I regularly teaching the following courses. Click on a course name to learn a little more about the course.

PHIL 206: Introduction to Logic and Scientific Reasoning (spring)

This course introduces students to basic principles of logic, argumentation and critical reasoning. These are fundamental tools that you can apply to all areas of your school, work and personal life. You'll learn why good argumentation is important, what makes an argument good or bad, how to spot bad arguments and how to develop good arguments of your own. You'll also learn about different forms of reasoning (e.g. deductive vs. inductive, reasoning about statistics, causal arguments, reasoning by analogy, scientific reasoning, etc.) and the most common fallacies and pitfalls associated with them.

The text for this course is a packet of photocopied readings that you won't find in the University or Campus book stores; they're available at Prints Copy Center (I'll give directions in class).

PHIL 380: Philosophy of Science (fall)

This course explores a range of philosophical questions concerning the nature of science, scientific reasoning and scientific theories. In Fall 2008 we looked at the following topics:

1. What is science?
2. What do the terms "theory", "hypothesis" and "fact" mean in the context of science?
3. What is the relationship between the methods of science, the success of scientific theories, and the truth of those theories?
4. What are the limits of scientific reasoning?
5. What is the relationship between scientific belief and religious belief?

Along the way we cover a range of topics in the history of science, including the transition from Aristotelian to modern science, Galileo's confrontation with the Church, the nature of Darwin's theory of evolution, and creationism and intelligent design. I normally use a course packet for this course.

PHIL 485: Philosophy of Physics (spring)

The topics covered in this course may vary from year to year, as they usually are organized around a particular theme. In 2007, for example, the whole course was devoted to the philosophy of quantum mechanics.

This year (Spring 2009) the theme is "What is the World Made Of?". We'll be looking at the history of the concept of "matter" and its development from antiquity to the 21st century. We'll also cover a range of standard topics in the philosophy of physics, including:
  • conceptual issues in Newtonian mechanics
  • the origins of the "field" concept, and debates over the ontological status of fields
  • conceptual issues in relativistic physics, including the relativity of space and time, and the nature of gravity
  • conceptual issues in quantum mechanics (indeterminism and uncertainty, the measurement problem, entanglement, locality and realism)
  • scientific realism vs. antirealism and the interpretation of physical theories
  • determinism and indeterminism
  • the role of symmetry principles in the interpretation of objects and processes in fundamental physics
Common questions: Do I have to be a physics major to take this course? Is there going to be lots of math involved? The short answer is no, you don't have to be a physics major. Some past exposure to math and physics will certainly be helpful, but for the most part the readings focus on conceptual issues rather than mathematical formalism. Having said that, if you don't have a strong interest and some background in either philosophy or physics, this course probably isn't for you. In general I would discourage freshman and sophomores from taking this course.

PHIL 496/596: Ecology and Society (fall)

This course is aimed at senior undergraduates and graduate students in ecology, environmental science and environment-related disciplines (natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, environmental studies, etc -- in previous years we had a number of students from the MA program in Creative Writing and the Environment take the course).

The course introduces students to the philosophy and science of ecology by examining it's conceptual development over the past one hundred years and the contributions of central figures in the history of ecology (Clements, Gleason, Tansley, Odum, MacArthur, etc.). We look at a number of central debates in the intellectual history of ecology, including debates over the metaphysical status of communities and ecosystems, the nature and causes of community and ecosystem development, and general issues concerning holistic versus reductionistic methods and research perspectives in ecology.

The second half of the course is devoted to topics in applied ecology and conservation science (conservation biology, restoration ecology, wilderness preservation, ecological economics) and environmental ethics. Here we focus on the relationship and relevance of the history and philosophy of ecological science for debates in applied ecology and environmental ethics.

The course is co-taught with Professor Arnold van der Valk from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology. It counts for graduate credit in EEOB and for undergraduate or graduate credit in Philosophy.