Catherine Z. Elgin

Teaching: I currently teach three courses, two in the graduate school of education and one in Harvard College.

Harvard College:

Freshman Seminar 31j: Skepticism and Knowledge

What can we know; how can we know it? Can I know that I am not a brain in a vat being manipulated into thinking I have a body? Can I know that Lincoln was assassinated, that E=mc2, that Hamlet is better than Harry Potter, that the sun will rise tomorrow? What sorts of reasons do we have for such claims? What sorts of reasons do we need? This seminar will study skeptical arguments and responses to skepticism to explore the nature and scope of knowledge. Open to Freshmen only. Syllabus

Harvard Graduate School of Education:

S-105 Philosophy of Education

What is education? What are the goals of education? Why is education of value? Are these questions that have timeless answers, or do their answers depend on circumstances of history, culture, time or place? The course addresses the works of philosophers such as Plato, Rousseau, Walstonecraft, Washington, DuBois and Dewey in an attempt to develop sound answers to such questions. Syllabus

S-121 Art and Understanding

A philosophical inquiry into the relation between art and understanding. Art is typically indifferent to literal truth. Works of fiction are literally false. Works in the non-verbal arts are strictly neither true nor false. Yet we claim to learn something from the arts, that we see things more clearly and understand them more deeply as a result of our encounters with the arts. What, if anything, justifies such claims? To answer this question requires investigating both the nature and function of art and the nature and function of understanding. Syllabus