Philosophy 403  Office Hours in RH-436   (445-4489) 
Heroism and the Human Spirit  MWF: 11:30 AM -12:20 PM 
Philosophy Seminar   and by appointment
Fall, 2000 Phone:  445-4489 
Prof.  Michael Kagan Email:
Goal: The main purpose of this course is to provide students with an opportunity to develop their own answers to the question, "What makes a person great?" It is hoped that giving students a chance to address this problem while seeing its inter-connections with fundamental philosophical issues will help them integrate their heroic visions into their own philosophies of human existence and/or philosophic religious faith.

Requirements and Grading

  1. 25% of the grade is based on participation, in-class writings, and the optional journal and other optional writing assignments.  Since you are not participating when you don't attend class, you will need to make up any absences with extra-credit assignments and journalling.
  2. 25% of the grade is based on the presentation on the readings.
  3. 25%  for the five short writing assignments (the grade will be the average of the best four out of five).
  4. 25% is determined by the project and its presentation.
Failure to complete any of (1)-(4) can result in a failing grade. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade.

ABOUT THE  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS: You are to select and complete five of the eight short writing assignments.  A reading  question is given along with each assignment.  Unless otherwise indicated, please answer the reading question in less than one TYPED page (all assignments, except in-class writings, are to be typed). Make sure you are working with the current version of this syllabus [for Fall 2000].

Required Reading List: (in approximate reading order)

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York:
King, Stephen. Different Seasons (also published as Shawshank Redemption).
Rand, Ayn. Anthem.
Butler, Octavia E. Bloodchild and Other Stories.
Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Plato, Symposium.


In coordination with the Academic Support Center (ASC), reasonable accommodations are provided for qualified students with disabilities. Please register with Anne Herron in 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 with Ms. Herron.

No Classes on the Following dates: Sep. 4 (Labor Day), Sep. 6  (Mass of the Holy Spirit preempts classes from 10:20 - 1:30)),   Oct. 7 - Oct. 10 (Long Weekend), and Nov. 22-26 (Thanksgiving Break).
LAST DAY OF CLASS - December 11


All students are expected to do all readings and to share their understanding with one another in class discussions and by leading their own and participating in other students' presentations on the various readings. Student presentations on readings begin the second week of class, and will be scheduled during the first week. The subtopics will be divided up into student groups whose size will be determined by the class size.

Remember: You have less than an hour to present. Focus on the aspects your group finds most interesting and important. Do not try to cover everything. Your presentation will be improved if you make it easier for others to participate. (Please try to help others' presentations by participating!) Please feel free to meet with me to discuss your presentations. If you don't find me on campus, feel free to call me at home before 8:00 PM. YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE A VOICE MAIL MESSAGE AT 445-4489.

THE PROJECT might involve further investigating the issue of human greatness and heroism, a philosophical essay concerning some related issue of philosophical interest in a work of literature, a creative literary work of the student's own [e.g., a short story, 1st chapter of a novel, & c.], or a philosophical analysis of some related issue present in one of the works we studied, detailing the position[s] set forth in the work, and developing and defending one's own philosophical response.


#1 (Mon., Aug. 28) Introduce course, choose groups and schedule presentations on readings.
#2 (Wed., Aug. 30) -- In-class writing on childhood heroes.
#3 (Fri., Sep. 1) Discussion of heroic scripting.
No Class Sep. 4  (Labor Day) Sep. 6  (Mass of the Holy Spirit preempts classes from 10:20 - 1:30)
#4 (Fri., Sep. 8) Instructor presents on "The Porcelain Salamander."  Group work on "The Porcelain Salamander."
*#5 (Mon., Sep. 11)  Students present on Toni Morrison's The Bluest EyeSHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Who, by the end of  the The Bluest Eye seems to have the best understanding of what has happened?
#6 (Fri., Sep. 15)    Instructor presents on "The Best Day."  Self-deception and bad faith.
* #7 (Mon., Sep. 18) Students present on Night. SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Who do you think risked the most in Night? Why?
#8 (Wed., Sep. 20)  Instructor presents on anthropodicy and theodicy.
*#9 (Fri., Sep. 22). SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE: What do these children expect from their lives? Why? Students present on Stephen King's "The Body" (in Different Seasons).
#10 (Mon., Sep. 25) Instructor present's on Rand's philosophy.
* #11 (Wed., Sep. 27)  Students present on Anthem. SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE:  In the world Rand describes, one's career is chosen by others at an early age - How does the book's hero resist this choice? Does our society also put some in a position that will keep them from hurting the status quo? If so, how so? If not, why not?
#12  (Fri., Sep/ 29)  Lecture on problem of personal identity.
* #13 (Mon., Oct. 2)  Short writing assignment due:  Students present on Octavia Butler's  "The Evening and the Morning, and the Night" (in the Bloodchild anthology) . SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT: What do the different people in this story want to do?  What opposes them?  Please explain, using examples from the story.
#14 (Wed., Oct. 4)  Lecture on "Becker, Childhood, and Scary Stories"
#15 ( Fri., Oct. 6) Instructor presents one way of reading King (and others).
Oct. 7 - Oct. 10 No Classes (Long Weekend)
* #16 ( Wed., Oct. 11) Students present on Stephen King's "The Breathing Method" (in Different Seasons). SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE: What is most frightening in this story?   Why?
#17 (Fri., Oct. 13) Instructor presents on Heroic Myths (Campbell and Raffa) and the twice born.
* #18 (Mon., Oct. 16) SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE: In the world Malcolm X describes, one's career is chosen by others at an early age - How do the book's heroes resist this choice? What can we learn from this? Students present on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
#19 ( Wed., Oct. 18) Group work on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
#20 (Fri., Oct. 20) --Lecture on racism and deception. SCHEDULE PROJECT PRESENTATIONS.
* #21 (Mon., Oct. 23). TWO PART SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE: Part 1: Write a brief (about one page) description of a friend or a brief story in which biological sex and social gender characteristics are not stated and cannot be inferred. Part 2: Who, in the Symposium do you think says the most interesting things about love?  Why?  Note:  for this assignment, the page limit is 3 TYPED pages.  Students present on Symposium.
#22  (Wed., Oct. 25)  Lecture on "Sex and Gender."
#23 -(Fri., Oct. 27)  In-class writing exercise on future autobiography.
#24 (Mon.,  Oct. 30) -Lecture on "Possibilities and Practice: The Heroic Task and Self Education."
#25  (Wed.  Nov. 1) - Buber's hasidut and Rebbe Nachman's "The Turkey Prince."  (includes group work on Rebbe Nachman's story).
# 26  (Fri., Nov. 3) Instructor presentation on "Middle Woman" or "Gert Fram."
#27   (Mon. Nov. 6)  Bring Bloodchild to class.  Presentation on "Positive Obsession" or "Furor Scribendi."
#28 (Wed., November 8 through Friday, December 8)  Student presentations on projects (these are to be between 20 and 50 minutes in length, depending on the size of the class, and the number of students presenting). These will continue until the end of semester. Students who are unable to do their individual presentations at the scheduled time will need to schedule a make-up presentation.
No classes Nov. 22-26 (Thanksgiving Break).
Fri., December 8. Final Evaluations.
Mon., December 11, Make-up presentations. LAST DAY OF CLASS.

Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and the Last Great Lesson.
Alexie, Sherman.  The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.  (The movie "Smoke Signals" is based on this.)
Becker, Ernest. The Birth and Death of Meaning, The Denial of Death, and other works.
Belenky, et al. Women's Ways of Knowing.
Berne, Eric.  What Do You Say After You Say Hello? - The Psychology of Human Destiny, and other works.
Brown, Claude. Manchild in the Promised Land.
Brown, Christy.  My Left Foot.
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Cordelia's Honor, and other works.
Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower, and other works.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Second ed.
Card, Orson Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game, and other works.
Chandler, Raymond. The Simple Art of Murder, and other works.
Cross, Amanda. Death in a Tenured Position, and other works.
Davies, Robertson. The Deptford Trilogy : Fifth Business/the Manticore/World of Wonders, and other works.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Notes from the Underground, "The Crocodile," and other works.
Elgin, Suzette Haden. Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense and other works.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.
Frankl, Viktor. Man's Search for Meaning. Pocket Books Washington Square Press printing, 1985.
Friedman, C.S.  This Alien Shore, and other works..
Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.
Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development.
Gilman, Dorothy The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, Tightrope Walker, Incident at Badamya, and other works.
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride.
Hammett, Dashiel. The Maltese Falcon (the book and the movie). You should look at his other novels as well.
Hargrove, Anne C. Getting Better: Conversations with myself and other friends while healing from breast cancer.
Heinlein, R. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Citizen of the Galaxy, Double Star and other works.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha, The Journey to the East, The Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf, and other works.
Hoeg, Peter. Smilla's Sense of Snow, Borderliners.
Howatch, Susan. Glamorous Powers, and other works.
Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp.
Kafka, Franz. "Penal Colony," "Hunger Artist," The Trial, The Castle, and other works.
Kagan, Michael .  Educating Heroes (Durango, Colorado:  Hollowbrook, 1994.
Kamenetz, Rodger. The Jew in the Lotus : A Poet's Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India, and Stalking Elijah:  Adventures with Today's Jewish Mystical Masters.
Kaye, Ronnie. Spinning Straw into Gold.
King, Stephen.  The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonHearts in Atlantis, Bag of Bones, and other works.
Kress, Nancy. Beggars in Spain, Maximum Light.
Leonard, George.  Mastery (New York:  Penguin/Plume, 1992).
Lowry, Dave. Autumn Lightning.
Le Guin, Ursula K. Left Hand of Darkness, The Lathe of Heaven, The Dispossessed, and other works.
Levine, Gail Carson.  Ella Enchanted.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon, and other works.
Morrow, James.  Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and other works.
Noddings, Nel. Caring.
McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.
Oates, J. C. On Boxing.
Plato.  The Republic, and other works.
Polster, Miriam F. Eve's Daughters : The Forbidden Heroism of Women.
Pullman, Philip.  The Golden Compass (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1996).
Raffa, Jean Benedict. The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth.
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness.
Rollin, B. First, You Cry.
Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Russell, Mary Doria. The Sparrow, and Children of God.
Salmonson, Jessica Amanda. A Silver Thread of Madness, and other works.
Sapphire.  Push:  A Novel.
Silverberg, Robert. Lord Valentine's Castle.
Steiner, Claude M. Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts.
Suzuki, D.T. Zen and Japanese Culture.
Sturgeon, Theodore. More than Human, and other works.
Scriptures, religious tales and teachings of interest to the student, from a variety of traditions (including, but not limited to, African, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, Taoist, Vedic.)
Tan, Amy.  The Joy Luck Club.
Tolstoy, Leo. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and other works.
Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt. Mother Night,Slaughterhouse Five, and other works.
Walker, Alice.  The Color Purple.
Wachowski, Andy and Larry.  The Matrix.
Wiesel, Elie. Dawn, The Accident, and other works.
Willis, Connie.  Lincoln's Dreams, Doomsday Book, Bellwether, Remake.
Yoshikawa. Musashi.
Zettel,  Sarah. Fool's War.

Some of this page's links:

  1. PHL 403, Heroism and the Human Spirit Fall 2000 syllabus:
  2. Other materials for PHL 403:
  3. Back to Kagan's Homepage:
  4. Academic Support Center: