Course Information

Philosophical Perspectives: The Project of Modernity

PL210-03 | Spring 2021

T/TH 1:40PM - 02:55PM Tues: Jenkins Hall, Room 310, Thurs: Online

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

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: W: 1pm-4pm, Th: 3:30pm-5:30pm, F: 2pm-3pm, and by appointment

Course Description:

Politics and Society is a survey course designed to introduce students to some of the most important developments in the history of modern political 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 political philosophy. Outcomes: Be able to identify (chronologically) the major political philosophers and their distinctive positions from the early modern to contemporary period. Be able to compare and contrast the positions of philosophers studied.

2) Aims: Increase student's ability to recognize and appreciate the complexity of core politico-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.

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 politico-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.

Course Readings

Wootton, Modern Political Thought, Second Edition (Hackett, 2008)

Moodle Readings (MR)

Course Requirements

Participation (20%)

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 affect your overall participation grade. 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. Inappropriate use of cell phones during class will likewise count as an absence. During on-line class meetings, unless you have spoken to me beforehand, it is expected that you keep your camera on and remain an engaged participant

To further encourage the kind preparation that yields fruit in the classroom, we will use small reading quizzes and reading discussion boards throughout the semester.

Reading Discussion Board (10%): There will be approximately 12 available reading discussions forums. Because I know you will have busy weeks, you do not need to participate in each discussion. But throughout the course of the semester, you need to participate in 8 discussions. (But as the goal of this assignment is to help you digest and actively respond to our readings, you are encouraged to participate in any and all discussion forums).

What does a full credit discussion forum participation look like? To get credit you need to participate at least twice in any given discussion, either by introducing a new topic/thread posing a question for the class or responding to a peer's original post or another response. To encourage interaction, discussion boards will be limited to 3 topic threads. After 3 threads have been initiated, you can then ONLY respond to an existing thread or another person's response. A general guideline for a good question or response is that it should be "substantive", "interesting", and "relevant". Make sure to clearly explain the substance of the issue ("substantive"), show us its significance ("interesting"), and show us how it connects to the reading or previous discussion ("relevant"). While I'm not looking for an exact word count, you will need enough words to say something "substantive". This will usually take at least 100 to 200 words. Posts substantially below this threshold or that do not extend the conversation will not receive full participation credit. In other words, avoid posts that simply say "I agree with what you said" or "I like what you said". (Full credit is marked as a "93"; partial credit is marked as an "80") Finally, discussion board posts will close at 1:40pm the day of the assigned class discussion. So please do not wait until the last minute. To have a vibrant discussion, we will need topics and threads to be initiated before the discussion board deadline.

Reading Quizzes (10%): To help push you and hold you accountable for the assigned readings, there will be 10 quiz opportunities throughout the semester. Again, I know that you will sometimes have busy weeks or unexpected life events will arise, thus you do not need to do all 12 quizzes. You are expected to complete 9 quizzes throughout the course of the semester. If you do more than 9, I will count your highest 9 and drop your lowest 3. Quizzes will only be open until 1:40pm (i.e. the start of class) the day of the assigned class discussion. After that, the quiz will close.

Argument Analyses (10%)

Twice during the semester you will be asked to write an argument analysis based on our class reading. This assignment will ask you to digest a difficult reading, identify the central conclusion of the passage, and trace the key steps (or premises) of the argument leading to its conclusion.

Argument analyses should not exceed 400 words. It should be extremely difficult to fit everything within this word limit. Responses will be graded out of 20. A score of 18-20 indicates that the response exceeds expectations, a 16-17 meets expectations, and 15 or below does not meet expectations. Analyses are due via Moodle before class on the assigned due date. Late responses will not be accepted.

Movie Interpretations (22.5% each, 45%)

Movie interpretations are argumentative papers (3-4 pages) in which I ask you to argue 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.

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.

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.

A grading rubric will distributed prior to the due date of the first paper.

Final Exam (25%)

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

University Policies

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. Our goal is to foster a trusting atmosphere that is ideal for learning. In order to achieve this goal, every student must be actively committed to this pursuit and its responsibilities, and is therefore called to be active in the governing of the community’s standards. Thus, all students have the right, as well as the duty, to expect honest work from their colleagues. From this, we students will benefit and learn from the caring relationships that our community trustfully embodies. The students of this University understand that accepting 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 mind demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. These students possess a strong sense of honor, reverence for truth, and a commitment to Jesuit education. Accordingly, students found violating the Honor Code will be reprimanded appropriately in the belief that they will, with the support of their peers, learn from the mistake. This Code not only requires students to understand the ideals of truth and personal care as the two strongest educational factors expressed in cura personalis, but also calls them to demonstrate a general concern for the welfare of their colleagues and for the University." See the honor code for further information.

Title IX Loyola University Maryland is committed to a learning and working environment free from sexual and gender-based misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual verbal abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation. Reports of such offenses are taken seriously, and Loyola encourages students experiencing sexual misconduct to report the incident in accordance with the University’s policy on Reporting Misconduct (PDF) (pages 36-37). Loyola is also committed to an environment free of other forms of harassment and discrimination. For information about policies and reporting resources, please visit harassment and discrimination policy (PDF).

Email Policy

Remember that while you have five teachers, I have more than 70 students. Thus, while I'm eager to connect with you, I can do this best by enforcing a few procedures.

For questions about the course, both content and procedure questions, please use our moodle help discussion board. Using this system will help ensure that I see and respond to your email. It will additionally ensure that others who have similar questions can also receive an answer. So, if you send me a direct email about course content and procedure, I will politely ask you to ask it again via our moodle "help" discussion board and I will be eager and glad to respond.

For other issues, I will be glad to discuss these with you. But I would ask that you try to use our office hours booking service and reserve a time slot to discuss it with me. We can generally always communicate better when we speak in person and this is an opportunity for me to get to know you better. This also helps me manage my time and provide you with the best response I can. So again, if you send me a direct email, I'll will be glad to discuss it with you, but I will often direct you to the booking system so that we can schedule a chance to talk about the issue.

Course Schedule

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

Week 1

Tue Jan 19 - Hobbes, Class Introduction; Leviathan, "Introduction," pp. 117-118

Thu Jan 21 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 5-7, pp. 128-138 and cc. 10-13, pp. 143-157

Week 2

Tue Jan 26 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 14-15, pp. 160-171

Thu Jan 28 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 17-19, pp. 173-184

Week 3

Tue Feb 2 - Hobbes, Leviathan cc. 20-21, p. 184-193; c. 26, pp. 208-217

Thu Feb 04 - Williams, David Lay, "Hobbes and Terrorism" (2009) (MR); Analysis 1 Due.

Week 4

Tue Feb 09 - Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 1, 379-395

Thu Feb 11 - Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 2, pp. 395-410

Week 5

Tue Feb 16 - Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book I, pp. 427-436

Thu Feb 18 - Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book II, pp. 436-439

Week 6

Tue Feb 23 - Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 1, pp. 7-9 (MR)

Thu Feb 25 - Lord of the Flies (1990)

Week 7

Tue Mar 2 - Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 1, pp. 10-17 (MR)

Thu Mar 4 - Kant, What is Enlightenment, pp. 522-525

Fri Mar 5 (11:59pm) - Movie Interpretation 1 Due.

Week 8

Tue Mar 9 - 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)

Thur Mar 11 - Karen Lebacqz, "A Contract Response: John Rawls", pp. 33-50 (MR)

Week 9

Tue Mar 16 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 1, pp. 592-599; c. 3 (just the opening) pp. 620-622a

Thu Mar 18 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 2, pp. 599-620

Week 10

Tue March 23 - Matthieson, "Fake News and the Limits of Free Speech" (MR); Analysis 2 Due.

Thu Mar 25 - 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)

Week 11

Tue Mar 30 - Spring Break

Thu Apr 01 - Spring Break

Week 12

Tue Apr 06 - Marx, Alienated Labor, pp. 766-772 (MR); Fromm, Alienation (MR)

Thu Apr 09 - Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, pp. 865-869; 1st Treatise, pp. 869-884

Week 13

Tue Apr 13 - Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 2nd Treatise, pp. 884-903

Thu Apr 15 - Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 1-16

Week 14

Tue Apr 20 - Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Introduction," pp. xix-xxxv (MR)

Thu Apr 22 - Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Week 15

Tue Apr 27 - Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Woman's Situation and Character," pp. 597-628 (MR)

Thu Apr 29 - Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Conclusion," pp. 716-732 (MR); and Exam Review

Fri Apr 30 (11:59pm) - Movie Interpretation 2 Due.

Final Exam

Fri, May 07, 6:30pm