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October 31, 2007

Walden for Next Week (G)

Please read the chapters "Economy" and "Where I Lived and What I Lived for" in Thoreau's Walden. Read my notes first, and use them as a guide to the chapter. Expect a quiz on Tuesday. Notes: Download file

Here is the next response paper assignment: Download file

October 26, 2007

Kant Assignment for Tuesday (G)

Here is the handout from Thursday's Mill discussion: Download file

Here is Thursday's quiz, with the answers in bold: Download file

Begin your work with Kant by learning something about his life, at this link: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-development/

Here are notes on the Kant reading: Download file. Please print them out and follow them closely. They are intended to help you not hate Kant.
Take his stuff slow and easy, and don't get off the path.

There will be a quiz on Tuesday, addressing just those points emphasized in the notes.

Aristotle's Ethics and Stoic Ethics (A)

Here is the handout from the last class: Download file

For next week, please read pages 319 - 338 in Annas. Be ready for a quiz addressing these matters:

1. How does Aristotle organize the various kinds of advice about how to live? (sections 1,2)

2. What major opinions does Aristotle survey regarding the highest human good? (section 4) What arguments does he give against each candidate? (section 5)

3. What reasons does Aristotle give for taking happiness to be the human good? (section 7)

4. Why is it important to Aristotle to determine the human function? (7) What is his final view of the function of human beings, and how does he argue that that is the function of human beings?

5. How far does Aristotle go in agreeing with common views about the human good? How does he correct or modify those views? (8)

6. On what points do the Stoics disagree with Aristotle?

Philosophy for Children (S)

Here is the Jackson handout from the last class: Download file

Here is the Jackson quiz: Download file


In the next part of the course, we will think about some practical initiatives that respond to some of the challenges presented by reading in the first half of the course. We will ask how these initiative help with the problems and the basic tasks that our authors have identified.

The topic for next week is “Philosophy for Children.� Over the next three days, please go to the library reserve secion) and read the first 66 pages of Gareth Matthews’ Philosophy and the Young Child. (Note: these are very small pages, with lots of examples. There are several copies on reserve. ) Also read the selection from Matthews in the Cahn text, pages 477-487. Finally, look at my piece on Margaret Wise Brown at: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/shea0017/philosophy/mwbfinal.htm.

Be ready for a quiz addressing these issues:

1. What does Matthews think a philosophic problem or question is like? How is it different from other kinds of questions? (Chapter 1)
2. In chapters 1, 2 and 3 of his book, Matthews shows respect for the comments of young children by explaining the philosophical strategies, concepts and problems that they raise. Be ready to identify the children’s version of these notions: the problem of induction (pages 3, 4); sense-datum view (5); the logic of relative terms (13); asteismus (14,15); purposive accounts of things (19); maximizing (29); empty names (31).
3. In chapters 4, Matthews criticizes Piaget’s view of the intellectual development of the child. What is that view, as Matthews summarizes it, and at what points does Matthews disagree? What reasons does he give for disagreeing?
4. In his article in the Cahn anthology, Matthews criticizes Kohlerg’s view of the moral development of the child. What is that view, as Matthews summarizes it, and at what points does Matthews disagree? What reasons does he give for disagreeing.
5. In Philosophy and the Young Child, chapter 5, Matthews illustrates how simple children’s books raise philosophic problems. Be able to identify some of the problems raised in these books: The Bear that Wasn’t, Many Moons, Winnie the Pooh, and Frog and Toad Together.
6. What two basic intentions does Margaret Wise Brown state as the guiding principles of her writing? What is my general thesis about the philosophic usefulness of her work? How do The Important Book, The Noisy Books, and The Dead Bird illustrate her basic approach to writing? How is her work related to the philosophy of the Bank Street School?

October 19, 2007

How Should You Live? (A)

We will be working through the section, "How Should You Live?" over the next weeks. It would not be a bad to give the whole section a preliminary read-through. Our immediate object of concern for Thursday will be the early pages, 297-319. Please also check this space again on Monday. I am hoping to do some general remarks on where we are in the course, together with an intro to the next section.

I handed out a revised calendar on Thursday; here's the new calendar: Download file

I did a lecture surveying some points from the "Nature and Convention" section of Annas. I hope to fill these out in writing soon. In the meantime, here is the outline: Download file

John Stuart Mill (G)

Mill's book On Liberty is an accessible book that introduces you to the climate of Mill's mind: his talent for argument, his willingness to seek out and answer objections, his amazing thoroughness and care in discussion. It is comparatively easy to grasp his general point: a wide diversity of expressed opinion, a comparable diversity of lifestyle, contribute to the well-being of individuals and to the health of society. It is important however to go beyond this general grasp, to trace out the intricacies of his argument and to come to appreciate the richness and power of his mind. I have prepared some notes on the first two chapters of On Liberty, to help you get access to this work. Please study these notes over the break: Download file

There's a revised course calendar: Download file

For Thursday, please read in the Mill anthology: the first two chapters of Utilitarianism, from 233-260. Please check the blog again on Monday. I hope to have some notes ready then to guide our discussion of this material. Also please read the sections on Mill's life, on utilitarianism and on Mill's social and political philosophy in the Mill article from the Stanford Encyclopedia. Here is the address: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/

School and Society Assignment for Thursday after Reading Days (S)

On Thursday, October 18, we finished watching Delafield and then read together the essay "Becoming Native to Our Places," from Wes Jackson's book. It is very important that everyone review and study and try to make sense of this chapter, which is the educational culmination of Jackson's argument. It needs multiple readings and discussion, and, above all, connection to your own experience and to what you know about the loss of cultural information in your own contexts. Jackson packs a great many ideas into a very small space, and one will miss most of what he has to say if one reads him casually or quickly. He makes great demands, and he has an incredible breadth of vision. He is also sometimes not very charitable to his reader: he makes big jumps and leaves out the connecting material. You have to think along with him. Over the break, I will try to write something to make this book more accessible. I am convinced that it is an important contribution to our discussion.

I have revised the calendar. Here is the new version: Download file

At class on Thursday, each person was given a book or a movie to look at over the break. The assignment is to introduce this item to the class next Thursday by discussing its relevance to themes developed in this course so far and to the general topic: "School and Society." You will each have about five minutes; please do a couple of paragraphs as the basis of your discussion and hand those in at the end of class. Those who were not in class on Thursday will have a chance to select an item and report on the following Tuesday.

Some notes on this project:

1. Books and movies are often attempts to teach, and that is one way to understand how they relate to the course. One might think of Bird by Bird and The Important Book primarily in this connection, and consider the ways that they carry forward educational projects suggested or endorsed by Dewey or Freire or Horton.

2. Books and movies sometimes portray aspects of current educational practice and ideology in a critical way. One might connect such portrayals to criticisms we have encountered. The Child Buyer is an example of this kind of portrait.

3. Books and movies portray teaching or education in the broad sense we have come to understand after reading The Higher Power of Lucky. We see people trying to build attitudes and capacities in other human beings, to open up -- or close down -- possibilities for them. One might think particularly of A Thousand Clowns in this connection.

4. Some books make straightforward recommendations about teaching, related in interesting and complex ways to the suggestions we have encountered so far. Philosophy and the Young Child is an example of this kind of discussion.

5. Some works of art portray a social fact that is in need of educational attention: either ideals to be cultivated or human dead ends, warnings about the products of bad education. One might look at Remains of the Day with this idea in mind.

6. Some works of art say something about the point or task of human life. Any such work sets a challenge before the educator: to craft experiences that help people to accomplish the task that life presents them. This might be a helpful starting point for looking at Defending Your Life, for example.

The works you have selected are rich, and many of them can be approached from several different perspectives. Your introduction should help others in the class decide whether they want to check out your book or movie, out of general interest, or as a way to think about the material we have been discussing.

October 12, 2007

Wes Jackson for Tuesday (S))

Please read the introductory material and the first 60 pages of Jackson's Becoming Native to this Place.

Mill (G)

Please read the introductory material on Mill and the first three chapters of On Liberty, through page 77 in the Miller anthology.

Morality and Convention (A)

There is no new reading assignment over Homecoming, but please be ready to discuss the material on Nature and Convention, Annas 373-403, with particular emphasis on the reading up to Aristotle, up to 387. Check the blog on Monday for updates.

I did a handout in class pulling together some themes from the first weeks: Download file

Here are some questions and quotes about democracy: Download file

Mis-education paper -- updated assignment (S)

Several people had difficulties with the second paper topic. It seemed in several cases that a different approach would allow people to connect better to the material, and so I revised the assignment to open some new options. You are still welcome to write on the original assignment, but you may find these other options easier to approach. Here is the assignment sheet: Download file

I also did some work to isolate the pieces from the Dewey reading that are most relevant to this assignment. Here is that collection: Download file

October 10, 2007

Great Philosophers

Please read Meditations 4 and 6 for Thursday.

Ancient for Thursday

Please read in Annas 373-387 carefully. Also, bring your questions about paper 1.

Democratic Education (S)

There will be some new options available for the second paper, in addition to the one listed on the blog. We will talk about those on Thursday, and I will post them. There is no new reading assignment: please review Horton and Freire and make a short list of the questions you have, after thinking about these three (with Dewey) versions of Democratic education.

October 5, 2007

Descartes (G)

On Tuesday, we will begin a discussion of Descartes' journey from extreme doubt to a kind of rediscovery of reality. This journey is recounted twice in our readings, very briefly in Discourse and at greater length in the Meditations. Reread with care pages 18-22, part 4 of the Discourse, and the parallel sections in the Meditations, pages 59-92. Make notes of your questions and of anything that puzzles you. Don't worry if there are some sections you don't follow. The main argument is pretty clear, and you can note the sections that need to be revisited later, and move on.


Middleness and Democracy -- Response Paper 2 (A)

Your second response paper addresses the material in political philosophy: Aristotle's discussion of "middleness" and the dispute about the proper extent of democracy. The following handout contains this assignment and also some questions which will occupy much of our time on Tuesday, October 9. Please think about these questions in advance and have things to say. Also, you are welcome to bring up any questions or issues you have regarding the second response paper: Download file

Also, begin reading carefully and noting ideas about the "nature and convention" section, 373-401. We likely won't get to that until Thursday, but it is important to take this material slowly, with lots of thinking time. It is wonderful stuff.

Freire and Horton (SS)

For Tuesday, October 9, please finish (read from 143 to the end) Horton's The Long Haul. Also, read the Freire section in Cahn and think about the common ground among Dewey, Horton, and Freire and also about the differences and the reasons for their differences. Here are some notes on Freire reading: Download file