Josh May (philosophy) teaching a philosophy class

Teaching

Even though ethicists apparently have no claim to being particularly moral, the courses I regularly teach are primarily related to ethics: Contemporary Moral IssuesIntro to PhilosophyBioethicsEthics: Theories of Good and Evil, and Neuroethics. I also occasionally teach seminars that cover current debates at the intersection of science and ethics (e.g., Moral Progress).

A wise philosopher (perhaps Plato?) once counseled against reading comments on the Internet, but some students seem to think my classes aren’t too bad (see RateMyProfessors.com). In 2017, I received the “Outstanding Professor Award” from the students in UAB’s Early Medical School Acceptance Program. They sure earned their $20 bribe.

Josh May Teaching Award

EMSAP Teaching Award 2017

“I loved everything about this class—the structure, the lectures, the videos/readings, the group talk about moral foundations, the experiential learning project, Jeopardy reviews, and more. I also felt like my questions were always deeply thought about and answered beautifully to improve my understanding of the topic while connecting it to easy to grasp ideas.”

– Student from Bioethics (2023)

Sample Syllabi

Grading

Student Resources

Wellbeing & Mental Health

Wellness isn’t just about avoiding mental illness; it’s about achieving overall wellbeing. I’m not a credentialed therapist, but I do have training in philosophy and neuroscience. For mental and brain heath, I highly recommend the following rules. I wish I had appreciated them much earlier in life, not only to avoid mental unwellness but to promote overall wellbeing. 

  1. Exercise regularly, especially outdoors and ideally out in nature. 
  2. Get adequate sleep. If you feel sleepy during the day, you’re probably not getting enough or consistent sleep. Ideally, go to bed and rise around the same time every day to set your body on a rhythm.
  3. Eat healthy unprocessed foods that will rot if you leave them on the counter for days. I follow Michael Pollan’s uncomplicated advice: Eat (whole) foods, not too much, mostly plants. This likely requires learning how to cook.
  4. Improve your habits of thought, not just action. Read Stoic and Buddhist philosophy (even current popularizations of them). And study modern practices inspired by their time-honored wisdom, such as meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (which you can learn without a therapist).
  5. Find healthy meaning and purpose in your life outside of school and work. Philosophy and religion can fit the bill, but so can family, friends, hobbies, and helping others.
  6. Be part of a community (better: communities), even if you’re an introvert. Find your people, hang out with them in person, and make sure there’s plenty of humor afoot. Laughter is the best medicine, not just for curing your woes but for keeping them at bay. 

    Note: Community is often a linchpin for the other rules. A running club, hiking crew, or volunteering group provides meaning, community, and exercise, which promotes better sleep, which makes it easier to improve your habits (including eating healthy). Your brain finds this combo rewarding, and a positive feedback loop of reinforcement develops. Huzzah!

Why Be a Philosophy Major?