John Visvader

John Visvader
(207) 801-5715 |

John VisvaderJohn Visvader, received his B.A. in Philosophy from the City College of New York, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. John taught Humanities at the University of Minnesota, taught Philosophy at the University of Colorado where he won several teaching awards, taught Daoism at the Naropa Institute, and Psychology at Husson University.

John has been at the College of the Atlantic since 1986 where he teaches a large variety of courses in the areas of the philosophies of Science and Technology, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Nature, Chinese Philosophy and Poetry, Intellectual History, Comparative Mysticism, and special courses in the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Derrida.

John also informally teaches several forms of Tai Ji, at the College of the Atlantic.

B.A. CUNY, 1960
Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Minnesota, 1966

Courses Taught

HS2016Chinese Philosophy

This is a course in the study of Chinese philosophy and culture.  The philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are examined in detail and their influence on the arts and culture of China is explored.  Eastern and western views on nature, human nature, and society are compared and contrasted.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 20.  Offered every other year.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS2024Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

Despite the efforts of thousands of years of study and speculation we still do not have a clear and coherent conception of the nature of the mind and its relation to the body. This class serves as a basic introduction to critical thinking by examining in detail several contemporary theories of the mind and the kinds of puzzles and paradoxes they produce. It also serves as a basic introduction to philosophy as the problem of the mental involves issues in ethics, metaphysics, logic, religion as well as the allied sciences of psychology, neuro-physiology and cognitive science. Discussion oriented. Two take home exams and class participation.  

Level: Introductory/Intermediate.  Prerequisites: None.  Class limit: 15.  Lab fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS3019Mountain Poets of China and Japan

There was a long standing tradition in both China and Japan of wandering poets and mountain hermits who expressed their experiences in nature in poetic terms. In this class we take an overview of the major styles of poetry in both of these countries and sample some of the work of their major poets. After a brief introduction to the use of dictionaries and various language tools available in books and on the internet, students will be invited to try their hand at translating some of the Chinese poems and rendering them into good poems in english.

Level: Intermediate.  Students will be expected to take the course on a Pass/Fail basis, with special arrangement made for those needing to take it for a grade.  Class limit: 12.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS2023Philosophy at the Movies

The enormous success of movies has proven their entertainment value, but movies have also been used to explore concepts and situations that are on the frontiers of imagination and serve as a unique medium for articulating the limits of human possibility.  Films can not only be taken as illustrations of various philosophical issues but can also be seen as a unique way of working through philosophical issues that can hardly be stated in other media.  This class will examine a series of films that raise issues dealing with the nature and limits of the human and natural worlds. Besides the usual discussion classes, there will be evening "lab" classes each week devoted to screening films of conceptual interest.  A series of short analytical papers will be required. May be taken as a Writing Focus course.

Level: Introductory/intermediate.  Class limit: 20.
Meets the following degree requirements: WFO

HS2013Philosophy of Nature

Because of the number of serious environmental problems that face the modern world, the theories and images that guide our interaction with  nature have become problematic.  This course examines various attempts to arrive at a new understanding of our role in the natural world and  compares them with the philosophies of nature that have guided other peoples in other times and other places.  Topics range from taoism and  native american philosophies to deep ecology and scientific ecological  models.  Readings include such books as Uncommon Ground, Walden, and Practice of the Wild.

Level:  Introductory/Intermediate.  Offered occasionally.  Class limit 20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS2014Philosophy of Religion

This course examines the nature and justification of religious beliefs concerning the existence of god, the soul, and the afterlife.  A wide range of views from both eastern and western traditions are explored and the writings of several philosophers such as William James and Martin Buber are examined in detail.  Particular attention is paid to the nature of mysticism and problems concerning the use and limits of reason.  Introductory/Intermediate.  Offered occasionally.  Class size limited to 20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS148Philosophy of Science

This course examines both the nature of science and its role in molding the modern world. The historic origins of science are explored from the late middle ages through the 18th century, in order to present clearly the development of key concepts and to contrast science with other views of the world it displaced. Particular attention is paid to the work of Galileo and Newton. General issues covered include theory formation, laws, confirmation and evidence, reductionism, determinism and teleology. Philosophical problems raised by such areas as evolution theory, quantum mechanics, feminist theory, and modern cosmology provide additional topics as interest dictates and time permits. Level: Intermediate. Offered occasionally. Class limit: 20. *HS*

HS1035Puzzles, Paradoxes and Weird Things

This course is an introduction to philosophy and critical thinking by considering traditional conceptual and philosophical problems such as free will, problems of perception, determinism and Zeno's paradoxes. After an examination of the cannons of scientific proof and techniques of critical analysis various beliefs in ghosts, alien abduction, telepathy, crop-circles, special creation, astrology, 'psychic science' and other popular beliefs are examined in detail. One or more take-home tests are required and a final project of the student's choosing consisting of an investigation of a disputed belief or practice is also expected.

Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: none.  Class limit: 20.  Lab Fee: none.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS160Reason and Ethics

In this course we consider problems concerning the nature of ethics and the explanation of behavior as they arose in Greek philosophy and culture and as they are considered in contemporary discussions of ethics. The main text is M. Nussbaum's The Fragility of Goodness, and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and the Greek dramatists are also explored. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Two philosophy courses or permission of the instructor. Class limit: 15. *HS*

HS2015The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment

This course represents a contextual approach to the study of the history of philosophy and combines the critical evaluation of philosophical theories with an examination of the cultural conditions which either influence or are conditioned by them.  The course examines the crucial role played by the philosophies and institutions of 17th and 18th century Europe in forming the nature of the modern world and focuses in particular on those aspects of the culture that are of special concern to contemporary critics of modern culture.  The work of Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant are examined in the context of the development of the scientific, industrial, and democratic revolutions.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate.  Class limit: 20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS HY

HS3028The Mystics

Mysticism is an important current in almost all religions and marks an attempt on the part of the mystic to experience a union with the deepest nature of reality.  This course offers an examination of the nature and types of mystical experience with a particular emphasis on the paradoxical language that many mystics use. Language is thought to be inadequate to describe the nature of the real and yet language is the only tool to communicate with others. Contradictory and paradoxical expressions and descriptions are used in an attempt to point beyond language directly at reality.  While drawing primarily on Western religions of the Greek, Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, questions are raised concerning the degree to which Eastern traditions, such as Buddhism, can be meaningfully regarded as mystical. Some of the mystics examined in detail include Plotinus, Ibn Arabi, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porete, St John and St. Teresa.  Students will be evaluated on their participation in discussions and the ability to convey their understanding of mysticism in both mid-term and final take-home exams.

Level: Intermediate.  Class limit: 20.

Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS802Themes in East-West Philosophy

The philosophies of Eastern and Western cultures have many themes in common though their methods of approach and conceptual terminology are often far apart. This seminar explores some elements in the works of Meister Eckhart, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Derrida that seem to overlap with various themes in Hinduism and Buddhism such as the nature and existence of the Self and the limits of language. Evaluation based on a final paper and seminar participation. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: two philosophy courses or permission of instructor. Class limit: 15. *HS*

HS4011Theories of Human Nature

By using the theme of the understanding of human nature this course explores the central aspects of several major philosophical systems.  A theory of human nature involves a vision of the individual self, its relation to the social community, and its relation to the natural world.  This tripartite theme is traced through a range of philosophies ancient and modern, eastern and western, religious and scientific in order to remind ourselves of the range of human possibilities and to clarify the presumptions of our present image of ourselves.  The results of this investigation are used to approach the problem of formulating a philosophy of human ecology.  Particular readings used change each time the course is given.

Level:  Intermediate/Advanced.  Class limit: 20.   Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS5024Topics in Philosophical Psychology

Philosophical psychology involves the conceptual investigation of the nature of the human mind and behavior. Many challenging issues arise in the attempt to give causal and "naturalistic" accounts of such things as perception, intention, thinking, meaning, emotion and sensation. Various problems arise concerning the nature of the mind-body interaction, mental causation, the nature of self-knowledge, justification of our knowledge of others, self-identity, free will and the very possibility of psychology as a science. This seminar will examine several of these issues by reading some of the contemporary literature in philosophical psychology. The class will be run seminar style with individual student reports on the readings and a final project paper.

Level: Advanced. Class limit: 12. Lab fee: none. Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS799Tutorial: Classical Chinese through Poetry

The learning of classical Chinese is the key to thousands of years of Chinese literature. One of the richest and most enjoyable approaches to the classical language - which is very different from the Chinese spoken language - is through China?s long poetical tradition. This tutorial serves as a basic introduction to the reading and writing of characters and the language patterns and structures most commonly used. Pass/fail grade option required. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisite: Reading and Writing Chinese Characters. Class limit: 5

HS815Tutorial: Classical Chinese through Poetry II

The learning of classical Chinese is the key to thousands of years of Chinese literature. One of the richest and most enjoyable approaches to the classical language - which is very different from the Chinese spoken language - is through China's long poetical tradition. This tutorial serves as a basic introduction to the reading and writing of characters and the language patterns and structures most commonly used. This is a continuation of Classical Chinese through Poetry and students must have taken the first section in order to register for this tutorial. Level: Advanced. Prerequisite: Classical Chinese through Poetry. Class limit: 5

HS781Tutorial: Reading and Writing Chinese Characters

This tutorial is a basic introduction to reading and writing Chinese characters and using Chinese dictionaries. Students will have weekly writing assignments in order to become familiar with several hundred characters. By the end of the term students should be able to use dictionaries to compose rough translations of some classic texts and poetry. Though the tutorial can be taken for its own sake, it provides good preparation for the tutorial "Classical Chinese through Poetry".