Friday, June 05, 2020

Call for Papers

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology is seeking experienced philosophy instructors to develop introductory teaching essays on topics of current and urgent social, ethical, and political interest in the United States. 

1000 Word Philosophy has been seeking essays on these issues for a long time now, and wanted to make this interest known again. Instead of developing a list of potential topics, we are asking instructors this:

  • What issues relevant to current events would you like to teach, and need to be discussed, in philosophy (and other) courses?
  • What topics do students want and need to learn about and discuss and so introductory guides to those topics would help for fruitful discussion?
1000-Word Philosophy’s essays are of a unique genre in that its articles are not argumentative: they are introductory overviews that inform and inspire critical discussion: they are an effective first step towards engaging deeper, often argumentative, sources. It must be acknowledged though that although 1000-Word Philosophy's essays are not argumentative (in a sense that there is nothing like “I will argue that p”), they are also not neutral: they acknowledge and build upon reasonable agreements and informed and fair-minded consensus.

For more information about 1000-Word Philosophy, and important submission guidelines, please see And please contact the editors at with any questions, to discuss any potential essay ideas and for suggested topics. 

“Activists for Reason”: A Defense of Philosophical Activism

Activists try to change the world, for what they see as the better. And it’s a plausible thought that one point of seeking knowledge, understanding, and other skills in reasoning, listening and communicating, is to change the world, in some ways, for the better. 

Combining these concerns, when the knowledge, understanding, and skills are philosophical in nature, yields philosophical activism, or using one’s philosophical knowledge, understanding and skills for activist purposes, to try to “change the world” for the better. Here I characterize or define philosophical activism by distinguishing it from simply teaching philosophy, “public philosophy,” and just general philosophizing including on important issues, and non- and anti-philosophical activism. 

Should philosophers be philosophical activists? Is this permissible? Is it smart? Is it wise? Is it ever a moral obligation? I will argue that many philosophers - who have special knowledge and skills - can and should be philosophical activists in that they can use their special knowledge and skills to make the world, in some ways, a better place. I argue that basic ethical and justice-related concerns justify philosophical activism and that there’s no good reason that philosophers should never engage in such activism or always stay on the sidelines of important ethical and social engagement. 

There are good and bad forms of philosophical activism and I argue that, above all else, however, philosophers should be “activists for reason” in whatever issues they address in that they teach, encourage and model intellectual and moral virtues of honesty, self-reflectiveness and seriousness, and more. I illustrate these themes with examples of good and bad philosophical activism from two topics - ethics and animals, and abortion - which I have extensive personal experience with. There are good and bad philosophical activists on many sides of these issues and general lessons about can be gleaned from their good and bad examples.

So, as there are good and bad forms of activism simpliciter, there are good and bad forms of philosophical activism: I aim to clarify these and argue why good philosophical activism is necessary and why it’s the most effective and just thing that can be used to fight bad philosophical activism, and so is especially important. 

Nevertheless, I do observe that most activists, as individuals, do not make the impact they wish they could make: in most cases, it’s hard to know that one has done any good. I argue that these concerns are especially relevant to philosophical activism, given the abstract nature of the task and the often unclear or mixed evidence of effectiveness: despite these concerns, however, I do argue that many philosophers are indeed morally obligated to engage in some forms of philosophical activism. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Summer Class

Here's a summer class, which - contrary to the time schedule mentioned below - will be online:

Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 42708 - HPHI 302G - 01
Associated Term: Summer 2020
Registration Dates: Apr 20, 2020 to Jun 11, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
Online Instructional Method
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class10:30 am - 11:50 amMTWRFONLINEJun 09, 2020 - Jul 17, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail
The entire Morehouse summer school schedule is accessible here.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Thank you notes!

Philipp Schulz has a blog post on "Practicing Academic Kindness in the Classroom" that offers the great suggestion of having students write "thank you" notes to authors of writings they read in class that the students appreciated: perhaps the reading changed their mind, helped them articulate a belief, presented an opposing view in an interesting light or anything else the student found valuable.

A philosophy professor friend of mine, or his TA, had students do this in their class and some students kindly wrote about how they appreciated my "Early and Later Abortions" and "Reply to Tollefsen" in Bob Fischer, ed., Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues That Divide Us (Oxford University Press, 2019). (This chapter led to another chapter, which led to the Thinking Critically About Abortion book). 

It is, of course, very rewarding for me to know that someone read and enjoyed my writings and it helped them, they believe, think better about a complex and controversial issue. With permission and pride, I'm sharing their reactions below. 

Ethics Left and Right

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Climate Change Ethics course description:

Climate Change Ethics course description:  

This course addresses the moral or ethical issues that result from climate change: what should we do, what must we do, to respond to climate change? What should we do individually, and what should we do collectively, as local communities, states, nations and as a global effort? Why must we do this, and how? 

Ethical discussions of real-world issues depend on an understanding of the facts. To know what we should do about climate change, we need to know the facts. These facts are determined by science, so how do we develop scientific literacy so that more people, especially people of influence, better understand these facts? Understanding the relevant science and trusting scientists is a moral issue: what must we do to increase the knowledge, understanding, and trust that’s needed to confront climate change? 

Unfortunately, there are powerful cultural and political forces that work to distort, deny and undermine a scientific understanding of climate change. How do we identify those sources and address them? How can we effectively communicate the messages needed for individuals and societies to make ethical choices?  

Climate change is an ethical issue, to put it very simply, because many bad things are happening, and are predicted to happen, because of it. What are these bad things, and who are they bad for? While this often seems obvious, why are they bad, and what are the most effective, fair and just ways to address this badness? Simple questions here lead to complex and challenging ethical questions about our individual and collective ethical obligations, the nature of fairness and justice, and more.  

Some activities, done in connection with local organizations that address climate change:

  • students will strategize about how to best "move" climate change messages, both at the individual and collective / policy levels and test these strategies, 
  • students will engage in various types of educational outreach, such as those supported by the RCE Atlanta:  
  • students will contribute to the efforts of the Georgia Climate Project, such as working with their “Georgia Climate Stories” project to document the impact on climate change on people in Georgia and how they are responding:  
SpcTop: Climate Change Ethics - 48822 - HPHI 475 - 02
Associated Term: Fall 2020
Registration Dates: No dates available
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class1:00 pm - 1:50 pmMWFSale Hall 110Aug 19, 2020 - Dec 11, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Removing formatting from Blackboard Discussion board posts

You can use this button here to remove formatting from Blackboard Discussion board posts. Hopefully, this will also remove whatever sometimes causes posts to be super wide and not "wrap" in the window:

Friday, April 03, 2020

Extra Credit, even now

I've seen a lot of posts about giving extra credit opportunities to address grade challenges brought on by the circumstances, and I want to quickly argue this is a bad, unfair, and counter-productive idea.
The current main motivation for extra credit is that students have been set-back and thrown off track because of the current situation, and so extra credit is an attempt to address that, to prevent them from being harmed by circumstances beyond their control.
However, *all* (or nearly all) students have been harmed by this pandemic, and so if *any* students should be compensated or boosted for this, they *all* should be boosted for it. To have to jump through a hoop or do more work to get this benefit, that everyone deserves, to try to make things more fair is, well, unfair.
Furthermore, this just creates more work for everyone, including students, at a time when nobody needs more work.
To address the motivating concern in a fair way, one could just simply raise *everyone's* grades by X % (10% 20%?). Then *everyone* gets the grade "stimulus" package, not just those who are lucky enough to know to apply and have the time to apply. Students who are currently so burdened that they don't have time to do extra credit (much less the new regular work) shouldn't lose out on a benefit that their more fortunate peers have time to access: that's not fair.
Sure, some will get a grade stimulus who don't need it, but that's less bad than forcing those who need it to do more work when they are already loaded down.
These arguments are motivated by this article - Christopher Pynes. “Seven Arguments Against Extra Credit.” Teaching Philosophy 37, no. 2 (2014): 191-214 -- and are summarized here:
I hope this is interesting and helpful and contributes to making things simpler and more fair for all!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Videos on Arguments about Abortion

Here are some videos that review a PowerPoint presentation on arguments about abortion that was recently developed for teaching purposes; the slides are the bottom of the page. These are also posted at

Introduction and Defining Abortion:

Question-Begging Arguments about Abortion

Common, "Everyday" Arguments about Abortion:

Arguments that Abortion is Prima Facie Wrong:

Arguments that Abortion is Prima Facie Permissible and Conclusions:

PowerPoint slides:

These slides in PDF.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Teaching Modules or Units at 1000-Word Philosophy

A “Teaching Units” page of links to select sets of essays has been developed to help create course modules on common topics in introductory philosophy and ethics courses. We hope this is especially helpful for instructors transitioning to online learning. 

Below are links to select sets of short introductory readings from 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology to help create “course modules” on common topics in introductory philosophy and ethics courses. 

This page will be updated as more essays are identified as especially ideal for this resource. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Discussion Reply Prompts

"One concern that I often hear from faculty is the poor quality of student replies in the online discussion. Some faculty have ameliorated the issue by adding specific instructions to students in the discussion topic instructions: Anytime we can clarify our expectations to students, it is useful to do so.

Another way to help students provide better replies is to provide them with prompts that will lead them to create the type of replies we are looking for in our online courses. Here is a set of prompts I share with my students that you might find useful as is or with some adaptations. Feel free to modify at will!

Students, here are some prompts that might help you create more effective replies to your peers (you learn more) and earn you more points. For each reply, please comment on your peer's post, perhaps what you learned or found interesting, and then add new information to the conversation. Here are some prompts that might be helpful in directing your replies. 
First, summarize your peer’s post
  • I appreciated how you explained … because I learned…
  • What I found really interesting about what you said ...
Then, transition to what you will add to the conversation
  • And, I think that we also need to consider…
  • Another important question we need to think about is…
  • What this means is …
  • That makes me think of …
  • I am confused about …, what I know is … and I would like help …
  • While you said…, I disagree because…"

(Source: Beth RenĂ© Roepnack)

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Georgia Philosophical Society Annual Meeting

Saturday, February 22, 2020
Location: Mercer University McEachern Art Center, 322 2nd Street, Macon, GA

10:00 AM Coffee and Snacks

10:30-11:20 AM: “Why Meritocratic Democracy is Better than Democracy”, Dr. John Park, California State University, Sacramento
Commenter: Dr. Micah Lewin, GSU Perimeter College

11:30 AM-12:20 PM: “Distributing Carts Before Horses: Or the Presumptions of Distributive Justice”, Chris Byron, University of Georgia
Commenter: Dr. Yi Deng, University of North Georgia

12:30-1:50 PM: Lunch: The GPS business meeting will take place from 12:30-1:00. All present are invited to vote on the new officers for 2020-2021 and/or new motions.

2:00-2:50 PM: “Early Intersectional Approaches of Black Feminism: New Archival Evidence”, William A. B. Parkhurst, University of South Florida
Commenter: Dr. Sabrina Hom, Georgia College

3:00-3:50 PM: “Exercising One’s Voice: Merleau-Ponty and the Grounds of Conversation”, Dr. Susan Bredlau, Emory University
Commenter: Dr. Eric Dickman, Young Harris College

4:00-4:50 PM: “Abortion, the Pro-Life Argument, and the Relevance of Gender Issues”, Dr. Rosalind Simson, Mercer University
Commenter: Dr. Nathan Nobis, Morehouse College

5:30-7:00 Post-conference reception: Macon Beer Company, 458 2nd Street, Macon, GA