From the vast range of philosophical issues associated with this topic, we will look into four specific approaches:
Section 1. Classical theories: Soul, Mind, and Body: In
this section, we examine some of the theories of Plato, Aquinas, and Descartes,
in particular the problem of the “mind-body dualism.”
Section 2. Happiness, Society, and the Social Aspects of the Human Being: In this section we examine the meanings of happiness, society and the person, as well as some of the ways in which our “selfhood” is constituted through our social reality and connections to others and nature.
Section 3. Free will and determinism: Following from the previous sections, in this section we examine the question of whether we are ultimately “determined” by our biology, heredity, environment, beliefs, and other conditioning factors, or whether we have “free will” to override any such determination, and if so, to what extent.
Section 4. Toward the future: We end our course with inquiries into some of our present/future concerns and challenges from science (materialism, evolutionary theory) and technology regarding what it means to be human. We revisit the classical questions of the soul, personhood, mind/body problem, and freedom in a contemporary context, especially focusing on the issue of artificial intelligence.
? Text: Donald Abel, Theories of Human Nature: Classical and Contemporary
? Additional reading material: You must purchase a green-covered Reader at the Philosophy Dept, CA D6.
The reading assignments must be read before the class.
The topic papers will have the following format: First, I will ask you to identify an argument from the readings. Second, I will ask you to evaluate the argument, i.e., agree or disagree and give your own explanation and argument. Note: No points will be given for not identifying the author’s argument, and no points if you just simply state your opinions or beliefs without an argument. For more detail, refer to the handout on “how to write a philosophy paper,” which will be given out the first week (also on website). You should refer to it often during the semester. Normally, 12 points is reserved for an “outstanding” paper. If it is well done, you will get 10 or 11. If it is ok, meaning approximately an equivalent of a “B” paper, you will get 8 or 9. If you receive 8’s for the first two papers, please come see me.
2. Final oral/communication exam and essay. (15 for the oral, 5 for the write-up of the final--20 points total). During the last 3 weeks of the course, I will meet with you individually, and I will ask each of you to discuss a total of four authors taken from the different parts of the course to explain your own theory of what it means to be human. The detailed instruction and a sign-up sheet will be handed out later in the semester. The oral communication will be a “philosophically informed conversation,” in which you will present your view(s), and I will challenge the assumptions. You will then defend your own position. It is not about you making a report to me about some of the philosophers discussed; you will need to develop an idea of your own (which could be a combination of various positions studied or strongly agreeing with one particular position) that you feel are worth defending. The maximum of 15 points go to the oral communication; additional 5 points to the essay which you write based on your oral communication.
For both the topic and final papers, you may turn your paper in electronically. Be sure to put your name on the paper itself.
3. Participation and Discussion. (15 points for attendance/questions, 5 points for mid semester meeting—20 points total). Please purchase a set of 3x5 index cards. At the beginning of each class, I will collect a 3x5 index card with date and your name on it. Given the reading material for the day, you will write down a question to consider. I will use the collected questions in class, but this card will be how I will take attendance. You lose a point for each unexcused absence. You lose half a point for not having a question (which means you came to class completely unprepared in terms of reading). Sometime before Easter (April 15), please schedule for an individualized meeting with me. This is in preparation for the final, as well as for you to tell me what is going on with you with the class material. 5 points for this meeting.
100 points total. 92 or above is A. 90 and 91 are A-. 88 and 89 are B+, 82-87 is B, 80 and 81 are B-, and so on.
Week 3 (Feb 5, 7, 9) Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, p. 152-170. (Text) Descartes’ Meditations, p.175-193. (Topic 2 given out on Feb 9; due Feb 16)
Week 4 (Feb 12, 14, 16) Descartes continued. Reader Selection 1, Vasconcelos; Selection 2, Gyekye, the Akan conception of soul and mind. (Topic 3 given out Feb 16; due Feb 23)
Week 6 (Feb 26, 28, March 2) Reader, selection 5, Confucianism (Topic 5 given out on March 2; due March 9). Textbook: Plato, from the Republic, p.10-41.
Week 7 (Mar 5, 7, 9) Reader, selections 6 and 7, Hobbes, from the Leviathan, and Charles Mills, “Racial Contract” (Topic 6 given out on March 9, due Monday, March 19.)
Week 8: (Mar 12-16) Spring Break
Week 9 (Mar 19, 21, 23) Reader, selections 8, 9 and 10, Spelman, from the Inessential Woman, Patricia Hill Collins, and Alison Jaggar (Topic 7 given out on March 23; due March 30)
Week 11 (April 2, 4, 6) Reader, Selection 12: Blatchford, “Not Guilty”; Text, B. F. Skinner, About Behaviorism, p. 353-378. (Topic 9 given out on April 6; due Monday, April 16)
Week 12 (April 9, 11: No class Apr 13) Text: E. O. Wilson, On Human Nature, p. 381-411 (Topic 10 given out on Wed, April 11; due Apr 20)
Week 13 (Apr 16, 18, 20) Reader, Selection 13 and 14, Compatibilism, and Ted Peters, “Playing God with DNA” (Topic 11 given out April 20. Due April 27.)
Week 15 (Apr 30, May 2, 4): Technology, human self, and the future. Selections 17 and 18, Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy, and handout (Topic 13 given out May 4, due May 11, even though there is no class that day)
Week 16 (May 7, 9) Catching Up and Summary of the course. Oral exam meetings begin May 7.
The attendance is taken with the index card, with questions.
Please note that “turning in the paper” means that I receive it; it does NOT mean that you dropped it off. When in doubt, you must make sure with me that I actually have your material. Please be sure to keep a copy of your paper.
You may turn your final in early. No makeup for the final.
If you must drop the course, it is your responsibility to take care of the paperwork and to contact me. If you stop coming and your name appears on the roster at the end of the course, you will receive an F (not my choice, but if your name appears on the final grading sheet, I have to assign a grade). An “I” grade can be given only for a missed FINAL (or a topic paper IV if you are doing that one). It must be arranged with me beforehand.
Feel free to talk to me about any concerns you may have about the course.
I am always interested in what you have to say.