Thinking for Yourself and Thinking with Others

Department: Philosophy

Instructor: Cory Davia and Leonardo Moauro
Instructor's Email:;
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

What does it mean to think for yourself or to make your own decisions? What makes these things valuable, and how do our choices support or undermine others' ability to make choices of their own? Given that people answer these questions differently, should you lose confidence in your beliefs when you discover that you disagree with someone whose opinion you value? This course will give students the tools to answer questions like these, and to apply them to their own decisions. Along the way, students will learn about some of the central questions in philosophy – ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics – as well as practice the skills that philosophers use to make progress on these questions. No previous philosophy background is required.

Content and Evaluation

Everyone faces questions about what they should spend their time on, what kind of person they should be. Developing the skills to answer these questions is both valuable in its own right and excellent preparation for college-­‐level coursework.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • distinguish between questions in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics
  • explain philosophical views about autonomy and social epistemology
  • construct their own views on these topics
  • read actively to identify and assess arguments in text
  • listen actively to peers' contributions and articulate others' ideas fairly

Course Outline

Week 1 - How Should we Think About Value?

  • What makes a belief justified?
  • Identifying, clarifying, and assessing arguments
  • Using arguments to make progress: representing and building on others’ ideas
  • Different kinds of philosophical questions: ethical, epistemic, metaphysical

Week 2 - Personal Autonomy

  • The ethics of paternalism
  • Procedural views about autonomy
  • Relational views about autonomy
  • How are reflection and planning related to good decision-­‐making?
  • Personal identity and temporally-­‐extended projects

Week 3 - Social Epistemology

  • Disagreement and higher-­order evidence
  • The epistemic costs of implicit bias and strategies for overcoming them
  • Testimony and deferring to others' reasoning
  • Advice and having space to make a decision

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