Philosophy of the Human Person (0122-300-05)

Spring 2002

Class:  TR, 3:10a-4:25p,  CO 322
Office: Campion D6  (Note: I moved.  Now I am right next to the Philosophy Department)
Office Hours: Thurs, 1:30-3p, but most likely I will be around also on Tues at the same time, and also on other days.  Please Check.
Office Phone: 422-6424   (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)


If you would like to do an oral final exam (May 13-16), there is a sign-up sheet on my office door, so please sign up.  Or send me a message and I can see what times are still available.

TOPIC #12 (Due Wed. May 15.  3-4 pages typed.)

What does Sartre mean when he says "man is nothing but what he makes of himself?"  In what way are we absolutely free, according to Sartre?  How is freedom related to responsibility?  What would be Blatchford's objection to Sartre?  Which side do you agree with, and why?  Explain, and critique your opponent's view (if you agree with Sartre, explain in what way Blatchford is wrong.  If you agree with Blatchford, explain in what way Sartre is wrong).

Topic #13 (Due Wed May 15.  3-4 pages typed.)

Create a topic similar to all of the previous ones, that would apply to any of the reading material we have covered.  For example, you might do a comparison/contrast between the two authors from different sections (like comparing Blatchford and a relationalist, or contrasting Sartre and a relationalist, comparing Sartre and Peters, etc).  Or, you may go back to any of the topics you have not written on up to now (select a new one--can't re-do a previous one).  Here are the list of previous topics.

If you have given me a paper during the first three topics (if you did either topics 1, 2, or 3), then you have the 5th paper option, to substitute for the lowest score for the other 4 papers.  If you did not do the first three, you do not have the 5th paper option.  4 papers total, for 60 points total, will be counted.

For week (Week 14, April 23, 25), we began Section IV, Free Will and Determinism.  We began on St. Augustine, #21.  Read also #22, Sartre, for next week (Week 15, April 30, May 2).

Handout: Questions to Wonder About Handout
How to Write a Philosophy Paper
Please purchase the READER at the Philosophy Dept, CA D6.  $13, check to "USF," or bring exact change.

Check out these sites which may be relevant:

Kevin Warwick's "Project Cyborg": (This link opens with Explorer only.) He is a professor of cybernetics at the Univ. of Reading (UK), with a chip implanted on his arm.
Near-term Future Timeline Predictions
Texas Researchers Clone a Pet Cat
The Lifeboat Foundation (Will advanced technologies in the future wipe us out?)
Artificial Womb Developed
The Possibility of Artificial Intelligence Taking Over (Real Video, about 20 min)
Genetically Altered Babies Born
Humans to be cloned by 2003
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 non-philosophy majors and minors.

Course Description:

The focus of the course is the meaning of “personhood”—what it means to be a human being, a self, and the question involving “human nature.”   More specifically,

This course fulfills part of the Philosophy and Theology requirement (Area F) of the GEC.
The unique features of this course include:

From the vast range of philosophical issues associated with this topic, we will look into four specific approaches:

Section 1.  Questioning Personhood in the 21st Century:  We begin our course with inquiries into some of our present/future concerns and challenges from science and technology regarding what it means to be human.  How is technology, such as genetic engineering, robotics, and artificial intelligence, changing our conceptions of the “human?”  What can we expect in the next 50 years?
Section  2. Classical theories: Soul, Mind, and Body:  To investigate the fundamental questions of personhood, we return to the origins.  In this section, we examine some of the theories of Plato, Aquinas, and Descartes, in particular the problem of the “mind-body dualism.”
Section 3.  Relations, 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 4. 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.  We will then return to the beginning of the course and think about what it means to be human in today’s context again.

There is a course READER.   (Beginning Week 2.)

The reading assignments must be read before the class.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1. Four Topic Papers (take-home, 3-4 typed pages each).  15 points each, 60 points total.  On Thursdays, I will give out a topic, starting week 3 (the first topic will be given out on Feb 7), ending with week 14 (the last topic will be given on Thursday, April 25).  The weekly topics will also be posted on my website at htttp://  For each of the topic given, the paper is due the following Thursday (which means you have one week to work on it.  You can turn it in early).  3 point penalty for papers turned in late, by the weekend.  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 3-week 14, minus spring break, so you have 11 topics/weeks) you may pick any weekly topic, and you may turn in up to 5 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 3, 4, or 5 (topics 1, 2, or 3).  If you miss these, you’d miss the 5th paper option.

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, 15 points is reserved for an “outstanding” paper.  If it is well done, you will get 12 or 13.  If it is ok, meaning approximately an equivalent of a “B” paper, you will get 10 or 11.  If you receive 10’s for the first two papers, please come see me.

2.  Final Essay or Oral Final Exam (20 points total).  The final paper topics will be given out by the end of Week 12.  If you take the Oral Final Exam option, then sometime during the finals week I will meet with you individually.  For both the essay and oral exam, 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.   If choose to do an oral final exam, instead of a full essay you will be asked to turn in an outline of your positions.

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 (20 points total).   Please purchase a set of 3x5 index cards.  In addition to taking attendance, sometimes at the beginning of each class, I will ask you simple questions about the reading material and collect a 3x5 index card with date and your name on it.  You lose a point if you turn in a blank card, or for each unexcused absence.

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) 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 1: Questioning Personhood in the 21st Century

Week 2 (Jan 29, 31)  Thought experiments continued; Film on “Measure of a Man”
Week 3 (Feb 5, 7)  Video on genetic engineering and reproduction technology; Material on nanotechnology, on Turing, Joy, Searle, Dennett (Can Computers “Think?”), and Peters
Week 4 (Feb 12, 14) Above continued

Section 2.  Classical Theories: Soul, Mind, and Body

Week 5 (Feb 19,21)  Plato and Aristotle
Week 6 (Feb 26, 28) Aquinas
Week 7 (Mar 5, 7)  Descartes
Week 8:  (Mar 12, 14)  Critiques: Eve Browning Cole

Section 3. Relations, Society, and the Social Aspects of the Human Being

Week 9 (Mar 19, 21) Buber, MacIntyre, Confucianism
Week 10: Spring Break
Week 11 (April 2, 4) Hobbes, Mills, Spelman
Week 12 (April 9, 11) Above continued

Section 4. Free Will and Determinism

Week 13 (Apr 16, 18) St. Augustine, Sartre
Week 14 (Apr 23, 25) Blatchford
Week 15 (Apr 30, May 2) Compatibilism
Week 16 (May 7): Summary

Final paper is due on Thursday, May 16, 4pm.

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.

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.

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.  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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