Julia Staffel
University of Colorado, Boulder
This paper is about teaching probability to graduate and undergraduate students of philosophy who don’t aim to do primarily formal work in their research. These students are unlikely to seek out classes that are explicitly about probability or formal epistemology for various reasons, for example because they don’t realize that this knowledge would be useful for them or because they are intimidated by the material. However, most areas of philosophy now contain debates that incorporate probability, and basic knowledge of it is essential even for philosophers whose work isn’t primarily formal. Given that learning formal material via self-study is daunting to most people and very time-consuming, it is desirable to teach this material to philosophy students as part of their coursework. In this paper, I explain how to teach probability to students who are not already enthusiastic about formal philosophy, taking into account the common phenomena of math anxiety and the lack of reading skills for formal texts. I address course design, lesson design, assignment design, and writing about probability. Most of my recommendations also apply to teaching formal methods other than probability theory.
Keywords Probability, Formal Epistemology, Teaching
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