Persons and Values
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"The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog" 1818, by Caspar David Friedrich

PHL 126-01

MARYGROVE COLLEGE

Summer 2011


Course Syllabus

Click here to download your course syllabus.

The syllabus contains all information pertinent to this class except for the detailed course plan, which is maintained on this website so that students may have easier access to the readings, assignments, and other media we will be using throughout the term.

It is your responsibility to read the syllabus thoroughly and to be sure that you understand all of it's provisions. If you do not agree or believe that you cannot comply with any of the terms in the syllabus, you should withdraw from the course immediately.


Detailed Course Plan

Week 1: Course Introduction

Mon. 27 June

I
Required Reading: Read the course syllabus thoroughly.
Required Work: None. We will go over the course syllabus.

II
Required Reading: None.
Required Work: None. There will be an overview of the themes and concepts of the course.

Weds. 29 June

I
Required Reading: Bertrand Russell: The Value of Philosophy
Required Work: Take notes on the reading in your course journal, and be prepared to discuss it in class. Write down at least three of your own questions or reflections to help you contribute to the discussion.

The following guidelines apply to all such assignments:

1. Questions should be about substantive issues, not about the meanings of words that could be looked up in the dictionary, off-topic speculations, or about details of the author's life that could be found online.
2. Remember that you are studying this writing, not reviewing it as if it were a movie or a popular novel. Thus remarks about whether you liked or disliked the reading, found it difficult, or boring, etc. are NOT relevant. The point is to try to learn from the reading, not to decide whether or not to "like" it or recommend it to others.
3. All questions must be framed "in your own words"—all this means is that you should not simply copy passages of text down and ask what they mean, but make some attempt to form a specific question from which everyone can learn in discussion.
4. All questions and reflections must be written in clear, legible handwriting using complete sentences of standard English. Imagine writing to someone intelligent but very different from you who will not understand slang, vague expressions, or idiomatic phrases/sayings like "what's good to you isn't always good for you".
5. You may work together outside of class but copying is cheating. Any case of identical questions or reflections will result in the denial of credit to all parties.
6. Remember that this is for your benefit. You will be using your work to participate in class and to study for your graded assignments. Put enough effort into them to make them useful in that regard.

II
Required Reading: None. There will be an orientation to basic philosophical methods.
Required Work: visit the TPM website and take the “Philosophical Health Check” prior to attendance. Be ready to discuss your results in class.


Week 2

Mon. 4 July

No class meeting and no assignments: Fourth of July Holiday.

Weds. 6 July

I
Required Reading: Wilfrid Sellars: "Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man" Section I only
Required Work:In your course journal write down answers the following questions:

1. How does Sellars describe the aim of philosophy? How does he describe philosophical success?

2.Explain Sellars' distinction between 'knowing how' and 'knowing that'? Which represents knowledge of truth, or facts?

3. What does Sellars think is characteristic of philosophy? Give an example of how philosophical know-how might be applied to a discipline he doesn't discuss, for example architecture, or medicine.

4. How does Sellars describe the ideal practitioner of any special discipline?

5. What does Sellars mean when he says that "It is therefore the 'eye on the whole' that distinguishes the philosophical enterprise."?

6. Sellars gives two objections (helpfully designated (a) and (b)) to the idea that the primary aim of philosophy is to analyze what we already know. Give and explain these objections.

7. Explain what Sellars means by the 'manifest' and the 'scientific' image of man in the world.

The following guidelines apply to all such assignments:

1. A serious attempt must be made to answer all of the questions. Answers like "I don't know", "I couldn't find it", or just leaving a blank space will result in no credit being given for the assignment.
2. All questions must be answered in complete sentences of standard English, not with bullet points or notes.
3. All questions must be answered "in your own words"—all this means is that you should not simply copy passages of text down as your answers, but make some attempt to synthesize and explain the material yourself.
4. All answers must be written in legible handwriting, and be completed BEFORE you come to class.
5. You may work together outside of class on the review questions but copying is cheating. Any case of identical answers to the questions will result in the denial of credit to all parties.
6. Remember that this is for your benefit. You will be using these questions to study for other assignments. Put enough effort into them to make them useful in that regard.

II
Required Reading: None: We will discuss the reading further, and become acquainted with the problem of personal identity.
Required Work:Turn in two (2) blue exam books. Do NOT write anything in them and do NOT put any identifying marks on them at all.


Week 3

Mon. 11 July

I
Required Reading: Read sections I and II of Derek Parfit: "The Importance of Self-Identity"
Required Work: None.

II
Required Reading: Read sections III and IV of Parfit, "The Importance of Self-Identity"
Required Work:

  • Take notes on all of the readings scheduled for today in your course journal, and be prepared to discuss it in class. Write down at least three of your own questions or reflections to help you contribute to the discussion.
  • We will have a workshop on taking essay tests.

Weds. 13 July

I
Required Reading: Read sections V to the end of Parfit, "The Importance of Self-Identity"
Required Work: None

II
We will have our First Test, which will cover all material from the start of the class to Mon. 11 July.
Note: Course journals will be collected on this day.


Week 4

Mon. 18 July

I
Required Reading: None
Required Work: None. There will be an introductory discussion on the problem of free will.

II
Required Reading: Read section I of Robert Kane: "Responsibility, Luck and Chance"
Required Work: Take notes on the reading in your course journal, and be prepared to discuss it in class. Write down at least three of your own questions or reflections to help you contribute to the discussion.

Weds. 20 July

I
Required Reading: Read section II of Kane
Required Work: In your course journal, summarize as best you can the 8 considerations against indeterminism (i.e. free will) Kane relates in section II. (Note: Kane raises these arguments to reject them. Do not be confused by this. His argument for indeterminism in this paper is to show that these 8 considerations are mistaken.)

II
Required Reading: None.
Required Work: None. We will discuss the first two sections of Kane's essay.


Week 5

Mon. 25 July

I
Required Reading: Read section III of Kane.
Required Work:In your course journal write down answers the following questions:

1. Do the best you can to explain Kane's notion of a self-forming action (SFA).
2. How does this idea help him respond to critics of indeterminism (i.e. free will)?

II
Required Listening:


Required Work: Carefully consider the discussion of priming. Consider especially the way that priming happens without our being aware that it does, and write down answers to the following questions in your course journal:

1. What do the results of the priming experiments say about our ability to draw conclusions from introspection?
2. Given that things like priming happen, how sure can we be that the choices we make are actually our own?
3. Do you think that experiments like those discussed in this podcast cast doubt on views like Kane's? If you do, explain how the experiments undermine Kane's position in the article. If you think Kane's view survives such objections, explain how he could answer a skeptic who thought that priming experiments showed that SFAs were not possible.
4. Explain how the problem of free will exemplifies the conflict between the "manifest" and "scientific" images of man as discussed in Sellars' essay.

Weds. 27 July

I
Required Reading: None. There will be an introductory lecture on the idea of moral values.
Required Work: None.

II
Required Reading: Read pp. 229-234 of Peter Singer: "Famine, Affluence and Morality"
Required Work: In your course journal write down answers the following questions:

1. Singer begins his argument with two key assumptions. What are these assumptions?

2. What two implications does Singer draw from the second of his assumptions? How does Singer use the example of the drowning child to defend the second of these implications?


Week 6

Mon. 01 August

I
Required Reading: Read pp. 234- 239 of Singer
Required Work: In your course journal write down answers the following questions:

1. What outcome does Singer believe his arguments have for the traditional ways of thinking about duty and charity?

2. What two philosophical objections does Singer think people will make to his proposal? How does he answer them?

3. In addition to philosophical objections, Singer also considers some practical objections. What are some of these and how does he address them?


II
Required Reading: Read 239-end of Singer
Required Work: In your course journal write down answers the following questions:

4. Comment on Singer’s closing remarks about the role of philosophy in public affairs. Do you agree or disagree with Singer? Support your judgment.

Weds. 03 August

Required Reading:
Required Work: We will have our Second Test, which will cover all material from Mon. 11 July to Mon. 01 August.
Note: Course journals will be collected on this day.

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