by Kelly Epley and Seth Robertson
It’s that time of year when many of us are finalizing, or starting to finalizing (or finalizing to start) our course syllabi for the upcoming fall semester. Many philosophy instructors are interested in increasing the diversity on their syllabi but are not sure exactly where to start. Fortunately, now is a better time than ever to do so, and there are an increasing number of great resources to get ideas (we have compiled many of them here, and are always adding new resources as we come across them). The Deviant Philosopher (www.thedeviantphilosopher.org) is a website that is specifically designed to help you include great philosophy from traditionally underrepresented areas, topics, and people. In this post, we will show you some of our content that you might consider using in your own courses.
If you are looking to add a lot of content to your course at once, we have entire Units designed for you to do so. If you discuss human nature and ethics in your class, you might consider using Eric Schwitzgebel’s unit: Lynching, the Milgram Experiments, and the Question of Whether “Human Nature Is Good”, which suggests readings from Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Confucian philosophers Mencius and Xunzi, Hobbes and Rousseau, and Stanley Milgram and John Doris. With this unit, your students will consider whether our moral projects should be concerned with preserving or reforming our nature. They will also confront instances of grave and horrific moral failure, looking at the historical practice of lynching in the United States, and they will contend with the situationist challenge to the enterprise of moral cultivation. If you need some background in early Chinese philosophy or Confucianism before you teach this unit, you might check Amy Olberding’s primers on these topics, or Ian James Kidd’s lesson on the literary style of the Analects of Confucius.
If you are discussing arguments for and against the existence of God, you should check out Ethan Mill’s unit on Theism and Atheism in classical Indian philosophy. This unit looks at arguments for and against the existence of a creator in Nyāya and Classical Buddhist philosophies. At the same time, it raises important questions about the distinctions between religion and non-religion, theism and atheism in such debates.
If you are teaching an upper level course in epistemology, you might consider using Wayne Riggs’ unit on social epistemology, perhaps supplemented by Liam Kofi Bright’s lesson on W.E.B. Dubois and the value free ideal in science. Riggs’ social epistemology unit, which focuses on themes of epistemic interdependence, epistemic justice, and ignorance, challenges the assumptions of individual-focused epistemologies and gives your students an opportunity to think about how our dependence on others for knowledge and other epistemic goods creates opportunities for justice and injustice in society. Bright’s lesson teaches students DuBois’ defense of the value free ideal in science and gives students the opportunity to consider the role of science in a democratic society.
Much of our content at the Deviant Philosopher is designed to be “plug-and-play” – you can fit it naturally into more traditional courses. If you are teaching the Crito, you might consider Liz Goodnick’s lesson on Crito and Letter from a Birmingham Jail, or use an activity by Seth Robertson that looks at how the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita examines a similar problem to the Crito – what one’s obligations are to a society when that society is failing to live up to its obligations towards it people.
If you are teaching the Republic, you might consider an activity that compares Plato’s Tripartite Theory of the Soul with the three gunas of classical Indian philosophy by asking students to imagine that they’ve been transported in time and have decided to set up the world’s first counseling office. They will diagnose others like their roommates, close friends, or siblings according to these theories. (Another ancient theory of psychology could be added to the activity if one uses Jerry Green’s lesson on Aesera of Lucania on the Soul).
If you are teaching classical utilitarianism, check out Emily McRae’s lesson on Understanding Oppression as a Critique of Hedonism. Using Marilyn Frye’s analysis of oppression, McRae’s lesson challenges the idea that pain is the only thing that is intrinsically bad by suggesting that being oppressed is not necessarily always physically painful.
If you are concerned that your syllabus does not feature enough content from women philosophers, the Deviant Philosopher has several resources that might help you. Consider Liz Goodnick’s unit on Wollstonecraft or lesson on the Descartes and Princess Elisabeth Correspondence. There are also Jerry Green’s lessons on women in ancient Greek philosophy such as Theano II on Moral Education or Phintys of Sparta on Role Virtues, Kelly Epley’s Primer on Care Ethics, or Seth Robertson’s lesson on Angelina Grimké and the moral obligation to treat others not merely as means.
These are just some of the resources currently available at the Deviant Philosopher – be sure to check out all our units, lessons, activities, and primers! And, if you are currently teaching philosophy that fits into our project and would like to share it, please consider submitting it for consideration on our website!
Kelly Epley received a Ph. D. from the University of Oklahoma in 2016. She currently teaches at Westmoreland County Community College. Her research is in philosophy of emotion, focusing on rationality, responsibility, and self-cultivation.
Seth Robertson is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Oklahoma and a 2017-18 Dissertation Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing. His research interests are primarily in the moral psychology and metaethics of moral judgment, with forays into virtue epistemology and early Confucian ethics.