Philosophy is the art of imagining alternatives. 

William James

Fall Semester, 2017

Office: HUM 154

Daily Micro Essays

You should immediately purchase a small package of 4x6 index cards (no smaller). With each new reading assignment, prior to that reading being discussed in class, I will ask you to write a brief, "micro" essay, usually analyzing some aspect of that day's reading assignment. Sometimes I will simply ask you to record your philosophical reactions to the reading. These micro essays serve a number of purposes: they motivate you to complete the reading and come to class, help to focus your reading, provide a study guide for your midterm and final, and stimulate class discussion. You should be prepared to share your micro essays with other members of the class during our class discussions. Your essays should be approximately150 words in length. Each day I will collect your card, review your essay to determine that you have adequately completed the assignment, record your having completed it, and return them to you the following class day. At the end of the semester I will award up to 100 points for these micro essays, deducting five points for each one you failed to turn in. 

  • Essays must be completed before coming to class. 

  • No essays completed at the start of class or during class will be accepted. 

  • Essays can only be turned in on those days that you attend class. 

  • You cannot have other students turn your essays  in for you. 

  • You can miss two micro essays without penalty.

  • If you miss no micro essays during the semester, I will award you 10 points for your good performance.

Essay Exams

Three times during the semester, you will be asked to write a series of essays assessing, reflecting, and expanding on the issues and materials discussed in class. These essays will presuppose your understanding of the material we have covered in class and will ask you to analyze arguments and philosophical theories and construct arguments of your own on issues relevant to the material discussed in class. The essays must be typed, double-spaced, and employ appropriate college-level writing skills. Late essays will be accepted up to one week past the due date but will be penalized ten points for each day late. More information regarding essay exams will be given in class on the appropriate days.

Group Project

In order to give you experience working with and managing a group project, as well as provide you with the opportunity to work on a multi-modal project that deepens your appreciation of a core issue in this course, I will ask you to identify an issue associated with one of our class discussions and produce for the benefit of future students in this course, a project that deepens their knowledge and appreciation of that issue. I will provide more information on this group project in class.

Electronic Submissions

Please note that I generally do not accept electronic submissions of assigned work. You are responsible for insuring that I receive a hardcopy of your work by the assigned deadline. I may occasionally ask you to submit work via Moodle, in which case you must submit a pdf.

Class Participation

In her article "Feminist Epistemology" Naomi Scheman argues that it is misleading to think of epistemic agency as ideally exercised in solitude. Knowing and coming to know, Scheman contends, are social and interactive. "They are things we do, and things we are appropriately held responsible for doing, in social and cultural settings that variously help and hinder our doing them well." I wholeheartedly agree with Scheman that knowing is a practice that ideally occurs in a social setting. Each of us is responsible for participating in a variety of communities of knowers and it is a responsibility we ought to take seriously. Our class is one such community, a community in which we must actively participate in the social practice of knowing. To encourage your participation in this community of learners and to encourage you to come to class prepared to discuss that day’s issues, at the end of the semester, you will receive a grade based on your class participation throughout the semester. The grade you receive will be based on, among other things, your regular attendance and engagement in class, your improvement over the course of the semester, and, to the greatest extent, your willingness to contribute in a meaningful way to the daily class discussion. Other indices of an engaged student include:

  • Your willingness to engage the texts and issues associated with the course in the spirit of learning more about yourself and the world you live in.

  • Your ability to respect a diversity of opinion as demonstrated by conducting yourself in a civil manner and by refraining from interruptions and ridicule of others.

  • Your ability to listen and participate during class.

  • Your ability to offer relevant, on-topic commentary.

  • Your ability to arrive at class on time and prepared.

  • Your ability to focus on class during class time. Habitual entrances and exits during class sessions will result in a grade penalty, as will holding private discussions during class and disruptions arising from cell phones, watches, pagers, and the like.

  • Your ability to avoid complaining and asking questions whose answers have already been provided (e.g., “Can I make up the quiz?” and “What is the response for next time?”).

  • Your ability to let me know ahead of time if you have to miss an appointment or conference.  

 

 

The following is meant only as a rough guide as to how your participation grade will be determined:  

Highbrow Course Project

As a course project, we will be working on developing a course for Highbrow. Read Highbrow's Manifesto. More information on this project will be provided in class.

Op-Ed Essay

Throughout the semester we will be reading and critiquing op-ed articles from major newspapers, news magazines, and web sites. In order to hone your critical thinking and reading skills and engage in local, national, and international conversations on significant issues, I will ask you to prepare by the end of the semester an op-ed on a chosen issue which demonstrates your grasp of the relevant issue and your understanding of the process of critical inquiry. In order to familiarize your self with op-ed writing, during the first week of class you should subscribe to one or more of the newsletters available at OpinionSource. Additionally, York College's Student Senate has made The New York Times available to students and I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy prior to class and review the day's headlines, editorials, and op-eds.

Class Participation

In her article "Feminist Epistemology" Naomi Scheman argues that it is misleading to think of epistemic agency as ideally exercised in solitude. Knowing and coming to know, Scheman contends, are social and interactive. "They are things we do, and things we are appropriately held responsible for doing, in social and cultural settings that variously help and hinder our doing them well." I wholeheartedly agree with Scheman that knowing is a practice that ideally occurs in a social setting. Each of us is responsible for participating in a variety of communities of knowers and it is a responsibility we ought to take seriously. Our class is one such community, a community in which we must actively participate in the social practice of knowing. To encourage your participation in this community of learners and to encourage you to come to class prepared to discuss that day’s issues, at the end of the semester, you will receive a grade based on your class participation throughout the semester. The grade you receive will be based on, among other things, your regular attendance, your improvement over the course of the semester, and, to the greatest extent, your willingness to contribute in a meaningful way to the daily class discussion. Other indices of an engaged student include:

  • Your willingness to engage the texts and issues associated with the course in the spirit of learning more about yourself and the world you live in.

  • Your ability to respect a diversity of opinion as demonstrated by conducting yourself in a civil manner and by refraining from interruptions and ridicule of others.

  • Your ability to listen and participate during class.

  • Your ability to offer relevant, on-topic commentary.

  • Your ability to arrive at class on time and prepared.

  • Your ability to focus on class during class time. Habitual entrances and exits during class sessions will result in a grade penalty, as will holding private discussions during class and disruptions arising from cell phones, watches, pagers, and the like.

  • Your ability to avoid complaining and asking questions whose answers have already been provided (e.g., “Can I make up the quiz?” and “What is the response for next time?”).

  • Your ability to let me know ahead of time if you have to miss an appointment or conference.

 

The following is meant only as a rough guide as to how your participation grade will be determined:  

                                                          Course Syllabus

Course Description

The Western philosophical tradition is thought to have gotten underway with Socrates' immortalized claim that the unexamined life is not worth living. Ernst Cassirer argues that in this claim Socrates introduces a fundamental philosophical question that is to preoccupy subsequent philosophers: what does it mean to be a human being? What is the nature of man? It is this fundamental philosophical question that is at the center of this course. We shall seek to try and understand our nature as human beings by considering the historical and contemporary approaches comparing human beings to their nearest relatives: animals and machines. Through a close and careful reading of philosophical, scientific, and literary texts, we shall attempt to better understand our own nature as human beings. Our goals include:

  • learning to identify, develop, and critically evaluate philosophical arguments

  • learning how to carefully and critically read texts

  • understanding and assessing the philosophical background to discussions of human nature

  • understanding and assessing contemporary dominant approaches to understanding human nature

  • addressing the issue of whether we should enhance human nature

 

Textbooks

  • Can Animals and Machines Be Persons? Justin Leiber

  • Additional readings will be available via the web.

 

Note: Philosophy is still very much a text driven discipline. Much of our time in class will be spent analyzing and discussing texts. For this reason, you must bring your readings to class. This includes all textbook readings as well as online readings. Not having enough credit to print is an unacceptable excuse for failure to bring your readings. If you don't bring your readings to class you will not be able to adequately participate in our seminar and your grades will suffer.

Course Policies

Grading

                                   Please Read: My Grading Philosophy & How To Write Philosophy Essays

Activities outside of regular class hours

As part of the regular course requirements, you will be expected to occasionally participate in events outside of the regular class hours. You may be asked to watch videos on your own time and attend evening events. Additionally, as part of the English and Humanities Department's efforts to encourage student participation in college cultural activities, I will ask that you attend two events during the semester. More information concerning this will be provided in class. Following your attendance, you should write a brief 250 word reflective analysis of the event you attended. This must be turned in within one week of the date of the event. You will receive 10 points for each of the two events you attend and write-up.

Attendance

While I won't be taking roll in class each day, your micro essays will provide me with a record of your attendance. Attending class is a key factor in college success. Not only does regular attendance help you succeed, it also helps the class work well and succeed. As my class participation guidelines make clear, a classroom is a community of learners in which we are all engaged in mastering material. It's far easier to do that when everyone attends regularly. When you fail to attend class, you lose points for your missed micro essays and your class participation grade suffers. Additionally, if you miss the equivalent of one's week's classes, your final grade may be lowered by one-half grade (.5). If you miss the equivalent of two weeks' classes, your final grade may be lowered by one full grade. If you miss any class, please be responsible for getting class notes, assignments, etc. from another student in class. It may help to have available telephone numbers or e-mail addresses of one or two classmates.

E-Mail Addresses

You are expected to have an active York College e-mail address and to check it regularly during the semester. I will send e-mail only to your ycp.edu address. If you wish to use other addresses, such as private internet service provided addresses, you should set up your YCP address so that it automatically forwards your mail to that address.

Your Responsibilities

You should explore the following links so that you better understand the standards that we will adhere to in this course.

 

How Much Should I Expect to Study in This Course?

YCP Academic Policies

It is your responsibility to remain apprised of all assignments and any changes in the syllabus or grading policies. I reserve the right to make changes to class policies and the syllabus as I deem necessary. I expect that you will be in class daily, having prepared your work and ready to discuss the material. 

You should obtain the names and contact information from several of your fellow classmates so that you have someone to contact if you must miss class. You should not depend on either e-mailing or phoning me to learn what you missed in class or find out your assignment for the following class. 

You should strictly observe the following policies:

  • Attendance is not optional but strictly required.
  • Class begins promptly at the appointed time. Don’t be late.
  • Students should come to class prepared, having read and completed the day’s assignment, ready to discuss it.
  • You should bring the day's readings with you to class each day.
  • There is to be no sleeping in class. Stay awake and alert.
  • Do not leave the room during the class period without prior permission.
  •  Do not carry on private conservations while class is in progress.
  • Treat all class members with respect and civility.
  • Make sure that all cell phones and other electronic equipment is turned off.

 

I have prepared some material to help you in reading and writing philosophy. If you are having difficulty with your class readings or writing assignments, you might wish to review the following material. I have also prepared a page of philosophy links and meta-sites where you can easily find more information on any of the philosophers and topics we discuss in class.

How to Read Philosophy

Writing Philosophy Essays

Studying Philosophy at York Colleg

Office Hours:

MWF 12:00 - 1:00, T 1:30 - 3:30, and by appointment