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September 28, 2007

Myles Horton -- The Long Haul (S)

For Thursday, please read the first 143 pages of Myles Horton's The Long Haul, with particular attention to pages 56-143.

Here is the second writing assignment: Download file

Political Expertise (A)

For Thursday, October 4, please read the section on political expertise in Annas, 403-427.

There is no class Tuesday, Oct 2.

Discourse on Method (G)

For Thursday, read Descartes' Discourse on Method, with particular attention to the ethical stuff in part 3.

Here is the next writing assignment: Download file

September 26, 2007

Dewey contined (S)

There is not new assignment for School and Society for Thursday. Please review the Education and Democracy reading.

Epicurus for Thursday (G)

For Thursday, please read in The Consolations of Philosophy (on reserve at the library) the section "Consolation for not having enough money," a discussion of Epicurus. You might find the discussion of Seneca interesting as well. Seneca is another Stoic, like Marcus Aurelius, and their views complement each other.

The handout for Tuesday's class is not available in digital form. Please be sure to get a copy, if you missed class.

A very short assignment (A)

Please read pages 404-406 of Annas carefully for Thursday.

Here's the handout from Tuesday: Download file

September 21, 2007

Marcus Aurelius -- The Meditations (G)

Your assignment for Tuesday, September 25, is to read selections from The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Here is an outline describing and listing the passages that require attention: Download file

Ancient Political Debates (A)

We'll approach the next section in an order different from that suggested by Annas; the reading for Tuesday (9[25) is the section "Democracy as the Best Form of Government," 427-452. That sequences well with our discussion about the control of the emotions. Any view that says that being a decent, reliable person takes a lifetime of work and substantial talent is going to push against full blooded democracy as the best form of government -- not exclude it, but push against it. So the discussion of moral ideals and desirable character carries over to this section.

Read the piece in several sittings, if possible, making lists between each reading of the points you remember and of the thoughts you had.

I attach the handout from Thursday's class, on three ancient controversies concerning reason and emotion: Download file

I appreciate your lively and intelligent engagement in our discussions. Keep up the excellent work.

Education and Democracy for Tuesday, Sept 25 (S)

Please read the selection from Democracy and Education in Kahn (288-325). This is a long, dense piece. For the sake of your mental health, DO NOT try to read it in one gulp: you will remember nothing and it will hurt A LOT. Take it in at least 4 sittings, with space between for thinking and making notes -- lists of the points you remember and other lists of the thoughts you have, inspired by the reading. Try to build in some reward after each 10 pages: I use episodes of the West Wing to motivate me.

For overview and reading notes, use the Dewey articles in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online), esp. the notes on Dewey's moral philosophy. If I have time, I will try to post something over the weekend that might be helpful also: check the blog.

I attach here a handout from class last night: my notes on the ten pages we looked at from Experience and Education: Download file

We will begin next class talking a bit about the "Can I Kiss You?" presentation. Please look at the editorial by Alya Aziz-Zaman in today's Weekly (page 14); it is helpful background for thinking about the context within which this presentation was made, the conditions that contributed to the effectiveness of this presentation.

September 19, 2007

Ancient Philosophy for Thursday, September 20

Read the rest of the Reason and Emotion section in Annas, pages 110-128. Think about the dispute between Plato/Aristotle and Seneca about getting rid of anger and particularly about Aristotle's claim -- hotly disputed by Seneca -- that there is a right time, situation, place for being angry.

Here is the summary handout covering Aristotle and Seneca: Download file

Great Philosophers for Thursday, September 20

There is no new assignment, but please review the Laches carefully, in conjunction with the notes, and get clear in your mind the reason for each stage of the argument. Also, think about where you stand in this discussion: what is your account of courage, and how would you resolve the problems that Socrates raises about this idea?

As time permits, search 'Laches' in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and browse among the different treatments of this dialogue in different articles.

School and Society for Thursday, Sept 20

Here is the summary handout for the first Dewey reading: Download file

For Thursday, please read the section "Criteria of Experience" from Experience and Education, 333-343 in Kahn. Bring your questions and puzzles to class.

September 14, 2007

Aristotle and the Stoics on Emotion (A)

Please read pages 85-118 in Annas. Check this space on Monday. I might post something to start off Tuesday's discussion.

The handout on Plato's ethics from Thursday's class is here: Download file

Great Philosophers -- Response paper 1

Here are the instructions for the first response paper, due on Thursday, September 20: Download file

Ancient Philosophy -- First Response Paper

This paper is due on Thursday, September 20, by email, as a paste-in to an email message. Here are the details: Download file

Reading and Writing, School and Society, September 18

Here are the details of the review assignment, due Tuesday, September 18: Download file

The drafts should come to me as paste-ins in email messages.

Here are the details of the reading assignment from the Dewey selections in the Cahn anthology: Download file

Laches -- Reading for Tuesday, September 18 (G)

Read the introduction to the Laches, the first of the two dialogues in the edition we are using. Then print out and look at my notes from this website. Read the preliminary notes, then use the outline as a guide as you are reading through the dialogue.

My notes: Download file

September 11, 2007

The Parts of the Soul in the Context of Plato's Republic

Plato discusses inner conflict and argues that the human soul has parts in the course of a long attack on cheating and bullying -- the over-all argument of the Republic. This is a brief sketch of that over-all argument: Download file

September 7, 2007

Finish Analects for Tuesday (G)

Finish the Analects in Slingerland's selection and his commentary for Tuesday. Also, read the Confucius article in the Stanford Encyclopedia.

Check this space Sunday and Monday for additional notes.

"Explanation of Inner Conflict" for Tuesday (A)

Read (or re-read) 71-84. Read with special care Annas' comments on 83-4 and the questions for thought that she poses there. Be prepared to say something about them. Also, check this space on Monday: I want to think a bit more about the relation between the Mork and Mindy episode and the reading. I might have something to post by then.

Higher Power of Lucky -- review assignment (S)

Please finish the book as soon as you can and begin thinking about the first writing assignment, a review for a mythical publication called School and Society. Your final product needs to be approximately 1200 words. It also needs to begin with a reflection on your own educational experience, especially your experience around the age of the main character -- 10 or 11. Beyond that, all sorts of themes having to do with development, and the role of school and of society in individual development, and the nature of the "educational" experience, are appropriate at this stage of the process.

What I need from you by email Sunday is a list of initial ideas of what you might write about, what you might say, what direction you might take. This should not be a "raw" list of ideas intelligible to you alone. You need to do such a list: a long list of everything you are thinking about or care about with respect to the book. What you send me is some cleaned up selection of that, with the raw ideas filled out enough - in complete sentences -- so that I can see where you are going, and with just the most promising of the raw ideas included.

Once I have had a chance to look at the directions you are initially thinking about, I will give more specific guidance about the form of the project and also more specific particular and personal feedback about the projects. I don't want to say too much now, until you have an opportunity to explore the territory a bit.

Have fun!

September 5, 2007

Syllabi (A) (G) (SS)

Here are the syllabi for the three courses treated in this blog: Great Philosophers Download file ; Ancient Philosophy Download file ; School and Society Download file

Higher Power of Lucky --Thursday assignment

For Thursday, please read the first 74 pages of Susan Patron's book, The Higher Power of Lucky. Answer one of the following questions in a short paragraph -- under 90 words. If your name begins with A-E, answer number 1. If your name begins with H-P, answer number 2. If your name begins with R-Z, answer number 3.

1. This book takes place in a town called Hard Pan, at the edge of the Mojave desert. How are the location and the location name important for our understanding of what is happening in the story?

2. The first part of the book shows people learning from other people in informal, non-classroom ways. What are the common features of what Lucky learns in Hard Pan? What messages do the various encounters carry?

3. What is Lucky like, as a person and as a learner? What is distinctive about her personal style?

Bring the paragraph answer to your question to class on Thursday.

September 4, 2007

Confucius -- Assignment 1 (G)

For Thursday, read Slingerland's introduction to The Essential Analects and the first three books (the first 8 pages!). As you read the selections, read also Slingerland's summary of the traditional commentaries, one at a time, with the appropriate selection. The commentaries begin on page 57. Keep of list of things that strike you, that interest you, that puzzle you, that you agree with, that you disagree with.

Also, write a paragraph about the comparison/contrast between Confucius' reasons for taking ritual to be important and the reasons that came up in class discussion. Are we and Confucius basically on the same page, or are there important difference. Keep this paragraph around 100 words. Send it to me at, and also bring a copy to class.

Mork and Mindy on Mixed Emotions (A)

In our opening class, we watched the Mork and Mindy episode "Mixed Emotions," in preparation for reading a cluster of ancient writings about internal conflict and the management of emotion. For Thursday, please write down one question or problem about emotion and emotional conflict raised by the show. Say how that question or problem is presented, and note any suggestions in the show about how it is to be answered or resolved. This should be a very brief piece of writing, 90-150 words. Bring a copy of your question to class. Also, email it to me at

Please read the first selection in the emotion section of the text, pages 71-80.

September 2, 2007

In the beginning

This blog documents three courses developed together as part of an undergraduate introductory curriculum: "Great Philosophers," 'Ancient Philosophy," and "School and Society." It serves the daily business of each course, as a place to post syllabi, exercises, reading questions. It also contains reflections on meeting philosophy for the first time and discussions of the connections among the different kinds of introduction. I hope that this blog will be of use to students seeking multiple perspectives on what philosophy is, and that it will be of use to teachers preparing introductory philosophy courses.

Please note the top level categories in this blog; entries pertaining to particular courses will be designated by the course name. Entries discussing the general introductory project will be categorized as "general."