Study Philosophy With Me In 2013

In 2013, I intend to start teaching students privately online for a much more affordable price than the average college class. I intend to help former religious believers interested in exploring the possibilities for reason-based answers to philosophical questions about the nature of ethics, knowledge, metaphysics, the mind, and the self. In particular I hope to spend time systematically exploring questions about whether ethics has rational foundations or not, what sorts of principles are best for making ethical decisions, what it means to live an excellent, meaningful, and ethical life, and how we should best go about answering thorny real world questions about biomedical ethics, business ethics, and socio-political ethics.

I want to expose atheists to really practical philosophers who present robust, secular alternatives for thinking deeply about how to be a good person and live a good life. I want to help the average atheist improve his or her grasp of the basics of philosophy so that they are better at cutting through the philosophical smokescreens of religious apologists. I want to spend time reading Nietzsche and showing people all the fascinating insights that I found during my process of deconversion and then during the arduous scholarly process of writing my dissertation on his moral philosophy and ideas about truth. I would also like to meet the needs of the many readers who ask me about where they should turn to try to catch up with philosophy so that they can better understand and situate the philosophical ideas they read on Camels With Hammers.

From a personal standpoint, I want to be part of the online educational revolution, gain more independence and flexibility as a teacher, work more from home so that I have more time to write Camels With Hammers (and a book), and have the exciting chance to work extensively with self-motivated learners and, in particular, many of my Camels With Hammers readers and Facebook friends.

So here is my plan. I am proposing to you six classes I would love to teach you.

Every time I get nine people who can all commit to the same weekly two hour period and who are interested in the same topic, I will start a twenty week class (with two free makeup sessions open even to people with perfect attendance) with those people. If after two trial weeks, people who change their minds can drop. Otherwise, they’ll agree to pay for and complete the whole twenty weeks. If students are still excited after twenty weeks, we can keep going deeper into our topic or change topics or merge interested students with interested students from another ending class. In future semesters, if these courses take off, I will be able to add increasing schedule flexibility. But right now, I can at least offer busy people the convenience of potential weekend and late weeknight time slots.

These courses would start any week or month throughout the year that I have the people and the time for a full class. Courses would be only $15 an hour for 40 hours and would be carried out with Google’s interactive Hangout video conferencing software. You and your 8 fellow participants would be on video with me for a private lecture and copious amounts of vigorous, probing class discussion. There will be no grades and no college credit whatsoever.

I am also amenable to doing one-on-one sessions of philosophical counseling, classes, or tutoring, at a rate of $75/hour with no long term commitments necessary.

I have a PhD in Philosophy from Fordham University and 10 years of teaching experience. I have taught 82 sections of Philosophy. In 2005, based on student voting, I earned the Fordham University Graduate Student Association’s Teaching Fellow of the Year award. I am an adjunct assistant professor and an APPA certified philosophical practitioner. I currently teach matriculated college courses at Hunter College City of New York, Hofstra University, William Paterson University, and Fairfield University. In the past I have also taught at Fordham University and St. John’s University.

Below is a survey for anyone at all interested in taking these courses–whether in the near or long term. As part of the survey you will see the potential classes, with descriptions, and you can rate your interest in them. Or inquire directly at my camelswithhammers @ gmail address if you are interested in one-on-one philosophical counseling or lessons. I will post more about the option of philosophical counseling in the future.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Physicalist

    Sounds great. Good luck with it.

  • JenB

    This is a great idea! It sounds like it could be really helpful and informative for atheists who want to learn more about philosophy. If I had more money to take the class, I would definitely do it.

  • Pearl Chen

    Hi Dan,

    I’ve been an admirer of yours for a while, and would love to take a course with you. I was horrified learning how underpaid you are, how many hours you have to work, and how much time you have to spend travelling. I hope other people will be able to commit to taking a course so that we can begin!

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks Pearl. It’s looking like there will be enough people, so I will be in touch!

  • Zugswang

    I didn’t take any dedicated philosophy classes when I was in college (not even a formal logic course), but it would seem like there would need to be some sort of introductory instruction to prepare a student’s mind for thinking about philosophy. Skills that would allow the student to effectively consider, evaluate, and comprehend philosophical arguments and positions. In the past, I’ve tried to read the works of philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell, but without a foundational knowledge of philosophy, I often found myself struggling to synthesize and comprehend what they’d written, and felt like I’d extemporaneously jumped into something I wasn’t really prepared to learn about.

    The closest comparison I can make is trying to teach evolutionary theory (this goes for undergrads as much as it does for medical doctors). From personal experience, the biggest hurdle to getting people to intrinsically understand it is that so much of our thinking, and how we explain biological phenomena, is steeped in a language of purpose and meaning that teachers often don’t consciously recognize they are using. You spend so much of your scientific education hearing things like “fish developed lungs so they could breathe above water,” or, “the purpose of somatic hypermutation is to generate specific antibodies to novel pathogens”. It’s a lot of subtle “one thing follows another” type statements, and so you develop this cognitive bias that all these biological phenomena you’re learning about happen for a reason. It’s why ID is so appealing at first glance; its general premise is one that resonates with our that intuitive perception of the world. But once you are able to effectively explain and demonstrate how evolution is driven by a decidedly stochastic process and moderated by forces whose directionality and magnitude are relative and dependent on thousands of different variables… all of a sudden, evolution makes complete sense. Unfortunately, you have to overcome a pretty significant cognitive bias, and then you have to provide them with enough knowledge about evolution before the synthesis that’s necessary for that revelation can take place.

    I get the feeling that being able to really understand and apply the ideas of guys like Nietzsche would require a similarly elegant grasp of the underlying subject, and I’d be curious if you feel that’s the case, or if I’m just putting up needless barriers to my own learning.

    • Daniel Fincke

      It’s something like that. You typically need both an acclimation and a professional philosopher who can correct a whole cavalcade of erroneous habits of assumption. In other words, a course of study guided by a teacher. But with philosophy you can dive into any particular topic or philosopher with such guidance and it’s profitable.

  • julian

    There will be no grades and no college credit whatsoever.

    This is fine by me. I really do just want to learn and this’ll be cheaper than buying more and more books. (Though I don’t plan to stop buying books anytime soon :p)

  • Carys Birch

    I have only recently discovered your blog (through reading your deconversion series, thank you for that) and I’d be awfully interested, at some point in the nebulous future, in taking a class like this. I have an undergrad philosophy degree, but it’s horribly patchy and warped from my Evangelical education. I’d really like to fill in some of my gaps and also get my brain back in working order as it’s been years since I did anything with it. I couldn’t take a class right away, but down the road, if it’s a success, you can expect me to be following!

    • Daniel Fincke

      I have an undergrad philosophy degree, but it’s horribly patchy and warped from my Evangelical education.

      Yes, I had this problem too when I got out of undergrad. I wouldn’t blame my professors so much as my mindset as I studied when I was an evangelical.

      I hope to hear from you again in the future!

    • Carys Birch

      I did take your survey (under my real name) so if there’s a contact list from that, I’ll be on it.

      I think the gaps in my education are sort of equal parts my fault and the fault of the program. Like you, I spent most of my freshman year wrestling so hard with Calvinism that I didn’t really have time for anything else, and so I missed a large portion of my survey courses through inattention. But there was also too much emphasis on subjects that were deemed productive for little Evangelicals, and none at all on other… probably major areas. The program was designed to be a second major to the various ministry degrees, and so I was an anomaly in that it was my primary major and I didn’t pair it with any sort of religion degree (history).

  • Jireh

    Mr. Fincke ,
    I believe you fall right in line with Paul’s word’s to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4 : 3-4. Truth is not a concept but is in the Person of Jesus Christ who so nicely says in John 14 : 6 that He is the Way and the Truth and The Life. Come back to the only one who is Truth. People are, and have been destroyed for lack of knowledge.The ” god ” of this world ( Satan ) has blinded many from the truth.Take Jesus’s words to heart and ” repent and believe ” and be baptized. Merry Christmas and Merry Christ-messiah!

    • kagekiri

      As a former Christian, I get it. You’re supposed to get the “Word” out there, Great Commission, preach to the nations, the Bible’s words have power to teach, etc., etc.

      But if you’re speaking to former Christians…well, just drive-by quoting more Bible at them isn’t going to do much. Well, it annoys random deconverts like me, so good job if that was your intention, but it’s pretty weaksauce otherwise.

      Hell, even heartfelt outpourings of concerns for my brother did little to reconvert him when he became an atheist and I was still a believer. That was something tailored for him specifically, trying to address his actual specific concerns and doubts, and it was by someone who knew him since he was born.

      What the heck are you expecting this obviously impersonal shotgun approach to do, one that fails to recognize even the most basic facts of the listener’s deconversion? What happened to the whole “wise as serpents” bit? Or are you following God’s horrible example of sowing “seeds” into places you know they’ll fail to come to fruition in?

  • NathanDST

    I took the survey so that I could remain informed. Unfortunately, at this time I would be unable to afford even half the cost (hence, why I answered “No” to the question about committing if someone else covered half the cost for me). Unfortunate, since this sounds awesome! I hope it works out.

  • Bernadette

    As a graduate student hoping to one day become a professor—and as someone increasingly interested in the potential of unorthodox approaches to online education—I really hope (1) that this comes together for you and (2) that you’ll blog some about your teaching experiences with it if it does. I’ve always thought about how fabulous it would be if I could just work through texts and ideas with students for the sake of working through texts and ideas—not for credit, not for degree requirements, but purely for the love of those ideas and texts—and this sounds awfully close to that idyll.

  • Erik

    I love this idea and would be happy to help. I’m a PhD candidate with a lot of teaching experience (Also: I probably know some people you knew at Fordham; small world syndrome, I suppose). I dabble a lot, but my primary interests are the pre-Socratics and philosophy of language. Not sure how useful I’d be for the courses you’re thinking about, but my rates are competitive (cheap as free, even!) so if you would like another perspective on anything, just drop me a line.

  • Ashleigh

    Amg….. I want to do this so bad but I cannot afford it.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Take the survey, at least then. There may be options for low income people.

  • Kevin

    This looks very interesting. I left a response for the survey… unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to take a group class. For one, “home” for me is Japan, so the time difference somewhat sharply limits my options… and that’s before I consider the fact that my job is somewhat demanding as well.

    Still, I’d like to see if I can make it work. Maybe try one of the one-on-one options if it’ll make scheduling easier. So far my only experience with philosophy is a semester or so of basic ethics followed by three years of debating practical ethics as an extracurricular activity (well, that and whatever I can pick up from Google about various apologetic topics and counterarguments) and I’m quite interested in learning more along those lines.