Teaching What are you teaching?

What are you teaching?

In an effort to get a sense of what philosophers are doing day-to-day, the blog has been asking them to share what they are teaching with us. What have they just lectured on in class? 

Anthony Marc Williams is a Special Lecturer of philosophy at Oakland University and specializes in metaethics and moral psychology.

“One thing that I regularly do in all of my classes is start off the class with logical puzzles. Since almost none of the students have had a logic class before and many students find symbolic logic daunting, I like using the puzzles to teach basic principles of logic and critical reasoning. The book that I use is Raymond Smullyan’s What is the Name of This Book? I spend about 10 minutes each day working on the puzzles. The thing that is powerful about Smullyan’s book is the use of narrative. Because the puzzles are presented in narrative form, the puzzles engage student imagination. Students have an easier time (I believe) thinking through puzzles when there is a story involved. Here is an example:

“There is a wide variety of puzzles about an island in which certain inhabitants called ‘knights’ always tell the truth, and others called ‘knaves’ always lie. It is assumed that every in habitant of the island is either a knight or a knave. I shall start with a well-known puzzle… According to this old problem, three of the inhabitants — A, B, and C — were standing together in a garden. A stranger passed by and asked A, ‘Areyou a knight or a knave?’ A answered, but rather indistinctly, so the stranger could not make out what he said. The stranger then asked B, ‘What did A say?’ B replied, ‘A said that he is a knave.’ At this point the third man, C, said, ‘Don’t believe B; he is lying!’…”
Smullyan asks, “What are B and C?” but I like to inquire about A, B, and C so as not to give anything away. Also, the students tend to think A is a knight but not to realize that they are not justified in believing that A is a knight or a knave.”


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