Fall 2000

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

Dr. Yoko Arisaka
Office: Campion D8D  (The main door to D8 is across the Theology Dept.  Look for D8D inside to the left.)
Office Hours:  Tues, 2-3p, and I will be around Wed afternoons after 2p until 6 (but you have to let me know when you want to come by), and by appointment.
Office Phone: 422-6424   (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)
email: arisaka@usfca.edu

Class:  TR, 11:10a-12:25p,  LM 245

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

Week 14: Nov 28, 30.

We covered "compatibilism" (one that says "compatibilism," and the other is "Playing God with DNA.") and began Section IV of the course.  We will cover Searle and Dennett (both reader).

Topic #13 (Last One).  Due December 7,  3-4 pages typed.

Explain Searle's "Chinese Room" thought experiment.  How does it work, and what is it supposed to illustrate?  How does it support his argument (what is his argument)?  Do you agree with Searle?  Why or why not?

Check out these sites:

9/1/00, International Herald Tribune: On artificial life/self-replicating robots
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)

Handouts you should have:

Instruction for the final exam (attached to the syllabus distributed in class)


Course Description:

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 (Aristotle, Seneca), 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.

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 Thursdays, I will give out a topic, starting week 2 (the first topic will be given on September 7), ending with week 14 (the last topic will be given on Thursday, November 28).  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 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.  Note: I cannot open Word 2000 documents.  When in doubt, you should just cut and paste directly into the email message itself rather than using attachments.

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 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 24:  Introduction

Week 1 (Aug 29, 31): 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
Italicized items are from the anthology.

Week 2 (Sept 5, 7)  Plato: from The Republic, p.10-16, and 31-41.  (Paper topic 1 given out on Sept 7; due Sept 14)  Reminder: your first paper must be turned in for the topics 1, 2, or 3.  (You can do more than one.)

Week 3 (Sept 12, 14) Plato continued. Descartes’ Meditations, p.175-193.  (Topic 2 given out on Sept 14; due Sept 21)

Week 4 (Sept 19, 21)  St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, p.152-170   (Topic 3 given out Sept 21; due Sept 28)

Week 5 (Sept 26, 28)  Reader Selection 1, Vasconcelos; Selection 2, Gyekye (Topic 4 given out on Sept 28; due Oct 5)

Section II.  Happiness, Society and Beyond:  Are We Part of a Bigger Whole?

Week 6 (Oct 3, 5) Critique of the mind-body dualism:  Reader, Selection 3: Eve Browning-Cole (Topic 5 given out on Oct 5; due Oct 12)

Week 7 (Oct 11, 12) Aristotle: from the Nicomachean Ethics, p. 45-70 (Topic 6 given out on Oct 12, due Oct 19)

Week 8:  (Oct 17, 19) Reader, Selection 4, Epes Brown, and Selction 5, Confucianism (Topic 7 given out on Oct 19, due Oct 26)

Section III.  Free Will and Determinism

Week 9 (Oct 24, 26) Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism is a Humanism, p. 311-330 (Topic 8 given out on Oct 26; due Nov 2)

Week 10 (Oct 31, Nov 2)  Reader, Selection 6, Frondizi, and Simone de Beauvoir: The Ethics of Ambiguity, p. 333-349 (Topic 9 given out on Nov 2; due Nov 9)

Week 11 (Nov 7, 9) Reader, Selection 7: Blatchford, B. F. Skinner, About Behaviorism, p. 353-378.   (Topic 10 given out on Nov 9; due Nov 16)

Week 12 (Nov 14, 16) E. O. Wilson, On Human Nature, p. 381-411 (Topic 11 given out on Nov 16; due Nov 21)

Section IV.  Toward the Future:  What is “Intelligence?” Our Values of Personhood in the Next 100 years?

Week 13 (Nov 21)  Film:  “The Measure of a Man,”  Reader, Selection 14, Hanley: (Topic 12 given out; due Nov 30)  Reader Selections 8, 9, 12, 13 will also be used for this Section of the course.

Week 14 (Nov 28, 30) Reader, Selections 10 and 11: Searle and Dennett (Topic 13 given out Nov 28; due Dec 7, but try for Dec 5, the last day of class)
Oral exam meetings begin.

Week 15 (Dec 5):  Summary of the course.

Final is due on Thursday, December 14, 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.

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.

Back to my main page.