Invasion of Privacy: Philosophy professor engages students with unconventional subject matter

Adjunct lecturer of philosophy David Hahn (pictured above) teaches a conspiracy theory and skepticism course. Hahn has found value in using real-life examples when teaching the material because it engages his students and makes the information more concrete (Udeshi Seneviratne/Photo Editor).

Skeptic and movie fanatic David Hahn is an adjunct lecturer of philosophy at Geneseo. Hahn has worked at other institutions prior to his time here, but he says Geneseo has provided him the opportunity to teach unique subject material that he hasn’t had the chance to do elsewhere.

“I like teaching the conspiracy course, that’s my favorite subject to teach and it’s also the topic of my dissertation,” Hahn said. “I’ve taught at a lot of different places, and it seems like I have a bit more freedom to teach things here. I’ve taught at [the University of Buffalo] and various community colleges, and at Geneseo, I have more flexibility with what I can and can’t teach in class.”

Through his conspiracy theory and skepticism course, Hahn hopes to highlight the theories’ relevance to society.

“I genuinely care about the subject, especially the conspiracy theory stuff, because I think that it really informs a deeper problem we have in society with regard to anti-intellectualism. If you just look at election data from the last three years, you see why people do things is not based not on actual facts, but on feelings and what they for some reason think they want to be true,” Hahn said. “This is horrifying because some of the things that they want to believe are true are the worst possible things.”

In the classroom, Hahn hopes to equip his students with tools to combat this form of thinking. He urges his students to think critically and question reasons that they accept things as factual. Hahn also teaches them how to discern whether they are basing facts on their feelings or on reality. 

Hahn tries to provide real-life examples in his lecture in order to keep his students engaged.

“I try to be more conversational in my teaching style. I’ve found that using lots and lots of real-world examples is the best thing to do. We are supposed to be teaching the theory, but you can’t just rely on theory. Using lots of examples that people are familiar with, even examples that seem silly, makes the theory more concrete,” Hahn said. “For example, I could talk about sweatshop labor in Indonesia until I’m blue in the face, but that probably isn’t going to work for a lot of people until I point out that the brands they are wearing are made in those sweatshops.”

Hahn is currently completing his doctorate at the University of Buffalo where he is working on his dissertation about conspiracy theories. He hopes to obtain a full-time teaching position following the completion of his degree.

Beyond teaching, Hahn enjoys watching movies, playing video games and spending time with his children. Hahn is passionate about his area of concentration and exemplifies this through his engaging lectures and real-life application of his material.