Course Information

Philosophical Perspectives: The Project of Modernity

PL202-06/07 | Spring 2020

T/TH 12:15PM - 01:30PM (06); 01:40PM - 02:55PM (07), Maryland Hall, Room 344

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

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: T/TH 3pm-5pm, Fr 11am-1pm, and by appointment

Course Description:

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, 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.

Course Readings

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

Moodle Readings (MR)

Course Requirements

Participation (15%)

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 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.

Movie Interpretations (22.5% each, 45%)

Movie interpretations are argumentative papers (3-4) 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 (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.

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.

Quizzes (5% each, 15%)

To keep you motivated in your reading and preparation, we will have three quizzes throughout the semester.

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).

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

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.

Course Schedule

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

Week 1

Tue Jan 14 - Hobbes, Class Introduction; Leviathan, "Introduction," pp. 117-118

Thu Jan 16 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 5-7, pp. 128-138 and cc. 10-13, pp. 143-157

Week 2

Tue Jan 21 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 14-15, pp. 160-171

Thu Jan 23 - Hobbes, Leviathan, cc. 17-19, pp. 173-184

Week 3

Tue Jan 28 - Hobbes, Leviathan cc. 20-21, p. 184-193; c. 26, pp. 208-217

Thu Jan 30 - Williams, David Lay, "Hobbes and Terrorism" (2009) (MR)

Week 4

Tue Feb 04 - Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 1, 379-395

Thu Feb 06 - Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, part 2, pp. 395-410

Week 5

Tue Feb 11 - Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book I, pp. 427-436

Thu Feb 13 - Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book II, pp. 436-439

Week 6

Tue Feb 18 - Quiz 1 (Hobbes, Rousseau); Begin Film - Lord of the Flies (1990)

Thu Feb 20 - Finish Film - Lord of the Flies (1990)

Week 7

Tue Feb 25 - Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 1, pp. 7-17 (MR)

Thu Feb 27 - Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 1, pp. 7-17 (MR) (Due: Movie Interpretation 1)

Week 8

Tue Mar 3 Spring Break

Thur Mar 5 Spring Break

Week 9

Tue Mar 10 - Kant, What is Enlightenment, pp. 522-525

Thu Mar 12 - 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)

Week 10

Tue March 17 - Karen Lebacqz, "A Contract Response: John Rawls", pp. 33-50 (MR)

Thu Mar 19 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 1, pp. 592-599; c. 3, pp. 620-630

Week 11

Tue March 24 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 4 pp. 630-639

Thu Mar 26 - Quiz 2 (Kant, Bentham, Mill); 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 12

Tue Mar 31 - Marx, Alienated Labor, pp. 766-772 (MR); Fromm, Alienation (MR)

Thu Apr 02 - Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, pp. 865-869; 1st Treatise, pp. 869-884

Week 13

Tue Apr 07 - Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 2nd Treatise, pp. 884-903

Thu Apr 09 - Easter

Week 14

Tue Apr 14 - Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 1-16

Thu Apr 16 - Quiz 3 (Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre); Begin Film - Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Week 15

Tue Apr 21 - Finish Film - Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989); Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Introduction," pp. xix-xxxv (MR)

Thu Apr 23 - Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Woman's Situation and Character," pp. 597-628 (MR)

Week 16

Tue Apr 28 - Simone De Beauvoir, Second Sex, "Conclusion," pp. 716-732 (MR); (Due: Movie Interpretation 2)

Final Exam

06 - 12:15 Class - Thu, May 07, 1:00pm

07 - 1:40pm Class - Tue, May 05, 9:00am