Fall 99

Philosophy of the Human Person (0122-200-01 or 02)

Professor Yoko Arisaka, Ph.D
Office: Campion D8D  (The main door to D8 is across the Theology Dept.  Look for D8D inside to the left.)
Office Hours: M 3-4p, Tues 1-2p, and by appointment.
Office Phone: 422-6424   (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)
email: arisaka@usfca.edu

Section 01:  9:45am -11:00am.  LM 245
Section 02:  11:10am - 12:25pm.  LM 363

Instructions for the final exam meetings

Please sign-up for the final meeting.  The sign-up sheet circulates in class.

Handouts from the beginning of the semester:

Be sure that you have your READER (Table of Contents).  There is a copy at the reserve desk in the library.

Week 14 (Nov 30, Dec 2):  Covered John Searle and Daniel Dennet (Reader # 12 and 13) on the topic of whether computers can "think" or not.

Paper Topic #13, the last one (given out on Thursday, Dec 2.  Due Thursday, Dec 9 in my office at CA D8D or in my mailbox at CA D4.  2-3 pages typed).  Do either A OR B:

Choice A:  Explain Searle's "Chinese Room" thought experiment.  How does it support his argument that computers cannot think?  What is Dennett's criticism of it?  Which author do you agree with?

Choice B:  (On Ted Peters' article, "Playing God with DNA," Reader #15 which we will cover on Tuesday, Dec 7.)  What is "Promethean determinism?"  How does Peters argue that genetic engineering is NOT "playing God?"  Explain.  Do you agree with Peters?


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

Course Description:

This course fulfills part of the Philosophy and Theology requirement (Area F) of the  GEC.  The course investigates what it means to be a human being; from the vast range of philosophical issues associated with this topic, we will look into four specific approaches:
Section  1.
Classical theories of the soul, mind, and body:  In this section, we examine some of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes, so that we are familiar with the tradition and understand the pressing issues such as the idea of the immortality of the soul and what distinguishes us from other animals.
Section 2.
The social and relational aspects of the human being:  In this section we examine some of the ways in which our “selfhood” is constituted through our social reality and connections to others and the environment.  Readings include some feminist writings, contemporary philosophy, ecology, and Chinese and Japanese philosophy.
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) 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, such as debates surrounding artificial intelligence/robotics research and DNA research.  The overarching issue  which emerges from all of the material is whether what it means to be human is in some fundamental sense “immaterial” (e.g., the “soul,” “mind,” “consciousness,” “experience,” “free will,” etc.) or “material” (e.g., “body, including the brain and DNA,” or other such physical reality).

Throughout the course, you are expected to relate the material to your own sense of personhood and analyze the issues from your own perspective and experiences--you already have a rich field of investigation and experimental data already at hand.  The final exam will be an oral exam in which you will explain your own “theory” of what it means to be human.  To do this, you will be asked to incorporate the material studied in class.

There is an absolute requirement that we must be open-minded at all times, obviously with respect to others but to oneself as well.  Hasty, opinionated, judgmental comments will be discouraged.  Cultivate an open atmosphere in which no one is intimidated to express his or her views.  Develop your “interpersonal nature” in a mindful manner.  Think of this as a concrete exercise in testing the theories of human nature in a communicational setting.

Do not be disturbed that some, if not all, of the questions we will be examining seem to have no “correct” answer, as one would get in solving a math problem or answering a historical question.  The point is not the one, “correct answer,” but rather in the process of thinking itself.  The point is to clarify how we understand ideas which we may never have thought about before and what we are trying to do with it.  The question could generate different results, but that is the nature of the activity of reflective thinking.  (If everyone thought the same thing, this world would be a boring place indeed.  For those of you who are still uncomfortable with the idea of not having one correct answer for a big philosophical question, like “what is human nature,” imagine if someone (say, a professor) were to tell you THE answer and swear that she knows it is “correct.”  Are you then going to say ok, that’s it, or are you going to wonder for yourself?)

Text:  Images of the Human.  Loyola Press, 1995.

Additional reading material:  A xerox Reader must be purchased at the Philosophy Department, CA D6.

The reading assignments must be read before the class.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1. Six Topic Papers (take-home,  2-3 typed pages each).  10 points each, 60 points total.  On Thursdays, I will give out a topic, starting week 2 (the first topic will be given on September 9), ending with week 14 (the last topic will be given on Thursday, December 2).  The weekly topics will also be posted on my website at htttp://www.arisaka.org.  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 Friday past the week.  No late paper will be accepted beyond the Friday; 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 14, so you have 13 topics/weeks) you may pick any weekly topic, and you may turn in up to 7 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.

The topic papers will have the following format:  First, I will ask you to identify an argument (e.g., “What is Plato’s “recollection” argument?”).  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.  You should refer to it often during the semester.

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 conversation, but I will be able to assess how well you understand the material and see if you can argue effectively.  The maximum of 15 points go to the oral communication; additional 5 points to to the essay which you write based on your oral communication.

3.  Participation and Discussion.  (15 points for in-class, 5 points for mid-semester meeting—20 points total).  As this course is about the nature of what it means to be human, you must participate with your whole personhood and investigate first-hand, with your own mind and body, as you go through the course and understand others’ views.  It’s an on-going process to learn what it means to be who we are, so participation is obviously essential.  Of course, there is no penalty for shyness you may not have much control over; if you are just not the type to speak up in class, that is ok.  So long as you attend regularly and your body language says you are alert and participating, and you contribute to group discussions, that is good.  Sometime during October and November before Thanksgiving, 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

August 26:  Introduction

Week 1 (Aug 31, Sept 2): Overview: Thought experiments and discussions on the four sections, “how to write a philosophy paper,” for preparation for the weekly essays.

Section I.  Classical Theories of the Human Person:  Mind, Spirit, Body, Immortality
(What is “soul?”  Are we mortal or immortal?  Are we a combination of mind and body?  What makes us unique in comparison to other animals?  What is “mind?” )

Italicized items are from the anthology.

Week 2 (Sept 7, 9)  Plato:  The Human Person as Spirit  (Paper topic 1 given out on Sept 9; due Sept 16)

Week 3 (Sept 14, 16) Plato continued.  Aristotle:  The Human Person as a Besouled Body  (Topic 2 given out on Sept 16; due Sept 23)

Week 4 (Sept 21, 23)  Aristotle continued.  St. Thomas Aquinas:  The Human Person as  Embodied Spirit  (Topic 3 given out Sept 23; due Sept 30)

Week 5 (Sept 28, 30)  Aquinas continued.  Descartes: The Human Person as Dualism (Topic 4 given out on Sept 30; due Oct 7)

Week 6 (Oct 5, 7)  Descartes (Topic 5 given out on Oct 7; due Oct 14)

Section II.  Social and Relational Theories of the Human Person:  Are We Part of a Bigger Whole?
(What does it mean for us to be who we are in a context of our family, society, country, the environment, other living beings, or the universe?  Is our personhood “individual” or “relational,” or some combination?  What is the role of empathy, sense of fellowship, belongingness, identity, etc., in the context of developing our personhood?)

Week 7 (Oct 12, 14)  Critique of the mind-body dualism:  Reader: Eve Browning-Cole, Odin 1 (Topic 6 given out on Oct 14, due Oct 21)

Week 8:  (Oct 19, 21)  The social self:  Reader:  Confucius,  MacIntyre,   (Topic 7 given out on Oct 21, due Oct 28).

Week 9 (Oct 26, 28) The self and the environment:  Reader:  Odin 2,  Weigert (Topic 8 given out on Oct 28; due Nov 4)

Section III.  Free Will and Determinism
(Are our actions determined by our biological, hereditary, sociological, environmental factors?  To what extent do we really determine ourselves to be who we are?  Do we have absolute free will, or are we some combination of free will and some causal factors?  If so, how?)

Week 10 (Nov 2, 4)  Simone de Beauvoir: The Human Person as Co-existent.  Jean-Paul Sartre:  The Human Person as Freedom (Topic 9 given out on Nov 4; due Nov 11)

Week 11 (Nov 9, 11) B.F. Skinner:  The Human Person as Necessitated.  Reader: Blatchford, “Not Guilty” (Topic 10 given out on Nov 11; due Nov 18)

Week 12 (Nov 16, 18) “Not Guilty” continued. (Topic 11 given out on Nov 18; due Nov 23)

Section IV.  Toward the Future:  Artificial Intelligence, DNA, and Our Values of Personhood
(Is our “mind” the brain?  Can computers “think?”  If our brain is like a computer, and if AI develops to the point of creating “sentient machines,” what happens to the notion of the “soul?”  Of “personhood?”  If DNA encodes everything physical about ourselves and if evolutionary biology is right, then is our future “determined” by DNA?  What happens to the notion of “human freedom?”)

Week 13 (Nov 23)  Film:  “The Measure of a Man,”  Reader:  Kurzweil (Topic 12 given out; due Dec 2)

Week 14 (Nov 30, Dec 2) Reader: Searle, Dennett, and Peters (Topic 13 given out Dec 2; due Dec 9, but try for Dec 7, the last day of class)
Oral exam meetings begin.

Week 15 (Dec 7):  Reader:  Peters.  Summary of the course.

Final is due on Thursday, December 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.

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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