It occurred to me that some of you guys might like to see my trials and triumphs from the last few weeks. So here are my teaching-related status updates from FB. I don't know that it's interesting to anyone but me, but it is kind of a journal of what I've been doing these last several weeks.
Wed Jul-11, 11:06 AM
I have a tired. I was up until 3 AM after a got a grading second wind last night. Normally that would be okay since I don't teach until the afternoon, but car honking woke me up at 8. Today may be interesting.
Thur Jul-12, 12:29 AM
I'm not sure if the Rachels textbooks really are this bad or if they just don't suit my style, but I don't think I'll ever be assigning his ethics book for a class, ever. I assigned the Elements of Moral Philosophy chapter covering psychological egoism, because I remembered it as being a decent overview of the issues from my own student days.
I'm sure there's a better source to use that isn't, you know, one straw man after another. Lesson learned there!
Also: I'm now officially thirty. *blows noisemaker*
Tues Jul-17, 7:13 PM
I know summer school is supposed to kick *everyone's* back-sides, but there is really no excused to feel this zonked. (Okay, maybe a little bit of one: three straight hours teaching Singer + Mill, followed by nearly the same in office hours (that went over since students were still waiting) getting their papers in shape. But still!
Yesterday was hard, emotionally, and I thought I'd handled it. I'm thinking this is just RL catching up with me a bit, though. Or it's to be hoped! Singer and Mill aren't the hardest philosophers to teach.
Tues Jul-17, 9:14 PM
I don't suppose anyone out there wants to draft my lecture on Nozick's libertarianism for me? I'm entirely too tired to be clever tonight. It doesn't help that I really don't agree with the philosophy; not that it matters all that much for teaching purpose. But when you're exhausted, wrestling with something you disagree with is no fun.
Wed Jul-18, 12:08 AM
I've finished prepping my lectures for tomorrow, thank goodness. One hour on some ciritiques of utilitarianism, another hour looking at selections from Nozick's _Anarchy_ (explanation + defense of philosophical libertarianism, and the Wilt Chamberlain example), and rounded out by a symposium where the students get to do mini-presentations on their first argumentative essays.
Of course, now that I could actually go to bed, my mind is waking up and insisting on blogging or doing something fun and exciting. Durned night-owl tendencies. :-S
Wed Jul-18, 7:29 PM
I left the house this morning with hair still moist from the shower. With this heat, by the time I got to campus it was like I'd dried my hair without benefit of a brush. Overly dried verging on frizzy, with a stubborn refusal to lay flat.
This afternoon it rained, which cooled it down a bit but not enough, meaning walking around feels like being in a sauna.
Just one more day (Rawls + moral luck) and then I have time off to wrap my head around Kant. And, you know, grade twenty-three six-page papers. Must remind myself how lucky I am to have first-world problems like this, but boy, has today been a long one!
Thur Jul-19, 11:13 PM
There's something strangely soothing about reading W.D. Ross and listening to the "Up in the Air" soundtrack after a long week teaching.
(Yes, I am this big of a geek; but yes, I really am being sincere. I don't always agree with him, but something about the man's thoughts always strike me as rationally beautiful. I can't put it clearer than that.)
Sat Jul-21, 7:18 PM
I've finished reading + outlining Ross, a piece comparing Kant + Mill on criminal justice, and now the first section of the groundwork. So, you know, that's Tuesday. *g*
Off to the grocery store to pick up victuals, and then back home to watch Batman Begins. Maybe by this time next weekend I'll actually be in a position to see the newest Batman flick.
Tue Jul-24, 12:35 AM
I keep forgetting just how *hard* Kant's writing is to read. Actually, you *can't* read it - it reminds me of the little bit of Talmud I've studied, where each word or phrase needed to be dissected and crossreferenced and filtered through three or four different commentaries. I know what Kant is supposed to be saying and even I have a hard time seeing it in his words.
Don't get me wrong, he's brilliant and all - I *love* his philosophy. But if there was ever a philosopher to be read through secondary sources rather than the original, I'm thinking Kant is probably it.
Tue Jul-24, 1:42 AM
I polished off two Kant lectures today: the first section of the Groundwork (on the whole idea that you have to do the right thing *because it's your duty*, not because you want to for some other reason) and the first portion of the second section (on the first version of the categorical imperative - essentially the golden rule, but with some important qualifications). These are *hard* concepts, and I'm glad to have made some headway on them before the schoolweek starts.
All that's left is the second version of the categorical imperative - never treat people as a mere means, which basically means respect other peoples' rights to make their own decisions and don't use them as a tool to get what you want or trick them when you could let them make their own choices. There's more to it than that, of course, but that's the gist of it. After that it's on to some contemporary people applying Kant to different issues, and then on to Aristotle. So I think that will be much more manageable to me as I try to put lectures together after teaching long hours.
Btw, to people who want to wrap your head around Kant's philosophy, check out this scan of some textbook chapters. It's a decent overview, except for the bit about Kant and animal rights; I think he actually has a much better case than Shafer-Landau gives him credit for. But as far as a readable, approachable intro to Kant's moral philosophy, it's one of the best I've read.
Thu Jul-26, 1:24 AM
The last lectures of the week are officially prepped: Nagel's article "War and Massacre" (on the problem of applying Kantian principles in "no-win" situations like you sometimes see in warfare); a secondary source looking at what place (pathological) love plays in Kant's moral philosophy, if at all; and the Bennett article on the role sympathy ought to play in morality. Next week it's on to Aristotle and feminist ethics.
This was a *lot* of class-prep for one day, including two essays I'd never taught before (Bennett + Nagel). That's an experience I don't want to repeat any time soon; interesting readings, but just too much prep-work all at once. But the weekend is here, meaning I can sleep again. And, you know, grade all those essays accumulating dust on my hard drive.
I swear, once upon a time I had a social life. :-)
Thu Jul-26, 4:17 PM
Class could have gone better today. It wasn't *bad*, I just felt a little leaden. That's understandable (I hope!) given it was two readings I'd never taught before, and that I was actually teaching fro two hours rather than three. We usually have student-led discussions for the first hour. So by the end (as in now), I'm thoroughly exhausted.
A question for people who teach Kant's ethics and know him better than I do: do you use any books other than the Groundwork? I've always suspected sections the Metaphysics of Morals would round out on his view quite nicely, but the fact that I've never seen ANYONE use it makes me think there has to be a reason why. I can also see the first section of "Religion within the Boundaries" being useful too.