Philosophy 403, Syllabus for Spring 1997
Philosophy Seminar: Heroism and the Human Spirit, Prof. Michael Kagan.
Office Hours in RH-422: Tues. & Thurs.: 1:15-2:00
(andby appointment)

Goal: The major purpose of this course is to providestudents with an opportunity to develop their own answer to the focal question,"What makes a person great?" It is hoped that giving studentsa chance to address this problem while seeing its inter-connections withfundamental philosophical issues will help them integrate their own heroicvisions into their own philosophy of human existence and/or philosophicreligious faith.

Requirements: Requirements include regular attendanceand participation, and some significant project to be agreed upon in advance.Such a project might involve further investigating the issue of human greatnessand heroism, a philosophical essay concerning some related issue of philosophicalinterest in a work of literature, a creative literary work of the student'sown [e.g., a short story, 1st chapter of a novel, & c.], or a philosophicalanalysis of some related issue present in one of the works we studied,detailing the position[s] set forth in the work, and developing and defendingone's own philosophical response.

Evaluation: (1) 25% of the grade is based on participationand the optional journal and other optional writing assignments; (2) 25%of the grade is based on the presentation on the readings; (3) 25% on in-classessays and short writing assignments; (4) 25% is determined by the projectand its presentation. Excessive absences (more than five) or failure tocomplete any of (1)-(4) can result in a failing grade.

Required Reading List: (in approximate readingorder)

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York:

King, Steven. Different Seasons (also publishedas Shawshank Redemption).

Rand, Ayn. Anthem.

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five.

Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X. The Autobiographyof Malcolm X.

Plato, Symposium.


First Class: Jan 21 No classes Feb. 15-18, No ClassesMarch 24-31`



Last Class:--May 6.


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

Remember: You have less than an hour to present.Focus on the aspects your group finds most interesting and important. Donot try to cover everything. Your presentation will be improved if youmake it easier for others to participate. (Please try to help others' presentationsby 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 (637-0349)before 8:00 PM. YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE A VOICE MAIL MESSAGE AT 445-4489.


Week #1 (of Jan. 21)--Introduce course, choose groupsand schedule presentations on readings, in-class writing on childhood heroes.

*Week #2 (of Jan. 28)-On January 30, studentspresent on Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT(ALL SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS ARE DUE THE DATE OF THE RESPECTIVE STUDENTPRESENTATION): How are children treated in The Bluest Eye? Howdo they respond? How do you think their experience and their responsesaffect their lives?

*Week #3 (of Feb. 4)--SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT:How are children treated in Night? How do they respond? How do youthink their experience and their responses affect their lives? Feb 4, instructorpresents on "The Best Day," self-deception and bad faith.
Feb. 6, students present on Night

*Week #4 (of Feb. 11)--SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT:How are children treated in "The Body"? How do they respond?How do you think their experience and their responses affect their lives?Feb. 11: Students present on Steven King's "The Body" (in DifferentSeasons), group work on childhood heroics.

*Week #5 (of Feb 20.)--SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT:In the world Rand describes, one's career is chosen by others at an earlyage--How does the book's hero resist this choice? Does our society alsoput some in a position that will keep them from hurting the status quo?If so, how so? If not, why not? We will break into small groups and compareour responses to these questions. Feb 20: Students present on Anthem.Possible lecture on personal identity.

*Week #6 (of Feb. 25)--SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT:In Slaughterhouse Five, Why do you think Vonnegut wrote this book?Feb. 25: Students present on Slaughterhouse Five. Possible lectureon time and eternal recurrence --PROJECT PROPOSALS DUE FEBRUARY 27.

*Week #7 (of Mar. 4)--Lecture on "Becker, Childhood,and Scary Stories" Mar. 6: Students present on Steven King's "TheBreathing Method" (in Different Seasons). SHORT WRITINGASSIGNMENT: What kind of evil is the hero of this story resisting?How does she resist?

*Week # 8 (of Mar. 11)--SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT:In the world Malcolm X describes, one's career options are limited by othersat an early age--How does the book's hero resist this choice? Does oursociety also put some in a position that will keep them from hurting thestatus quo? If so, how so? If not, why not? We will break into small groupsand compare our responses to these questions. Mar. 13: Students presenton The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

*Week #9 (of Mar. 18)--Lecture on "Sex and Gender."SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a brief description of a friendor a brief story in which biological sex and social gender characteristicsare not stated and cannot be inferred; THEN describe one participants inthe Symposium, and explain how what the speaker loves relates tothe speaker's discussion of love. . Mar. 20: Students present on Symposium,group work on Symposium.

No Classes March 24-31.

Week 10: (of Apr. 1)--In-class writing exercise onfuture autobiography. Lecture on "Possibilities and Practice: TheHeroic Task and Self Education."

Weeks 11-14--Student presentations on projects begin(these are to be between 20 and 50 minutes in length). These will continueuntil the end of semester. Students who are unable to do their individualpresentations at the scheduled time will need to schedule a make-up presentationto be done at the regularly scheduled final exam time for these courses.





Becker, Ernest. The Birth and Death of Meaning,The Denial of Death, and other works.

Belenky, et al. Women's Ways of Knowing.

Brown, Claude. Manchild in the Promised Land.

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower, andother works.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.Second ed.

Card, Orson Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fictionof Orson Scott Card, and other works.

Chandler, Raymond. The Simple Art of Murder(and his novels).

Cross, Amanda. Death in a Tenured Position,and other works.

Davies, Robertson. The Cornish Trilogy: The RebelAngels/What's Bred in the Bone/the Lyre of Orpheus and The DeptfordTrilogy : Fifth Business/the Manticore/World of Wonders.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov,The Idiot, Notes from the Underground, "The Crocodile,"and other works.

Elgin, Suzette Haden. Native Tongue, TheJudas Rose, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense and otherworks.

Frankl, Viktor. Man's Search for Meaning.Pocket Books Washington Square Press printing, 1985.

Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craftfor Young Writers. New York: Random House Vintage Book edition, 1991.This work is strongly recommended to students interested in writing orexamining fiction as part of their final projects.

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: PsychologicalTheory and Women's Development.

Gilman, Dorothy The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax,Tightrope Walker, and other works.

Hammett, Dashiel. The Maltese Falcon (thebook and the movie). You should look at his other novels as well.

Hargrove, Anne C. Getting Better: Conversationswith myself and other friends while healing from breast cancer.

Heinlein, R. Have Space Suit--Will Travel,Citizen of the Galaxy, Starship Troopers, Double Star, Strangerin a Strange Land, and other works.

Hesse, Hermann. The Journey to the East, TheGlass Bead Game, Steppenwolf, and other works.

Hoeg, Peter. Smilla's Sense of Snow, Borderliners.

Howatch, Susan. Glamorous Powers, and otherworks.

Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany, TheWorld According to Garp.

Kafka, Franz. "Penal Colony," "HungerArtist," The Trial, The Castle, and other works.

Kagan, Michael. Educating Heroes.

Kaye, Ronnie. Spinning Straw into Gold.

Kress, Nancy. Beggars in Spain.

Le Guin, Ursula K. Left Hand of Darkness orThe Dispossessed, and other works.

Noddings, Nel. Caring.

Oates, J. C. On Boxing.

Raffa, Jean Benedict. The Bridge to Wholeness:A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth (San Diego: LuraMedia, 1992.

Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged,The Virtue of Selfishness.

Rollin, B. First, You Cry.

Suzuki, D.T. Zen and Japanese Culture.

The New English Bible with the Apocrypha: OxfordStudy Edition. [Or any other standard translation of the Bible.]

Tolstoy, Leo. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, andother works.

Wiesel, Elie. Dawn, and other works.

Yoshikawa. Musashi.

[Other materials for PHL 403--Senior Seminaron Heroism and the Human Spirit]

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