Harry Alanen


During my time on the DPhil I've given an introductory lecture series on the Philosophy of Action, I've also taught tutorials and revision classes on Plato's Republic and given tutorials on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and revision classes on the General Ethics paper. I am also listed on the faculty Graduate Teaching Register as able to give tutorials on the following courses: Early Modern Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, and Aristotle's Physics. For a full overview of my teachin experience to date, please see my CV.

Below you will also find some of my teaching resources, including some thoughts on writing tutorial essays in philosophy, a simple guide to citing and referencing, etc. Please note that this material is constantly under revision, and may not be entirely up to date. If you would like to use any of this material, please contact me before doing so.

Teaching philosophy is tricky, partly because it is not really a discipline where students ought to memorize a set of texts or methods, but "simply" learn to do philosophy. My own experience is that this is best achieved if the philosophical problems are brought to life, and made relevant. But not all students are interested in the same questions or same approaches to problems. I try and take my students interests and ideas seriously, and try to help them develop their views.

to Philosophy of Action

A four-lecture course aiming to give advanced undergraduate students an overview of the central issues in the philosophy of action. More specifically, the aim is to deepen students understanding of key positions in the philosophy of action, to sharpen their understanding of problems related to the explanation of action, and to help them raise critical questions regarding what actions are, how actions are to be explained, and what different theories of actions aim to do.

Click on the titles for lecture handouts. I also prepared a reading list.

Lecture 1: The problem of explaining human behaviour. This lecture raises a number of preliminary questions and problems regarding action and agency: how is human behaviour and action best explained? Are the best explanations of actions scientific explanations? If so, what does this mean for our own understanding of our actions and reasons?

Lecture 2: Anscombe's Intention, and Intentionalist Theories of Action. This lecture considers some of the chief contributions Anscombe has had on the philosophy of action. Her discussion on the different uses of "intention" will be examined, her notion of acting "under a description", and the use of "Why?"-questions.

Lecture 3: Donald Davidson & the "Standard Story" of Action. This lecture discusses the work of Donald Davidson, and the influence his work had for later causal accounts of action. We will cover Davidson's response to the 'logical connection'-argument, and the importance of his work in the introduction of events and their use in the individuation of actions.

Lecture 4: The "standard story" and some problems. The final lecture will focus on a number of different problems the causal theories of action faces, beginning with the problem of deviant causal chains. Various responses to this challenge will be considered, including Davidson's own view that the problem could not be overcome, and suggestions advanced by Smith that one must add a further mental occurrence to overcome worries about deviant chains so that the action remains under the control of the agent.

Plato's Republic

Please see the syllabus for suggested readings and topics to be covered in the tutorials. For suggestions on how to prepare for the exam, see my revision suggestions.

See below for my gobbet answering guide, and for essay writing help.

Teaching resources

Here I've collected some teaching resources I've put together to help my students write better essays, answer gobbets, etc.:

Some comments on writing a tutorial essay in philosophy

Notes on references and bibliographies for tutorial essays

Answering Philosophy Gobbets