PHIL 130 Philosophy and Persons
Philosophy & Persons
PHIL 130 – Spring 2015
Instructor: Dr. Stefano Giacchetti
M/W 11.30-12.15 – Office hours M/W 2.20-3.20 (by appointment)
Short Description: The course examines the way philosophy looks for fundamental characteristics that identify life as a properly human life, asks about its ultimate meaning or purpose, and raises questions about what counts as a good life.
Outcome Statement: Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the various approaches of the philosophical questions related to what it means to be human, with attention to the historical and conceptual development of these questions, and be able to articulate some of the major problems and responses central to this area of philosophy.
Students should be able to demonstrate
(a) understanding of the relationships among cultural, economic, political, and social forces, and their impact on human behavior.
(b) understanding of the processes and components of societies, states and cultures.
(c) understanding of the differences of class, gender and race in societies, states and cultures.
(d) awareness that human values and behavior, ideas of justice, and methods of interpretation are influenced by culture and time
(e) ability to differentiate among historical and contemporary perspectives about the world with a view to fashioning a humane and just world.
Students will learn to
(a) recognize the way in which the basic principles governing how one ought to live are conditioned by one's involvement in and responsibilities toward the socially organized community in which one lives
(b) understand different positions on this issue, to appreciate the concerns that account for these differences, to look for the reasons given in support of the different views, and to assess the forcefulness of the challenge that each poses for the others and for our own culture.
This course enables the student to
(a) appreciate the profound issues involved in social relations, such as dignity and diversity
(b) engage in dialogue with great philosophers, paying close attention to their meaning, their reasons, their concerns, their vision
(c) examine the way different philosophically defended views challenge each other and see how they also challenge unexamined presuppositions in our own culture
(d) include their own reflections into the dialogue
(e) recognize reasons supporting a view, identify unexamined presuppositions, appreciate astute insights, expose vulnerabilities in established positions.
(f) recognize the need for ethical judgment
(g) distinguish alternative courses of action.
(h) articulate the relevant ethical values, principles, rights, and virtues from the point of view of each stakeholder
Full Course Description:
This introductory core course is designed to acquaint the student with some of the classical themes and topics in Western philosophy. The course is divided into three segments, each one dealing with a central philosophical topic or issue. The three segments consist in: (1) persons and knowledge; (2) persons and reality; and (3) persons and values. In the first segment we will ask what it means for us to have knowledge, the nature and scope of our knowledge, and in what areas we may want to assert this. This segment will analyze the seminal writings of Heraclitus, Plato, Augustine and Descartes. In the second segment, through the reading of the works of Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant and Marx, we will ask about the nature of social reality, including the nature of persons, rationality, free will, and alienation, among other issues. In the third segment we will inquire about the nature of value, including whether the good is merely what is useful or whether there is intrinsic good; the nature of the highest human good (e.g., virtue, happiness, pleasure, material success); the role of deliberation in moral reasoning. This last segment will be elaborated through the critical writings of Nietzsche and the overview of moral theory provided by Rachels.
The aim of the course is to lead students to autonomously judge fundamental issues related to human condition, with special reference to the nature of ideas, existence, justice, fairness, rules and duties, cultural and social influences. This will provide students with the basic critical skills for recognizing different philosophical approaches and for judging their feasibility and correctness. The analysis of the philosophies which most consistently influenced the development of Western culture will be the tool for understanding existential and social dilemmas and constructing philosophically informed decisions.
- Machiavelli, The Prince and the Discourses. (Also available online)
- Descartes, Meditations. (Also available online)
- Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings. (Also available online)
- Kant, Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals. (Also available online)
- Marx, Selected Writings.
- Nietzsche, On the genealogy of morals. (Also available online)
- Rachel’s The Elements of Moral Philosophy.
Student’s final grade will be based on:
- One in-class test (Midterm): 40% of the final grade.
- One take-home paper (Final): 40% of the final grade.
- In-class presentations and participation: 20% of the final grade. Students will be requested to make presentations (15-20 min.) and submit a short paper for one of the scheduled readings assigned.
The following grading scale will be applied for determining the final grade:
Presentation: A=20; A-=19; B+=18; B=17; B-=16; C+=15; C=14; C-=13; D+=12; D=11; F=10
Midterm and Final (each): A=40; A-=37; B+=36; B=34; B-=33; C+=32; C=30; C-=29; D+=27; D=26; F=24
Final Grade: A = 95-100; A- = 92-94; B+ = 88-91; B = 84-87; B- = 80-83; C+ = 77-79; C = 73-76; C- = 70-72; D+ = 65-69; D = 60-64; F = 59 and below
Students should plan to regularly attend the class, since we will often broaden the topics contained in the texts to contemporary issues, and since this class is mainly intended to the rousing of students’ personal thoughts and ideas.
Statement on Plagiarism: Plagiarism on the part of a student in academic work or dishonest examination behavior will result minimally in the instructor assigning the grade of "F" for the assignment or examination. In addition, all instances of academic dishonesty must be reported to the chairperson of the department involved. The chairperson may constitute a hearing board to consider the imposition of sanctions in addition to those imposed by the instructor, including a recommendation of expulsion, depending upon the seriousness of the misconduct.
01/21 Pre-Socratics and Myth (Heraclitus)
01/26 Plato Republic, Book VII
01/28 Aquinas extracts from Summa Theologica
02/02 Machiavelli ch. I p.4, II p.5, III p.6, IX p. 35, X p.39
02/04 “ “ ch. XVII p.60, XVIII p. 63, XIX p. 66, XXI p. 81
02/09 “ “ ch. XLIII p. 226, XLIV p.227, XLV p.229 & XLVI p.231; Third Book, ch. II p.403, XIX p.470, XXIX p.495 & XL p.526
02/11 Descartes Meditation I-II
02/16 “ “ “ “, III-IV
02/18 “ “ “ “, V-VI
02/23 Rousseau Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men, Part One
02/25 “ “ “ “, Part Two
03/02 Kant Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays, pp. 41-46; pp. 107-119
03/04 Midterm Exam
03/16 Marx Selected Writings; pp. 58 to 79; 99 to 101
03/18 “ “ “ “; pp. 158 to 186
03/23 “ “ “ “; pp. 220 to 255
03/25 “ “ “ “; pp. 255 to 282; 294 to 300
03/30 Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals; First Essay, Sections 4 to16
04/01 “ “ “ “, Second Essay, Sections 1 to 12
04/08 “ “ “ “, Third Essay, Sections 17 to 18 & 24 to 28
04/13 Rachels Ch. 1, 2
04/15 “ “ Ch. 7, 8
04/20 “ “ Ch. 9, 10
04/22 “ “ Ch. 13, 14
04/25, 27-30 Final Exam