Here you can learn more about the courses I have taught, the courses I am developing, and what my students have had to say about their experiences in my courses.
We will examine the origins of Western philosophical thought in the writings of the Presocratics, Plato, and Aristotle during the 6th-4th centuries BCE. It was during this period that philosophia (“love of wisdom”) emerged from mythologizing as a new enterprise in the human effort to understand the cosmos and our place in it. In addition to tracing the development of philosophy as a cultural enterprise, we will pay special attention to these philosophers’ original and perennially influential theories in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. In particular, we will discuss these philosophers’ views about the ultimate constituents of reality, what human beings are, the nature of scientific inquiry and knowledge, and the place of virtue, justice, and friendship in a good human life and thriving political community.
"This was the defining class that helped my pick an area for my minor. I was debating what I wanted to do, but the topics mixed with how it was taught has made me want to pursue a further education in philosophy (preferably some classes with the same professor)’"
"This course and instructor have given me invaluable insight for my academic future. I know how and why to engage with source material better than I have ever been instructed to."
"It definitely made me want to continue studying philosophy whether on my own or through another class"
"10/10 would recommend to a friend"
We will examine the profound impact the rediscovery of Aristotle had on the intellectual culture of the High Middle Ages. During this period, there was a complex but constant interplay between theological and philosophical thinking in which Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers rejected, accepted, or revised the philosophical ideas of Aristotle in their attempt to devise a unified theistic worldview. We will focus on three thinkers in particular – Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William Ockham – and explore the ways in which they developed Aristotle’s philosophical ideas to explain and defend their distinctive views about the place of human beings and God in relation to the rest of the universe.
"Excellent course with a well-read instructor"
"This course had difficult material that took a lot of time to understand, but it was worth it"
"The way in which it forced students in the course to interact really helped us learn rather than just memorize"
"Chris does an excellent job encouraging class engagement in the text."
Are there rational grounds for believing in the existence of God? Is the existence of a morally perfect, perfectly knowledgeable, and all-powerful God compatible with the existence of widespread suffering and injustice? Has modern science shown that we are not free? If not, what is the nature of our freedom? Should we even care about whether or not we’re free? What is the nature of the mind? Can the rich and vivid reality of our thoughts and experiences really be explained by facts about the physical components of our brains? What is the difference between knowledge and mere true belief? Do we sense the external world directly, or do we merely know how things appear to us, not how they really are? How can we know that the future will be like the past? Are there objective facts about what is right and wrong, or is morality merely conventional? What does it even mean to say that an act is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? How should we decide how to live? Can our spending money on luxuries (e.g., going to the opera, buying a new suit, etc.) be morally justified, or do we act immorally when we spend money on a luxury rather than giving it to charity? Do we act wrongly when we buy meat which was produced by inflicting serious pain on animals? Can our practice of abortion be morally justified, or is abortion immoral?
This course invites students to consider some central philosophical questions and to formulate and defend their own answers to these questions in relation to the influential answers and arguments of other philosophers. At the same time, this course introduces students to the craft of philosophy and, more generally, effective argumentation. We'll talk about how to pose philosophical questions, how to make distinctions and formulate nuanced positions, how to find flaws in an argument, and how to construct an argument. In doing so, the course aims to sharpen students’ critical thinking and writing skills, enabling them to think and communicate with greater clarity, precision, and rigor.
"Christopher Hauser was an amazing instructor. He always thoroughly answered any questions student had in a clear and interesting way. He constantly kept the class interested in the material and provided effective constructive criticism for all our assignments."
"Mr. Hauser has been one of the crucial factors influencing me to go on to major in philosophy. He has treated every question I have answered with utmost respect, even though I am but a freshman undergraduate student; I surely do not have enough formal education in philosophy, but that didn't hinder Mr. Hauser from pointing me to more advanced philosophical arguments and urging me to tackle the harder questions."
"He was really kind and helpful. He seemed to genuinely care about students. He was very willing to help in emails, essay comments, office hours, and recitation."
"Best TA I have ever meet in Rutgers"
“No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods.” This is how Aristotle begins his discussion of friendship in his Nicomachean Ethics. When asked to say what is most important to us, we often refer to our relationships with our friends and family. But what exactly is the nature of friendship, and what is so important or valuable about it? Is friendship a kind of response to the good we perceive in others, or is it a way in which we bestow a special kind of value and significance on others? Why exactly are our friends non-fungible, that is, not the kind of thing we can substitute one for the other? Friends are united with one another in a distinctive way, but how should we characterize this union? Is it that friends know each other’s inner thoughts and secrets? Is it that friends have shared interests and values? Is it that friends engage in activities together? Or some combination of these things? And what role does friendship play in a good and moral life? How is friendship like or unlike other goods? How can the religious person do everything for the sake of God, as St. Ignatius of Loyola recommends in his First Principle and Foundation, and yet still love her friends for their own sakes? How can the preferential treatment we give to friends be morally justified, given the impartiality which is thought to be essential to morality? And, given the nature of friendship, with whom is it possible to be friends? Can we be friends with God or the gods? Can we be friends with animals? With children? And what of online or virtual friendships: can these be just as good as ‘real’ friendships?
In this course, we will use Books 8 and 9 of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as a starting point for investigating the nature, value, and morality of friendship. In addition to considering Aristotle’s discussion of friendship (often thought to be the most influential treatment of friendship in the West), we will examine what a number of more recent authors have had to say about friendship.
In my work with the Mellon Philosophy as a Way of Life Network (https://philife.nd.edu/), I have been developing a Philosophy as a Way of Life course. Like the courses taught by others in the Network, my course will be built around the following four key principles:
(1) Pursuit of the Good Life - the course will challenge students to think critically, comparatively, and practically about what makes for a good human life, one of the oldest philosophical questions which has a perennial practical relevance.
(2) Diverse Classroom - the course will engage different cultural, philosophical, religious and historical sources (including Non-Western sources) for ideas about what makes for a good human life. It will also engage the existing experiences and ideas that students bring to the table, encouraging students to examine, in relation to the ways of thinking introduced in the courses, the values, beliefs, and traditions which have already shaped them up to this point.
(3) Student-Led Dialogue - the course will built around student-led dialogue activities. These activities will challenge students to become self-aware and other-aware as they learn how to articulate their own ideas, to listen empathetically to those who disagree with them, to give a fair and accurate account of someone else's point of view, and to engage in a respectful but truth-seeking dialogue about the big questions of life with their peers.
(4) Immersive Assignments - the course will involve assignments that give students the opportunity to test the theories under discussion against their own experiences, including their own experiences of trying to live out the theories for a short time. For example, in a discussion of Confucian ideas about the good life, students will be asked to spend a week trying to relate to their family members in the way that the Confucian tradition recommends as crucial to a happy, good life. Students will then be invited to reflect on their experiences and assess, from the standpoint of their experiences, what truth there is in the relevant Confucian claims about the good life. Similarly, in a discussion of Aristotle's idea that everything we desire is ultimately desired for the sake of eudaimonia, students will be asked to map out their own desires for their lives and assess whether they really do think that all their desires are ordered towards eudaimonia or not.