Archives for the month of: February, 2016


For our week on God and Good and Evil (March 7 and March 9), please read:

Think, chapter 6 (your textbook).

J.L. Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence OR Richard Swinburne, Why God Allows Evil  (choose either Mackie or Swinburne)

AND for Wednesday (read both of these two no matter which of the two above readings you choose):

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Resisting Structural Evil, “Structural Injustice as Structural Sin”.

Pope Francis’ New Year Homily (January 1, 2016)


On this coming Monday (February 29) please bring two printed copies of your first response paper.  Remember, for this paper, you must choose one of the readings (not Think, instead choose one of the other readings, such as one of the handouts).  You must write a 300-500 paper where you briefly summarize the reading you chose and then respond to it.  You might agree, or disagree, or otherwise comment on the reading you chose and engage with it.  In an earlier post on this blog are the readings for Power and Privilege, which we will talk about on February 29 and March 2, so you should do the readings ahead of time to be prepared.

If you missed our class last Monday (February 22) you should follow the steps in this handout to create your e-portfolio.

Here are the guidelines for the final project.


Important dates:

The first conferences take place during the week of March 21.

The proposal is due by email on March 25.

The second conferences take place during the week of April 11.

The presentations take place April 25-May 4.

The project is due by email on May 9.

Today, we will discuss the mind and the self.  You’ll have read the excerpts by Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jorge Luis Borges for today, as well as two chapters from Think.

In class, we might watch some or all of these videos:

Nick Bostrom, What happens when our computers get smarter than we are?

Julian Baggini, Is there a real you?

John Searle’s Chinese Room Experiment (from 60-second adventures in thought)


I’ll also distribute this handout, from The Questions of King Milinda (from approximately 100 BCE) and we will discuss it briefly.


Remember, on Monday (2/29) we will have our writing workshop on your response papers.  You must bring in two printed copies of your first response paper.  We will work on them together in class, in pairs and small groups.  This will be intended to provide you some suggestions for ways to improve your work.

Here are the readings for our unit on power and privilege, which begins next week.  Please read these by Monday, just in case we have time to talk about them after our writing workshop.  No chapter of Think (our textbook) applies to this unit.

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

Johnson, Privilege, Power, and Difference excerpts

bell hooks, Feminism is for everybody excerpts

Excerpts on whiteness and invisibility

Today, we’re going to talk about epistemic injustice and epistemicide.  These are dynamics of knowledge and power.  This discussion will build on what we’ve already learned about knowledge.  You’ve read the short paper by Miranda Fricker and the excerpt from Another Knowledge is Possible in preparation for today.

In October 2015, Coby Burren and his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, exposed a geography textbook that described enslaved Africans as “workers” brought to the United States, with no mention of enslavement.  This is the video she posted.  We might watch it in class today.

We will probably talk at least a little about cultural capital, a concept articulated by Pierre Bourdieu.  Most likely we’ll talk about it as it relates to class. Here is a quote from a book called Limbo by Michael Lubrano.  In this book, Lubrano talks about the “straddlers,” people who transition from working class to middle class, often through a college education.  He discusses the adjustments and experiences the “straddlers” have in life:

“Regardless, if you come from the working class, you haven’t got a clue how to conduct yourself when you first land in an office. You’re lost if you can’t navigate the landscape – if you follow blue-collar mores and speak your mind, directly challenging authority. Without tact and subtlety, without the ability to practice politics amongst the cubicles, an executive with a blue-collar background will not rise. And it’s a drag watching others get promoted over you.

Language, too, is a sticking point – both what you say and how you say it. If the work environment is particularly sterile, cold, distant, and austere, then anything more than a mild giggle at a tasteful joke will raise eyebrows. And it’s no secret that on-the-rise types solicit help from speech experts to bury Southern accents, Brooklyn accents, and any other perceived verbal barbarisms that would offend the ears of a genteel corporate listener. Along with sound, the right picture is imperative. Clothes, then, become vital for the proper office portrait. Straddlers swathed in polyester from birth, or simply unacquainted with the standard-issue Brooks Brothers uniform, report being taken aside by higher-ups and literally told how to dress.”

Today, we’re going to do part 1 of our unit on knowledge.

We’ll watch this video on Descartes.

Then, we’ll split into groups and summarize and analyze Descartes’ and Berkeley’s works.  Here is the handout I will distribute in class to help us with that exercise.

We will not have class on Monday, due to the holiday.

On Wednesday, we will pick up the second part of our unit on knowledge.  Descartes said he wasn’t concerned with action, only with knowledge.  But are knowledge and action separable?  Miranda Fricker and the authors of Another Knowledge is Possible don’t seem to think so.  What do you think?

Yesterday, the College was closed due to a snowstorm.  As a result we missed our class.  I’ve made some revisions to our schedule for the next few weeks to accommodate it.  I’ve edited the syllabus that is online (accessible in an earlier post on this site) to reflect these changes, and I’ve also copied and pasted the revision below.

Week 4: (2/8 and 2/10): How do you know?  How is knowledge produced and constructed?

MONDAY: Snow day!

WEDNESDAY: Some philosophical perspectives on knowing and doubt.

Please read before Wednesday:

Knowing (Chapter 1 of Blackburn, Think)

Excerpts from Descartes’ First Meditation and excerpts from Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge

(Pronunciations: Descartes=Day-kart, Berkeley=Bark-lee)

Week 5 (2/15 and 2/17): Epistemology continued

Monday: NO CLASS due to Presidents’ Day

Wednesday: Epistemic justice and injustice

Miranda Fricker Precis paper on Epistemic Injustice ; excerpts from Boaventura de Sousa Santos et al, Another Knowledge is Possible

OPTIONAL: If you like, you may listen to an interview with Miranda Fricker, discussing her work on epistemic injustice: (about 15 minutes–you can download it as an MP3)


Week 6 (2/22 and 2/24) : Building capacities/Mind and self

MONDAY: e-portfolio work day in E-230–learn about e-portfolio as it is used in our course, and spend some hands-on time working on your portfolio and doing some self-fashioning!

WEDNESDAY: Mind and self  

Perspectives on identity, the self, the mind, and consciousness.

Chapters 2 and 4 of Blackburn, Think.  Chapter 2 is about the mind, chapter 4 is about the self.  Please also read  Ludwig Wittgenstein, “The Diary and The Beetle in the Box” and Jorge Luis Borges, “Borges and I”.

Handed out in class: excerpt from The Questions of King Milinda.


Week 7 (2/29 and 3/2):  Building capacities/Power and privilege

MONDAY: Writing workshop!  Be ready to work together to develop skills to succeed in the response papers and other writing in the course!  Bring a draft of a response paper from the weeks we have done so far and we will work together on it in class.
READ BEFORE MONDAY: Lao Tzu, excerpt from Tao Te Ching, Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex,” bell hooks, excerpts from Feminism is for Everybody, excerpts on whiteness and invisibility (Yancy, Ahmed, Ellison, et al.)

MONDAY AND WEDNESDAY: Power and privilege discussions

Today in class, we will continue to practice asking “Why?” and inquiring into our values and convictions about right and wrong.  We will consider Kwame Anthony Appiah’s article “What will future generations condemn us for?”  We will also watch this short excerpt from an interview with Appiah, talking in more depth about some of the issues discussed in the article.  We will spend time working with the issues that you think future generations will condemn us for, and our in-class activities will be intended to help you to refine your ideas about what you think future generations will condemn us for.