Anti-vaxxing Movements in the United States: A Philosophical Analysis

Many people in the United States refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Why? What are the reasons given, and are the reasons valid? Why do people believe unfounded conspiracy theories? Why do intelligent people sometimes believe nonsense? When should we trust mainstream institutions and experts, and when should we question them? How are beliefs about everything formed within us, and how can we have civil conversations with people who disagree with us about things that matter? David will address these issues and more. Presentation includes discussion.

Character Development

Character development is an approach to ethics that focuses on the characteristics of noble people. While most moral theories focus on what it means to do good, theories of virtue focus on what it means to be good. What are the characteristics of good people? Reflections on this question are ancient, with thinkers like Aristotle and Jesus in the West and the Buddha and Confucius in the East addressing it. Courage, self-control, compassion, and generosity are among the many virtues that are universally valued. In this course we look at the virtues, their value, their connection to behavior, what ancient and contemporary sources say about them, and the processes by which we humans can develop them. Series may be taught as two separate courses.

Comparative Religion

Are they a mass of confusion or a world of opportunity? We will survey, analyze, and compare the central teachings of some major world religions with attention paid to both similarities and differences. Traditions covered include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese Religion, as well as a brief discussion of alternative religions and cults.

Comparative Scripture

In this series we will analyze selections from the Scriptures of the major world religions and compare those selections with each other and with the Bible. Scriptures include the Jewish Mishnah, the Islamic Qur’an, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist Dhammapada, and the LDS Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.

Contemporary Ethics 

An overview of moral theories in circulation today, including relativism, egoism, utilitarianism, deontology, divine command theory, and virtue theory, and application of those theories to contemporary moral issues. Issues may include abortion, sexual and reproductive ethics, war, suicide, physician-aided dying, euthanasia, gun control, media ethics, and animal ethics. Discussion includes both moral and legal considerations. Series may be taught as two separate courses.


The use of textual, historical, and philosophical methods to study the life of Muhammad, the founding of Islam, the Qur’an, the beliefs, practices, law, and history of Islam, terrorism, and the challenges facing the Muslim world in the 21st century.


An academic examination of the beliefs, practices, history, and social dynamics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Includes a comparison of Mormonism with mainstream forms of Judaism and Christianity and reflections on how religious communities evolve over time using Mormonism as a model.

The New Testament

An academic analysis of the New Testament. This is not a “Bible Study” and will not be taught from a religious point of view. We will use historical, literary, and philosophical methods to shed light on the oral traditions and written sources behind the texts, the development of the New Testament canon, scribal work, and the meaning(s) of these texts. 

The Old Testament/Tanakh

An academic analysis of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. This is not a “Bible Study” and will not be taught from a religious point of view. We will use historical, literary, and philosophical methods to understand the nature, development, and meaning(s) of these texts. Voices of orthodoxy (the dominant view) and voices of heterodoxy (dissent) will be identified and analyzed. 

Philosophy of Religion

Does God exist?  Is there an afterlife?  Are all religions created equal?  Is one better than the others?  If we think we know, can we be sure?  Why do people convert and de-convert?  We will look at these questions and others as objectively as possible and discuss the answers given by philosophers and other intellectuals throughout history.

Social and Criminal Justice

What is justice, and what does it look like in the real world? What should it look like? In this series, we will examine the many interpretations of both social and criminal justice that have been suggested throughout history and will evaluate proposals for change within American society.

Themes in Philosophy

Explanation and discussion of fascinating themes in philosophy—a philosophy buffet! Topics may include rationality, knowledge, mind-brain relationship, free will, political philosophy, religion and politics in America, human rights theory and application, religion and human rights, civil disagreement, aesthetics, philosophy of language, philosophy of culture, philosophy of sports and fitness, philosophy of happiness, and philosophy of humor. Series may be taught as two separate courses.


Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge in the real world in a constructive way, to enrich our individual lives and to make the world a better place. It is often found at the intersection of theory and experience. How does modern expertise benefit all of us, and how can we convince the general population to value it? How does life experience create wisdom? In this series we explore the biological, philosophical, social scientific, and experiential aspects of wisdom and analyze what ancient and contemporary sources have to say about it.

Other Services

Personal Religion and Ethics Consultations. 

Have something in mind? Don’t hesitate to ask.

Course Evaluations

Contemporary Ethics

Comparative Religion

Philosophy of Religion (part one)

Philosophy of Religion (part two)

For more information on the Osher program, visit