My hope for my students is that they will leave my courses with critical thinking, reading, and reflection skills they did not have when they enrolled. To that end, I build most of my courses around small-group activities and guided discussions designed to provide opportunities for practice of the component skills of academic "deep" reading, as well as the component skills of philosophical argumentation and theorizing.


Doing Practical Ethics, co-written with Jason Swartwood, Oxford University Press, 2021. [ publisher | powell's | amazon | b&n ]

Doing Practical Ethics supports the deliberate practice of component philosophical skills relevant to understanding, evaluating, and developing arguments in forms commonly used in the field of practical ethics. Each chapter includes an explanation of a specific moral reasoning skill, exercise sets, and demonstration exercises with sample solutions that offer students immediate feedback on their practice attempts. The book can be used as a primary text in skills-focused courses, or as a supplement to existing anthologies of articles in more traditional courses.

Jason and I discussed the pedagogical principles that structure the book in an OUP webinar cleverly titled "Teaching Practical Ethics."

Patrick Brissey wrote a positive review for Teaching Philosophy.

Instructors: please request an examination copy or download a sample packet that includes the table of contents, introduction, and chapter 5.

Writing About Teaching

"WORDMORPH!: A Word Game to Introduce Natural Deduction." Teaching Philosophy 41, no. 2, (2018): 185-190. [ doi | pre-print ]

Some logic students falter at the transition from the purely mechanical method of truth tables to the less-mechanical method of natural deduction. This short paper introduces a word game intended to ease that transition.

Sample Syllabi

Phil 1722: Health Care Ethics (Online) (Saint Paul College)

This syllabus outlines a relatively novel way to teach some traditional issues in health care ethics. Forged in the fires of covid-19, it is an attempt to meet two goals. First, to very tightly align skills, content, and assessments in a way that will be immediately accessible to students who have never taken a course online. Second, to allow a flexibility of pacing that will leave no students behind, even if they fall ill for a couple of weeks during the term.

The course is structured as a series of self-paced "episodes." Each episode is built around a specific fictional controversy. Students first practice a new critical thinking skill, then learn background information relevant to the controversy, then complete a writing assignment that requires them to use their new skill and content knowledge to advance the debate about the fictional controversy. Since the skills build on one another, students may not move on to the next episode in the sequence until they have demonstrated competence with the skill in their current episode.

Phil 1700: Introduction to Philosophy (Saint Paul College)

The academic discipline of philosophy is less a body of knowledge than a set of approaches to thought and discussion, applicable to a wide variety of questions. This course covers a sampling of those questions. Some are abstract (do human beings have free will?) and some are concrete (when is civil disobedience morally permissible?). Some are ancient (what is the meaning of life?) and some are new (are affirmative action programs morally permissible?). In every case, we will take care to understand each question, and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of some important answers. By critically evaluating the views of others, as well as our own initial views, we will not only gain a deeper understanding of the topics scheduled on this syllabus, we will also develop philosophical skills that allow us to think more productively about any other philosophical questions that grab our attention.

Phil 3400: Biomedical Ethics (St. Catherine University)

Nearly every aspect of medical practice is liable to present ethical questions. When, if ever, is it OK for caregivers to lie to patients? What research practices should we ban on ethical grounds, even when such a ban is likely to slow the progress of life-saving discoveries? Should caregivers ever help a patient die? Under what circumstances is it permissible for a caregiver to refuse to provide care? The tools philosophers use to discuss questions like these can help us all improve our ability to think through difficult issues and to discuss them productively with others. We will proceed by examining a series of controversies in biomedical ethics, using each topic as an opportunity to practice skills of reading, reflection, and discussion.

Phil 1102: Logic (Normandale Community College)

Logic is the study of the structure of arguments. This course uses the tools of symbolic logic to examine basic logical concepts like truth, consistency, and validity. It introduces two artificial languages: truth-functional logic and predicate logic, and focuses especially on formal proofs in truth-functional logic. These analytical skills support work in a range of activities that require clear, careful, step-by-step thinking.

Phil 3311W: Introduction to Ethical Theories (University of Minnesota)

Most of us believe that it's morally good to help people in serious distress. Most of us believe it's morally bad to spread false gossip about others. Moral theories are attempts to systematize, explain, and justify moral convictions like these. This course will provide an introduction to three important moral theories: utilitarianism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics. We will study and discuss classical and contemporary texts.

Phil 3302W: Contemporary Moral Problems (University of Minnesota)

Philosophical reflection can help improve our views about political, social, and personal moral problems. Because the primary purpose of the course is not to convey information, but rather 1) to develop skill in understanding and critically evaluating arguments, and 2) to subject our own beliefs to critical examination, we will rely on small-group discussions and short, careful writing whenever possible.

Phil 4414: Political Philosophy (University of Minnesota)

This course surveys important papers in post-World-War-II political philosophy. We will use these papers to help us think through a series of long-contested concepts: authority, democracy, justice, rights, liberty, and equality.

Phil 1003W: Introduction to Ethics (University of Minnesota)

To whom or what we can have moral duties? Are moral considerations always and only considerations about how to treat other people? Or can we have moral duties to animals? Or the environment? Or the law? These questions are the focus of the first half of the semester. In the second half, our focus will shift to moral theory: what feature, if any, do all moral obligations share that makes them moral obligations? We'll discuss the views of Mill and Hume.