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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: metaphysics, epistemology, moral and political philosophy, and of course in the philosophy of mind. Conceptions of person are equally important for scientific research programs (especially in psychology), for Law, and for the arts (especially mimetic 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? What makes me the particular person that I am, and how is my identity as this individual person preserved over time?
While addressing these questions through lectures and class discussions, the course will place special emphasis on developing students’ intellectual skills in the following domains:
– close, analytical reading;
– recognizing, 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;
– writing clear, polished, well-argued papers.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
class attendance, preparedness and participation; small group weekly meetings; weekly short writing assignments
none; open to first year students
freshmen, sophomores, and philosophy majors who need a 100 level course to satisfy requirement for the major
meets 100-level PHIL major requirement
Students will write a short paper (about 800 words) every week. Six of these will be letter-graded, and six will be graded pass/fail. All papers will receive detailed comments on substance as well as on writing skills and strategies. There will be no final paper.