Reflection on a First-Year Professorship: An Experiment in Allowing Students to Choose Texts

This is the first of a number of reflections I hope to do on my first year as a professor of philosophy.  As of right now, I am through the first semester.  It’s been an interesting experience, to say the absolute least.  I don’t mean that simply in terms of outcomes of pedagogical experiments or common experiences of student discontent with grades, but also political and administrative stuff in addition. Continue reading


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Filed under Education, Pedagogy, Personal, Philosophy

Duration to Completion of the Great Books of the Western World

I get many search queries that hit my website, and loads of questions, pertaining to how long it takes to read the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW), edited by Mortimer Adler.  Of course, there’s no strict answer to this question, but I can give some perspective.  I think, for the average working layperson, reading the set within ten years is more than reasonable.  A couple such plans may be found by clicking here and here.  In fact, another plan puts the duration at seven years, and this might be the outright reasonable timeframe for the average working (and more or less disciplined) layperson.  Continue reading


Filed under Education, Great Books and Harvard Classics Series, Literature

Moving into a Professorship in Philosophy and Some Thoughts on Class Structure

A little bit unusual for my blog, I am posting a personal update, which may interest various people for various reasons.  This next year should be a rather interesting year in my intellectual development: I have taken a post as adjunct professor of philosophy at one of the United States’ largest community college, the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA —a seven-campus college.  I will be at the main campus, the Allegheny Campus.  Since Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science doesn’t grant undergraduate degrees, teaching assignments for graduate students are scarce with so few in-department undergraduate courses, especially for grads in their first two years, I felt it important that I find and take on, at the very least, a one-year appointment as a lecturer, hence the desire to take on an adjunct professorship.  Teaching is an important part of the academician’s craft as a whole.  Continue reading


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Between Feynman in Babylon and Metaphysics: What the Mathematical Process and the History of Science Can Tell Us Philosophically about the Education Process

Since I have spent the summer studying mathematics at Harvard University with Jameel Al-Aidroos (Ph.D Berkeley), expect that my next few posts, or at least some of them, will be on topics related to mathematics.  I want to take some time, in this blog post, to look at where mathematical thought fits into some of my understandings of I have gleaned from studying the history of science.  The upshot of the historical, philosophical, and mathematical content and musings will be pedagogical, just to give the reader some idea of where I am going.  An important thing to understand, before reading this post, is the distinction between pure and applied mathematics.  “Pure mathematics,” as opposed to “applied mathematics,” is, in its essence, math for its own sake, entirely apart from possible applications.  In many cases, pure mathematics initially has no known application.  Additionally, pure mathematics deals with abstract entities that have been detached from particular entities —and this will prove to be important to what I will say later.

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Filed under Education, History and Philosophy of Science, History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Mathematics

The Inexistence of “Raw” Data in Science and Everyday Experience

The subject of this blog post might as well be catalogued as being among those things that scientists say that makes my head explode.  In this case, sitting in the Bloomington Starbucks across from Sample Gates about a month ago, I heard a cognitive science (currently dissertating) PhD candidate say something to the effect: “It’s raw data, so there is no possibility of it being biased.”  He was talking to a colleague, defending against some onslaught presented by a journal article, the title of which I didn’t catch.  What I want to emphasize is the erroneous thinking of this student, who has since this time successfully defended his PhD thesis.  I shake my head at this kind of lack of understanding so many scientists have of their own field and the general nature of science.  Particularly egregious was his follow-up comments, which asserted that biasing cannot be added to unbiased data without it being extreme and obvious to all, as if the heavens would open and Zeus would callout, “biased!,” if such were to happen.  I’ll only deal with the first statement that I paraphrased above.

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A Philosophical Thought on the Oasis of Life on Mt. Pisgah

If I am not careful, I am going to begin sounding like my friend, Matt Segall —not a bad thing, just this blog post’s content is more his forte than it is my typical fare.  I was recently hiking Mt. Pisgah, which is in North Carolina, and I was struck by some ideas; dualities in reflection, mostly.  Near the top of the craggy trail, which is hardly “moderate,” as at least one website claimed, I chanced upon a tree and shrubbery-like growth that looked like something out of a movie. Continue reading

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Filed under Eastern Philosophy, Personal, Philosophy, Pure Philosophy, Science

Feynman on the Necessity of Philosophy for the Progress of Physics

Serendipity often leads to some of our most fruitful realizations, creative ideas, and understanding —and are even responsible for our most citation-worthy bits of supporting information.  Such is the case to be discussed here.  It so happened that, just after writing the blog in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ignorant position on philosophy, I read Richard P. Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law to unwind.  The Nobel laureate was always notoriously, even devilishly, anti-philosophy. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Philosophy, Physics, Popular Science, Science