Philosophy 251 Visions of the Self Syllabus Spring 2014

Section 001 Williams Hall 307 M-W 12-1:15


Dr. Jeffrey Carr email (Please include 251-01 in 'Subject'); Office: STV 301, hours: 11-11:45 MW and by appointment

Course Description:

We'll explore significant theories of human nature from the great philosophers and religions. These will be put in their theoretical backgrounds, and we'll discuss topics such as the our relation to the world at large, what it is to be distinctively human, what is the nature of the self and self awareness, human vulnerability and how should life be lived. We'll draw on many perspectives, and the world views of our classmates will be relevant to the conversation. There will be regular informal debates.

From the Department's Official Description: "Human beings have an insatiable desire to understand the universe around them. Yet what is the nature of the cognitive agent who is capable of these inquiries? For thousands of years poets, philosophers, and theologians have drawn on the introspective data of experience in order to understand the nature of "self". In the Modern period, we know there are rich and complex mechanisms lying well below the surface which introspection reveals. Thus the study of the self has emerged as a major enterprise incorporating a huge variety of data, data drawn from both the "inside" &endash; what it "feels like" to be a person&endash;, and the "outside" &endash; from external points of view such as those characterizing the social and physical sciences. This course is an in-depth study of philosophical issues surrounding these various modes of inquiry. We will draw upon philosophically relevant data arising in fields as diverse as cognitive, experimental, and clinical psychology, literature, psychiatric medicine, neurophysiology, computer science and artificial intelligence, and philosophy itself. This inquiry will confront students with puzzling questions that have wide-ranging practical implications, both personally and socially, including: What is the Mind? Is it a kind of mental stuff, is it physical or is it fundamentally computer software? What is the proper theory of "personal Identity"? What makes the 80 year-old woman "the same person" as the three year old toddler? What is the philosophical significance (ethical, metaphysical, etc.) of certain mental and physical disorders (e.g. multiple personality, dementia, body-alienation, commissurotomy)? What properties must something possess to be a "person"? Could a machine or an animal or an alien be a person? Are "persons" self-contained, atomistic agents or does the integration of the self so depend on connections to other selves that the drawing of boundaries between selves becomes problematic? To what extent do the various conceptions of the self lead to different accounts of our moral and social responsibility to ourselves and others? ."


We will gain an enhanced awareness of the nature of philosophical inquiry, its important theories concerning human nature and the self, and the relevance of these to daily issues, including our own values and careers and political life. The critical assessment of the major views will receive great attention, in an effort to promote one's own scholarly development and moral/political commitments.


Leslie Stevenson, David Haberman and Peter Matthews Wright. Twelve Theories of Human Nature. Oxford: UP, 2013. My online notes to the text are strongly recommended, (tba on Reggienet) as they become available.

Various local and remote internet pages will be required reading (links provided here or as announced on Reggienet); some are recommended but not required. Almost all of the original texts are available on-line (from The LOGOS Collection of Electronic Books, the Internet Archive, or Project Gutenberg), some of which will be linked from these pages.


Readings for the next class will be announced at the beginning of each class. We will generally follow the readings as they occur in the text, but may have to skip some in interests of time. The schedule for the course is filename ISU251sch13.htm; it will be posted on Reggienet in the "Course Materials" section.


As you read the assigned readings for each class, you should identify the main views of each passage, (even for each section) and why the author believes them to be true. Make as much use as possible of the features of logical analysis/critical thinking that you are familiar with, particularly the technical notions: what is the view being defended? What is the argument for it? When you find something in the argument which is relevant to your interests, take note of it. In class, you will be asked to present your findings to the rest of us, for discussion purposes. Attendance at each lecture, with appropriate preparation, is important.

The greatest part of the grade will be determined by your skill at defending the different views on major issues in democratic theory. You will be expected to argue for your vuews, appealing to the comparable or contrasting views of as many as you can of the philosophers whom we have studied. You will show your skills at finding arguments within the texts, and assessing their credibility. Portraying this on exams will account for all of the course grade, based on short essay questions. Written work must show use of scholarly research, including the readings: online JStor resources are available for students connecting through some servers. Standards of proper scholarship will be required and maintained. (Hint: you could orient your note taking to content relevant to the issues of interest.). Plagiarism will be severely punished.

The course grade is based on 3 major exams, which usually give you a choice of short essay questions to answer, plus two written summaries of a Chapters. Familiarity with Reggienet is required. Point scores for these assignments are given on the scorecard. Please note that instructors are legally forbidden from sending scores by email, or communicating them by telephone. Scores are generally posted on Reggienet when they become available. Also, contributing your work via email attachments must be by approval of the instructor. If approved, they must be 'saved as' Word 2002 or earlier (no '.docx') and titled something easy to identify i.e. with your surname.

My grading sheet explains some of the marks/comments you might receive on your work, and how I calculate a number grade out of letter grades.

The Honor Code and Class Attendance standards of Illinois State University are to be honored. You should be familiar with the Code of Student Conduct. It states "A student's placement of his or her name on any academic exercise shall be regarded as assurance that the work is the result of the student's own thought, effort, and study." You must give acknowledgement of your sources if copying the work of others. Homework and Class Assignments are to be turned in on time or will be lowered one letter grade for every week late, at the discretion of the instructor.


Initial Quiz



Summary of Readings 1



Exam 1



Summary of Readings 2



Exam 2



Exam 3 Cumulative Final



Course grade


All grades will be calculated by Reggienet and posted when they have been assessed. (Note that scores cannot be


"Illinois State University provides a welcoming atmosphere for individuals with disabilities by assisting each in functioning independently within the University community and providing equal access and opportunity in accomplishing educational, professional and personal goals." If you need an accommodation because of a documented disability, you are required to register with Disability Concerns preferably at the beginning of the semester. Contact their Counselors at 350 Fell Hall or call (309) 438-5853 to make an appointment..

Useful and Worthy Aids to Work in Philosophy include:

How to Write Philosophy Exams, by Michael Menlowe

How to Write Philosophy Papers, by Ronald Hepburn

How to Write Philosophy Papers, by Doug Mann

How to Write Philosophy Papers, by James Pryor

Other Links


Go to Jeffrey Carr's Page

Go to the ISU Homepage

January, 2014