about me, see this page. Write me at email@example.com now to express your interest in this class and give me your availabilities so that I can plan it around accommodating you. Below you will find more detailed information answering frequently asked questions about how my classes work.
I earned my PhD in Philosophy from Fordham University. I wrote my dissertation on Ethics and Nietzsche’s philosophy. Over 11 years I taught 2,500 university students spread across 93 classes from 7 universities.
Since January 2013 I have been leading self-motivated independent learners from around the world in small group and 1-on-1 classes. My small group online classes offer you live, dynamic, interactive class discussions with other students and me, held over videoconference (using Google Hangout, which downloads in just seconds). Classes are flexible enough to meet the needs of both beginners and students with existing philosophical background. Usually we read a primary or secondary philosophical text together live in class, using Google Hangout’s easy and convenient screen-share feature, and discuss it as we go. In more introductory style courses I will also overview some concepts in a traditional lecture style before opening the floor for discussion. In either case, classes wind up tailored to your specific interests, ideas, and questions related to the material as vigorous, rigorous, and potentially wide-ranging class discussions almost inevitably emerge in response to the ideas we are covering and these freewheeling discussions determine the direction of the class from there. My classes are university quality but I offer no university credit whatsoever.
I typically propose whole new classes in January, June, and September. But I also wind up starting new classes in other months when students come available then instead. I schedule all classes by learning the regular time availabilities and topic interests of potential participants and putting as many people together with classmates as possible. I run as many sections of a class as necessary to accommodate everyone.
Most importantly though, each class is designed to be the sort of experience you can join “midstream” and continue to attend year-round as though it were a book club, bible study, or a yoga class rather than a formal university class with a sequential structure and a beginning and an end. So students may hop into any given existing class that fits their interests and their schedules, rather than wait for a new one to be started, and not have to worry about what was covered in previous weeks and months.
If you can’t make your regular class session in a given week, you can either (a) request a (copyrighted and confidential) recording of the missed session (which you are forbidden to distribute or broadcast to others), (b) sit in with another section of my classes, (c) set up a one-on-one make up time with me at your convenience, or (d) receive a no questions asked refund.
Some busy prospective students worry that they will either inconvenience me or not keep up with the material if they have inconsistent attendance in their regular time slot. Fear of inconsistent attendance should never be the reason for not signing up to my classes. From both a pedagogical standpoint and, frankly, a business standpoint, it’s always in my own interest to make up the class time, to give you a recording or to give you a refund so that you are getting value from your money and continuing to pay me and be a part of the class when you can attend. As long as a student is available at some time during the week, day or night, I will prioritize making myself available if at all possible. And if there is simply no time for a student to make up time in a given week or later in a month, then that’s okay too.
My motto is “the year is long”. We are not under any institutional time pressures to get classes completed in specific timeframes. Some of my classes literally run year round with the same students exploring ever more topics with me. Classes will run until every single student has gotten every single thing he or she wants out of it. And since I strive to make philosophical discussions with me and your classmates such a highly valued part of your weekly ritual that you continue to participate in classes with me year round, I look at this from a long term perspective and fully expect that it will be inevitable and healthy that eventually you will have some other weeks away (sometimes consecutively even), that you will attend to important occasions that arise, go on vacations, deal with illness, or just plain need to save money sometimes. My goal is to be accommodating so that whenever it works for you to join in my classes, you feel welcome and feel no guilt over the times you cannot.
My classes require no outside reading or homework or grades–only a once weekly 2 hour commitment that fits the schedules of busy people. I take it as my responsibility to catch you up to speed on the ideas we’re covering so that you are able to fully engage with the concepts for yourself without having to do work on the topics the rest of the week. Most weeks I read aloud sections of books and articles as we look at them together on a screen share. As we read, we explicate and criticize the texts together and eventually wind up creatively, critically, and constructively discussing with each other our own ideas stimulated by the texts we’re reading. The texts we read together include (1) a mixture of classic and cutting edge primary sources, (2) summations of key positions from the philosophical literature written in handbooks and encyclopedias designed for professional philosophers and students alike, and (3) chapters from introductory texts written for undergraduate and graduate philosophy majors.
I am constantly challenging myself to continue learning with my students rather than to stick to lecturing about what I have already mastered. So that means we spend year round getting deeper and more specific about the basic questions of the class as we perpetually explore fresh new perspectives. Particular students may start and stop attending at any time throughout these classes. Students are encouraged to inform me of their topic preferences and any time limits they have in mind for how long they expect to participate in the classes, so that I can be sure to prioritize their interests while they are part of the class. Students interested in outside reading will be provided with suggestions upon request. But I find that these classes work best (and people attend most frequently) when they fit into students’ otherwise busy schedules as a once weekly source of rest, intellectual reinvigoration, and mentally stimulating social interaction, rather than as a source of extra solitary work and deadlines throughout the week.
Most students pay for classes using a Weekly Subscription. Once you subscribe, you’re self-enrolled in the class and automatically billed by PayPal for $42 weekly until whenever you want to suspend your subscription or cancel. Any time I cancel class or you are absent (for whatever reason) you are offered a recording from my archive that I think you will like or refunded if you’d rather that. Unlike with your gym membership, you will never get stuck paying for time you don’t use if you sign up for a Weekly Subscription. And when you’re ready to cancel your subscription you can self-cancel with PayPal directly or ask me to pause your subscription if you hope to come back at any point in the future.
Year Long Subscriptions
Students who (a) are willing to commit up front to attend class year round, (b) have the money upfront, and (c) do not mind supporting me even in the case that they are unable to attend as often as they expect, are welcome to sign up at any point for a Year Long Subscription in order to receive a guaranteed 48 live sessions and 4 recorded “best of” sessions from my archives when I go on vacation for a total of $1,699. Plus every time you miss class you are guaranteed a recording so you will certainly get 52 sessions worth of class between live attendance and recordings, even if your schedule becomes hectic at any point. That’s a rate of just $32.67/session for a savings of 23% as compared to paying for 52 weeks on a Weekly Subscription. Unused sessions within the 12 month period the subscription covers cannot be used in the next year. Students may sometimes attend more than once a week to get their 52 owed sessions. There are no refunds if students fail to attend all 52 sessions. Prorated refunds are only offered in cases where I neglect to offer or show up to 48 weeks’ worth of classes or to make adequate accommodations to make up any classes I have to cancel and neglect to produce recordings for missed weeks. Students may also defer time from their subscription if they suspend it for 1-12 months due to a personal hardship.
People who live together are permitted to take a class together for no extra cost, if they share the same camera. Scholarships are also available for students who cannot afford the classes. Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend me and write to me on Facebook in order to be put on the list of potential scholarship recipients.