Philosophy of the Human Person (0122-300-01)  Spring 2001

Dr. Yoko Arisaka

Class: MWF, 10:10a-11:00a, LM266
Office: Campion D8D (The main door to D8 is across the Theology Dept.  Look for D8D inside to the left.)
Office hours: MW, 1-2p, but I am around other times, so check with me.
Office phone: 415-422-6424.  (415-422-6543 for the Philosophy Dept.)

Week 15:  April 30, May 2, 4 and Week 16: May 7 and 9

Instruction for the Oral Final Exam   The sign-up sheet for the final will be distributed beginning Monday April 30.  Be sure to get a copy of the final instructions, or print it out from this website.  The final exam meetings will begin May 7 and will end on May 17.

Friday 4/27 we began Searle; we will move onto more Searle on Monday 4/30, then to Dennett, Kurzweil, and Bill Joy (in that order).  Also pick up a copy of the last week's Newsweek article from me on "neurotheology."

Topic #13 (3-4 pages typed.  Due Friday, May 11--there is no class on that day, but you may leave your paper in my mailbox, bring it to me at my office, or send it to me electronically.  Whichever you do, make sure you get a confirmation from me.)

What is Bill Joy's main thesis?  Use at least one other philosopher we have discussed throughout the course to either support or argue against his position.  What is your position in this debate?  Clarify.  (Be sure to give your own support and justify your claims.)

Check out these sites:

Genetically Altered Babies Born
First Biotech Insect to be Released in the U.S.
Humans to be cloned by 2003
What Will Human Cloning Mean for Humanity?
What do you think?  Transgenic Art and the real rabbit that "glows in the dark"
Biological computer using leech neurons
Neurocomputers?  (microprocessors with living brain tissue)
Using monkey brain to move a robotic arm (NY Times article)
A short article (IHT) on nanotechnology
The Dangers of New Technology, by Bill Joy (IHT)
The Robot Revolution Is On the Way (IHT)
The Computer That Writes Music
Ray Kurzweil's Page


Prerequisite:  Great Philosophical Questions (Philosophy 110).   Recommended:  College Writing II.  Not open to freshmen (except SII students).

Course Description:

? This course fulfills part of the Philosophy and Theology requirement (Area F) of the GEC.
? The unique features of this course include:
? Philosophy from a global perspective:  In addition to the readings from the Western philosophical tradition, some African, Latin American, Asian, and Native American views are included.
? Oral Final Exam:  This is a course in which you are invited to think critically on your own, and the process begins from the start of the course.  The readings are there for you to engage your mind with; at the end of the course, you and I will meet individually to discuss your own ideas about the material (see description below).
? The course is designed for a “transformation” of your thinking potential.  But for this to occur, you must participate actively not only with the course material but with your own mind and the ideas of others in class.

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 Readings.
? 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.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1. Five Topic Papers (take-home, 3-4 typed pages each).  12 points each, 60 points total.  On Fridays, I will give out a topic, starting week 2 (the first topic will be given on February 2), ending with week 15 (the last topic will be given on Friday, May 4).  The weekly topics will also be posted on my website at htttp://  For each of the topic given, the paper is due the following Friday (which means you have one week to work on it.  You can turn it in early).  3 point penalty for papers turned in following Monday.  No late paper will be accepted beyond that Monday; if you miss the deadline, just select another topic/week.  You may not go back to the previous topic, so try to keep up with the schedule.  During the semester (week 2-week 15, minus spring break, so you have 13 topics/weeks) you may pick any weekly topic, and you may turn in up to 6 papers, dropping the worst grade.  Space your papers so that they fit your schedule the best.  Your first paper must be turned in for either week 2, 3, or 4 (topics 1, 2, or 3).

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.

Course Schedule

Week 1 (Jan 22, 24, 26): Overview: Thought experiments and discussions, based on the handout “Questions to Think About,” on the four sections.  Going over the “How to Write a Philosophy Paper” handout for preparation for the topic papers.

Section I.  Classical Theories of the Human Person:  Mind, Spirit, Body

Week 2 (Jan 29, 31, Feb 2)  Film on “Measure of Man” on Monday, 29th  Plato handout (Selection from Phaedo, on the soul.)  First paper topic given out on Feb 2.  Due Feb 9. Reminder: your first paper must be turned in for the topics 1, 2, or 3.  (You can do more than one.)

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)

Section II.  Our Social Self:  Relational Theories, Gender, and Race

Week 5 (Feb 21, 23: No class Monday Feb 19) Critique of the mind-body dualism:  Reader, Selections 3 and 4: Eve Browning-Cole, and Epes Brown, on the Native American view of human nature.  (Topic 4 given out Feb 23.  Due March 2.)

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)

Section III.  Free Will and Determinism

Week 10 (Mar 26, 28, 30) Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism is a Humanism, p. 311-330 and Simone de Beauvoir: The Ethics of Ambiguity, p. 333-349. Reader, Selection 11, Frondizi. (Topic 8 given out on March 30; due April 6)

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.)

Section IV.  Toward the Future:  Technology and Our Values of Personhood

Week 14 (Apr 23, 25, 27) Reader, Selections 15 and 16: Searle and Dennett (Topic 12 given out Apr 27; due May 4)

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.

Final is due on Thursday, May 17, 4pm (IF you are doing the final essay paper and did not turn it in at the time of your oral exam meeting).

Policy on Attendance, Turning in your papers, etc.

You are expected to attend every class, as participation is weighed heavily.  I will accept VALID excuses (medical emergency, or other events which are totally beyond your control).  It is your responsibility to contact me if you must miss class.

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.

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