*Try out my classes for free with a no-commitment trial!
*Beginning in September 2017, I will be offering a brand new class called “Moral Evolution, Psychology, and Philosophy”. This class will meet 9:15am-11:15am Sundays, starting September 3, 2017. There are already five students who are expected to be participating in the class. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend me and write to me on Facebook in order to sign up or schedule a different section if you can’t make this one.
*Classes are $42/session, with a choice of recording or refunds for missed sessions. A Special Back-to-School Rate is available until September 9, 2017. The School Year Subscription costs $1,276 and covers weekly classes from September 2017 through May, 2018. At just $33.58/session for 38 sessions you save 20% savings compared to the $42 Weekly Subscription rate. To get a similar discount (22%/session) for a full year’s worth of classes purchases the Year Long Subscription for $1,699. See details on each payment plan below.
*See my entire schedule of NEW and ongoing classes for September 2017.
Drawing on both classic and cutting edge psychological, philosophical, and evolutionary science research in this course we will debate together
- The evolutionary history of morality.
- Evolutionary justifications for morality.
- Whether moral reasoning might be able to transcend our evolutionary “programming”.
- Whether there is an innate, evolved, accurate “moral sense”.
- “Evolutionary Debunking Arguments” that claim that the fact of evolution should lead us to moral skepticism–and replies to such arguments from moral realists.
- Jonathan Haidt’s highly influential “Moral Foundations” Theory and his popular bestseller The Righteous Mind.
- Results produced by this past decade’s emerging “Experimental Philosophy” movement, in which philosophers have attempted to use experimental tools to plow fresh ground on perennial philosophical questions.
- Determinism, free will, moral responsibility, and just punishment.
- The possibility of altruism and its potential role in morality.
- The roles of empathy and compassion in moral reasoning, and the positives and negatives of rooting one’s moral judgments in empathy.
- The potential insights into the nature of morality from primatology, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and other relevant scientific subdisciplines.
- The respective roles of emotions, desires, and rationality in moral reasoning.
- The extent to which morally questionable influences like disgust, tribalism, and a whole raft of cognitive biases influence our moral reasoning, and how being aware of these things should affect our understanding of morality and moral reasoning.
- Whether liberals and conservatives have intractable moral and political differences for innate psychological and, even, evolutionary reasons–and if so, the implications of this for how we should engage with politics.
- The “crooked timber of human nature”; i.e., “Are there certain insurmountable psychological limitations to the moral perfectibility of humans that our moral or political proposals must figure out how best to accommodate, lest we do more harm than good?”
- The question of whether or how the idea of “functions” in nature can again help us to understand morality, compatible with an evolutionary understanding of the development of life.
- The intelligibility and possibility of norms existing in nature.
- Whether investigations into the natures of moral things can boil them down to being, at bottom, just the kinds of uncontroversial realities validated by empirical science.
- The history of moral psychology.
- Interactions between gender, moral psychology, and moral norms.
- “Is/Ought” problems: “If science is only about describing the world how can it tell us anything about what we ought to do?” “Can philosophy do any better than science at deriving oughts that people must obey even if they have no desire to do so?” “Should we just collapse the question of oughts altogether and treat morality as purely a subject for descriptive science with no need of philosophical help?” “Just because we evolved to have certain behavioral dispositions, what does that have to do with what we ought to do?” “If we have been programmed by millions of years of natural selection pressures to think, feel, and act in certain ways, is it simply presumptuous, unfair, ungrounded, or downright unrealistic for morality to try to tell us how we “ought” to be instead?”
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.
School Year Subscriptions
If you would like to join my classes for the equivalent of the traditional American school year, from the beginning of September through the end of May and then take the summer off, sign up for a School Year Subscription for $1,276. At $33.58/session for 38 sessions you save 20% savings compared to the Weekly Subscription rate. I guarantee to offer at least 36 live sessions and provide one or two recordings from my archives should I miss one or two weeks due to vacations or personal conflicts. Any weeks I offer to teach class but you do not attend, I will provide you with a recording of the class or one from my archive if no one else attends either. There are no refunds on School Year Subscriptions unless I fail to offer 36 live sessions and to provide compensatory recordings. If you want to return the following September for another school year you’ll be automatically billed again without having to resubscribe. Otherwise I’ll suspend your subscription. School year subscriptions are only available in August and early September of each year. You can purchase a School Year Subscription between now and September 9, 2017. This way, if you are a prospective student who has never attended classes with me before you will have the chance to sit in for free on a session of the classes that start the first week of September before committing.
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 email@example.com or friend me and write to me on Facebook in order to be put on the list of potential scholarship recipients.