Ohio State/University of Michigan Video-Conference Seminar

This autumn semester, Professor Justin D'Arms is co-teaching a graduate seminar with collaborator and coauthor Daniel Jacobson at the University of Michigan.

D'Arms and Jacobson are authoring a book, Rational Sentimentalism, under contract for Oxford University Press. The seminar is organized around the book’s content, and encompasses issues concerning the nature of evaluative judgments, the nature of emotion, and the nature of value.

The seminar meets weekly via a videoconference format that allows students and faculty at the two universities to interact. This novel class format has so far proven successful. D'Arms reports, "The video-conference has worked better than I expected. The sound is very good. The video link takes some getting used to. With each session it comes to seem more like we are in one collective conversation."

At the other end of the video link, Jacobson concurs, "We've overcome some technological glitches and have succeeded in having a working videoconference for every seminar. Gradually we've been getting better at making the two classrooms feel like one, and we've had some good discussions among the whole group."  

Owen King, a PhD candidate at Ohio State, has taken the responsibility of managing the cameras at both Ohio State and Michigan. As he describes the experience, "Keeping the right people visible to the people on the other side is tough. I have to do a lot of panning and zooming. On the plus side, the audio equipment seems really good. There has never been any difficulty with the Michigan people hearing us or vice versa." Commenting on Owen's facility in manning the cameras, D'Arms says, "He has done a wonderful job for which I am very grateful."

The joint seminar has fostered fruitful and engaging discussion of D'Arms and Jacobson's work and the surrounding issues in moral psychology, normative ethics, and metaethics—which has benefited the instructors as well as the students.

D'Arms states, "It has been extremely helpful for Dan and me to get thoughtful feedback on our manuscript from so many terrific participants—including not only graduate students—but other members of the philosophical community here and at the University of Michigan."

Jacobson adds, "It's always much more enjoyable to work with Justin—whether giving a paper or leading a seminar discussion—because the two of us have been working together for two decades now. This is a new aspect of our collaboration and it's been fun. Most important, we've gotten some very helpful feedback on the book we're writing."

In addition to Ohio State's graduate student participants, visiting postdoctoral fellow Dana Howard has been an active participant in the seminar. Two members of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Otterbein University, Professor Stephanie Patridge and senior lecturer Andrew Jordan, also have been visiting Ohio State to take part in the videoconferences.  

D'Arms and the Ohio State seminar participants plan to travel to Ann Arbor later in the term to meet their co-participants in person.