Robert Kyle Whitaker

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I think teaching philosophy should be more than sharing information or introducing students to what certain philosophers have said (though it is certainly that). Philosophy should also be done in the classroom, both by the students and on display for them. This means, minimally, modeling intellectual humility, admitting ignorance, and helping students to feel comfortable exploring their own questions in a philosophical way. This forms the basis of my pedagogy.

The instructor was very inclusive. He always reviewed over the ideologies gone over in the previous class and often encouraged the students to dissect the arguments. Anytime there was confusion for students, he answered honestly and relatively to the topic and assisted in creating simpler ways to obtain an argument. The professor included stories from his own experiences as a philosopher, which often had some humorous moments, but increased classroom engagement and understanding.

Former Student

Philosophy of Human Nature

The instructor was clear in his teaching and he worked to make sure that everyone understood the subject. He made himself available after classes and during office hours so that all students would be able to ask questions and have a clear understanding of the course.

Former Student

Philosophy of Human Nature

Professor Whitaker was one of the best teachers I have had at Marquette thus far. His thorough understanding of the course material is evident in every single lecture. He encouraged questions and engaged thoughtfully with every student’s questions. He was always willing to talk about questions during office hours and provide feedback regarding inquiries on difficult readings. He has a great sense of humor that keeps the class interested. I think the basis of every great professor is a willingness to engage actively with students at every possible opportunity, and Professor Whitaker fully accomplishes this.

Former Student

Philosophy of Human Nature

Mr. Whitaker is a great communicator and teacher. I would look forward to his class, even at 8 am, because he made the material and lectures fun and interesting. His humor kept me engaged when I wanted to sleep and he was very helpful when I went into office hours to go over the study guide for the midterm…Overall, he is a great teacher and I was not excited to take philosophy but he made it a great class that was very intellectually stimulating.

Former Student

Philosophy of Human Nature

This is the most organized class I have taken at Marquette. Expectations were clear and everything was laid out in black and white in the syllabus, so there was no confusion.

Former Student

Applied Ethics for the Health Sciences

Very good instructor. I really appreciated how he would guide us in discussion without restraining the conversation. He was also good at rephrasing questions in order to make for better discussions which is something that’s important for an ethics class.

Former Student

Applied Ethics for the Health Sciences

Mr. Whitaker was great at stimulating discussion. His knowledge on the content was vast, and he kept the class interested the entire time. I wish that this class was long because I’d love to discuss more about this topic in Mr. Whitaker’s classroom.

Former Student

Applied Ethics for the Health Sciences

Robert Whitaker was probably one of the best teachers I’ve ever had at Marquette. He was always well prepared and knew the information very well. I knew what his expectations were for the class and never felt unprepared. He always made group conversations interesting and made the class a comfortable place to share. I always felt like he respected everyone’s ideas and encouraged us to ask difficult questions. He is an overall funny and nice guy. He chose interesting readings that weren’t super long, so it was easy to prepare for every class. I think this helped students participate in class because students often read short readings more often than long readings. The readings were also very interesting and thought provoking.

Former Student

Theory of Ethics

Professor Whitaker is an amazing professor, the class was exciting and he presented all the information in a captivating manner. It was clear how passionate he was about philosophy, yet he presented everything in a non-biased manner. He was engaged and was always looking for participation and encouraging discussions among the class. The majority of the content was exciting and even if it was a little bland, Professor Whitaker made it appealing and connected it with real life examples. Cannot say enough good things about the class!

Former Student

Theory of Ethics

Prof. Whitaker is an amazing philosophy professor and overall person. Philosophy can be hard to understand at times with the type of wording that philosophers use, however Prof. Whitaker used present day examples that made everything easier to understand. I would love to take another philosophy class led by him, but I can’t due to my schedule. He deserves some type of award, or a raise, an award and a raise would be most appropriate in my opinion.

Former Student

Theory of Ethics

Professor Whitaker was able to make many difficult concepts very interesting. Epistemology is quite difficult but the Professor definitely made me look forward to every class by reassuring and explaining when anyone had problems with any step in a kind and understanding manner. I enjoyed his teaching very much.

Former Student

Epistemology

Prof. Whitaker did a fantastic job presenting material and keeping the course stimulating. Very engaging discussions and fun conversations. Each class had consistently interesting content and he took our preferences into consideration when planning out class periods.

Former Student

Philosophy of Mind

This instructor made this course. The information is difficult to understand at times and I think it would be very easy to not explain the material correctly, but this instructor knew the material and was able to add his own comments and led students to have their own opinions as well (in discussion).

Former Student

Philosophy of Mind

Past Courses Taught

* Click titles for syllabi

This course aims to help students critically engage their own experience as it relates to fundamental philosophical questions about the human condition, focusing on moral value and the meaning and purpose of human life. It aims to help students articulate their own deepest questions about these issues, and to increase their understanding of, organize, and befriend these questions in light of a variety of classical and contemporary philosophical approaches.

The purpose of this course is to think very hard for a long time about what it means to be human. The course deals with the following four problem areas: human choice, human cognition, the affective, social, and spiritual dimensions of the human person, and the unity of the human being. A substantive treatment of classical and Christian philosophical approaches will be included. The course is divided into a series of week-long units, each dealing with an issue that has been a major part of the philosophical discussion about human nature. These include questions such as: “What makes us human?”, “Is there a soul, and if so, does it survive the death of the body?”, “Are humans free?”, “Is knowledge possible?”, “Does God exist, and if so, what is humanity’s relation to God?”, and many others. Our primary purpose is to consider these questions, learn the answers and reasons for them that some philosophers have given, and develop the tools to articulate our own positions on them. A secondary purpose is to give students an idea of how philosophy as a discipline is structured, and what professional philosophers get up to on a daily basis. We will also be continually asking why it all matters and how it’s relevant to what real people value. A tertiary purpose is to learn how to think and write more clearly, and to learn to be critical and suspicious in a healthy, constructive way. We will do all this by examining the approaches to these questions taken by philosophers ranging from ancient Greece, through Christianity and non-Western traditions, into the present.

The purpose of this course is to think very hard for a long time about what it means to be good. More specifically, what does it mean to be a moral being? I have divided the course into a series of units, each dealing with an issue that has been a major part of the philosophical discussion about morality. These include questions such as: “What sort of life is most worth living?”, “How ought I to treat other people?”, “What motivates moral actions?”, “What is the origin of our moral values?”, “Are moral values and duties objective?”, “What, if anything, grounds moral values and duties?”, and many others. Our primary purpose is to consider these questions, learn the answers and reasons for them that some philosophers have given, and develop the tools to articulate our own positions on them. This process should also provide the student with a framework for approaching particular questions of right and wrong conduct, questions which might arise in medicine, politics, law, teaching, business, and many other areas of human endeavor.

This course introduces students to moral issues that arise in the practice of health care and modern medicine.  The primary goal of the course is to help students become better equipped to make reasoned judgments about certain ethical issues that may arise in healthcare practice and policy formation.  We will explore a wide variety of topics including experimentation on human subjects, informed consent, autonomy and paternalism, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide.

This course introduces students to issues in professional ethics for students in the College of Health Sciences. The course is designed to provide a bridge to ethical topics covered in the professional phase of study. We will explore a wide variety of topics including dignity of life, codes of medical ethics, the nature of the patient-medical provider relationship, confidentiality, the determination of patient competence, critical patient care, and justice in health care

brain 1

This course will introduce the student to philosophy of mind, including topics of historical importance such as the existence of a soul and the relationship between the mind and the body, as well as topics of more recent interest such as mind/brain identity, consciousness, intentionality, physicalism vs. non-physicalism, functionalism, artificial intelligence, animal minds, and group minds/extended mind. Authors covered will include historically important philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, and Ryle, but most readings will come from more recent authors including Putnam, Lewis, Searle, Jackson, Nagel, Chalmers, Block, Dennett, the Churchlands, and others. An effort will be made to include works by female philosophers as well. The course will require close reading, careful, logical reasoning, and clear writing.

This course will look at epistemology—the philosophical study of knowledge—from both a historical and a contemporary point of view. It will entertain questions such as: “What is knowledge?” “Is knowledge actually possible for human beings, and if so, how?” “What are the sources of knowledge?” “What is the relationship between knowledge and belief?” “What does it mean to say a belief is justified?” “How does knowledge relate to mind or to brain?” “What is the relationship between language and knowledge?” “What is a priori knowledge and how is it possible?” “Does knowledge need a foundation?” “How do we know we’re not living in the Matrix?” “What should we do when we disagree?” …and many more. Such questions will be engaged by means of reading classic works of philosophy, written by figures such as Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hume, etc., as well as more contemporary contributions to analytic epistemology. The course will require close reading, careful, logical reasoning, and clear writing.

The purpose of this course is to learn to think well. As such, we’ll be examining some examples of good thinking, as well as some examples of not-so-good thinking. We’ll ask what separates the two, and try to train ourselves to cultivate habits of careful thought. This will involve an extended look at logic, which is the science of correct reasoning. The primary object of study in logic is the argument, and so we’ll learn to recognize, assess, and construct arguments. We’ll learn what makes an argument good, and we’ll look at some common errors in reasoning. We will learn the difference between deductive and inductive forms of reasoning, and learn to evaluate arguments of both forms. We’ll also consider what makes some arguments persuasive, and examine the role of rhetoric in critical thinking. The primary goal is to help you develop the skills to form beliefs that are rationally justified, and to recognize and evaluate claims that are not.

Prospective Courses

This course will introduce the student to philosophy of religion, including topics of historical and contemporary importance such as the existence of God, the relationship between faith and reason, the problems of evil and divine hiddenness, and religious and mystical experience. The course will have a contemporary focus, with most of the readings written by recent authors. There will also be an emphasis on diversity of perspectives, including non-Western and feminist perspectives, and on the lived experience of one’s religious or irreligious commitments.