PHIL 115
Personal Identity Spring 2025
Division II Writing Skills

Class Details

Through lectures, discussions, close readings and assigned writings, we will consider a variety of philosophical questions about the nature of persons, and personal identity through time. Persons are subjects of experiences, have thoughts and feelings, motivation and agency; a person is thought of as continuous over time, and as related to, recognized and respected by other persons. Thus, the concept of person plays a significant role in most branches of philosophy, e.g. metaphysics, epistemology, moral and political philosophy, philosophy of mind. Conceptions of person are equally important in science (especially in psychology), law, and the arts. Questions about persons are of central importance for a myriad of our theories and practices, and for the ways in which we live our lives. The aim of this course is to explore and evaluate a number of rival conceptions of persons and personal identity over time. Some of the questions which we will discuss are: What is a person? How do I know that I am one? What constitutes my knowledge of myself as a person, and does that knowledge differ in any significant respect from my knowledge of physical objects and of other people? Our starting and central question will be: What makes me the particular person that I am, and how is my identity as this individual person preserved over time? The course will place special emphasis on developing students’ intellectual skills in close, analytical reading; reconstructing and evaluating claims and reasons that support them; producing original ideas and arguments, orally and in writing; responding to the claims and arguments presented in texts and in class; and writing clear, polished, well-argued papers.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3513
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Class attendance, preparedness and participation; additional small group weekly meetings, and reports from these meetings (group members rotate in writing the report); 12 short writing assignments. No final paper and no exam.
Prerequisites: none; open to first year students
Enrollment Preferences: freshmen, sophomores, and philosophy majors who need a 100 level course to satisfy requirement for the major
Unit Notes: meets 100-level PHIL major requirement
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write weekly short assignments (at most 1000 words long), six of which will be letter-graded (but only five best assignments will count for the final grade). All assignments will receive detailed comments on substance as well as on writing skills and strategies.

Class Grid

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