Philosophy 201-02,  201-06 Office Hours in RH-436   (445-4489) 
Philosophical Perspectives       MWF 9:30 a.m. - 10:20 a.m.
on the Human Situation, Fall 2002  and by appointment.
Prof. Michael Kagan  Email:

Course Objectives
(1) to confront a variety of philosophically important responses to fundamental questions concerning the human situation, such as, "who am I?", "what ought I do?", "what can I hope?", "what is wo/man?" (responses reflected in Western and non-Western thought since 1650);
(2) to develop our sensitivity to issues of gender and race as they bear on our varied understandings of the human situation;
(3) to develop and defend our own philosophical perspectives.

Required Texts
Ernest Becker's The Birth and Death of Meaning
Martin Buber's I and Thou.
Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
Sigmund Freud's, The Future of an Illusion,
Huston Smith's, The World's Religions
There will be readings on reserve in the library, as indicated in the syllabus and class discussions.

Texts on Reserve
Michael Kagan, Educating Heroes, Durango, Colorado, Hollowbrook Publishing Company, 1994.
Mary Briody Mahowald (editor), Philosophy of Woman, An Anthology of Classic and Current Concepts, second edition, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983.

Thinking through ideas introduced by means of the traditional philosophical methods of talking, reading, talking, writing and re-writing.

Course Requirements
A) Carefully read the assigned texts, trying to answer the following general reading questions:
1. What problem is bothering this writer?
2. Why is it important?
3. What has this writer experienced?
4. What is this writer's response to this problem?
5. How, if at all, does the writer argue for this response?
6. What are the virtues and defects of this writer's argument and response?
B) Be prepared to talk about the readings in class.
C) Be prepared to answer questions about the readings on the quizzes, midterm and final.
EXAMS: Exam question formats may include "fill-in-the-blank," multiple choice," "true/false and why," and "short answer,"  and essay.
THERE ALSO ARE "POP QUIZZES." Students who have taken quizzes and received a score of 'C' or better may use their pop-quiz average instead of taking the following exam. Quizzes taken before the midterm can be applied only to the midterm exam; quizzes taken after the midterm can be applied only to the final.

The exams will each count for 25% of your grade;  the quiz average counts for another 25%;. participation  is 25%. 

Grades are based on a 10 point scale as follows:
90-100 - 'A' range (97-100 = A+; 94-96=A; 90-93=A-).
80-89  - 'B' range (87-89 = B+; 84-86=B; 80-83=B-).
70-79  - 'C' range (77-79 = C+; 74-76=C; 70-73=C-).
60-69  - 'D' range (67-69 = D+; 64-66=D; 60-63=D-).
Below 60 - 'F'.


In coordination with the Academic Support Center (ASC), reasonable accommodations are provided for qualified students with disabilities. Please register with the ASC Office for disability verification and determination of reasonable accommodations. After receiving your accommodation form from the ASC, you will need to make an appointment with me to review the form and discuss your needs. Please make every attempt to meet with me within the first week of class so your accommodations can be provided in a timely manner. You can either stop by the ASC, Library, 1st floor, or call (445-4118-voice or 445-4104-TDD) to make an appointment.

No classes on the following dates: Sep. 2 (Labor Day), Mon., Sep. 16 (Yom Kippur), Oct. 14 - Oct. 15 (Fall Break) and Nov. 27-30 (Thanksgiving Break).
Midterm,  WED., OCT. 16.
Sep. 11  (Mass of the Holy Spirit, we will have class, since classes won't be cancelled except for those between 3:30 and 6 pm)
LAST DAY OF CLASS - December 9.


Between People and the Ultimate: Buber & the Tao

Week 1 (of Aug. 26) Introduction; read Smith, introductory material and ch. 1. Read Smith, ch. 5, on Taoism.
Week 2 (of Sep. 2) Read I and Thou.
Week 3 (of Sep. 9) Buber & the Tao, continued.

Finitude, Freedom, and the Infinite
: Buddha, Freud and Skinner diagnose and prescribe for the human condition
Week 4 (of Sep. 16) Read Smith, ch. 3, on Buddhism.
Week 5 (of Sep. 23) Read Freud, Future of an Illusion.
Week 6 (of Sep. 30) Read Kagan on-line material on Skinner.
Week 7 (of Oct. 7) Freud and Skinner's critique of religion.

Human goodness and human evil, humanity as an ideal or as a fragile compromise
: Confucius and Becker.

Week 8 (of Oct. 14) Read Smith, ch. 4, on Confucianism. No classes Oct.14, long weekend.
Week 9 (of Oct. 21) Read Becker's The Birth and Death of Meaning.
Week 10 (of Oct. 28) Some implications of Confucius and Becker. Read Educating Heroes (on reserve in library), ch. 6, "Educating Heroes for the Moral Equivalent of War."

Caste and Community: Women and Men
: Sexism, non-dualistic Vedanta and Butler's Parable.
Week 11 (of Nov. 4) Read Smith, ch. 2, on Hinduism.
Week 12 (of Nov. 11) Read Butler's Parable of the Sower.
Week 13 (of Nov. 18) Read de Beauvoir selection from "The Second Sex" in Mahowald, pp. 80- 99. Read Mahowald, pp. 302-335, S. Freud, C. Jung, and K. Horney selections on feminine psychology.
Weeks 14-15 (of Nov. 25 & of Dec. 2) Read Trebilcot and Wollstonecraft selections in Part VI of Mahowald, pp. 376-384, pp. 203-220.  
Note: no classes Nov. 27-30 (Thanksgiving Break).  Dec.2 , Evaluations.,
Dec. 9 is last day of class. TBA

PHL 201-02 MWF 10:30  RH440  Mon., Dec.  16 from   9-10:30 AM
PHL 201-06 MWF 11:30  RH440  Fri.,   Dec. 13  from 9-10:30 AM
Some course related links
Back to M. Kagan's home page (

Materials and links for PHL 201 (