Archives for the month of: October, 2015

For class on November 9, please read:

Blackburn, Think, chapter 8

Excerpts from the Enchiridion by Epictetus

Excerpts from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Excerpts from various thinkers on grief and death

Remember, we will not have class on November 11, due to the Veterans’ Day holiday.


Please use this spreadsheet to sign up for your conference.  There are a few rules for this spreadsheet: please follow them.

1. Sign up for one spot and one spot only. If you change your mind, sign up for a new blank timeslot and remove your name from your old one.

2. Don’t steal someone else’s spot by deleting their name and typing yours in instead. If someone else has gotten to the timeslot you wanted before you did, that’s too bad, there are plenty of other timeslots available. If you really need a specific timeslot, sign up early!

3. Don’t create new timeslots! If you’re late to the party and you don’t find a timeslot you like, the solution is NOT to randomly create a new timeslot!

4. Don’t delete the breaks! You want your professor to be alert and attentive during your conference, right?

(Rules 2, 3, and 4 all relate to the problem of finding a timeslot. If you are having a lot of trouble finding an existing open timeslot that works for you, email me and let’s strategize.)

5. When it comes time for your conference, please wait in the hallway a few steps away from my office, near classrooms B-336 and B-337. This is for everyone’s privacy during the conference. Please try to arrive 5 minutes early, but don’t come directly to my office, because someone else is probably doing their conference. Just wait in the hallway and I’ll let you know when we’re ready to go. When you’re waiting, please wait quietly, in order to be kind to my office neighbors. If five minutes after your scheduled conference time have passed, (in other words, if you were scheduled for 4:30 and it’s now 4:35) please come and knock on my door and let me know you’re waiting.

Try to come to your conference with a few ideas for your final project.  Even if they’re vague or not too fully developed, coming in with a few ideas means that we can usually do much, much more productive work than we can if you come in without any ideas to share.

Happy conferencing!

Today, we’ll begin by considering this quote from the first page of Audre Lorde’s Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.

“We have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate.  But we have no matters for relating across our human differences as equal.  As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.
Certainly there are very real differences between us of race, age, and sex.  But it is not those differences between us that are separating us.  It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation.”
We will also discuss the final project, and practice asking good questions with reference to power and privilege.
You might be interested in this video:  We probably won’t watch it in class, and it’s entirely optional, but very compelling, in my view.

Dear philosophers,

I am sick today and cannot lead our class, so our class will not meet.  I apologize–I’d much rather be well and discussing power and privilege with you!  Please check in with any classmates whose phone numbers you have and make sure that they get this message.  Unless you hear otherwise from me, we will meet as usual on Wednesday, when we will talk about power and privilege and also discuss the final project.  I’m still reachable by email if you have any questions.

In Week 8, 10/26 and 10/28, we will consider questions of God and suffering.  Why is there evil in the world, and how do we cope with it?  This week engages principally with matters of theology.

For 10/26, Monday, please read ONE of the following (Mackie or Swinburne).  You may choose whichever you prefer.

Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence

Swinburne, Why God Allows Evil

For 10/28, Wednesday, please read BOTH of the following.

Excerpts from Gustavo Gutierrez, On Job

Excerpts from Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Resisting Structural Evil

For Wednesday, 10/14, please bring in two printed copies of a draft of one of your response papers, as discussed in class and in a previous post.

Monday, 10/19, will begin our week on power and privilege–social and political philosophy.  For Monday, 10/19, please read:

Lao Tzu, Excerpts from the Tao Te Ching

Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”

Excerpts on whiteness and invisibility

Excerpts from bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

Printed copies were distributed in class on 10/7, and are also available on the shelf outside my office, B-300K.

Don’t forget!  On Wednesday, 10/14, you should please bring in a draft of ONE of your response papers.  Bring in TWO printed copies of your draft.  That day, we will do a writing workshop, and you will give and receive peer critiques on the drafts.

Here are the guidelines for the response paper, copied from the syllabus.

You will select three of the readings we treat this semester in class and write a short (300-500 words) essay on each of them.  In your essay, you should summarize the reading and engage with it.  You might disagree and argue against the point of view of the author, or you might agree and build on the author’s perspective or apply it to a real-life situation or relate it to something else you have read/watched/listened to.  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.  (More about the e-portfolio below.)  Three are required, but you may do two additional papers for extra credit (so, five total).

Here are several examples of response papers from last semester’s students in Philosophy 101.  You might need to log in to Digication to see these, and then click the link here again once you have logged in. You can log in with your BHCC email address and password.  Their prompts were a little different from yours, but similar enough that these might still be good models.  You can see that there are a variety of good ways to approach these papers.  (This portfolio won the grand prize the college-wide e-portfolio contest last year!) (This portfolio won first prize in a category of the college-wide e-portfolio contest last year!)

Today, we’re going to engage with questions of the mind and of the self.

Phillippe Rahmy wrote a book-length poem, Movement Through the End, which addressed his experience with chronic intense pain.  Here is an excerpt from it:

I allow myself an injection whose power cannot break up the pain, but covers it with a skin that isolates me for a while in a body in which I can write
my infirmity, which is hereditary, dominates me. Thinking about it allows the illness to advance towards its completion. Suffering develops words, like a spirit created through the movements of the heavens

have you never waited for the angel of morning?

the bloody storm rips the ceiling away

my body is a splinter of glass. As I hear my bones breaking, I lose the power of sight and speech

my eyes fall to the bottom of my skull, my tongue swells, extending from my mouth. A frozen filament wraps itself around the ankles, another slices the legs, yet another strips the buttocks, the back, another and still another

a rain of barbed wire. Hanging from hundreds of hooks, my hands seek the memory of their gestures

I lean over to vomit, astonished to feel that my illness is on its last legs. Nothing comes, I swallow mud

I’m including this because pain (physical and otherwise) is one of those experiences that is exceptionally difficult to communicate to others, and/or to understand deeply when someone communicates their experience of pain to you.  As a result it is a good test case for some of the problems of the mind and the self.  Think about this in relation to the Wittgenstein readings (The Diary and The Beetle in the Box) for today, in particular.


Wednesday, our class meets in E-230, the e-portfolio lab.

Next Wednesday, 10/14, please bring a draft of one of your response papers to class for our writing workshop.