Phil 107 F15: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 107: Reflections on Human Nature

Fall 2015

CRN 82310 TTH 5-6:25 PM Location: H-104

Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: By appointment

Course Objectives: This course explores the issues and problems exemplified in process of meaningful philosophical activity relating to the topic of human nature. Studies in this course survey representative theories and philosophical reflections relating to the notions of human nature, the individual person, and human characteristics in general. Material for this survey may be drawn from classical and contemporary thinkers; scientific and religious orientations. Students are encouraged to engage in independent research, analysis and formulation.

SLO's: This course has the following Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the major philosophical issues and their contemporary critiques that continue to apply to a wide variety of human endeavors.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to evaluate philosophical positions critically and systematically.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding some of the diverse assumptions and values that shape our experiences and attitudes.

Texts: This course has one required and one recommended text. The required text is:

The Study of Human Nature: A Reader 2nd Edition. Edited by Leslie Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2000.

 The recommended text is:

Twelve Theories of Human Nature 6th Edition. Leslie Stevenson, David L. Haberman, and Peter Matthews Wright. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Schedule: All readings can be found in The Study of Human Nature: A Reader 2nd Edition. Page numbers refer to this edition. Reading assignments are subject to change and are expected to be completed for the day on which they are assigned.

Week 1

Tuesday, August 25: Introduction
Homework: Identify two similarities and two differences between the two origin stories presented in the Book of Genesis. 

Thursday, August 27: The Old Testament, pp. 1-8.

Week 2

September 1: Hinduism, pp. 9-21.
Homework: According to Hinduism, what accounts for all the diversity of life we observe in the world?

September 3: Extra Day
Homework: Write a 1-2 page paper answering the following question: "In your opinion, are humans fundamentally good or fundamentally evil? That is, absent any kind of social or governmental order will humans do the right thing or will they commit evil?"

Week 3

September 8: Confucianism, pp. 22-33.
Homework: Briefly explain one of the arguments made by Mencius that human nature is fundamentally good, and one of the arguments by Hsun-tzu that human nature is fundamentally evil. 

September 10: Confucianism Continued
Homework: Explain Plato's Allegory of the Cave (a picture is acceptable). What conclusions does Plato want us to draw from this Allegory?

Week 4

September 15:  Plato, pp. 34-55.

September 17: NO CLASS!!

Week 5

September 22: Continue Plato

September 24: Watch Film in class, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Week 6

September 29: Review

October 1: Exam 1

Week 7

October 6: Descartes, pp. 84-97.
Homework: On pages 87-88 Descartes gives two arguments in support of the claim that, "we can also know the difference between man and beast." Explain these two arguments in 1-2 pages. 

October 8: Descartes and Turing

Week 8

October 13: Hobbes, pp. 90-97
Homework: In class we discussed three theories of freedom (Hard Determinism, Compatibalism, and Libertarianism). Which of these three do you agree with (or do you think they are all wrong)? Why? What is wrong with the theories you reject?

October 15: Hobbes continued
Homework: In your opinion, what are some of the advantages of an absolute monarchy? What are some of the disadvantages?

Week 9

October 20: Hobbes continuedIntroduction of Paper Topic
Homework: In your opinion, what allows you to identify your current self with your past self. That is, what allows you to look at a picture of yourself as a baby and say, "that is me?"

October 22: Hume, pp. 98-108

Week 10

October 27: Continue Hume
Homework: How does Sartre define Anguish, Abandonment, and Despair?

October 29:  Sartre, pp. 185-206, Thesis Statement Due.

Week 11

November 3: Darwin, pp. 162-168.

November 5: In-Class Peer Editing (Bring two copies of a draft of your paper to class); Darwin Continued

Week 12

November 10: Watch Film in Class: Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (1999)

November 12: Discuss Film, Essay Due

Week 13

November 17: Review for Exam

November 19: Exam 2

Week 14

November 24: NO CLASS!! Thanksgiving

November 26: NO CLASS!! Thanksgiving

Week 15

December 1: Watch Film in Class

December 3: Continue Film; Please read through the following two articles for our discussion: Download  Download

Week 16

December 8: The Post-Human

December 10: The Post-Human Continued

Week 17

December 15: Final Review

December 17: Final Exam

: Your grade in the course will be based on your performance on four types of assignments:

  • 20% Exam 1
  • 20% Exam 2
  • 20% Final Exam
  • 20% Weekly Quizzes: Almost every week there will be a quiz at the beginning of class on the material we covered the previous week. These quizzes cannot be made-up if missed.
  • 10% Class Participation: This is based on attendance and participation in class activities as well as homework. Student who are very tardy or who leave early will be considered absent.
  • 10% Essay: Due November 6. In addition to the final draft, there are a number of pre-writing assignments. These will be ungraded, but failure to complete them will result in an F on the essay. More details on this assignment will be announced in class.
Grade Scale:

        ≥ 90 = A
        ≥ 80 = B
        ≥ 70 = C
        ≥ 60 = D
        < 60 = F

Student Responsibility to Drop/Withdraw
: It is the student’s responsibility to officially add, drop, or withdraw from the course stated in the class schedule. Failure to do so can result in a failing grade.

Attendance: During the first two weeks of class, students will be dropped for any absence. Starting during the third week, students may be dropped for missing two classes. In addition, students who arrive unreasonably late or leave unreasonably early will be marked absent.

Professionalism: It is assumed that students will conduct themselves in a professional manner with a positive attitude. An open mind is one of the most important tools required for success in academia. If a student is negative and feels as is there is nothing of value to be gained by the college experience or this course, he or she will not do well in this course.

Academic Integrity and Conduct: Mesa College students are bound by the Student Code of Conduct, Policy 3100.  In this course, cheating, plagiarism, disruptions of instructional activity, fraud and/or lying will result in, at a minimum, a grade of “F” for the assignment/test with no make up permitted.  Any of these infractions may result in an “F” for the course as well and formal disciplinary action by the Dean of Student Affairs as described in the code (as published in the catalog or online).

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and DSPS. DSPS can be found at or they can be contacted by phone at 619-388-7312.

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TIPS FOR SUCCESS IN THIS COURSE (Thanks to Professor June Yang):

  1. Be optimistic about your ability to learn from the textbook, the instructor, and each other.
  2. Do all homework and all the readings. The homework will be collected every time, and spot-checked, and the readings will help you understand the course material.
  3. Be prepared to spend time outside of class working on class material, doing readings, homework, preparing for quizzes and exams, etc.
  4. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  5. Remember that you are gifted with more education and intelligence than many persons on this planet. If you try, you are sure to get it, or at least most of it!