Phil 201 - Syllabus _Spring 2012_

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					                   PHILOSOPHY 201 (SPRING 2012) – CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY

                                     Instructor: Dr. Ted Stolze
                                           Office: SS-132
                           Office Phone: 562-860-2451, extension 2774
                                         Office Hours: MW

        “Existentialists...find it extremely disturbing that God no longer exists, for along with his
disappearance goes the possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven.... Dostoyevsky
once wrote: ‘If God does not exist, everything is permissible.’ This is the starting point of
existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and man is consequently
abandoned, for he cannot find anything to rely on—neither within nor without. First, he finds
that there are no excuses. For if it is true that existence precedes essence, we can never
explain our actions by reference to a given and immutable human nature. In other words
there is no determinism—man is free, man is freedom. If, however, God does not exist, we will
encounter no values or orders than can legitimize our conduct. Thus, we have neither behind
us, nor before us, in the luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. We are
left alone and without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be
free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once
cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he dies....
        If we define man’s situation as one of free choice, in which he has no recourse to
excuses or outside aid, then any man who takes refuge behind his passions, any man who
fabricates some deterministic theory, is operating in bad faith. One might object by saying:
“But why shouldn’t he choose bad faith?” My answer is that I do not pass moral judgment
against him, but I call his bad faith an error. Here, we cannot avoid making a judgment of
truth. Bad faith is obviously a lie because it is a dissimulation of man’s full freedom of
commitment. On the same grounds, I would say that I am also acting in bad faith if I declare
that I am bound to uphold certain values, because it is a contradiction to embrace these
values while at the same time affirming that I am bound by them. If someone were to ask me:
“What if I want to be in be in bad faith?” I would reply, “There is no reason why you should not
be, but I declare that you are, and that a consistent attitude alone demonstrates good faith.”
What is more, I am able to bring a moral judgment to bear. When I affirm that freedom, under
any concrete circumstance, can have no other aim than itself, and once a man realizes, in his
state of abandonment, that it is he who imposes values, he can will but one thing: freedom as
the foundation of all values....
        Those who conceal from themselves this total freedom, under the guise of solemnity, or
by making determinist excuses, I will call cowards. Others, who try to prove their existence is
necessary, when man’s appearance on earth is merely contingent, I will call bastards. But
whether cowards or bastards, they can be judged only on the grounds of strict authenticity.”

(Excerpted from Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, translated by Carol Macomber
[New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007], pp. 27-29, 47-49.)

Transfer Credit:



Satisfactory completion of the English Placement Process or ENGL 52 or equivalent with a
grade of Credit or "C" or higher

Course Description:

This introductory level course will examine the nature of scientific reasoning and its relationship
to technology, the development of modern technologies, and the impact of science and
technology on society, personal life, and the environment. Major areas of philosophical inquiry
will include metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.


        Thomas Wartenberg, Existentialism: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld, 2008) = E
        Richard Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting (Oxford, 2011) = WWW
        Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosopher in the Making (Edinburgh Univ.
         Press, 2011) = QM

Student Learning Outcomes:

At the completion of this course students will be able to:

        Understand, explain, and assess at least three major philosophical movements that
         characterize the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including the rise of Continental,
         Asian, Anglo-American, African, Feminist, Latin American, and Marxist philosophies.
        Explain successfully at least three of the following concepts examined by the above
         philosophical movements: self and subjectivity; mind and consciousness; alienation,
         anxiety, and authenticity; gender, modernity, post-modernity, and alter-modernity;
         race, nationality, and social justice.
        Recognize and explain the role of language, meaning, and truth in philosophical
        Develop a philosophical analysis of a contemporary cultural, political, religious, or
         scientific problem.
        Distinguish between ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ approaches to doing philosophy.
        Demonstrate a basic understanding of methods of philosophy.

Course Requirements:

1.       Show up regularly, on time, and prepared to discuss the readings. You should carefully
         read the assignment before class, noting difficult passages and writing down any
         questions you’d like to pose in class. You should also briefly reread the assignment after
         class to confirm that you now understand the author’s main points. NOTE: you must
         turn off all electronic devices before class begins (unless you have a demonstrable

       NOTE: I reserve the right to drop any student who is absent for more than six class
       sessions during the semester. Also, if you leave class early without permission, you will
       be considered absent for that session

2.     Take seven surprise quizzes, of which I’ll keep the highest five scores and drop the lowest two.
       These quizzes add up to 50 points.

3.     Take three exams, which add up to 300 points.

4.     Final grades will be based on the following scale:

       315 – 350 points                      A
       280 – 314 points                      B
       245 – 279 points                      C
       210 – 244 points                      D
         0 – 209 points                      F

       NOTE: You should hold on to all graded work until the end of the course in case there
       turns out to be a dispute over your final grade.

5.     Plagiarism is ethically unacceptable and will result in automatic failure for a particular
       assignment. For the official Cerritos College Academic Honesty/ Dishonesty Policy, see

6.     If you have a disability for which you would like to request an accommodation, you are
       encouraged to contact both me and the Disabled Student Programs and Services at
       (562) 860-2451 ext. 2335, as early as possible in the term.

Weekly Topics and Reading Assignments:

              1. Existentialism

1/10          Introduction
1/12          VIDEO ON SARTRE
1/17          E, pp. 1-30
1/19          ““
1/24          E, pp. 31-46
1/26          “”
1/31          E, pp. 47-69
2/2           E, pp. 70-88
2/7           E, pp. 89-106
2/9           ““
2/14          E, pp. 106-124
2/16          E, pp. 125-145
2/21          E, pp. 146-165
2/23          E, pp. 166-171
2/28          Review
3/1           MIDTERM EXAM

        2. Richard Holton and the Philosophy of Action

3/6     WWW, pp. 1-19
3/8     WWW, pp. 20-52
3/13    WWW, pp. 53-69
3/15    WWW, pp. 70-96
3/20    WWW, pp. 97-111
3/22    WWW, pp. 112-136
3/27    WWW, pp. 137-166
3/29    WWW, pp. 167-184
        (ESSAY #1 IS DUE)


        3. John McMurtry and Onto-Axiology

4/10    John McMurtry, “Human Rights versus Corporate Rights: Life Value, the Civil
        Commons and Social Justice”
4/12    ““
        4. Quentin Meillassoux and Speculative Realism

4/17    QM, pp. 1-53 and Harman, “Meillassoux’s Virtual Future”
4/19    ““
4/24    QM, pp. 54-89 and Meillassoux, “Potentiality and Virtuality”
        ( and Meillassoux, “Spectral
        Dilemma” (
4/26    Peter Hallward, “Anything is Possible: A Reading of Quentin Meillassoux’s After
        Finitude” and Nathan Brown, “The Speculative and the Specific: On Hallward
        and Meillassoux” (In The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism,
        edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, editors [Melbourne:, 2011, pp. 130-163],
5/1     QM, pp. 90-122
5/3     ““
5/8     QM, pp. 123-158
5/10    ““
5/17    EXAM #2 IS DUE

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