Morality and Medicine (Instructor, Spring 2018)
Course description: Ethical dilemmas in the practice of health care continue to proliferate and receive increasing attention from members of the health care profession, ethicists, policy makers, and the general public as health care consumers. In this course we will examine a number of ethical issues that arise in the context of contemporary medical practice and research by analyzing articles and decision scenarios. Topics to be covered typically include the physician-patient relationship; informed consent; medical experimentation; termination of treatment; genetics; reproductive technologies; euthanasia; resource allocation; and health care reform. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to identify and analyze different philosophical approaches to selected issues in medical ethics; have gained insight into how to read and critically interpret philosophical arguments; and have developed skills that will enable them to think clearly about ethical questions as future or current health care providers, policy makers, and consumers. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0612 (Mind and Medicine) but may be taken independently.
Science, Philosophy, and Public Policy (Instructor, Fall 2017)
Course description: What is the role of science and scientific experts in the creation of public policy? And what part do policymakers have to play in shaping the direction of science? In this course we will use the tools of history and philosophy of science to examine the complex and sometimes fraught relationship between science and policy in democratic societies. In the first third of the course, we will consider how policy shapes science by discussing the allocation of scientific funding, the distinction between pure and applied science, and the challenges presented by dual-use dilemmas. In the remaining two-thirds of the course, we will focus on how science is brought to bear on policymaking. We will try to answer questions such as: what is the role of values in science? Should scientists participate in public policy debates? What responsibilities do science advisors have to the people they advise? Throughout the course we’ll make use of several recent case studies related to climate science, public health, and seismology.
Mind and Medicine (Teaching Assistant, Spring 2016)
Course description: This course is designed as an introduction to the philosophical issues that exist at the intersection of psychology and medicine. Among others, we will examine the following questions: What does it mean to be healthy? Can one define health and sickness purely objectively? Or does the notion of disease involve value judgments of various sorts? What does it mean to say that a disease is “genetic”? Are diseases always best explained by appealing to lower-level biological details such as genetics and biochemistry? What does it mean to biological “mechanisms” in explaining disease? Should human medical judgments (e.g., clinicians’ judgments) be replaced by purely automatic computerized procedures? Are medical judgments influenced by various biases and can these biases be overcome? Are psychiatric disorders real? How should Scientists best explain psychiatric disorders? Can evolutionary biology be useful to psychiatry? The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these philosophical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, psychology, and medicine is not needed for this class. Key notions and theories in these fields will be introduced progressively. There are no formal prerequisites for this course. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0613 (Morality and Medicine) but may be taken independently. This course is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students.
Nature of the Emotions (Teaching Assistant, Fall 2015)
Course description: This course is a historical and philosophical examination of theories and portrayals of the emotions. We will examine different philosophical and scientific accounts of such emotions as love, hate, desire, anger, jealousy, pride and grief, and the historical development of those accounts. A number of questions will guide our readings and discussions. How have philosophers and scientists portrayed the relationship between emotion, reason, will and morality. In what aspect or aspects of human nature are the emotions grounded—the body, the mind, or both? How are the emotions related to personality and behavior? Can one examine one’s emotions and control them, or change the way the emotions affect our behavior? Can philosophical and scientific theories about the emotions be tested and validated? And since beliefs about emotions change throughout history, and also from culture to culture, does this imply the emotions change as well? Does love, for example, have the same meaning in Ancient Greece, Medieval England, and modern day America; or in modern day America, Saudi Arabia, China, and Germany? The course readings will be a combination of writings by philosophers and scientists from Ancient Greece until the 21st Century.