I teach the following courses in the Bachelor of Arts at the University of Newcastle, Australia:
The World's Great Thinkers I investigates the thought and influence of a range of highly influential ancient and pre-modern philosophers.
- The World's Great Thinkers II investigates the thought and influence of a range of highly influential modern philosophers.
- Debating the Big Ideas builds on the introduction to the foundational areas, themes or questions in philosophy, and the methods of study that are typically employed by them.
- World Religions introduces the principal features of the world's major religions through reference to key events, characters, beliefs and related phenomena.
- Modern Religious Thought examines the development of the philosophical understandings of God, the gods, and transcendence in the modern period. Students will investigate the key writers on the subject who have contributed to major changes in a variety of religions today.
- Religion in the Secular World investigates the new and persistent visibilities of religion in secular societies with reference to key philosophers and political theorists.
I approach thinking as a practice. My courses aim to help students develop the skills necessary to enter into great debates of the past in order to think for themselves. Such skills are embedded in the marking rubrics I use to assess students' ability to critically interpret, argue cohesively, as well as engage primary and secondary sources of evidence.
Typically, I organize course materials around key thinkers. I find that this helps students to empathize with their historical contexts before delving into the heart of their ideas. Some courses trace the development of ancient to medieval thinkers such as Maimonides or Anselm. Others investigate modern thinkers such as Kant or Nietzsche. In each case, studying how they intervened in the debates of their times informs students about how to face today's intellectual challenges.
We live in complex information cultures that benefit from the critical thinking skills that humanities degrees provide. We may have tremendous power to access information through the search engines built into our digital devices, but information does not inevitably lead to meaning and understanding. It seems to me that Immanuel Kant's enlightenment challenge, sapere aude [dare to be wise], remains ever out in front of us.