I will be teaching Intro to Philosophy at Tufts this semester, starting tomorrow. This course can be taught in several different ways: for instance, with a chronological sequence of major works, with a focus on one large issue, or with an array of excellent but accessible recent articles that give a flavor of the current discipline. I’ve opted to emphasize one of the great philosophical questions: “How should I live?” I’ve tried to select authors who represent reasonably diverse cultural traditions; it was while planning the syllabus that I wrote a piece for Aeon entitled “The lack of diversity in philosophy is blocking its progress.”
The readings will specifically consider whether truthfulness, happiness, and justice are important aspects of a good life. Some of the assigned authors will argue that these three goods fit together neatly, for to be happy requires being truthful and just. But some of our authors will dispute that premise.
I paste the reading assignments below.
Syllabus: Subject to Change
Sept. 7: Overview and introduction
Is there an obligation to seek the truth? To say or teach the truth to others? How does truthfulness relate to happiness and justice? Can we know truths about ethics?
Sept. 12: Plato, Apology, sections §17-35. Also Justin P. McBrayer, “ Why Our Children Don’t Think There are Moral Facts ,” The New York Times, March 2, 2015. Or in this PDF if you have trouble reading it on the NY Times site.
Sept. 14: Plato, Apology §35-42
Sept. 19: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorisms §1-12
Sept. 21: Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorisms §13-32
First paper due. Describe a situation in which it’s problematic whether to be truthful or not. Argue in favor of being truthful or not being truthful in this situation. Define what you mean by the term “truthful.” Give reasons for your position and explain and counter good reasons against it. Cite at least one relevant passage from Plato or Nietzsche.
What is happiness? What are the best paths to happiness? Do we have a right to pursue our own happiness? Can we make others happy?
Sept. 26: Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus” (We will also discuss Socrates’ remarks about happiness in the “Apology,” already assigned.)
Sept. 28: “Buddha,” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (entry by Mark Siderits)
Oct. 3: “Buddha” (continued)
Oct. 5. Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
Oct 10: No class (Columbus Day)
Oct. 12: More discussion of the “happiness” readings.
Second paper due. Assignment TBA
III. Justice Toward Others
What are principles of justice? Which principles of justice are binding on whom? How do they relate to each other?
We discussed happiness in the previous section. Could maximizing the happiness of all human beings–or something similar to that–be the main principle of justice?
Oct. 19: Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Part I, chapter 1, §5 (versus utilitarianism)
Oct. 24: More discussion of welfare.
Oct 26: Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, Introduction and chapter 6 (“What’s Wrong With Our Schools?”)
Nov. 2: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Part I, 1 §1-4, 2 §11-17, and 3 §24
Nov. 7: Discussion of Rawls continues.
Nov. 9: Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958), in Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (1969)
Third paper due. Assignment TBA
Nov. 14: Tim Scanlon, “When Does Equality Matter?”
Nov. 16: Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, pp. 149-177
Nov. 21: Bayard Rustin, “From Protest to Politics: Future of the Civil Rights Movement,” Commentary (February, 1965)
Nov. 23: More discussion of the “equality” readings. Fourth paper due.
Nov. 28: Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and its Critics, pp. 106-52
Nov. 30: Kwasi Wiredu, “Democracy and Consensus in Traditional African Politics” (http://them.polylog.org/2/fwk-en.htm) and Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, “Democracy or Consensus?” ( http://them.polylog.org/2/fee-en.htm)
Nov. 30: Audre Lorde, “ The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House ” and Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity”
Dec. 5: Todd Gitlin, “The Left, Lost in the Politics of Identity,” Harper’s Magazine, 1993; and Susan Bickford, “Anti-Anti-Identity Politics: Feminism, Democracy, and the Complexities of Citizenship,” Hypatia Vol. 12, No. 4.
Dec. 7: More discussion of the readings on democracy, diversity and inclusion.
Fifth Paper due.
Assignment: Dec. 12: Final discussion