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Philosophy of Nature and the Human Person

Philosophy of Nature and the Human Person
Phil 1311

Instructor of Record: Dr. David Squires
Office and Hours: by appointment

Course Description

What in the world is philosophy?  And who are you, human being, to ask?  Stick around, and, hopefully, we’ll discover not only interesting, but accurate answers to these questions.  This course is both introductory and topic-specific.  As an introduction, the course will familiarize you with philosophical argumentation and the written work of influential philosophers, as well as provide a narrative of the development of philosophy from ancient times to contemporary.  As topic-specific, the course will explore the subjects of nature and the human person.  Are human beings bodies or do they have bodies?  Does the soul exist, and, if so, what is it?  What makes human beings different from other animals?  Can any animal survive death?  What exactly are the senses and how do they work?  How do they differ from imagination, will, and thought?  What sorts of necessities are involved in being human and in what sense can we say that we are free?  What is human happiness and virtue, and why bother to live a virtuous life?  All of these questions and more will be discussed in this course.  Not everything we will read will have nature or the human person as its immediate subject, but everything we will read will have some important connection to it.  One of our tasks will be to discuss what exactly those connections are.  Hopefully, we will not only gain in knowledge of the history of philosophy in this course, but also in human wisdom.  The English word “philosophy” is from the Greek word “φιλοσοφία”—“the love of wisdom.”   At the very least, I hope to lead you to possess a little bit of that love—to develop a taste for thinking carefully, for questioning things that have always seemed obvious to you, and for imagining different possibilities.  Or, if we should not settle for the very least, I hope to reveal some very important questions to you, and, just maybe, to discover some satisfying answers to them.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will learn or review the basics of deductive reasoning.
  2. Students will learn the doctrines of hylomorphism and nature in the Aristotelian tradition.
  3. Students will learn the essence of the human person and the incorruptibility of the human soul in the Aristotelian tradition, as well as contrast the Aristotelian view of the human person with competing views, especially materialism and dualism.
  4. Students will learn the powers of the human person, including the exterior and interior senses, the intellectual powers, and the the appetitive powers, with an eye to the freedom of the will in the perfection of the human person.
  5. Students will lay the ontological groundwork for the further study of ethics by investigating happiness and its relationship to virtue as understood in the Aristotelian tradition.

Required Texts

Plato: Five Dialogues (2nd Edition). Trans., G.M.A. Grube.  Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (2002).  ISBN13: 978-0872206335

All other reading materials–marked with an *–are available for download on the Schedule found at the bottom of this Syllabus.

Assignments and Academic Policies

Tests: There will be three tests over the course of the semester–scored out of 100–where each exam counts for 25% of the final grade.  These will consist of questions asking for definitions as well as questions asking for short essay responses.  Test answers are graded for substance (understanding the prompt, answering the prompt, producing good arguments, etc.), as well as for the quality of writing (spelling, grammar, usage, organization, style, etc.).  Illegible test submissions will receive a failing grade.  I will provide study guides on Black Board prior to each exam.  Exams cannot be made up except for a university excused absence.  Missed exams will receive a score of zero.  Test #3 for this class is a cumulative Final Exam, i.e. an exam which may contain questions from any material covered in the course.

Participation: This class invites the free participation of students, either by way of a raised hand or a respectful interjection.  It will also include me calling upon students using the attendance roster.  Students should be prepared to discuss the assigned reading in the context of a guided lecture.  More participation and better quality participation will result in a higher participation score, while being unprepared for discussion will lead to a lower score.  A-range grades for participation will be reserved for those who show a sustained pattern of thoughtful, insightful participation over the course of the semester, while D and F range grades will be reserved for those who show a pattern of being unprepared for discussion.  I will keep track of participation scores by privately rating individual student efforts as unsatisfactory, satisfactory, or good.

Summary and Rubric: Tests count for 75% of your grade (25% each) and participation counts for 25%.

A         93 – 100
A-        90 – 92.99
B+       87 – 89.99
B         83 – 86.99
B-        80 – 82.99
C+       77 – 79.99
C         73 – 76.99
C-        70 – 72.99
D+       67 – 69.99
D         60 – 66.99
F          0 – 59.99

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to comply with the University of St. Thomas’s Academic Integrity policy (A.02.11).  The penalty for cheating or plagiarism on any assignment in this class is an F for the entire course.  Be careful to know the definition of plagiarism and avoid all forms of it, including word for word copying of others’ work or merely syntactically or terminologically altering others’ work (e.g. plugging in a few different words into a paragraph written by someone else).  The use of AI technology in the service of completing assignments is not allowed and will be treated as cheating on an assignment.

Attendance Policy: Students are expected to attend class.  Attendance will be taken each day using numbered tokens.  Students must put their (and only their) token in the basket to mark themselves present.  Putting someone else’s token in the basket will be counted as cheating on the participation score, and will result in failing the entire course, so don’t do it.  Failure to attend class will result in a lowered participation score.  Having three or more unexcused absences is grounds for failing the entire course.

Laptop and Mobile Device Policy: Laptops and Mobile devices should not be used during class.  The results are in: scientific studies show that screens mean less glean.  Science giveth the iPhone, and science taketh it away!  Note: I notice covert use of mobile devices in class.  If you’re on your mobile device in class, you will be given an unexcused absence for the day.  Recall that 3 or more unexcused absences are grounds for failing the entire course.

Recording Policy: Do not produce recordings of any kind (e.g. video, audio, etc.) of classroom lectures or discussions, unless you have written permission from the university and permission from me. If you are allowed to make recordings, do not put the content online, or you will be subject to university discipline.

Disabilities: If you have a disability that may require special assistance, please contact Access and Disability Services, which is located on the second floor of Crooker Center.  Their website and contact information can be found here.


Week 1:
Class 1 (1/18) Introduction to the Course; Argumentation: an Ongoing Discussion
Class 2 (1/20) Argumentation Cont.; Facts and Opinions

Week 2:
Class 4  (1/23) Plato: Euthyphro
Class 5 (1/25) Plato: Apology 17a-30b
Class 6 (1/27) Plato: Apology 30b-42a

Week 3:
Class 7 (1/30) Parmenides: Fragments* (.pdf)
Class 8 (2/1) Anaxagoras: Fragments and Testimonies* (.pdf)
Class 9 (2/3) Aristotle: Categories, Chapters 1-5* (.pdf)

Week 4:
Class 10 (2/6) Aristotle: Physics Book 1, Chapters 1-2* (.pdf)
Class 11 (2/8) Aristotle: Physics Book 1, Chapters 5-8* (.pdf)
Class 12 (2/10) Aristotle: Physics Book 2, Chapters 1, 3* (.pdf)

Week 5:
Class 13 (2/13) Aristotle: Physics Book 2, Chapters 4-6* (.pdf)
Class 14 (2/15) Aristotle: Physics Book 2, Chapter 8* (.pdf)
Class 15 (2/17) Review Day

Week 6:
Class 16 (2/20) Plato: Test #1
Class 17 (2/22) Plato: Phaedo 57a-77a
Class 18 (2/24) Plato: Phaedo 77a-95a

Week 7:
Class 19 (2/27) Aristotle: Phaedo 95a-118a
Class 20 (3/1) Aristotle: De Anima, Book 1, Chapters 1-2* (.pdf)
Class 21 (3/3) Aristotle: De Anima, Book 2, Chapters 1-3* (.pdf)

Week 8:
Class 22 (3/6) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapters 1-5* (.pdf)
Class 23 (3/8) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapters 7-13* (.pdf)
Class 24 (3/10) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapters 1-7* (.pdf)

Week 9:

Spring Break 3/13-17

Week 10:
Class 25 (3/20) St. Anselm: On the Fall of the Devil Chapters 1-8* (.pdf)
Class 26 (3/22) St. Anselm: On the Fall of the Devil Chapters 9-16* (.pdf)
Class 27 (3/24) St. Anselm: On the Fall of the Devil Chapters 17-28* (.pdf)

Week 11:
Class 28 (3/27) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.75, prologue, A.1-3* (.pdf)
Class 29 (3/29) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.75, A.4, 6-7* (.pdf)
Class 30 (3/31) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.76, prologue, A.1, 8* (.pdf)

Week 12:
Class 31 (4/3) Review Day
Class 32 (4/5) Test #2

Easter Break 4/6-10

Week 13:

Class 35 (4/12) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.78, prologue, A.3-4* (.pdf)
Class 36 (4/14) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.79, prologue, A.2&3* (.pdf)

Week 14:
Class 37 (4/17) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.80, prologue, A.1-2* (.pdf)
Class 38 (4/19) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.81, prologue A.1-3* (.pdf)
Class 39 (4/21) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.82, prologue, A.1-4* (.pdf)

Week 15:
Class 41 (4/24) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae I, Q.83, prologue, A.1-3* (.pdf)
Class 42 (4/26) St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae 2-2, Q.64* (.pdf)
Class 43 (4/28) Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion* (.pdf)

Week 16:
Class 44 (5/1) Mary Warren: On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion* (.pdf)
Class 45 (5/3) Patrick Lee and Robert George: The Wrong of Abortion* (.pdf)
Class 46 (5/5) Review Day

Test #3, i.e. a Cumulative Final Exam: Time TBD