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David Sorensen

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About Me

I obtained my associate's degree from Raritan Valley Community College in 2011, my bachelor's in philosophy from Rutgers University in 2013, and my master's in neurophilosophy from Georgia State in 2016. I currently live in central New Jersey and teach philosophy at Rutgers University (New Brunswick) and Raritan Valley Community College. My philosophical interests include philosophy of mind, cognitive science, epistemology, and issues in applied ethics (esp. animal ethics).

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Overview of Courses

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Intro to Philosophy

This course is an introduction to Western philosophy: what philosophy is, its objectives, its major areas of focus, and its methods. The course is organized around the study of a number of important questions in philosophy, including the nature of reality, the extent of human knowledge, the relation between the mind and the brain, the existence of god, ethics, and the meaning of life. Throughout the course, we will study a wide range of philosophical theories and arguments developed throughout the history of Western thought.

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Current Moral and Social Issues

This will primarily be a course on applied ethics, though we will discuss political, social, legal, scientific, and metaphysical issues as well. We regularly form judgments about what is right and wrong and about who is and isn’t a good person. While we may have strong views about moral and social issues, what kinds of arguments and reasons do we have for holding them?

We will start with looking at meta-ethical and normative ethical theories. With an understanding of the different theoretical standpoints, we will then move forward to applying these theories to the real world. Throughout the course, we will read and discuss articles written by not only moral philosophers, but journalists, academics, and scientists as well.

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Minds, Machines, and Persons

In this course, we will study and discuss competing philosophical theories about the nature of the human mind and the possibility of creating machines that are intelligent. We will also consider the ethical implications of creating machines with minds like ours. The course will be broken into three sections. The first section will focus on philosophy of mind, the second on the foundations of cognitive science and artificial intelligence research, and in the third section, we will discuss the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding the possibility of mind uploading, virtual reality, and robot rights.

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Theory of Knowledge

This course will be a comprehensive introduction to epistemology. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of knowledge, justification, understanding, and other related concepts. Throughout the course, we will read and discuss a wide range of essays, both historical and contemporary. Here are some of the questions that we will raise and try to answer:

  • Can we know anything? If knowledge is possible, are there any limitations to what we can know?

  • How do we know that the world, as it appears to us, reflects reality rather than some illusion (e.g. the Matrix)?

  • Can we know that a world external to our own minds exists, or are we just limited to knowledge of our own mental states?

  • When are laypeople justified in accepting the testimony of experts? Which experts should we trust?

  • Is moral knowledge possible? If so, how are moral beliefs justified? Are they justified on the basis of consensus, authority, or intuition?

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Spring 2019

In this course, we will learn how to identify and construct valid arguments, strong inductive inferences, and how to make rational decisions under uncertainty. No previous exposure to philosophy or formal methods will be necessary. We will begin by studying the fundamentals of probability theory, as well as some more advanced concepts (e.g. Bayes’ theorem). We will then apply our newly acquired conceptual tools to real world cases, ranging from game shows to scientific research. Lastly, we will look at recent empirical work—from the field of behavioral economics—to understand how decisions are routinely affected by cognitive biases and other errors in reasoning.

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Bioethics

This course will be an introduction to the sub-branch of applied ethics known as bioethics. Bioethics deals with moral questions raised by advances in the biological and medical sciences, especially when it comes to issues surrounding the creation and termination of human life. Throughout the course, we will read and discuss a wide range of essays written by empirically informed philosophers and philosophically minded scientists. Specifically, we will deal with the following topics: natalism, abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, neuroethics, resource allocation, and pandemic ethics.

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Logic, Reason, Persuasion

Fall 2020

In this class, we will learn how to construct, criticize, and effectively deliver arguments. Unlike traditional critical thinking classes, which emphasize logical fallacies and methods in formal logic (e.g. truth tables), we will utilize argument mapping and incorporate findings and methods from fields outside of philosophy such as cognitive science, social psychology, mathematics, and behavioral economics. Using these methods and insights, we will then carefully study and evaluate recent debates in politics, ethics, and science (e.g. climate change, gun control).

 

Writings

Research articles and blog posts

Masters thesis completed at Georgia State University

Blog post discussing common flaws in conspiracy theorizing.

An essay on animal welfare

Blog post from 2016 on ethical consumption and animal welfare.

Blog post that responds to Ben Shapiro and his criticisms of common liberal/leftist views about gender and "basic biology".

A critique of Don Marquis's well-known argument against abortion.

An analysis of a 2018 Joe Rogan debate between Michael Shermer and Graham Hancock.

A response to scientists who are skeptical of the value of philosophy (of science).

A response to Lawrence Krauss on his claims of scientism.

Blog post from 2016

Blog post on Fodor's critique of Darwin.

Blog post from 2017 on cosmology and theism.

 
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