207 Cooper House
PO Box: AC# 2253
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Writing Center
Departmental affiliation: PhilosophyAmherst College
Courses in Fall 2008
Courses in Fall 2009
Courses in Fall 2010
Courses in Fall 2011
Courses in Fall 2012
Courses in Spring 2013
Courses in Fall 2013
Courses in Fall 2014
I think that I am unusually puzzled by the nature of the discipline around which I have centered most of my professional life. What is philosophy? What are its objects of inquiry? How is it possible to gain philosophical knowledge? These questions have led me to the origins of Western Philosophical inquiry to see how the discipline began and developed. My earlier work focused on the Socratic method of question and answer (sometimes known as "dialectic") that Plato dramatizes in his dialogues and which remains the primary method of philosophical inquiry today. I was interested in figuring out the distinctive features of the method, how (if at all) it differed from other intellectual methods (e.g., the scientific method, sophistry), and how the world and our mental faculties must be if such a method of inquiry were to be a reliable method for discovering truths.
More recently, I have attempted to apply the philosophical insights of the Ancients, especially those of Plato and Aristotle, to contemporary philosophical debates. In particular, I’ve applied some of Aristotle’s thoughts about the nature of eudaimonia to contemporary ethical questions about what makes a life worth living and so what constitutes a death with dignity. Most recently, I’ve attempted to show how Plato's insights can contribute to contemporary debates about the nature of well-being, moral knowledge, and practical rationality.
I am fortunate to be teaching at Amherst College, where my teaching can mirror my research interests. Here are some of the courses that I’ve taught over the years:
Philosophy 01: Rights and Wrongs (a writing intensive course)
Philosophy 11: Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy 17: Ancient Philosophy
Philosophy 21: Self and Others
Philosophy 23: Health Care Ethics
Philosophy 25: Justice, the Good, and the State: The Classical Tradition in Political Philosophy
Philosophy 29: Freedom and Responsibility
Philosophy 33: Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy 39: British Empiricism
Philosophy 43: Marx and Marxism
Philosophy 46: Aristotelian Ethics
Philosophy 47: Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics
Philosophy 48: Plato
Philosophy 49: Aristotle
Philosophy 63: Analyzing Feminism
Philosophy 63: Plato’s Republic
Philosophy 63: Well-Being and Well-lived Lives
As my students know, my concern with the quality of their writing borders on an obsession. I now have another outlet for this passion at The Writing Center at Amherst College.
Cornell University, Ph.D. (Philosophy), 1991
Cornell University, M.A. (Philosophy), 1988
Bryn Mawr College, A.B. (Philosophy), summa cum laude, 1985
"Recollection and the 'Problem of the Elenchus'." Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 10 (1994): 257-295.
Method in Ancient Philosophy (editor). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
"What is a Death with Dignity?" Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (2003): 461-487.
"The Attractions and Delights of Goodness: Some Platonic Reflections on Internalism." The Philosophical Quarterly 54 (2004): 353-67. (Winner of the 2003 Philosophical Quarterly essay prize.)
"How to Know the Good: The Moral Epistemology of Plato's Republic." The Philosophical Review 114 (2005): 469-96.
"How Should I Be? A Defense of Platonic Rational Egoism." European Journal of Philosophy 23 (2015): 39-67.