Richard Charles Strong
Knowledge, Reality, Self (PHI 1000) Fall 2016
Knowledge, Reality, Self serves as an introductory course to the study of philosophy at Villanova University. There is an emphasis on metaphysics, epistemology, and Catholic contributions to the history of philosophy. We commence with fundamental approaches to philosophical arguments and basic vocabulary. Early in the semester each student is responsible for giving a brief presentation on a logical fallacy so that we know some things to avoid. The course begins with a careful analysis of Plato’s Apology and progresses through canonical texts from the history of philosophy while also challenging that very same cannon (e.g., Descartes, Hume, Russell, Angela Davis). The class is discussion based and writing intensive. Core readings are supplemented with timely articles, essays, and videos.
Augustine & Culture Seminar | Ancients (ACS 1000)
The Augustine and Culture Seminar (ACS) is a great books course for Villanova University freshmen. Students in ACS study the core texts, ideas, and debates that have, in part, shaped Western thought and culture as well as Villanova’s identity and mission. To be sure, we also complicate the very idea a “Western” cannon. The first half of the course to readings from Plato and Aristotle followed by books from the old testament (I often choose Genesis, Job, Ecclesiastes, or Proverbs) and one from the new. The second half of the course is devoted to a careful reading The Confessions of St. Augustine. The course is capped at 16 students; personal connections, lively conversation, and joint intention are an essential part of the course, not mere accidents or supplements. I designed the course to include a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a screening of “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
The Good Life: Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (ETH 2050)
Introduction to Ethics surveys the major ethical paradigms of virtue, utilitarianism, and deontology. We study he usual suspects such as Aristotle, Mill, Kant, and Rawls. The aim of the course is not simply to expose students to ways of thinking about the good, just, and moral life but also to disabuse them of strict separation between theory and practice and foster an understanding of ethics as a living and relevant discourse and activity. The goal is not to know what the good life is, but to live a good life. Many contemporary issues in various media are woven into the course. Two weeks towards the end of the course are devoted to student proposed topics and themes.
Philosophy of Technology & Society (PHI 2550)
The aim of this course is to expose and investigate some of the many relations between society and technology. More specifically, we investigate the relations between society and technology along three main lines of inquiry. First, we examine foundational texts that address the relations between societies, science, technology, and human histories. Next, we survey connections between technology, nature, body, mind, experience, and sociality. We finish with readings that deal with various uses and abuses of technology as a form of “ideology.” We will read key essays by mid-century thinkers and more recent work dealing with what we might call “Silicon Valley Ideology” or techno-utopian ways of thinking (and see the ways in which, perhaps, each generation gets the failed utopia it deserves). Along the way we look at concrete case studies with possible topics ranging from video games to smartphones to the “internet of things.” Each student gives an extended presentation on an independently generated socio-technological issue, domain, or relation grounded in a case study which draws on relevant theoretical material from the course.
Augustine & Culture Seminar | Moderns (ACS 1001)
The theme of all Augustine and Culture Moderns Seminars (ACS) is “Who am I?”. This general heading remains broad and offers many forking paths of equally intellectually fruitful exploration and development. In my ACS Moderns course we spend our semester evaluating and reflecting upon the conflicting senses of progress and history, society and nature, and what this means for how we think about and perceive ourselves reflected through this social and historical hall of mirrors referred to as “modernity.” We commence with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play whose protean interpretation itself reflects the worries and dreams of its interpreter’s epoch more it than suggests some singular narrative vision given once-and-for-all by the Bard. Nevertheless, some of the relations and contested distinctions in The Tempest have been enduring: the relation between progenitor and progeny, ruler and ruled, master and slave, rightful heir and usurper, nature and culture (or artifice), design and fate, Europe and the rest of the world, prologue and present action. We trace these tumultuous relations and shifting conflicts – both bloody and peaceful - through key works of philosophy, history, theology, poetry, political theory, literature, and film. Our thinking is guided by a phrase from Pascal’s Pensées, “[t]he heart has its reasons about which reason knows nothing.” Some of the topics address include the 15th and 16th century genesis of globalization, shifting social stratifications, progress, pessimism, and how all of this bears upon the relation between the individual and society.
Knowledge, Reality, Self (PHI 1000) Spring 2018
Knowledge, Reality, Self serves as an introductory course in the study of philosophy at Villanova University. There is an emphasis on Catholic contributions to the philosophy. We commence with fundamental approaches to philosophical arguments and basic vocabulary. Early in the semester each student is responsible for giving a brief presentation on a logical fallacy so that we know some things to avoid. The readings are core texts from the history of metaphysics and epistemology squarely in line with the theme of all introduction to philosophy classes at Villanova University, namely, "What can I know?". The course begins with a careful analysis of Plato’s Apology and progresses up to Kant. The class is discussion based and writing intensive.
Critical Thinking (PHL 264) Fall 2018
The goal of my critical thinking class is for students to become acquainted with the major principles and practices of logical and critical activities. I hope to instill the relevant skills needed to read and argue independently and critically by applying these tools, models, concepts, and principles to both written and oral expressions. We hope to establish bridges between how human beings think and how they live their lives. I try to instill the way in which critical thinking is an integral part of being and active, thoughtful, responsible, and free person. This course is a matter of extremely valuable domain-general skills which each generation must instill anew if we are not to run aground.
Environmental Ethics (PHL 2121) Spring 2019
How should we relate to and interact with the dynamic nonhuman environment? What ought our proper relation be to plants and animals? What should we do in the face of incontrovertible climate change? Does the world neatly divide into culture and nature which much be saved or is a more complicated picture emerging? In this course we will address these guiding questions and many more that are clustered around the subject of environmental ethics. We will read ethicists, anthropologists, historians, ecologists, and others to help guide our thinking. We will familiarize ourselves with the debates, conceptual vocabulary, and principled imperatives to change our practices and patterns of action both individually and collectively. The point of the class is not simply to learn about our relationship to the environment in theory but to change our relationship with the environment in practice.
Drugs & Society (HU 340) Fall 2019
Drugs are, and have always been, an important component of all human societies, though their role and function is far from fixed. In this class we look at the multiple and profound roles of drugs in human life. One of the aims of the course is to broaden our ways of thinking (or open up our doors of perception) about drugs beyond the simplistic idea that drugs are substances that make feel better or stuff to which we should “just say no.” Drugs are much more than either a cure or an bad habit. To see how this is the case, we will read a heavy dose of philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, theologians, historians, and more. Our investigation into the nature of drugs and society from multiple perspectives will have us spanning different periods of history, including the present. We will also look at the place of drugs in our own “culture” and “cultures” very different from our own.
Philosophical Questions & Concerns about Technology & Society from Aristotle to the Internet
Augustine & Culture Seminar | Ancients
A Great Books Course Built Around The Confessions of St. Augustine
My Most Recent Introduction to Philosophy Course
Interdisciplinary Ethics for the Anthropocene