Teaching Philosophy


published on May 5, 2022

Julia Staffel

Probability without Tears

This article is about teaching probability to students of philosophy who don’t aim to do primarily formal work in their research. These students are unlikely to seek out classes 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. In this article, 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, and assignment design. Most of my recommendations also apply to teaching formal methods other than probability theory.