Most of my teaching at the graduate and advanced undergraduate levels has overlapped with my main areas of research: early modern philosophy, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. Recently, I have been teaching a series of graduate seminars on different topics in early modern metaphysics, including seminars on modality, ontology, evil, and idealism. I also frequently organize an early modern reading group for faculty and graduate students. Here are descriptions of a few of the courses I've offered:
Spinozism: Then and Now
In this seminar, we consider several prominent reactions to Spinoza’s philosophy in the 17th, 18th, and early 20th centuries, and then examine several new forms of Spinozism that have been proposed by contemporary philosophers.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason: Then and Now
This seminar explores the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), very roughly the thesis that everything is explicable or that there are no brute facts. This principle was once a central feature of early modern philosophy, but it fell out of favor for centuries. However, the PSR has been making something of a comeback in the past ten years. In this seminar, we look at both historical discussions of the PSR and its contemporary rebirth.
Metaphysical Idealism: Then and Now
This seminar explores versions of metaphysical idealism, very roughly the thesis that only minds and mind-dependent things exist. After considering three historical versions (as found in Berkeley, Leibniz, and Kant), we then turn to contemporary accounts to see what progress, if any, has been made in articulating and defending this family of views.
Alternative Theories of Modality (co-taught with Meghan Sullivan)
The possible worlds framework was not always orthodoxy, and alternatives are garnering wider interest among philosophers. We aim to introduce students to these neglected but vibrant alternatives in both their historical and contemporary forms.
Early Modern Metaphysics: Ontology
This explores the substance-attribute-mode ontologies of leading 17th century philosophers, as well as earlier formulations among the Scholastics and later criticisms.
Early Modern Metaphysics: Modality
This seminar focuses on modality – issues concerning possibility and necessity – in the metaphysical systems of several prominent early modern philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hume.
Early Modern Metaphysics: Evil
This seminar focuses on the perennial topic of the problem of evil as it was developed and addressed in the rich context of 17th and 18th century philosophy.
Monism in Contemporary Metaphysics
This advanced seminar in metaphysics critically examines the recent resurgence of interest in monism among contemporary metaphysicians.
The Scientific Self: Body and Soul in 17th Century Europe (co-taught with Katherine Brading)
This seminar explores some of the profound changes in European thought that took place in the seventeenth century. The title ‘The Scientific Self’ is deliberately ambiguous, encompassing two objects that will be the focus of our seminar: (1) The ‘scientists’ themselves, and (2) the story told by the ‘science’ of the seventeenth century about the human self.