Start classes in 2015!
If you enjoy reading my philosophical blog posts, consider taking one of my online philosophy classes! I earned my PhD and taught 93 university classes before I went into business for myself. My online classes involve live, interactive class discussions with me and your fellow students held over videoconference (using Google Hangout, which downloads in just seconds). Classes involve personalized attention to your own ideas and questions. Course content winds up tailored to your interests as lively and rigorous class discussions determine where exactly we go. Classes are flexible enough to meet the needs of both beginners and students with existing philosophical background
My classes require no outside reading or homework or grades–only a once weekly 2.5 hour commitment that fits the schedules of busy people. My classes are university quality but I can offer no university credit whatsoever. New classes start up every month and you can join existing groups of students if you want. Click on the classes that interest you below and find the course descriptions, up-to-date schedules, and self-registration. 1-on-1 classes can be arranged by appointment if you write me at email@example.com.
I earned my PhD in Philosophy from Fordham University. I taught over 2,450 students spread across 93 sections of Philosophy during 11 years in university classrooms. In 2005, based on student voting, I earned the Fordham University Graduate Student Association’s Teaching Fellow of the Year award. Now I use interactive video conferencing technology (Google Hangout) to offer affordable, non-matriculated, private philosophy classes to people around the world who are interested in independent learning.
What is the class format?
How long do classes run?
How do these classes compare to MOOCs?
Is there any way to get college credit for these courses.
Is any prior background in philosophy necessary?
What are the prices?
How do I sign up? What is the current schedule of class times?
WHAT IS THE CLASS FORMAT?
The way these classes work is that you and your fellow participants video conference with me for a private face to face lecture. We use Google Hangout, a user-friendly, reliable service that takes just seconds to download and get started with. Classes typically feature anywhere from 1-6 students. The maximum enrollment in any class is 9. We interact in real time class discussions that allow for personalized attention for every student. Since classes are small group discussions, they are organically customized to the students’ interests. They constantly evolve with the students’ own thought processes in interaction with the course material. There is also no pressure to talk if you don’t feel like it but would rather learn more from listening to the conversations between me and your classmates.
HOW LONG DO CLASSES RUN?
All class sections meet only once a week and last 2.5 hours. I select the material flexibly as we go, in response to student interests. Each week I rotate to another self-contained topic so students can join in at any time without worrying about having missed anything in previous weeks. While students can keep attending a given class as long as many weeks as they want, most students take about 16 weeks of a given class before moving on to another. So over the course of any given 16 week run of sessions, as students rotate into the class and out at their own pace, I cover all the major topics of the course. For students who are continuing on more than 16 weeks, I keep the approaches to the major topics fresh by continually researching and developing fresh lectures on each class’s topics.
HOW DO THESE CLASSES COMPARE TO MOOCs?
My classes are the polar opposite of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are notorious for their high attrition rates, low student engagement, and minimal direct contact with professors. In my classes, you get all the benefits of a traditional small college class directly learning from a scholar who takes the time to treat you as an individual and work through your individual thought process as you work through the ideas. There are no reading requirements and there is no homework. Students interested in supplementing their learning with extra reading work are given reading suggestions. But these are never necessary for full class participation. I explain all the concepts students need to engage fruitfully.
In no small part because of factors like these, my classes slot as easily as possible into busy people’s lives. They only take a 2.5 hour time commitment weekly and they consist of stimulating, lively, interpersonal engagement with other smart people. They’re both intellectually and socially enjoyable with minimum pressure or demands involved. Students also do not have to worry about wasting paid time with absences. They can make up time they’ve paid for in later sessions for no extra cost, or in another course in the future if necessary.
The result of all these factors is that my classes have satisfyingly low attrition rates, high student engagement, and students who regularly come back for more classes.
CAN YOU GET CREDIT FOR THESE CLASSES?
These classes are NOT eligible for any college credit whatsoever. They are for people interested in learning for other reasons than college credit. I teach them with the same quality of material and instruction that I used to teach college classes with. But when teaching on my own, my classes are not accredited by any body.
IS ANY PRIOR BACKGROUND IN PHILOSOPHY NECESSARY?
No prior knowledge of philosophy is required to take any of the classes. Each class is designed to be rigorous and deep enough for the advanced student and accessible enough for the introductory student. I don’t assume background knowledge in lectures and I adjust my depth level to the needs and abilities of the students present as we go. A student could profitably start or advance their study of philosophy with any of the courses offered. My experience is that both advanced and new students to philosophy have much to offer each other in class discussions.
If you have any questions remaining about how classes work, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about more details or to enroll for classes today.
What are the prices?
Effective October 9, new enrollments into classes are by subscription. Subscriptions cost $39.99/week and they grant student a 2.5 hour group class session each week paid. Subscriptions can be canceled at any time. When students are absent or classes are canceled by me for a given week, refunds are issued for that week. You only have to pay for the weeks you attend. Occasionally there are scholarships available so subscribe to the e-mails (see the top left of this page) even if you cannot yet afford the classes. All paying students are welcome to have their partner, roommate, friends, or others share their computer screen and participate in class with them. Guaranteed 1-on-1 class sessions are also available. They are typically 1 hour long and cost $39.99/hr. Write me at email@example.com to inquire about 1-on-1 classes. Use the drop down menus for a particular classes to subscribe to it. After feeling satisfied with a particular class, students are free to move to another class while continuing on the same subscription. Students are also welcome to switch to other running class times on weeks they can’t make the class or time that they’re specifically subscribed to.
Click on any class for course information, schedules, and self-registration.
My Topical Introduction To Philosophy catches up newcomers to philosophy by each week overviewing a major subfield of philosophy. Over the course of any given 16 week run of sessions we will overview Philosophy of Mind, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Personal Identity, Social Philosophy (Gender, Race, etc.), Logic, Philosophy of Religion, Aesthetics, Free Will and Determinism, Philosophy of Human Nature, Philosophy of Emotion, and Self-Interest. For every topic, we explore the major questions, their practical relevance, and the major competing, contemporary positions that philosophers hold. Then we engage in freewheeling, open-ended philosophical discussions of the topics for ourselves. As you work out your own thoughts on the week’s topic, I inform you of the ways that philosophers have developed arguments along similar lines or raised challenges to your views. Then I help you work out strategies for either overcoming objections or modifying your views to account for them.
My Ethics class runs the full gamut of philosophical ethics. We regularly alternate between highly relevant immediate impact issues in applied ethics and more foundational philosophical questions about the very nature of morality and values. We spend a lot of time on the question of whether there is any hope for rational and objective answers to ethical questions. We examine major ethical traditions such as consequentialism (including Mill’s utilitarianism), deontology (including Kantianism), Stoicism, feminist ethics, and perfectionism (including Aristotle, Nietzsche, and virtue theory). We work unflinchingly through hard moral dilemmas (both theoretical ones, which clarify our values in the abstract, and pressing real world values choices that we as individuals or a society have to face in medicine, technology, law, and business). We examine the roles of both emotions and reason in ethical judgment and in living a good life generally. We try to figure out the relevance of cultural relativity to ethics. We try to determine the measurements for weighing priorities when our values conflict and we have to make tradeoffs between duty, autonomy, happiness, fairness, loyalty, altruism, self-interest, flourishing, pain-reduction, pleasure, excellence, or moral consistency. We also assimilate and evaluate findings from the empirical sciences that are relevant to morality. In particular we think critically about the implications for ethics of evolution, game theory, and the burgeoning field of moral psychology. There is no university credit for taking this course.
I wrote my dissertation on Nietzsche. My Nietzsche course draws heavily on the years I spent researching that project and the conclusions I developed by its completion. As an orientation, new students receive a special overview lecture on Nietzsche’s philosophy that integrates his thoughts on numerous topics into a coherent overall picture. In particular we focus on his views on morality, values, truth, language, mind, history, religion, and the practice of philosophy itself.
Regular class sessions are spent reading Nietzsche’s writings aloud and discussing them together. As we read each text, I unriddle difficult passages, explore their philosophical implications, talk about possible interpretations of each text in its context within the larger scope of Nietzsche’s thought, introduce students to concepts from relevant Nietzsche scholarship, point out debates among Nietzsche scholars and rival readings to my own, and encourage open-ended, collaborative discussion from you as inspired by the texts. Using this method, we read substantial portions of numerous of Nietzsche’s works, without repeats, over the course of a year. You can continue on for as long as you are interested. And during any 16 session span you can be sure to receive a satisfying equivalent of an in-depth university course on Nietzsche if that is all you want. Over the course of any given 16 sessions of class we will at some point explicate core Nietzschean concepts such as immoralism, the death of God, self-overcoming, the will to power, the reevaluation of all values, the eternal recurrence of the same, ressentiment, master and slave morality, and the superhuman. And we will regularly examine Nietzsche’s complicated and nuanced views on the relationships between nihilism, metaphysics, truth, values, and politics. Students can join a section of the Nietzsche class any time, just as they would join a preexisting reading group.
The books we read from the most extensively in class are Human All Too Human, Daybreak, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, On The Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols, Antichrist, and The Will to Power. No outside reading will be required. There is no university credit for taking this course.
Philosophy for Atheists is a course specially designed to meet the needs of atheists who are looking for secular, philosophical alternatives to religious thinking about the most fundamental questions. It is ideal for people who have deconverted from a theistic religion and want to work out their own positive, secular, humanist worldview and be able to answer philosophical challenges that atheists commonly face from theists. To meet these needs, Philosophy for Atheists is essentially a hybrid between my topical introduction to philosophy course, my history of philosophycourse, and my philosophy of religion course, tailored specifically to the interests and needs of atheists. Since each of these subjects is large enough to have its own individual full course, I select the material flexibly as we go, in response to student interests.
There are three constants to the course structure, no matter how the material varies. (1) We inevitably introduce a number major topics in philosophy (e.g., ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, political philosophy, etc.) and explore them in their own right to some significant extent, making little or no reference to religion. This involves looking at what leading philosophers, both historical and contemporary, have had to say about the topics and discussing them in an open-ended way for ourselves. (2) Next, we apply the insights we generate about philosophical issues for their own sake to related questions in the philosophy of religion and to the debates about the existence of God. (3) We spend roughly a third of our sessions directly discussing an array of philosophy of religion issues, from the existence of God to the nature and value of religion itself to the best way to formulate an ideal of political secularism. No college credit whatsoever is offered for this course.
My Philosophy of Mind and Language class is the one most focused on contemporary philosophy. It deals almost exclusively with the 20th-21st Century study of the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, primarily in the analytic tradition. We start with seminal figures like Russell, Frege, and Wittgenstein, but devote most of the course to the hottest philosophy of mind and language debates of the last 40 years. We also make room for a few weeks on the European traditions of Phenomenology, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and Deconstructionism, all of which were ascendent in the last century.
Specifically, we will explore questions related to semantics, meaning, reference, the nature of consciousness, whether artificial intelligence can be ever have a mind or consciousness, the relationship between minds and bodies, the extent our minds are or are not like computers, whether or not there is such a thing as a universal and innate mental language, the extent to which languages and other social structures can be said to “create” the world for us rather than merely represent it to us, the mental capacities of animals, the nature of perception, the meaning and truth of concepts like belief, desire, and pain, whether our “folk” understandings of our inner life based on subjective experience can form the basis of knowledge of psychology or whether it is irrelevant and needs to be supplanted with an entirely different and empirically derived set of categories, what constitutes the kind of mental freedom necessary to make moral responsibility legitimate, the connections between language and logic, the relevance of philosophy of language to understanding moral utterances about things like goodness or badness, rightness or wrongness, etc., the relevance of philosophy of language to understanding the nature of religious beliefs, how speech acts create social meanings and how social meanings transform propositional statements into speech acts, and more. There is no university credit whatsoever available for this course.
In Social and Political Philosophy we overview classic and contemporary philosophical arguments related to the foundations of a just and flourishing society. In the process we address a wide panoply of socially, politically, and morally urgent practical topics. To one extent or another, varying with student interest, we discuss rights, power, justice, liberty, equality, oppression, democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, tyranny, international relations, civil disobedience, individual/state relations, state/society relations, libertarianism, socialism, social justice, concepts of race and racism, concepts of gender and sexuality, feminism, LGBT issues, secularism, theocracy, the common good, criminal justice, human rights, terrorism, drugs, and the nature and limits of moral legitimacy for legal authority. We also address socially and politically salient controversies in applied ethics. These spheres include sexual ethics (monogamy, promiscuity, polyamory, prostitution, pornography, rape, etc.) business ethics, biomedical ethics (euthanasia, abortion, etc.), ethics of technology, and the ethics of war. Sometimes our discussions will be responsive to current events. Major political philosophers we address include Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rawls, Nozick, and Walzer (among many others). There is no university credit for taking this course.
My Philosophy of Religion class addresses the philosophical issues that religions raise. This course is designed to give both believers and non-believers a detailed and nuanced understanding of the best and most current arguments for and against the existence of God. This involves exploring a range of cosmological, teleological, ontological, epistemological, and moral arguments for and against the existence of God. We also explicate and assess a wide range of competing conceptualizations of what God is or would be. We examine the relationship between faith and reason and the relative epistemic warrant of believing things by faith. We critically analyze various strategies for reconciling faith and science, and for modernizing religions generally. We investigate the ideal relationship between church and state. We apply philosophical tools to religious claims to see how they might be most coherently and plausibly conceived, and how they might be judged to be true or false. We look at atheistic arguments from the Problem of Evil, alternative atheistic possibilities for metaphysics and ethics to theistic ones, and consider the possibility of atheistic religions. And we delve into the nature of religion itself–what it is, what values it serves or might come to serve, how it relates to other spheres of human endeavor, and what religions might have to learn from philosophy. Along the way, we will discuss numerous historical philosophers’ arguments and their influences on the development of religious concepts as we know them. And at one point or another we will inevitably address intersecting topics in ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, biblical studies, psychology, history, anthropology, and political philosophy, all as they have bearing on specific issues in philosophy of religion. There is no university credit for taking this course.
My History of Philosophy class introduces students to the story of Western philosophy all the way from the pre-Socratic philosophers to the 20th Century. In this course I chronologically explain the major ideas and relevance of the major philosophical schools and figures from each major period in the history of Western Philosophy, overviewing an entire period or tradition each week. While there is ample room for students to discuss their philosophical responses to the ideas being covered, this is generally the class I teach which is heaviest on lecture time as there is a great quantity of factual material to explain in a short period of time. We cover Ancient Greek and Hellenistic Philosophy (the Pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Cynics, the Epicureans), Medieval Philosophy (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and the Scholastics), Modern Philosophy (the Rationalists, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, and the Empiricists Locke, Berkeley, and Hume), Kant, 19th Century German Idealists (Fichte and Hegel) and the 19th Century European proto-existentialist reactions against them (Marx, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, and Nietzsche).
Then finally we address the diverse explosion of movements in 20th Century Philosophy. Students are given a familiarizing overview of the rise of Analytic Philosophy (Russell, Wittgenstein, Frege, Logical Positivism, Ordinary Language Philosophy, Modal Logic, and the division of philosophy into new subfields like Metaethics, Philosophy of Science, etc.), Pragmatism (Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty), Process Philosophy (Whitehead), Phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas), Existentialism (Sartre, Camus, Jaspers, Buber, Barth), Structuralism (Saussure and Lacan), Hermeneutics (Gadamer), Feminism (de Beauvoir, Irigaray), Postmodernism (Derrida’s Deconstruction and Foucault’s Post-Structuralism), and Post-World War II Political Philosophy (Rawls, Nozick, Arendt). There is no university credit for taking this course.