Archives for the month of: February, 2015

Today, we’re engaging with ideas of power and privilege.  Here are two materials I plan to distribute or play in class.

Audre Lorde, on blindness, difference, and limitation

Lucille Clifton, Won’t You Celebrate With Me

Please read the following in advance of class on Monday, March 2.  We’ll work with these readings on Monday, March 2 and Wednesday, March 4.


1. J.L. Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence


2. Richard Swinburne, Why God Allows Evil

Whichever of the above you choose, you should also read:

3. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, excerpt from Resisting Structural Evil

4. Thich Nhat Hanh, excerpts from Living Buddha, Living Christ

So, you could read 1, 3, and 4 OR you could read 2, 3, and 4.

REMINDER: Don’t forget to work on your response papers!  You should bring two copies of a draft of one of your response papers on Monday, March 9.

Today, we’re working on our first writing workshop to prepare for the response papers!

We’ll watch this in class today: Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From.

Also, last time when we were talking about the limits of language in describing mental states, I mentioned Hyperbole and A Half, a webcomic that talked about the experience of depression and the struggle to get the idea of one’s experiences across.  Here’s Depression Part Two, the section I mentioned.  Do be mindful that the language isn’t perfectly G-rated, if that is a concern for you.

Also, here’s a revised syllabus.

Today, we’re talking about the mind and the self.  Along with the readings you did in advance of today (the chapters on the mind and the self, and handouts of Wittgenstein and Borges) we’ll engage with the following material.  I’m just putting these up here so that you can review them after class if you want to see them again–you don’t need to worry about them in advance of class.

Julian Baggini, Is there a real you?

The Questions of King Milinda

In this course, you will do a series of response papers.  You will select six FIVE of the topics we treat this semester in class and write a short (500 words) essay on each of them.

In your essay, you should put forward a point of view reflecting on ideas associated with that topic.  You should draw on material from the readings and media assigned for that topic, the in-class activities assigned for that topic  (typically each topic will get one or two days of class time), other media that might address the topic, and your own experiences.

Drafts of some of these essays will be critiqued by your peers mid-semester and final versions of them will be uploaded to your e-portfolio (note: we’ll work together to create your e-portfolios for this course on March 11, when we’ll meet in the e-portfolio lab).

On 2/23, bring an idea for a response paper on one of the things we will have engaged with by then (such as moral philosophy, knowledge, or mind and self).  Think about which topic you would like to consider, and think about what your “ingredients” will be.  Were you drawn to a particular in-class activity?  Did one of the readings catch your attention?  Did it remind you of something you had read or seen elsewhere?  Do you have a story about your own experiences to share?  Ground your consideration in some element of course material (activities in class, readings/media, or both) but feel free to consider your own opinion, experiences, and outside material.  In class, we will work together on exercises to develop your first response paper.

We will have another writing workshop on 3/9, when you will bring in a draft of one of your response papers and critique your own work and also critique a classmate’s work.  On 3/11, in our e-portfolio workshop, you will get to upload one or more of your response papers to your e-portfolio.

Then, on 3/13, you’ll begin a peer exchange process where you will email a link to your response papers section of your e-portfolio to two classmates (we’ll use a sign up process to select partners) and CC me on the email.  By this point, at least two of your five responses should be completed.  By 3/25, you will respond to the two peers who have signed up to receive feedback from you with constructive criticism on their portfolios, and CC me on the feedback message.

On 2/25, we’ll talk about power and privilege.

In light of the snow days and the resulting need to truncate the semester, I’ve changed the readings a bit.

For “All men are created equal…” Power and privilege (2/25) please read:

Excerpts from Hobbes, Leviathan (the syllabus says chapter 21; these excerpts are from other parts of the same book)

Excerpts from Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy, “Whence comes the power?”

Excerpts from Charles Mills, The Racial Contract

Excerpts from bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

We will not meet this Monday, because it is a holiday.

On Wednesday, 2/18, we will meet as usual, and engage with problems associated with the mind and the self.  Please read the appropriate two chapters from Think (“Mind” and “The Self”) along with:

Wittgenstein, The Diary and The Beetle in the Box

Borges, Borges and I

You can also find hard copies of these outside my office, B-300K.

Since we had a snow day Monday, we will be addressing the moral philosophy content tomorrow (Wednesday).  We’ll start the knowledge stuff next Monday, barring further blizzarding.