I am currently lecturer in Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford. You know, the one with the bridge that’s on all the TV programmes. Evelyn Waugh was famously sick out of one of the windows into the quad as an undergraduate here. I teach the Hertford undergraduates and students, mostly from the US, who are here in the Visiting Students programme.
Subjects taught include: Ethics; Elementary Logic; J S Mill’s Utilitarianism; Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics; Plato’s Republic; Wittgenstein; philosophy of language; philosophy of religion; medical and applied ethics; feminist political philosophy; metaphysics; aesthetics.
I have taught for various other Oxford Colleges in recent years including Somerville Collge, St Benet’s Hall, and Lady Margaret Hall. I also recently taught ‘Genetics for Nursing and Health Care’ to students from Drexel University, USA, at the Foundation for International Education, London.
Additionally, I have recently taught ‘A’ level philosophy at Magdelen College School, Oxford.
I am currently preparing a collection of annotated examples from literature, philosophy and biography for use in teaching normative ethical theory and metaethics.
I have formerly taught at Bristol University Philosophy Department, at the Open University, and the Australian National University Philosophy Department.
In these posts I have given tutorials and seminars on a large variety of topics, and lectures on: Ethics, Applied Ethics, Feminist Theory, Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Religion.
I have also worked as a Study Adviser at the Study Skills Centre, Australian National University. From this work, John Clanchy and I wrote a book on advanced reading skills, Reading for Study and Research, Longman, Australia (1999). My work in study skills with students from across the university also helped to reinforce my appreciation of the value philosophy, argument analysis and critical thinking. I have also taught on courses for lecturing staff to improve their teaching skills.
Teaching, philosophy, and missing shades of blue
Teaching is an integral part of doing philosophy. The sense of puzzlement, the quest to explain and to communicate belong to both. Just as in philosophy so much is always open to question and revision, so too is the authority of the teacher under question.
A story about one of my first realisations: a story if you like about my own missing shade of blue. Aged six, in class we were painting pictures, at that age where the children paint the sky as a blue line at the top of the paper, to represent the sky above their heads, with a vast gulf of blank paper underneath. ‘It’s not like that’, I pointed out, ‘look out of the window, it goes all the way down to the trees’. I could not get anyone to listen. On the way home I can vividly recall furiously pointing up at the sky and trying to get them to look at all that blue, to no avail. Days later the teacher gave us a talk. ‘Now, children, when you paint the sky, make sure the blue goes all the way down to the trees’. And then, they painted the sky like that. They painted the sky like that just because they were told to. The lesson: how easy it is to believe what we are told and not the evidence of our senses. I have always tried to incorporate this insight into my teaching practice.