B09: ‘Help me get to know you’ form: C’s Answers

When filling in your help me get to know you forms in tutorials or online, a few of you asked questions about me in return, and I feel it’s only fair to answer them back! Here’s some of my answers to the questions on the form, and to the questions you all asked.

What name would you like us to call you in this course? I prefer to go by C (pronounced just like the letter, or ‘sea’). If you’re uncomfortable with that for some reason, you can also call me by my legal name, Charles. I’m not a big fan of it though.

What pronouns would you like us to use for you? I go by they/them/their pronouns. I try to be understanding when people don’t use these when referring to me, as I know that those who come from other cultures or languages that don’t have gender-neutral pronouns may have less experience with this. I just ask that you try your best.

What made you interested in taking this course? I am not required to be a TA in my department, but I love teaching and learning from and with students, and I love the practical potential for bioethics, so I applied to TA this course. I think that medicine and health are places where questions about “right” or “wrong” can be especially important, because the risks of physical, social, and cultural harm are greater than in many other areas of philosophy or moral theory. Many of the people I hang out with, live with, study with, and grow with have experienced a lot of harm or exclusion from medical health systems, and I think it is important to bring these perspectives into the ways we learn and think about bioethics. In general: bioethics pervades my life and research, and I love teaching and learning with students.

What are your intended majors/minors, if any? I did my undergraduate degree at the downtown U of T campus, where I formally completed a specialist in philosophy, a major in psychology, and a minor in bioethics (less formally, a triple-major between the three). In my current PhD program, I will (hopefully!) receive a degree in Philosophy, and a notation for the Collaborative Specialization in Bioethics organized by the Joint Centre for Bioethics.

Have you taken any philosophy or ethics courses so far? If so, which ones? I was a philosophy specialist in my undergraduate degree, so I took many courses downtown. Here’s a rough list:

  • 100 (A) level: Intro to philosophy.
  • 200 (B) level: Probability and inductive logic; Modern symbolic logic; Knowledge and reality; Persons minds and bodies; Introduction to ethics; 17th-18th Century Philosophy; Environmental Ethics; Bioethics; Ancient philosophy.
  • 300 (C) level: Intermediate logic; Epistemology; Issues in the Philosophy of Mind; Metaphysics; Wittgenstein; Philosophy of Language; Ethics and mental health; Issues in environmental ethics.
  • 400 (D) level: Advanced philosophy (the “Socrates Project”); Seminar in applied ethics (focused on climate and water ethics); Seminar in philosophy (focused on Hume’s problem of induction); Seminar in philosophy of science (focused on thought experiments); Independent study on social media and personal identity; Independent study on narrative identity in dementia; Independent study on silence and teaching philosophy.
  • Graduate: Narrative and value; Aristotle on friendship; Theoretical approaches to bioethics; New approaches to classical Daoism; Social epistemology; Seminar on semantic vagueness; Philosophy of medicine; Philosophy and teaching; Reading course on feminist philosophy; Confucianism; Reading course on Peirce, silence, and disability.

What is something you’re most excited for in this course or tutorials? Every time I TA in bioethics, I learn a lot from the experiences, feedback, knowledge, ideas, and questions of students. I’ve already learned a lot with your answers to these questions, and I’m very much looking forward to learning with and from you in the rest of our time together.

What is something you’re most worried about for this course or tutorials? Lots of students mentioned the strike here. While I’m a little worried about a possible strike too, I am confident from previous experience that we can reduce its impact our learning community by early and transparent communication. I am a little worried (and excited!) about how the new participation guidelines will work out for the first time, how many people will choose to/be able to attend tutorials, etc. But I am also committed to doing the best I can to be flexible and responsive to changing those guidelines based on how they seem to work for us over the term.

Is there anything we should know about your learning style or how you best engage in course communities? I often do a lot of work preparing for tutorials because I have physical and cognitive disabilities that can make it hard to rely on memory, or to always be standing or moving around. Some weeks I might read more from notes I prepare in advance than speak from recollection, or might have to sit or lay down for a while. I have never yet handed student work back late, and work hard to make sure I can provide the best learning community and environment possible without disruption.

Other questions (from you!):

  • Do I have any pets? Very unfortunately, I’m very allergic to a lot of animals that we can legally keep as pets (and lots of other things too). Fortunately, several of my friends are fosters for cats or dogs (housing and taking care of them until adoption), or have other pets of their own, so I have regular access to animals whenever my immune system can handle it! (And when I can’t, there’s always the internet).
  • Where did you go before grad school? I was an undergraduate student on the downtown campus at the University of Toronto. I did not do a masters program.
  • What do you want to do after you graduate? Job markets are increasingly tough, but eventually, down the line, I’d like to be involved in teaching. Ideally in a philosophy, bioethics / health humanities, or disability studies program (in that order). But I’d also like to be involved in some version of consulting: some of the most valuable moments in my life have been the ability to help individuals and organizations based on my research and learning. Before all that, though, I’ll probably try to get a masters in health sciences, which would help me access some more skills in applied research and practice and improve my position for teaching and/or consultancy jobs. But that’s all a long-ways-away!
  • What is a Vanier scholar? Being a Vanier scholar just means that my research is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (click for information). It is a national award competition run annually. Listing it on my website is a for-better-or-for-worse institutional norm, and a way of being transparent about financial support and possible conflicts of interest my research receives.
  • Have you been a TA for this course or related before? Yuppers! I was a TA for PHLB09 in 2015 and 2016. I’ve also been a TA for introductory bioethics courses on other campuses multiple times (PHL281 at UTSG and PHL283 at UTM), and I’ve been a TA for many of the 300-level (same as C-level) bioethics courses downtown, such as ethics of death and dying, ethics of genetics and reproduction, ethics and medical research. I’ve also been the TA for the introduction to ethics twice downtown, and have run the philosophy essay clinic there.
  • How can I succeed in this course when there are no ‘right’ answers in philosophy? There are often no ‘right’ answers in most fields, including many scientific research programs. Results are subject to dispute in interpretation, studies are subject to dispute in their methodologies or theoretical frameworks. Rather than coming up with right answers, we seek to come up with better answers: answers established through a better (research) methodology, theories that better fit forms of evidence, equations that properly derive from axioms, and so on. (and of course, even axioms are subject to dispute, and competing axiomatic systems or competing theoretical frameworks seek to show their better fit). The same is true of philosophy: there are better and worse ways to argue, there are axioms to follow (the study of ‘logic’ is the study of argumentative structures and systems, for example), there are different kinds of evidence we seek to fit (observation, intuition, consistency, etc), different methodologies and approaches, different theoretical frameworks, and so on. Philosophy is not distinct in not having clear right answers. Rather, it fits many other disciplines and fields of study in trying to derive better answers to questions posed (and: better ways of asking questions/forming hypotheses and research programs). Assignments may be evaluated on things like strength, coherence, clarity of reasoning, use of evidence and support, consistent and coherent use of theories and concepts, and overall methodological rigor. As we progress into this course, we will develop tools and familiarity with styles of reasoning.

I’ll update this page as appropriate if I missed questions (or more arise)


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