Course Information

Foundations of Philosophy

PL339 Spring 2024

TTH 10:50am-12:05pm

Room: HU050A

Dr. Jeffrey C. Witt | jcwitt [at] loyola [dot] edu | ext. 2947

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: By Appointment Tues: 1pm-3pm; Wed: 1pm-3pm; Thurs: 1pm-3pm

Course Description

Today we are living through one of human history's great media shifts, on par with the invention of the written language and the printing press. A shift of this magnitude invites philosophical reflection: both historical and phenomenological reflections on the nature of information and a general examination of the way media affects consciousness. In this course, we will consider the history of media shifts and their impact by looking at thinkers as diverse as Plato and Marshall McLuhan, Immanuel Kant and Ted Nelson. After first tracing the history of the "informational turn", we will then look at the impact of media shifts on the way we think about texts, and the nature of reading and writing. Finally we will look at the social implications of these shifts, considering especially the values of a deliberative democracy and how digital media positively or negatively affect our pursuit of those values.

Course Readings

Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. London: Fourth estate, 2011.

Lessig, Lawrence. Code. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Sunstein, Cass R. #Republic. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Moodle Readings: All other readings will be made available as Pdfs through Moodle

Course Requirements

Annotation Participation (15%)

Involvement in the class discussion will be one of the most essential activities of this course. Our small seminar format offers us the chance to do more than simply passively consume what others have written. We have the opportunity to be active participants in this discussion. The opportunity to participate in this discussion will begin asynchronously as we prepare and respond to the readings and course notes for each class period. We will be using an "annotation tool" called "" to facilitate this discussion. Please see the annotation participation and expectations for a description of participation expectations and grading rubric. Our "synchronous" discussion will build off of this discussion and largely revolve around the questions and ideas that have emerged during our asynchronous discussion. Accordingly, attendance in class, and the willingness/ability to review and expand annotations during class will be a part of this participation grade. While I understand that things come up and sometimes classes have to be missed, it goes with out saying that attendance is a necessary condition for this kind of participation. Thus, after 3 missed classes, the total annotation participation grade will be reduced by 3% per missed class.

Information Applied (10%)

Working in groups I will ask you to take responsibility for a few different chapters in our course sequence. I'll ask your group to create the course notes for the assigned class and lead the class discussion.

Digital Edition Review (10%)

Working in groups, I will ask you to select an online digital edition, text, or narrative, and evaluate its use of the digital medium. I'll ask your group to create the course notes for the assigned class and lead the class discussion.

Research Paper (30%)

As a final paper, I will ask you to reflect our course theme -- the medium is the message -- and explore a concrete case where the medium or a media shift is affecting consciousness and behavior in new ways. Given these changes, and in light of our exploration of various types of social regulation, I will ask you to offer (and defend) a policy proposal for how to best to regulate the medium (and/or human behavior) in a way that would further the life and health of a deliberative democracy. (More instructions will be distributed closer to the end of the term)

Exams (35%)

Unit 1 Exam (10%): We will have an exam after our first unit focused around our reading from Gleick

Final Exam (25%): We will have a cumulative final exam covering the material discussed throughout 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

Email Policy

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.

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."

Statement on Generative-AI: This course focuses on skill building in the areas of close reading, argument analysis, and creative reflection. As such (and as stated in the above honor code) it is expected that in this course your compositions are self-generated. While there are many legitimate reasons to use and value generative-AI tools, the goal of this class is to cultivate the very analytic and synthetic skills that are needed to use AI tools well. Therefore outsourcing our class exercises, just as outsourcing drills in athletics, defeats the purpose. Thus, in this class, the above Honor Code includes the expectation that your submitted responses and compositions are always self-generated. When an AI detection tool indicates and high probability that the work was produced with AI, I will submit the assignment to the university honor council for review.

Course Schedule

**This is a tentative schedule, subject to revision depending on our progress and extenuating circumstances**

Week 1

Tue Jan 16 - Introduction.

Thu Jan 18 - McLuhan, The Medium is the Message, Chapter 1, pp. 7-21

Week 2

Tue Jan 23 - Plato, Phaedrus, focus, pp. 12-18 (speech in praise of the lover), pp. 28-30 (criteria of true rhetoric), pp. 32-36 (in defense of speech over the written word); Ong, The Orality of Language, chapter 1, pp. 5-15 Ong, Writing Restructures Consciousness, chapter 4, pp. 77-113, focus: p. 78-96, 101-103; Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 1-3, pp. 13-77

Thu Jan 25 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 4-5

Week 3

Tue Jan 30 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 6-7

Thu Feb 1 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 8-9; Class Presentations

Week 4

Tue Feb 6 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 9-10; Class Presentations

Thu Feb 8 - Ilari, What is the Philosophy of Information Today, chapter 2, pp. 28-42, recommended; Ilari, Naturalized Information, chapter 3, pp. 43-53, focus: pp. 1-8

Week 5

Tue Feb 13 - Exam

Thu Feb 15 - Bush, As We May Think; Nelson, Hyperworld, chapter 0; Nelson, Hypertext, chapter 1; Nelson, Proposal for a universal electronic publishing system and archive, chapter 2; Zundert, Barely Beyond the Book, pp. 83-106

Week 6

Tue Feb 20 - Landow, Reconfiguring the Text, chapter 3, pp. 70-124, focus: pp. 70-85; Landow, Reconfiguring the Author, chapter 4, pp. 125-143; Barthes, The Death of the Author, pp. 142-148; Foucault, “What is an Author?”, pp. 141-160

Thu Feb 22 - Moretti, The slaughterhouse of literature, pp. 207–227; Ascari, The Dangers of Distant Reading: Reassessing Moretti's Approach to Literary Genres, pp. 1-19; Marche, Literature Is not Data: Against Digital Humanities;

Week 7

Tue Feb 27 - Weinberg, Philosophers On GPT-3 (updated with replies by GPT-3); Zimmerman, If You Can Do Things with Words, You Can Do Things With Algorithms; Nguyen, Who Trains the Machine Artist?; GPT-3, Response to Philosophers 1; GPT-3, Response to Philosophers 2

Thu Feb 29 - Carr, The Very Image of a Book, Chapter 6, pp. 99-114; Carr, The Juggler's Brain, Chapter 7, pp. 115-143; Birkerts, Hypertext: Of Mouse and Man, chapter 11, pp. 151-164

Week 8

Tue Mar 12 - Class Presentations

Thu Mar 14 - Class Presentations

Week 9

Tue Mar 19 - Lessig, Code, cc. 1-2

Thu Mar 21 - Lessig, Code, cc. 3-5

Week 10

Tue Mar 26 - Lessig, Code, cc. 6-8

Week 11

Tue Apr 2 - Lessig, Code, cc. 9-10

Thu Apr 4 - Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book 1, c. 6, The social compact; Kant, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?; Sunstein, The Daily Me - Chapter 1, pp. 1-30; Sunstein, An Analogy and an Ideal - Chapter 2, pp. 31-58; US Supreme Court, Whitney v. California (1927)

Week 12

Tue Apr 9 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 2; Habermas, Popular Sovereignty as Procedure, pp. 35-65

Thu Apr 11 - Habermas, The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964), pp. 49; Louw, Sites for Making Meaning III: Commercialization and the 'Death of the Public Sphere', chapter 4, pp. 91-103

Week 13

Tue Apr 16 - Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace; Shapiro, We have Revolution Now, chapter 1, pp. 3-12; Shapiro, Gaining Control, chapter 3, pp. 25-33; Shapiro, Liebling's Revenge - The Power of Interactivity, chapter 4, pp. 34-43; Shapiro, Masters of our own domains - Personalization of Experience, chapter 5, pp. 44-52;

Thu Apr 18 - Sunstein, Polarization - Chapter 3, pp. 59-97; Sunstein, Cybercascades - Chapter 4, pp. 98-136

Week 14

Tue Apr 23 - Sunstein, What's Regulation? A Plea - Chapter 7, pp. 176-190; Sunstein, Freedom of Speech - Chapter 8, pp. 191-212; Lessig, Code, c. 12

Thu Apr 25 - Sunstein, Proposals - Chapter 9, pp. 192-213;

Thursday May 2 1:00pm - Final Exam