Philosophical Perspectives: The Project of Modernity
PL202-05/06 | Spring 2018
MW 3:00-4:15, Humanities Center, Room 002 (section 05) / MW 4:30-5:45, Humanities Center, Room 002 (section 06)
Dr. Jeffrey C. Witt | jcwitt [at] loyola [dot] edu | ext. 2947
Philosophy Department 050M
Office Hours: Tue 11-2pm, Thu 1-3pm, and by appointment
The Project of Modernity is a survey course designed to introduce students to some of the most important developments in the history of modern philosophy. In particular, this course aims to introduce students to the development of a web of issues surrounding the human person, reason, freedom, and the good life. Students will be asked to absorb modern philosophy’s long preoccupation with these issues, recognize the perennial difficulties that arise, and actively reflect on the consequences of their own views.
Course Learning Aims and Expected Outcomes
1) Aims: Exposure to and increased facility in comprehension of the foundational texts of philosophy. Outcomes: Be able to identify (chronologically) the major philosophers and their distinctive positions from the early modern to contemporary period. Be able to compare and contrast the positions of philosophers studied. Assignments: lectures, readings, reading reflection responses, exams.
2) Aims: Increase student's ability to recognize and appreciate the complexity of core philosophical problems. Develop a mind that can articulate that complexity to oneself and others. Outcomes: Be able to see a problem from diverse vantage points. Be able to articulate both the pros and cons of perennial philosophical issues discussed in class. Assignments: class discussions, critical evaluations, movie interpretations, exams.
3) Aims: Help students to question the values they take for granted and to think through the nature of justice, happiness, moral conduct, and the life they want to live. Help students cultivate a taste for philosophical speculation, i.e. develop an appetite for "contemplation with friends" and a palate that can recognize the difference between this kind of enjoyment and alternatives. Outcomes: Be able to describe the consequences and impact of a given philosophical stance for one's own life and decisions: especially, the impact on what one values, how one thinks about injustice, freedom, and cooperation, and how one conceives of the good life.
Wootton, Modern Political Thought, Second Edition (Hackett, 2008)
Moodle Readings (MR)
In-class involvement (5%): In-class involvement is a small part of your grade that typically makes a big difference. Class involvement means, first of all, coming to class. Secondly, it means coming to class prepared. This primarily means both having read the assigned text and having the day's reading out and ready to be marked. Thirdly, it means being an active participant in the classroom. At times we will have opportunities for discussion; someone who is involved in class will be a thoughtful and engaged participant in that discussion. At other times, lectures will solicit your input and/or questions; an engaged student will bring up helpful and appropriate questions and be able to make a positive contribution when class input is called upon.
To encourage you in the above three areas. I will keep attendance throughout the course. Because I know that things come up, people get sick, and emergencies happen, I will overlook your first two absences (excused or otherwise). After two absences, every absence will reduce your participation grade by half. Since our class is primarily devoted to the reading of texts, it is imperative that you have your text (including assigned PDFs available on Moodle) with you in class in a printed form that you can mark up and take notes on. Accordingly, not having the assigned reading with you will count as not being present. The use of cell phones in class for texting or any other reason will result in an automatic 0 for this portion of your grade. (Do yourself a favor and put your cell phones away and out of sight for the duration of our class.)
Reading Quizzes (5%): To keep you motivated in your reading and preparation, every couple of weeks I will begin class with an unannounced reading quiz. These short reading quizzes are designed to test that you've been keeping up with the reading and are able to recognize and follow the main claims by made the author.
Reading Reflection Responses (10%): Good philosophical reading depends on sustained reflection on the arguments you read. It helps you lock in what you've read and really push yourself to consider the consequences of the position in question. It is a great practice to adopt after every reading. In order to help you develop this habit, I ask that you post a reading reflection response on Moodle in eight different weeks throughout the semester. Note that for a response to count for a given week, it must be more than 200 words and it must be posted prior to our class discussion of the relevant material.
Critical Evaluations (20%)
Critical evaluations are an opportunity to critically evaluate the pros and cons of an idea that has come up in our readings or discussions. They can be seen as the natural development of a "Reading Reflection Response" that you would like to explore in more depth. Throughout the semester there will be four evaluation opportunities. Each evaluation should focus on a topic that emerged between the due date of the previous evaluation and the due date of the current evaluation.
The goal of these evaluations is for you to recognize a genuine philosophical puzzle. Such puzzles arise where no obvious answer exists and where conflicting answers for a given problem can be supported. Therefore, a strong evaluation will  begin with a statement or thesis that briefly identifies a position or idea from the week's reading and then articulate the dilemma you will describe below. The evaluation will then  articulate accurately reasons in support of the proposed idea.  Finally, it will describe and explain a difficulty that such a position (or its consequences) faces. Perhaps the idea challenges or conflicts with another commonly held belief. Perhaps the idea seems to contradict a familiar experience or unexamined assumption. This conflict is what the final section of your evaluation should explain. In short, I'm asking you to identify a provocative or controversial position and then to identify and fully explain a strength and weakness of that position. In your evaluations, please avoid using the first person pronoun ("I", "me", etc.). Articulate your evaluation in such a way as to convey to your reader that this a universal puzzle that everyone should be able to recognize and is not just a personal problem unique to your own mental state.
Critical Evaluations should be 350 words. It should be difficult to fit everything within this word limit. Responses will be graded out of 20. I will be looking for the three elements described above. A score of 18-20 indicates that the response exceeds expectations, a 16-17 meets expectations, and 15 or below does not meet expectations. Please write your name, date, and word count on the top of your response. Evaluations are due at the beginning of class on the assigned day. Late responses will not be accepted. Responses submitted by email will not be accepted.
Movie Interpretations (20% each, 40%)
Movie interpretations are small papers (3-4) in which I ask you to explain how the assigned movie can be seen as an illustration of the major tenets of the philosophers we've studied. Your paper should begin with a thesis that declares, not merely what interpretation you will provide, but how you will demonstrate this interpretation (i.e. it should indicate what aspect of the film is the decisive piece of evidence for your interpretation and why).
Our first movie interpretation is based on the 1990 film Lord of the Flies. For this interpretation, I'm asking you to explain how the movie can be seen as an illustration of the basic view of humanity and society laid out in the texts of either Thomas Hobbes or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Your movie review is due on Friday, March 2nd, by 5pm.
Our second movie interpretation is based on the 1980 Woody Allen Film Crimes and Misdemeanors. For this interpretation I'm asking you to explain how the movie can be seen as illustration of the basic view of humanity, reason, or morality laid out by either Friedrich Nietzsche or Jean-Paul Sartre. Your movie review is due on Monday, April 30th, in class.
A grading rubric will distributed prior to the due date of the first paper.
Final Exam (20%)
The cumulative final exam will include multiple choice questions, quotation identifications, short answer questions, and an essay question focusing on core concepts and problems discussed during the course of the semester.
Final Grade Distribution
93% A, 90% A-, 88% B+, 83% B, 80 B-, 78% C+, 73% C, 70% C-, 68% D+, 60% D
Honor Code and Plagiarism
Students are expected to follow the university's honor code:
"The Honor Code states that all students of the Loyola Community have been equally entrusted by their peers to conduct themselves honestly on all academic assignments. The Students of this University understand that having collective and individual responsibility for the ethical welfare of their peers exemplifies a commitment to the community. Students who submit materials that are the products of their own minds demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. All outside resources or information should be clearly acknowledged. If there is any doubt or question regarding the use and documentation of outside sources for academic assignments, your instructor should be consulted. Any violations of the Honor Code will be handled by the Honor Council."
See the honor code for further information. http://www.loyola.edu/academic/honorcode.aspx.
Computer, Cell Phones and Email Policy
I ask you not to use your computers or cell phones in this class. They are almost always a distraction: if not to you, then to me and to others. (If there is a special reason that you need a computer please let me know, and we can most likely work something out.) Students using cell phones in any capacity will find their participation grade negatively affected. If you find this policy frustrating, then I encourage you to watch the Frontline documentary: Digital Nation http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/?utm_campaign=viewpage&utm_medium=grid&utm_source=grid.
Papers will not be accepted via email. Please print out hard copies and turn them in during class. If, for some reason, this is not possible, a hard copy in my mailbox is the next best option. Email is useful for setting up appointments or informing me about emergencies, but, about most other things, I prefer to meet with you face to face. This is what office hours are for. Do not be scared; I am nice! If my office hours conflict with your schedule, I will be glad to work with you to find a time that does fit.
**This is a tentative schedule, subject to revision depending on our progress and extenuating circumstances**
Wed 1/17 Hobbes, Class Introduction; Leviathan, "Introduction," pp. 117-118
Mon 1/22 Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 5-7, pp. 128-138 and cc. 10-13, pp. 143-157
Wed 1/24 Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 14-15, pp. 160-171
Mon 1/29 Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 17-19, pp. 173-184
Wed 1/31 Hobbes, Leviathan cc. 20-21, p. 184-193; c. 26, pp. 208-217
Mon 2/5 Williams, David Lay, "Hobbes and Terrorism" (2009) (MR); Due: Critical Evaluation 1.
Wed 2/7 Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 1, 379-395
Mon 2/12 Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 2, pp. 395-410
Wed 2/14 Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book I, pp. 427-436
Mon 2/19 Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book II, pp. 436-439.
Wed 2/21 Film - Lord of the Flies (1990); Due: Critical Evaluation 2
Mon 2/26 Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 1, pp. 7-17 (MR)
Wed 2/28 Kant, Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History, pp. 221-228 (MR)
Fri 3/2 Due: Movie Interpretation 1
Mon 3/5 Spring Break
Wed 3/7 Spring Break
Tue 3/12 Kant, Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History, pp. 229-234 (MR); Kant, What is Enlightenment, pp. 522-525
Wed 3/14 Bentham, An Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation, cc. 1, 4, 7, pp. 585-597; Karen Lebacqz, "The Utilitarian Challenge: John Stuart Mill", pp. 15-32 (MR)
Mon 3/19 Karen Lebacqz, "A Contract Response: John Rawls", pp. 33-50 (MR)
Wed 3/21 Mill, On Liberty, c. 1, pp. 592-599; c. 3, pp. 620-630
Mon 3/26 Mill, On Liberty, c. 4 pp. 630-639
Wed 3/28 Marx, German Ideology, pp. 775-797; Fromm, "Marx's Historical Materialism" (MR); Fromm, "The Problem of Consciousness, Social Structure and the Use of Force" (MR); Due: Critical Evaluation 3.
Mon 4/2 Easter Break
Wed 4/4 Marx, Alienated Labor, pp. 766-772 (MR); Fromm, Alienation (MR)
Mon 4/9 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, pp. 865-869; 1st Treatise, pp. 869-884
Wed 4/11 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 2nd Treatise, pp. 884-903
Mon 4/16 Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 1-16
Wed 4/18 Film - Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989); Due: Critical Evaluation 4.
Mon 4/23 Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Introduction," pp. xix-xxxv (MR)
Wed 4/25 Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Woman's Situation and Character," pp. 597-628 (MR)
Mon 4/30 Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Conclusion," pp. 716-732 (MR) Due: Movie Interpretation 2
05/3pm Class - Wednesday, May 2, 1:00pm
06/4:30pm Class - Monday, May 7, 1:00pm