RESEARCH

My research focuses on notional variants of the truth-concept, and I have used empirical studies to uncover that there is likely more than one folk truth concept. Jeremy Wyatt has called this conceptual pluralism about truth (see his "Truth in English and Elsewhere: An Empirically-Informed Functionalism"), which Nikolaj Pedersen and Cory Wright have categorised amongst platitude-based strategies of alethic pluralism (cf. "Pluralist Theories of Truth," Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy), and I have defended this view in my book Commonsense Pluralism about Truth: An Empirical Defence (Palgrave Macmillan 2017).
Beyond this, my areas of research interest include metaphysics, especially philosophy of action and philosophy of language. I tend to invest some of my time on specific historical figures, such as Marja Kokozyńska-Lutman (amongst other members of the Lvøv-Warsaw School), Arne Næss, Alfred Tarski, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Currently, I am undertaking the relatively monumental task of writing an intellectual biography of Arne Næss. More information about my research is available here and drafts of work in progress are available here.

Systematic empirical studies of non-philosopher's views have shown a surprising variety of uses of the truth-predicate in natural language, and in my work I argue that if our aim is a folk theoretic view of truth, then these empirical studies should inform how truth theorists go about looking at the concept of truth. Traditional theories of truth treat truth as a singular and monolithic concept that is deeply mysterious and metaphysically elusive or perfectly understood and easily expressed in language. Doing so misses the nuance of non-philosophers' notion of truth. I aim to do justice both to the ways in which much human cognition and language is systematic, abstract, and truth-conditional; and also to the ways in which it is contextually malleable, holistic, intuitive, and/or experientially- and affectively-laden.  

VIRTUE, NARRATIVE, AND SELF:
EXPLORATIONS IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF ACTION AND MIND
CO-EDITED WITH LIEZL VAN ZYL

~320pp. London: Routledge, forthcoming.

Although virtue theorists have increasingly turned their attention to research in moral psychology and the philosophy of education in an attempt to understand the nature of virtue and the process by which it is cultivated, research in the philosophy of mind and action, specifically on the role of self-narrative in the development of character, has been largely overlooked. How we live our lives depends in large part upon the character traits, virtues and vices, we have cultivated. Our character, which forms a crucial part of our self-identity, is in turn informed by the narrative stories we tell of our lives. In this regard, research on the role of narrative in our understanding of the self by philosophers of mind and action can shed light on the cultivation of virtue as well as the nature of practical wisdom and human flourishing.

Broadly speaking, narrativity is the view that our lives have narrative shape, and that this is of central importance to our sense of self and our view of what it means to live well. There is a rich history of the use of the notion of a narrative to articulate a notion of selfhood. For example, Alasdair MacIntyre (1984), who played an important role in the return to virtue ethics, proposes that one can live a narrative.  Noël Carroll (2001, 2007) holds that a causal connection between events is required for there to be a narrative connection between them, even though the earlier event may not be casually sufficient for the later one.  In contrast, David Velleman (2003, 2009) argues that causality is not required for narrativity and instead proposes that it is the emotional cadence in the audience associated with the series of events that is crucial for the structure of a narrative, as this is what makes those events intelligible. He says, “The cadence that makes for a story is that of the arousal and resolution of affect, a pattern that is biologically programmed” (Velleman 2009, 13).  Marya Schechtman (1990, 1996) speaks of the narrative self-constitution view of selves.  Naturally, the approach has its critics, for example: Peter Lamarque (2004), Galen Strawson (2008), and Simon Beck (2013).

Contributors include: Damian Cox, Garrett Cullity, Tim Dare, Ramon Das, Richard Hamilton, Jason Kawall, David Lumsden, Elijah Millgram, Justin Oakley, Nick Smith, Christine Swanton, Ryan Tonkens, Joseph Ulatowski, Liezl van Zyl, and Nellie Weiland.

THE SOCRATIC CLASSROOM: A MODEL OF SCAFFOLDED LEARNING 
CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT COLTER

~200pp. In preparation.

This book took shape a decade ago when the two of us decided to team teach a summer enrichment course in philosophy for high school students. The experience highlighted some disparate ideas we each had about teaching and learning, and the role of instructors and students in the classroom. Perhaps since we are philosophers by training, we both saw that a major goal of our teaching was for students to have a deeper understanding of perennial philosophical problems. Students were not to be confined to memorise definitions of concepts but to connect one concept with another and manipulate them in a variety of contexts. Both of us were (once upon a time) athletes, and an analogy with skill development in sports suggested itself. Coaches correct athletes’ technique and motivate them to practice the most mundane and easiest of skills. The athlete's task is to learn from the mistakes they make in honing their skill set, such that the next time that the athlete faces the challenge in competition they are able to succeed. Teaching must permit students to make mistakes, learn from them, and hopefully not make them again. This reminded us of Plato's Socrates. He is often emulated by means of the so-called “Socratic Method,” where instructors, sometimes relentlessly, question students and they prepare answers in hopes of not being resoundingly refuted and sometimes humiliated. Thus the way that this method is often employed is adversarial and even combative. While it is certainly true that this sort of interaction can be found in the texts that are used to exemplify Socrates’s style, a deeper look into the Platonic corpus reveals a wide variety of interactions, many that reflect the sort of skill development that can be found in effective coach-athlete interactions. A fresh look at the non-combative and conciliatory interactions between Socrates suggested to us the "Socratic Model of Scaffolded Learning." 

COMMONSENSE PLURALISM ABOUT TRUTH: AN EMPIRICAL DEFENCE

Palgrave Macmillan (2017), 140pp.

Truth is a pervasive feature of ordinary language, deserving of systematic study, and few theorists of truth have endeavoured to chronicle the tousled conceptual terrain forming the non-philosopher’s ordinary view. In this book, the author recasts the philosophical treatment of truth in light of historical and recent work in experimental philosophy. He argues that the commonsense view of truth is deeply fragmented along two axes, across different linguistic discourses and among different demographics, termed in the book as endoxic alethic pluralism. To defend this view, four conclusions must be reached: (1) endoxic alethic pluralism should be compatible with how the everyday person uses truth, (2) the common conception of truth should be derivable from empirical data, (3) this descriptive metaphysical project is one aspect of a normative theory of truth, and (4) endoxic alethic pluralism is at least partially immune to challenges facing the ecological method in experimental philosophy and alethic pluralism.

MINIMALISM ABOUT TRUTH: A SPECIAL ISSUE, CO-EDITED WITH CORY D. WRIGHT

Synthese 195.3 (2018): 927-1138.

The theme of this special issue is minimalism about truth, a conception which has attracted extensive support since the landmark publication of Paul Horwich’s Truth (1990). Since its initial publication, Horwich’s book has become required reading for truth theorists and students alike. It not only cemented the deflationist thought that debates about the nature of truth can be fruitfully transformed into debates about the utility of truth predicates, but also re·oriented theories away from traditional metaphysical debates and concerns, such as whether a conception of truth must accommodate some form of metaphysical realism. Arguably, alethic minimalism is now the most dominant conception of truth on offer, and certainly among the most well-known.

Joseph Ulatowski and Cory Wright: Introduction

Cory Wright: Truth, Explanation, Minimalism

Katarzyna Kijania-Placek: Can Minimalism about Truth Embrace Polysemy?

Keith Simmons: Three Questions for Minimalism

Cezary Cieśliński: Minimalism & the Generalisation Problem: On Horwich's 2d Solution

Teresa Marques: This is Not an Instance of (E)

Andrew Howat: Constituting Assertion: A Pragmatist Critique of Horwich's 'Truth'

Filippo Ferrari: The Value of Minimalist Truth

Anil Gupta and Shawn Standefer: Intersubstitutivity Principles and the Generalisation Function of Truth

Paul Horwich: Is TRUTH a Normative Concept?

TRUTH

THE OBJECTIVITY OF TRUTH, A CORE TRUISM?, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT BARNARD

forthcoming in Synthese 

A typical guiding principle of an account of truth is: “truth is objective,” or, to be clear, judging whether an assertion is true or false depends upon how things are in the world rather than how someone or some community believes it to be. Accordingly, whenever a claim is objectively true, its truth conditions ought not depend upon the context in which it is uttered or the utterer making the claim. Part of our ongoing empirical studies surveying people’s responses to questions about truth involved prompts on objectivity. Our studies suggest the following: (1) overall, individuals tend to endorse claims that are consistent with the objectivity of truth; (2) not all conceptions of objectivity are equal, even people who endorse the objectivity of truth sometimes assent to one form of truth’s objectivity over other forms; (3) philosophers and non-philosophers both endorse the objectivity of truth, but the apparent commitment of philosophers is stronger.

DO PEOPLE REALLY THINK THAT ⸢φ⸣ IS TRUE IF AND ONLY IF φ?, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT BARNARD

Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics, edited by Andrew Aberdein and Matthew Inglis, pp. 145-172​. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

Tarski’s distillation of a rigorous account of truth into a system that turns on the acceptance of the so called Convention-T and its various instances has had a lasting impact on philosophical logic, especially work concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. In a series of studies completed from the 1930s to the 1960s, Arne Næss collected and analysed intuitive responses from non-philosophers to questions concerning truth, synonymy, certainty, and probability. Among the formulations of truth studied by Næss were practical variants of expressions of the form: ⸢φ⸣ is true if and only if φ.  This paper calls attention not only to Næss’ early findings but to a series of experimental results we’ve collected that suggest people respond affirmatively to the synonymy of a statement and its alethically quantified counterpart when the statement has content, but people are reluctant to do affirm the generalisation from instances to a more abstract rendering that includes free variables.

IS THERE A COMMONSENSE SEMANTIC CONCEPTION OF TRUTH? 

Philosophia 46.2 (2018): 487-500. 

Alfred Tarski’s refinement of an account of truth into a formal system that turns on the acceptance of Convention-T has had a lasting impact on philosophical logic, especially work concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. In a series of studies completed from the 1930s to the 1960s, Arne Næss collected and analysed intuitive responses from non-philosophers to questions concerning truth, synonymy, certainty, and probability. Among the formulations of truth studied by Næss were practical variants of expressions of the form ‘‘p’ is true if and only if p’.  This paper calls attention to a series of experimental results Næss overlooked in his original study. These data collectively suggest that acceptance of expressions of the form ‘‘p’ is true if and only if p’ varies according to what kind of statement p is.

THE INACCURACY OF PARTIAL TRUTHS IN YABLOVIAN IF-THENISM

Australasian Philosophical Review 1.2 (2017): 206-211

Elsewhere Stephen Yablo has employed Kendall Walton’s (1990; 1993) pretense view to argue for a figurative fictionalism that interprets mathematical language as figurative or metaphorical. In ‘If-Thenism’, Yablo has adopted a subtraction account, φY = φ ~ ψ, where “~” (read as: ‘minus’) is a non-truth-conditional connective, to support figuralism. φY cancels the implication from φ to ψ, ending up with a remainder, ρ, filling the gap between the two. This commentary sets out to challenge whether ρ tends to be an inaccurate representation of conditions that are supposed to complete the enthymeme. Whilst by some accounts the inaccuracies shouldn’t set off any alarm bells, the truth of ρ is too inexact. The content of ρ must display a sensitivity to contextual background conditions for subtraction to work properly. I argue that Yablo’s subtraction model tends to yield partial truths as remainders that fail to rule out inaccurate expressions, which may prove problematic for his view.

THINKING ABOUT THE LIAR, FAST AND SLOW, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT BARNARD AND JONATHAN WEINBERG

in Reflections on the Liar (Oxford UP, 2017), ed. Bradley Armour-Garb

The liar paradox is widely conceived as a problem for logic and semantics. On the basis of empirical studies presented here, we suggest that there is an underappreciated psychological dimension to the liar paradox and related problems, conceived as a problem for human thinkers. Specific findings suggest that how one interprets the liar sentence and similar paradoxes can vary in relation to one’s capacity for logical and reflective thought, acceptance of certain logical principles, and degree of philosophical training, but also as a function of factors such as religious belief, gender, and whether the problem is treated as theoretical or practical. Though preliminary, these findings suggest that one reason the liar paradox resists a final resolution is that it engages both aspects described by so-called dual process accounts of human cognition.

ORDINARY TRUTH IN TARSKI AND NÆSS

in Uncovering Facts and Values (Brill, 2016), eds. Joanna Odrowąż-Sypniewska and Adrian Kuzniar

Tarski established two conditions that any theory of truth ought to satisfy: formal correctness and material adequacy. Though not widely noted, Tarski seems to indicate that a partial conception of truth, what has become known more widely as the T-schema, might be clarified by the application of empirical methods, specifically citing the experimental results of Arne Næss (1938a). The aim of this paper is to argue that Næss’ empirical work confirmed Tarski’s semantic conception of truth, among others. In the first part, I lay out the case for believing that Tarski’s T-schema, while not the formal and generalizable Convention-T, provides a partial account of truth and that partial account may be buttressed by an examination of ordinary person’s views of truth. Then, I will address a concern raised by Tarski’s contemporaries who saw Næss’ results as refuting Tarski’s semantic conception. Following that, I will summarize Næss’ results. Finally, I will contend with a few objections which suggest that a strict interpretation of Næss’ results might suggest an overturning of Tarski’s theory.

TARSKI'S 1944 POLEMICAL REMARKS AND NÆSS' 'EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY', CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT BARNARD

Erkenntnis 81.3 (2016): 350-382.

 

Many of Tarski’s better known papers are either about or include lengthy discussions of how to properly define various concepts: truth, logical consequence, semantic concepts, or definability. In general, these papers identify two primary conditions for successful definitions: formal correctness and material (or intuitive) adequacy. Material adequacy requires that the concept expressed by the formal definition capture the intuitive content of truth. Our primary interest in this paper is to better understand Tarski’s thinking about material adequacy, and whether components of his view developed over time. More precisely, we are concerned with how Tarski’s understanding of the content of the common-sense, every-day usage of truth may have developed over time. We distinguish this concern from the character of the extensional criterion of adequacy Tarski proposes: that a materially adequate definition must entail all instances of Convention T. We will develop our reading of Tarski as follows: first, we will review the ‘‘Polemical Remarks,’’ focusing primarily on §§14 and 17, and Tarski’s references to Næss’ empirical research. Next, we will provide a summary and discussion of Næss’ work, especially his findings with respect to Tarski’s definition of truth and his research that suggests there is no single common or everyday concept of truth. Third, we will consider several possible objections to our interpretation of the Tarski–Næss dialectic. We will conclude that Tarski’s conception of material adequacy developed over time, potentially because of what he had learned through his interactions with Næss.

TRUTH, CORRESPONDENCE, AND GENDER, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT BARNARD

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4.4 (2013): 621-638.

 

Philosophical theorising about truth manifests a desire to conform to the ordinary or folk notion of truth. This practice often involves attempts to accommodate some form of correspondence. We discuss this accommodation project in light of two empirical projects intended to describe the content of the ordinary conception of truth. One, due to Arne Naess, claims that the ordinary conception of truth is not correspondence. Our more recent study is consistent with Naess’ result. Our findings suggest that contextual factors and respondent gender affect whether the folk accept that correspondence is sufficient for truth. These findings seem to show that the project of accommodating the ordinary notion of truth is more difficult than philosophers had anticipated because it is fragmentary.

PHILOSOPHY OF ACTION

PHILOSOPHY OF ACTION

ONE SELF PER CUSTOMER? FROM DISUNIFIED AGENCY TO DISUNIFIED SELVES, CO-AUTHORED WITH DAVID LUMSDEN

Southern Journal of Philosophy 55.3 (2017): 314-335.

 

The notion of an agent and the notion of a self are connected, for agency is one role played by the self. Millgram argues for a disunity thesis of agency on the basis of extreme incommensurability across some major life events. We propose a similar negative thesis about the self, that it is composed of relatively independent threads as people play different roles and have different mind-sets in different aspects of their lives. Our understanding of those threads is based on theories of the narrative construction of the self. Our disunity thesis is that there need be no overarching narrative that unifies those narrative threads.  We also make some positive claims about how the narrative threads can interrelate and thus hang together sufficiently for coherent action: (1) we normally switch smoothly and unconsciously from one narrative thread to another as circumstances require, (2) within one narrative thread there is likely to be acknowledgment of other narrative threads, (3) some situations require a temporary blending of narrative threads, and (4) some plans and policies reach across different narrative threads and contribute to a degree of coordination among them. Our account of a self provides an account of agency that has merits in comparison to Millgram’s. Our narrative approach allows an explanation of action that is richer than mere rational deliberation.

ACT INDIVIDUATION: AN EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3.2 (2012): 249-262.

Accounts of act individuation have attempted to capture peoples’ pretheoretic intuitions. Donald Davidson has argued that a multitude of action descriptions designate only one act, while Alvin Goldman has averred that each action description refers to a distinct act. Following on recent empirical studies, I subject these accounts of act individuation to experimentation. The data indicate that people distinguish between actions differently depending upon the moral valence of the outcomes. Thus, the assumption that a single account of act individuation applies invariantly seems mistaken.

Suppose that Tiffany moves her arm, depresses the lever, lifts the weight, operates the Nautilus machine, and scares the man on the rowing machine all at the same time. Do the descriptions “Tiffany’s moving her arm” and “Tiffany’s depressing the lever” refer to distinct acts? Or do they refer to the same act? Our intuitions tell us that actions have boundaries, though the boundaries between them may not be clear. Determining what feature distinguishes one act from others has been called the problem of act individuation. The problem of act individuation has been largely concerned with descriptive features of action, what causes x to occur and what x causes to occur. So, given that the problem is descriptive, it seems correct to believe that our distinguishing between acts are empirically discoverable. My paper’s goal is to redirect (as well as to reinvigorate) this debate through the employment of empirical methods.

WHAT SHOULD WE MAKE OF 'DROWNING MAN'?

Southwestern Philosophical Review 28.2 (2012): 25-29.

Dimitriou's motivist view has a simple upshot: for at least some cases, our moral assessment of an action should depend on the motives behind it. This may be contrasted with the antimotivist position, the view that argues motives should not figure into our moral assessment of an action. She presents two provocative cases where an agent’s motive “infects” the concomitant action. One example involves racist thinking and the other a form of sexual self-gratification. Given that we would never find the action that accompanies these motives morally acceptable once we know what the motives are, Ms. Dimitriou has argued that we ought to embrace motivism. In this brief commentary, I would like to present a few cases that seemingly show the motivist position is flawed. I want my comments to generate a discussion of how Ms. Dimitriou’s position can handle these weird cases, even though my presentation will likely come off as a direct assault of her view.

FIXING THE DEFAULT POSITION IN KNOBE'S COMPETENCE MODEL, CO-AUTHORED WITH JUSTUS JOHNSON

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33.4 (2010): 352-353.

Although we agree with the spirit of Knobe's competence model, our aim in this commentary is to argue that the default position should be made more precise. Our quibble with Knobe's model is that we find it hard to ascribe a coherent view to some experimental subjects if the default position is not clearly defined.

INTUITIONS AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES: THE KNOBE EFFECT REVISITED, CO-AUTHORED WITH SHAUN NICHOLS

Mind & Language 22.4 (2007): 346-365.

Recent work by Joshua Knobe indicates that people ’ s intuition about whether an action was intentional depends on whether the outcome is good or bad. This paper argues that part of the explanation for this effect is that there are stable individual differences in how ‘ intentional ’ is interpreted. That is, in Knobe ’ s cases, different people interpret the term in different ways. This interpretive diversity of ‘ intentional ’ opens up a new avenue to help explain Knobe's results. Furthermore, the paper argues that the use of intuitions in philosophy is complicated by fact that there are robust individual differences in intuitions about matters of philosophical concern.

A CONSCIENTIOUS RESOLUTION OF THE ACTION PARADOX ON BURIDAN'S BRIDGE

Southwest Philosophical Studies 25 (2003): 85-94.

The aim of this paper is to offer a critical assessment of Buridan's proposed solution to the bridge-keeper paradox. First, I will outline his proposed solution to the paradox, and, second, carefully analyse each issue mentioned in the proposed solution. Finally, I will attempt to conclude that Burden has implicitly accepted a three-valued logic that does not allow him to conclude that Plato ought not do anything.

METAPHILOSOPHY

CASTING LIGHT UPON THE GREAT ENDARKENMENT, WITH DAVID LUMSDEN
Metaphilosophy (forthcoming): 19pp.

While the Enlightenment promoted thinking for oneself independent of religious authority, the ‘Endarkenment’ (Millgram 2015) concerns deference to a new authority: the specialist, a hyperspecializer. We support the basic thrust of Millgram’s position, even though the case is exaggerated. Millgram’s emphasis on serial hyperspecialization as a distinctive characteristic of humans is overstated and we urge greater emphasis on parallel hyperspecialization, which describes how one person will need to deploy various forms of specialist knowledge and understanding at different times.

ON THE EXPERTISE DEFENCE OF ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHY

Southwest Philosophical Studies 36 (2015): 71-77.

There has been a recent effort to defend traditional armchair methods of philosophising using what has been called an “expertise defence.”  According to this view, only specially trained persons have philosophically relevant intuitions.  In this paper I explore two versions of the expertise defence, one by Gary Gutting and the other by Timothy Williamson.  §2 explains how philosophers appeal to intuitions.  §3 will review the expertise defence of Gutting and Williamson.  §4 argues that not only is the expertise defence susceptible to the problems commonly levelled against it but that it succumbs to a modified Euthyphro dilemma.  Finally, in §5, I conclude that neither Gutting’s nor Williamson’s version of the expertise defence is able to circumvent the dilemma.  So the expertise defence seems an unlikely argument one ought to employ arguing against empirically informed projects in philosophy.

APPLIED ETHICS

THE ANTHROPOCENTRISM OF THE COSMIC PERSPECTIVE ARGUMENT, CO-AUTHORED WITH SETH SIVINSKI

Ethics and the Environment 27.1 (2019): 1-18.

New developments in cosmology make it unlikely that life on Earth is unique. The Cosmic Perspective Argument states that given these developments we should not be concerned with the Earth's environmental degradation. In this paper, we argue that although scaling our analysis upwards into the cosmos provides the Cosmic Perspective with its strength, when we apply the Cosmic Perspective downwards, the view appears to be terribly flawed. After examining the Cosmic Perspective at an individual level, the problems that arise intensify and seemingly not only break the argument at an individual level but also on a much larger scale as well. These problems show the need for a framework that takes into full account the complex and interconnected nature of the environment, thus one that only deep ecology may provide.

THE DUPLICITY OF ONLINE BEHAVIOR

Social Media and Living Well (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), eds. Berrin Beasley and Mitchell Haney.

People commonly believe that any form of deception, no matter how innocuous it is and no matter whether the deceiving person intended it otherwise, is always morally wrong. In this paper, I will argue that deceiving in real-time is morally distinguishable from deceiving on-line because online actions aren’t as fine-grained as actions occurring in real-time. Our failure to detect the fine-grained characteristics of another avatar leads us to believe that that avatar intended to do a moral harm. Openly deceiving someone on Facebook or Twitter is not a way to build wholesome virtual friendships but to destroy them. This paper will show how the traditional understanding of the doing / allowing distinction fails to apply in cyberspace.

METAPHYSICS OF DEATH

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE IMMORTAL? (.docx | .pdf)

Diametros: An Online Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming).

 

Many people have considered at one time or another what the conscious experience of an immortal, whether body-bound or otherwise, would be like if it would be like anything at all. For the most part, the idea of an endless life like the one we lead seems quite appealing because it will be phenomenologically speaking a life sufficiently like our own on earth and, two, we will have the same kinds of desires we have now to want to live an eternal life. In this paper, I would like to challenge the view that we have a conception of what the conscious experience of an immortal is like, regardless of whether we might (or might not) want to live it. Given that for us to conceive of an immortal life we must project onto it our own view of what's like to live our own life and given that an immortal life may not be anything like the life we live, we cannot conceive of what it is like to be immortal.

PEDAGOGY

THE UNEXAMINED STUDENT IS NOT WORTH TEACHING, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT COLTER

Educational Philosophy and Theory 49.14 (2017): 1367-1380.

'Scaffolded learning' describes a cluster of instructional techniques designed to move students from a novice position toward greater understanding, such that they become independent learners. Our Socratic Model of Scaffolded Learning ('SMSL') includes two phases not normally included in discussions of scaffolded learning, the Preparatory and Problematizing Phases. Our paper will illuminate this blind-spot by arguing that these crucial preliminary elements ought to be considered an integral part of a scaffolding model. If instructors are cognisant of the starting position of students, then students are more likely to develop a proper sense of autonomy. We turn, then, to examples from Socrates, the archetypal teacher, that cast light on the importance of preparation and problematizing for the student. Finally, we address the concern that integrating these preliminary elements into scaffolded learning would unnecessarily complicate a useful and effective pedagogical method. Ultimately, if it is effective and autonomous learners we wish to cultivate in the classroom, then something like SMSL must include preliminary elements that calibrate the instructor’s approach to the members of the class. After all, the unexamined student is not worth teaching.

 

BREAKING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER: USING TRANSLATIONS FOR TEACHING INTRODUCTORY PHILOSOPHY, CO-AUTHORED WITH CARMEN ADEL

AAPT Studies in Pedagogy, volume 3: Inclusive Pedagogies, ed. Kelly Burns (2017): 33-52.

Some students who possess the same cognitive skill set as their counterparts but who neither speak nor write English fluently have to contend with an unnecessary barrier to academic success. While an administrative top-down approach has been in progress for many years to address this issue, enhancement of student performance begins in the classroom. Thus, we argue that instructors ought to implement a more organic bottom-up approach. If it is possible for instructors to make class content available in other languages, such as Spanish, without thereby compromising something of comparable pedagogical value, then they ought to do so. In fact, we provide here Anselm’s Ontological Argument rendered in Spanish to show how, when translated, it provides native Spanish speakers with greater accessibility to difficult material. Then, we consider the possible beneficial implications of doing so for university students.

SOCIAL DEXTERITY IN INQUIRY AND ARGUMENTATION: AN APOLOGIA OF SOCRATES, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT COLTER

AAPT Studies in Pedagogy, volume 2: Teaching Plato, ed. Robert Loftis (2016): 6-27.

While Euthyphro and Apology are widely taught, they do not offer a complete picture of the variety of ways in which Socrates interacts with his interlocutors in Plato’s dialogues. Perhaps the most important point we wish to bring home is that most, if not all, of Socrates’s discussions are carefully calibrated according to a certain social awareness. Through careful analysis of sections of the dialogues, we argue that aspects of discussions between Socrates and his interlocutors should serve as lessons for students and instructors. Students should see that learning to philosophise is a matter of skill development. Instructors should see that one ought to be cognisant of students’ abilities, as well as other relevant information. The upshot of paying attention to Socrates’s interactions is to augment instructors’ and students’ understanding, facilitating the cultivation and development of philosophical skills.

FREEING MENO'S SLAVE BOY: SCAFFOLDED LEARNING IN THE PHILOSOPHY CLASSROOM, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT COLTER

Teaching Philosophy 38.1 (2015): 25-49.

This paper argues that a well known passage from Plato’s Meno exemplifies how to employ scaffolded learning in the philosophy classroom. It explores scaffolded learning by fully defining it, explaining it, and gesturing at some ways in which scaffolding has been implemented. We then offer our own model of scaffolded learning in terms of four phases and eight stages, and explicate our model using a well known example from Plato’s Meno as an exemplar. We believe that any practical concerns one might have against the employment of scaffolded learning in the philosophy classroom ought not serve as an impediment to adopting our model.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? TEACHING ETHICS THROUGH FILM, CO-AUTHORED WITH ROBERT COLTER

Teaching Philosophy 36.3 (2013): 253-270.

We regularly teach for the Wyoming High School Institute (“HSI”), a three-week college experience for rising high school juniors. The purpose of HSI is to introduce pre-college students to subjects not regularly taught in the secondary school curriculum. In our course, we introduce moral philosophy through the use of feature films. More narrowly, we challenge the students to examine moral reasoning through analysis of the moral reasoning of characters in these films. Our pedagogical approach is based in the methods of Socrates and in the technique of “scaffolding.” We attempt to show how our approach can be incorporated into any pre-college philosophy classroom.