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Timothy Shanahan, Ph.D. Office: University Hall 3751, (310) 338-3042
CATH/PHIL 398: Fall 2007 Department Fax: (310) 338-5997
Immortality and the Meaning of Life Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: M & W 12:00-3:00 PM Web: http://myweb.lmu.edu/tshanahan
PART I: INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE
AUG 28 (T) INTRODUCTION(S)
Preview: In this first class meeting we'll introduce ourselves to one another, and do a little
philosophical limbering up exercise (polyester track suit optional) to get us started.
FIRST DRAFT OF TERM PAPER DUE -- IN CLASS.
AUG 30 (TH) COURSE STRUCTURE, TOPICS, ASSIGNMENTS, GRADING
Preview: This class meeting will be devoted to reviewing and understanding the course
structure, the assignments, and how grades in the course will be determined.
This is strictly "business" but taking time to do this carefully at the beginning of
the course is essential so that every student understands clearly what is expected
of him or her. Then we can devote the rest of the course to doing Philosophy.
PART II: THE METAPHYSICS OF DISEMBODIED SURVIVAL
SEPT 4 (T) IMMORTALITY AND PERSONAL SURVIVAL
Reading: Clarence Darrow, "The Myth of the Soul"
Preview: According to what I will call "the standard dualist view" of immortality, after a
person physically dies some part of that person (his or her "soul," perhaps)
leaves the body and continues to exist forever. We'll consider some distinctions
important for thinking about life after death, and with a famous attorney's help
we'll begin examining some of the chief challenges to the standard dualist view.
Questions: Darrow notes that "In modified form ... belief in the duality of man persists to
the present day." (i) What is the essential idea of this "duality of man" belief to
which he refers? (ii) What are Darrow's chief arguments against belief in the
existence of an immaterial soul? Darrow describes a trip from Chicago to
New York, and an imaginary trip to "Goofville." (iii) How are these trips
significantly different? What point is he making with this story?
SEPT 6 (TH) CONSCIOUSNESS, THINKING, AND THE SOUL
Reading: (i) René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Meditation II)
Preview: In Meditation I of his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), Descartes
undertakes to doubt all things. (Review this if it is unfamiliar!) But in Meditation
II he not only claims to identify the one belief that cannot possibly be doubted,
but he also believes that he has discovered his "essence," i.e., what he essentially
is. Descartes' conception of the self has been enormously influential. In some
ways it is the view of the proverbial "man on the street corner" (although in other
ways, probably no one standing on any street corner in the world -- even in Paris,
where most of Descartes' body now resides -- has considered all the profound
implications of Descartes' view). We'll consider Descartes' influential view.
Questions: In Meditation II Descartes claims to have discovered the one belief that cannot
possibly be doubted. (i) What is this belief? (ii) How does Descartes arrive at
the conclusion that this belief cannot possibly be doubted? (iii) According to him,
what is his essence? That is, what is essential to his nature as the sort of being he
is? (iv) Do you agree with Descartes on this point? Explain. (v) Accepting his
view has some interesting implications. What might some of these be?
SEPT 11 (T) OF SOULS AND BRAINS
Reading: William James, "Human Immortality"
Preview: William James was trained as a physician, helped to create the modern discipline
of psychology, and was one of the three most important founders of the distinctively
American school of philosophy known as pragmatism. Not bad. He also had an
uncanny knack for the colorful homespun turn of phrase. Here he challenges the
common materialist view that brains simply produce consciousness.
Questions: (i) Explain clearly James' general distinction between productive and transmissive
functions. (ii) How does he use this distinction to differentiate between the
Production Theory and the Transmission Theory of consciousness? (iii) Does
James agree that "since consciousness is a function of brain activity, survival of
death is impossible"? (iv) Why does James think that on the view he proposes,
"the fangs of cerebralistic materialism are drawn"? Do you agree?
SEPT 13 (TH) THE INCONCEIVABILITY OF DISEMBODIED EXPERIENCE
Reading: Thomas D. Davis, "Life After Life" (ERes)
John Hospers, "Is the Notion of Disembodied Existence Intelligible?" (ERes)
Preview: Understanding how a person could exist apart from a physical body is one
challenge facing the standard dualist view of personal survival of death.
Conceiving of what sorts of experiences such a disembodied person might be
capable of having is another. In this class we'll begin considering this challenge.
Questions: (i) In Thomas D. Davis' story "Life After Life," what predicament does Charlie
Smith find himself in? (ii) What sorts of experiences is he still capable of having
after his physical death? (iii) Explain, as clearly as you can, how he is able to
have these experiences. (iv) Explain clearly John Hospers' chief criticism of the
idea of disembodied personal survival. (v) How it this relate to Davis' story?
SEPT 18 (T) THE CONCEIVABILITY OF DISEMBODIED EXPERIENCE
Reading: H.H. Price, "What Kind of Next World?" (ERes)
Preview: As we have seen, one of the major challenges to a belief in disembodied
survival of death is understanding how a person in that state could have
experiences in anything like the way that we have experience with a physical
body. Taking a page from Descartes (who insists that he get it back when Price
is finished with it), H.H. Price suggests that we use dreaming as our model.
We'll look at this model to determine whether Price has solved Hospers'
problem or whether he is merely dreaming that he has.
Questions: (i) Why does Price compare the sorts of experiences we could have without
a physical body after death with the experience of dreaming? (ii) Explain
clearly Price's "Image (or Dream) Theory" of post-mortem experiencing. (iii)
How might this theory solve the problem of understanding how one could
have experiences without a body? (iv) How does Price respond to the
objection that according to his theory, after death each of us would each be
trapped in a world of our own making -- like an eternal hallucination?
SEPT 20 (TH) COLLABORATIVE WORK ON TERM PAPERS
PART III: CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVES ON HUMAN NATURE
SEPT 25 (T) DO CHRISTIANS NEED SOULS?
FIRST TERM PAPER ESSAY DUE -- IN CLASS.
Reading: Nancey Murphy, "Do Christians Need Souls?" (Chapter 1: pp. 1-22, 36-37
are essential; pp. 23-36 are interesting but slightly tangential to our concerns)
Preview: Most Christians, it seems fair to say, believe both that they have a soul, and
that to be a Christian one must believe that each and every person has an
immortal soul. In other words, for Christians it is one of those non-negotiable
beliefs, like "God exists." However, pinning this down scripturally, and showing
why this belief is necessary theologically, turn out to be more difficult than
probably most folks realize. We'll consider some of these exegetical difficulties.
Questions: (i) According to Murphy, what view of the human person does one find when
one consults the Bible? (ii) What view of the human person does one find in
early, medieval, and Reformation Christian thought? (iii) In her view, what are
the implications of her examination of this issue for how Christians should
approach the issue of the nature of human nature?
SEPT 27 (TH) A CHRISTIAN PHYSICALIST ACCOUNT OF PERSONS
Reading: Nancey Murphy, "Science and Human Nature" (Chapter 2)
Preview: Since about the 17th century, natural science has emerged as perhaps the
clearest example of reliable, systematic knowledge of the world. The nature
of matter, the evolution of living things, and the organization of the universe
have all been given scientific explanations. Human nature has not been
exempt from science's explanatory sweep. In this class we'll consider some
of the apparent consequences of taking a scientific view of human nature.
Questions: (i) According to Murphy, which major advances in scientific knowledge have
the greatest significance for how we should think about the nature of human
persons? (ii) How does she answer the question posed in the title of this
chapter: "What does science say about human nature?"? (iii) What are the
implications of this scientific view for belief in "the soul"?
OCT 2 (T) PHYSICALISM AND FREE WILL
Reading: Nancey Murphy, "Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?" (Chapter 3)
Preview: Much science is based on a reductionistic view according to which the
behavior of any system is explained in terms of the behavior of its more basic
constituents, and so on down to the fundamental building blocks of matter.
But if the behavior of the parts at any level is completely governed by the laws
of nature, how can genuine free will exist in such a world? Doesn't a scientific
view of human nature preclude the possibility of free will, and hence of moral
Questions: (i) What does Murphy mean by "causal reductionism"? (ii) What arguments
does she level against this view? (iii) What does she mean by "downward
causation"? (iv) How does (or might) the idea of downward causation help
to make sense of a nonreductive physicalist conception of human persons
endowed with free will?
OCT 4 (TH) OBJECTIONS TO PHYSICALISM, AND RESPONSES
Reading: Nancey Murphy, "Objections and Responses" (Chapter 4)
Preview: The nonreductive physicalist conception of human nature that Murphy
champions is a long way from the "standard dualist view" we started with
exactly one month ago. Like any interesting philosophical view, it faces a
number of challenges. We'll consider some of these philosophical challenges,
as well as Murphy's responses to them.
Questions: (i) According to Murphy, what are the three most serious philosophical
challenges to a (nonreductive) physicalist conception of human nature? (ii)
Briefly, how does she respond to each of these challenges? (iii) Having now
completed Murphy's book, are you persuaded by her account of human
OCT 9 (T) COLLABORATIVE WORK ON TERM PAPERS
PART IV: THE METAPHYSICS OF BODILY SURVIVAL
OCT 11 (TH) PATRISTIC AND MEDIEVAL PERSPECTIVES
Reading: St. Augustine, "The Resurrection of the Body" (ERes)
Guest: Dr. Anna Harrison, LMU Department of Theological Studies
Preview: The Apostles' Creed boldly affirms belief in "the resurrection of the body
and the life everlasting." But what does this mean? Is "the resurrection of
the body" to be understood literally, i.e., that this very same flesh will rise
again? As St. Augustine noted, "No doctrine of the Christian Faith is so
vehemently and so obstinately opposed as the doctrine of the resurrection
of the flesh." In this class we will begin considering the Christian doctrine
of resurrection with the expert assistance of Dr. Anna Harrison, LMU
Department of Theological Studies.
Questions: (i) According to St. Augustine, how is "the resurrection of the body" to be
understood? Is it literally a "rising up" of the very same body that one had
while alive, or is it a "spiritual body" of some sort? (ii) What sorts of problems
did pagans raise to the Christian doctrine of resurrection? (iii) How does
Augustine attempt to answer these challenges? (iv) In your view, does he
adequately respond to these challenges? (v) Can you think of other, perhaps
stronger challenges to the doctrine of resurrection that he does not consider?
OCT 16 (T) A DEFENSE OF THE REASSEMBLY THEORY
SECOND TERM PAPER ESSAY DUE -- IN CLASS.
Reading: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles (selections)
Preview: If St. Augustine was the theological giant of the early Christian era, then St.
Thomas Aquinas surely qualifies as the theological overachiever of the medieval
era. In comprehensive works such as his massive Summa Theologiae and
Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas systematically explicated fundamental
Christian doctrines. The doctrine of resurrection was no exception. We'll
consider his views on resurrection, especially the idea that the resurrection
body will be numerically identical to the pre-mortem body.
Questions: (i) According to St. Thomas, why is resurrection of the body (and not merely
immortality of the soul) necessary? (ii) What does Aquinas mean when he
says "by the union of numerically the same soul with numerically the same
matter, numerically the same man will be restored"? (iii) How does he take
into account the fact that the matter of our bodies is constantly changing
throughout our lives? (iv) According to Aquinas, what sorts of qualities and
powers will our resurrection bodies have? (I'm hoping that he's right,
especially about the "agility" part.)
OCT 18 (TH) THE REPLICA THEORY
Reading: John Hick, "The Recreation of the Psycho-Physical Person" (ERes)
Preview: As we have seen, Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas insist
that the body that rises in the resurrection will be the "selfsame" pre-mortem
body that previously was alive. But why suppose that the resurrection body
must consist of the very same matter as the pre-mortem body in order to be
considered the same body? Might there not be philosophical advantages to
thinking of resurrection as "recreation" rather than "reassembly"?
Questions: (i) Why does Hick claim that "the general resurrection ... has nothing to do
with the resuscitation of corpses in a cemetery"? (ii) How does his conception
of resurrection differ in essential respects from that of Augustine and Aquinas?
(iii) Why does Hick tell a story about a certain "John Smith"? How is this story
supposed to show that "Personal identity does not depend on the numerical
identity of the physical constituents of the body, but upon the pattern which is
OCT 23 (T) UNDERGRADUATE HOLIDAY -- NO CLASS!
OCT 25 (TH) A CRITIQUE OF THE REPLICA THEORY
Reading: J.J. Clarke, "John Hick's Resurrection"
Preview: Everyone seems to agree that John Hick's theory of resurrection is both
ingenious and skillfully defended by Hick. It has certainly been influential and
widely discussed. But not everyone has been convinced that it represents a
logically possible conception of how God could resurrect individual human
beings. We'll consider some objections to Hick's theory, and attempt to
answer the question you've no doubt long pondered: "Are people more like
music or paintings?"
Questions: (i) Clarke constructs an argument against Hick's theory involving reference to
three "Hicks": two heavenly twins (H2 and H3) and the earthly forbear (H1).
Explain as clearly as you can the structure of Clarke's argument. (ii) Why
does he conclude that "since multiples of re-embodied Hick cannot enter the
resurrection world, then neither can one"? (iii) Why might this be thought to
be fatal for Hick's theory? (iv) How would Hick respond to this criticism?
OCT 30 (T) THE SIMULACRUM THEORY
Reading: Peter van Inwagen, "The Possibility of Resurrection" (ERes)
Preview: In order for a person to be resurrected, it seems, it is not sufficient that the
person be merely "copied." As Aquinas noted, bodily identity appears to
require that the resurrection body be numerically identical to the pre-mortem
body. But what if the simple fact of the body's being destroyed in death precluded
that same body from ever existing again? Numerical identity of the body might be
necessary for resurrection. But is it sufficient? If it isn't sufficient, then what other
possibilities (if any) are there?
Questions: (i) van Inwagen tells a story about a certain manuscript written in St. Augustine's
hand that is subsequently destroyed. What is the point of this story? How does it
constitute a critique of Hick's theory of resurrection? (ii) van Inwagen considers
the idea that God could simply reconstitute the original manuscript by reassembling
all the bits of matter that it was originally composed out of. Why does he reject this
idea? How might this constitute a critique of Aquinas' theory? (iii) How might van
Inwagen's alternative theory involving the creation of a simulacrum solve these
NOV 1 (TH) ON THE POSSIBILITY OF IDENTITY ACROSS TEMPORAL GAPS
Reading: Trenton Merricks, "How to Live Forever without Saving Your Soul" (ERes)
Preview: Resurrection appears to require that persons actually die, at least physically.
Death involves the destruction of the body. So any adequate theory of resurrection
will have to take into account the destruction of the body. The problem, however,
is that it is unclear how a person could ever continue to exist, or to come back into
existence, after a "temporal gap" in his or her existence. But what if identity over
time does not necessarily involve continuous, uninterrupted existence? More
modestly, what if we can never know whether identity requires continuous,
uninterrupted existence? Would this epistemological fallibilism help to solve the
problem of bodily resurrection after the complete destruction of the body?
Questions: (i) Why does Merricks reject the "resurrection as reassembly" view? (ii) Why
does he reject the "resurrection as psychological continuity" view? (iii) Why
does he think that there are no criteria of personal identity? (iv) How, precisely,
does Merrick's denial of criteria for personal identity bear on his claim that
"temporal gaps in a person's life, of the sort implied by death, decay, and
resurrection, are not ruled out"?
NOV 6 (T) THE FISSIONING OF CAUSAL PATHS THEORY
Reading: Kevin Corcoran, "Postmortem Survival without Temporal Gaps" (ERes)
Preview: If persons cannot survive temporal gaps in their existence, then resurrection
appears to be problematic. Merricks counsels modesty with regard to our
modal intuitions concerning identity. Maybe persons can survive temporal gaps
in their existence. This spirit of epistemological modesty might be sufficient to
show that, for all we know, resurrection is possible. But it also thereby leaves
open the opposite possibility, namely, that resurrection might be impossible.
Ideally, it needs to be shown that resurrection is possible whether or not
persons can survive temporal gaps in their existence. Kevin Corcoran sets
out to provide just such an account.
Questions: (i) What does Corcoran mean when he says that "human persons are essentially
constituted by their bodies without being identical with the bodies that constitute
them? (ii) How does this principle function in his theory of resurrection involving
"resurrection by fissioning of causal paths"? (iii) According to Corcoran, what is
the "metaphysical cost" of his proposed theory of resurrection?
NOV 8 (TH) COLLABORATIVE WORK ON TERM PAPERS
Preview: Collaborative Work on Essays in Class
PART V: DEATH, IMMORTALITY, & THE MEANING OF LIFE
NOV 13 (T) WE ARE NOT HARMED BY DEATH
Reading: Stephen E. Rosenbaum, "How to Be Dead and Not Care" (ERes)
Preview: Most discussions of life after death, immortality, the meaning of life, etc., take
for granted that death is an evil, or at least something to be avoided, if possible.
If things that harm us are to be avoided, and death harms us, then this way of
thinking makes sense. But does death harm us? What if death = total personal
annihiliation? How could we be harmed if we are no longer around at all?
The puzzle of how we can be harmed by that which is not has long vexed
philosophers. Today we'll consider Epicurus's classic argument, as explained
and defended by Stephen Rosenbaum, that we are not harmed by death.
Questions: (i) What, exactly, is Epicurus's argument against fearing death? (ii) How does
Rosenbaum propose to reconstruct this argument? (iii) Of the various objections
to Epicurus' argument that Rosenbaum discusses, which one strikes you as the
most serious objection? (iv) How does Rosenbaum respond to this objection?
(v) In your view, has Rosenbaum adequately defended Epicurus's position?
NOV 15 (TH) DEATH MAY BE BAD FOR THE ONE WHO DIES
THIRD TERM PAPER ESSAY DUE -- IN CLASS.
Reading: Anthony L. Brueckner & John Martin Fischer, "Why is Death Bad?" (ERes)
Preview: Rosenbaum, following Epicurus, argues that death is not a bad thing for the
person whose death it is (assuming that death = complete personal annihilation).
Brueckner and Fischer begin from the supposition that death is (or at least can
be) a bad thing for the person whose death it is, and set out to try to determine
why (i.e., what makes) it bad. Rather than focusing on Epicurus's argument,
however, they reflect mainly on the sort of consideration that Lucretius (a follower
of Epicurus) emphasized, namely, our asymmetrical attitudes toward pre-natal and
post-mortem existences. People don't generally lament the fact that they weren't
born any earlier than they were; why should they lament the fact that they don't
die any later than they do?
Questions: (i) According to Brueckner and Fischer, can something be bad for a person that
that person never experiences as bad? (ii) In explaining challenges to our
asymmetrical attitudes toward pre-natal and post-mortem deprivation, why do
they reject the idea that it is logically impossible that one should have been born
much earlier? (iii) In the end, how do they defend asymmetric attitudes toward
pre-natal and post-mortem deprivation?
NOV 20 (T) MEANING IN LIFE REQUIRES IMMORTALITY
Reading: Leo Tolstoy, "My Confession"
Preview: If anyone could be described as "having it all" and living "the good life," it
would have been Leo Tolstoy. World-famous author, wealthy landowner,
devoted family man: Tolstoy had the sort of success in life that most people
associate with a happy, satisfying, fulfilling existence. Yet he reached a point
where he had to trick himself out of committing suicide. Why? According to
Tolstoy, why were none of his accomplishments enough? What was missing
from his life? And did he correctly diagnose his existential disease?
Questions: (i) What was the "arrest of life" that Tolstoy described? That is, what problem
or question became more and more urgent and demanded an answer? (ii)
What is the point of the story Tolstoy tells about the traveler trapped in a well?
What do the dragon at the bottom, the white and black mice, and the honey
represent? (iii) What did he mean when he wrote: "I understood that, no matter
how irrational ... the answers might be that faith gave, they all had this advantage:
that they introduced into each answer the relation of the finite to the infinite,
without which there could be no answer"? What was his solution to the problem
of the meaning of life?
NOV 22 (TH) THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY -- NO CLASS!
NOV 27 (T) MEANING IN LIFE DOES NOT REQUIRE IMMORTALITY
Reading: Richard Taylor, "The Meaning of Life" (ERes)
Preview: According to one conception of "a meaningful life," only lives that are oriented
toward some objectively good thing can correctly be said to be truly meaning-
ful. A life devoted to inflicting great pain on others, for example, cannot be a
a truly meaningful life in this view. According to another conception, however,
what matters for meaning is not what you do (the external aspect), but rather
how what you do relates to your inner desires, goals, dreams, etc. Is there a
correct answer to this conflict, or are there simply different, competing,
irreconcilable conceptions of "the meaning of life"?
Questions: (i) Why does Taylor retell the ancient story of Sisyphus? (ii) Why, according
to Taylor, is Sisyphus' labor so pointless? (iii) How would the meaningfulness
of Sisyphus' life be affected if we suppose that each time he rolls a different
rock to the top of the hill, and there constructs a beautiful temple? (iv) How
would the meaningfulness of Sisyphus' life be affected if we suppose that he
is given a persistent and insatiable desire to roll rocks up the mountain? (v) In
Taylor's view, how can "an existence that is objectively meaningless ...
nonetheless acquire a meaning for him whose existence it is"? Explain.
NOV 29 (TH) LIVING FOREVER WOULD BE INTOLERABLE
Reading: Bernard Williams, "The Makropoulos Case" (ERes)
Preview: Tolstoy assumed that unless his life continued forever, then it couldn't have
any real meaning in the here and now. Taylor challenges this assumption --
perhaps life can be perfectly meaningful even if it doesn't continue forever.
But what if Tolstoy is not just wrong about the need for life to go on forever,
but actually had just the opposite of the most sensible view? What if
immortality, rather than being a blessing, would necessarily be a curse?
Questions: (i) Who was Elina Makropoulos and what is significant about her story and
her momentous decision? (ii) Williams writes: "[F]rom facts about human
desire and happiness and what a human life is, it follows ... that immortality
would be, where conceivable at all, intolerable." What facts does he have in
mind here? (iii) Why does Williams maintain that "in a sense, death gives ...
meaning to life"? (iv) In light of this, why might the prospect of eternal life
boredom lead one to say, along with Williams, "felix opportunitate mortis"?
DEC 4 (T) LIVING FOREVER MIGHT BE OKAY
Reading: John Martin Fischer, "Why Immortality is Not So Bad" (ERes)
Preview: If Tolstoy is right, then immortality is absolutely necessary in order for one's
life to have meaning. But if Williams is right, then immortality guarantees that
one's life would eventually become intolerable (whether this entails that it would
thereby become meaningless is another matter -- one's meaning might be to wish
that one were truly dead!) Of course, whether Williams is right depends, in part,
on what sort of beings we are, on what sorts of experiences we could have
over the course of an eternity, and how well we could adapt. John Martin Fischer
thinks that immortality might not be so bad. Today we'll discuss whether we agree.
Questions: (i) What does Fischer mean by Williams' "identity condition"? (ii) What does he
mean by Williams' "attractiveness condition"? (iii) According to Fischer, how do
these conditions figure in Williams' argument? (iv) How does Fischer challenge
Williams' use of these two conditions? (v) Has Fischer convinced you that
immortality might not be so bad after all?
DEC 6 (TH) CONCLUDING DISCUSSION
Reading: Woody Allen, "Death Knocks"
DEC 13 (TH) FINAL VERSION OF TERM PAPER DUE -- by 1:00 PM.
Required Texts: Nancey Murphy (2006), Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
(New York: Cambridge University Press); and readings placed on ERes.
change at the discretion of the Instructor.
Attendance ------------------------ 10 pts.
Student Learning Outcomes
(The understanding, abilities, and values you should acquire in this course)
This course is designed to engage students in philosophical reflection about some of
the fundamental questions of human existence as they arise in the Catholic intellectual
tradition. Students mastering the material and assignments in this course will:
o Understand a range of issues of fundamental significance concerning human
existence through reading, writing, discussion, and critical reflection.
o Acquire or further develop the ability to: engage in sustained philosophical reflection
on issues of fundamental significance; effectively interpret and critically evaluate
philosophical texts and claims; articulate and defend a reasoned philosophical thesis
or interpretation on one or more issues.
o Come to a greater appreciation for the value of sustained philosophical reflection
on issues and problems of fundamental human significance, and of the processes
necessary for arriving at one’s own reasoned position on such issues.
These are the goals you should be aiming for in this course. The extent to which, you
achieve them is a function of the time and effort you are willing to invest in this course.
Plan to devote at least three hours of reading and study in preparation for each class
(What you will do to achieve the Student Learning Outcomes)
To assist you in achieving the Learning Outcomes for this course, you will complete
four assignments, with point values distributed as follows:
Class Participation ----------------- 10 pts.
Reading Quizzes ------------------- 30 pts.
Term Paper ------------------------ 70 pts.
Total ------- 120 pts.
(1) Attendance. You're taking a college
course. Obviously, you
should show up for
the class meetings! Students are expected to be present, on time, for every class
meeting. But I'll assign attendance points to reward you for consistent class attendance.
I will, however, insist that you be in class on time for every class meeting you attend.
(Full credit for attendance on any given class day requires being present and seated
when attendance is recorded at the beginning of the class period. If you arrive late,
you may not be counted, because I won't stop class to go back and note your arrival.)
Insisting that you be in class on time for every class meeting you attend has a very
simple (and compelling) rationale: Arriving at class late disrupts the learning experience
of your classmates. It steals what is rightfully theirs. Just as it is possible to improve
our classroom discussions by your presence, it is also possible to have a detrimental
effect on our discussions, e.g., by coming in late, packing up your belongings before
class is finished, engaging in behaviors that are inappropriate in a learning environment
(eating, text messaging, giving a hot-oil massage to the student sitting in front of you,
non-class related discussions, etc.). Out of consideration for your classmates (or, at
least, out of enlightened self-interest) please be in class, ready to begin, on time. You
may miss two class meetings and still earn the maximum attendance score (10 points).
If you must miss class for some reason, be sure to inform me of your impending
absence before the missed class. For each additional missed class, you will earn one
less attendance point. If you must miss class it is your responsibility to do the reading,
obtain notes from a classmate, and get back up to speed on the material. I cannot
"re-lecture" in class or in office hours for students who were not present when material
was presented and discussed in class.
(2) Participation. The best sort of learning takes place when ideas are shared, examined,
evaluated, and possibly even revised in dialogue with others. Students will therefore be
encouraged (and expected) to share their questions, comments, and reflections during
our class meetings. Attendance in the classroom is a necessary but not sufficient condition
for earning a good participation grade. Consistently improving our class discussions by
your active involvement is sufficient. This can take many forms: responding to questions
the instructor raises, asking questions about the reading, responding to the ideas of your
classmates, etc. The point is to become actively engaged our classroom activities in a
way that enhances the effectiveness of those activities. The time to begin participating is
the very first day of the course.
(3) Reading Quizzes. Reading the material assigned for each class meeting is essential
to participating in class discussions and deriving maximum benefit from this course. In
order to provide an incentive (and to reward you) for reading each assignment, I will
give twelve Reading Quizzes throughout the semester. You should be prepared for a
Reading Quiz at the beginning of each class meeting on the material assigned for that
class meeting. However, I will not be giving a Reading/Viewing Quiz at the beginning
of every class meeting. Quiz dates will not be announced in advance. I will drop the
two lowest Quiz scores, which means that it is possible to miss two Quizzes entirely
and still earn a perfect score (30 points) for this part of the course.
Please read carefully the following policy concerning Reading Quizzes:
I understand that events over which you have little or no control and for which you
are not responsible can and will transpire, e.g., emergencies arise, people get sick,
relatives and beloved pets die, alarm clocks fail to ring, traffic in Southern California
can be a bear, etc. This is why I will drop the two lowest Quiz scores -- to take into
account life's contingencies. Your final Quiz score will represent your actual perform-
ance on these Quizzes, not your effort (which I have no way of evaluating), although
obviously the two are not unrelated. Please note that if you arrive in class after a Quiz
for that day has been collected you will not be permitted to take that Quiz. If you arrive
in class after a Quiz has been distributed, then you must turn in your Quiz along with
everyone else. That is, you will not be given additional time to complete it. Because
Quizzes will not be announced in advance, it would obviously be in your interest to be
in class, ready to begin, for every class meeting. It should go without saying that there
is no make-up for a missed Quiz. (If you miss a Quiz, you receive zero points for that
Quiz.) If earning a good grade in this course is important to you, it would make sense
to miss class only when doing so is absolutely unavoidable.
(4) Term Paper.
This is the major assignment in the
course. Each student will write
a term paper in stages, with feedback given at each stage. The final version will be a
summation and revision of the work you complete during the semester, and will take
the place of a final exam in this course. See the Term Paper Assignment
page for important additional details, including the questions you will addressing.
How Final Grades are Assigned
(How I will evaluate your performance in this course)
Final grades will be assigned as follows:
Classroom Etiquette114-120 pts. = A (Outstanding) 92-95 pts. = C+ (Superior Adequacy)
108-113 pts. = A- (Excellent) 88-91 pts. = C (Adequate)
104-107 pts. = B+ (Very Good) 84-87 pts. = C- (Sub-Adequate)
100-103 pts. = B (Good) 78-83 pts. = D (Barely Passing)
96-99 pts. = B- (Goodish) < 77 pts. = F (Failing)I will be creating grading rubrics for each stage of the Term Paper assignment, as
well as for the the completed Term Paper, and will distribute these during the semester.
Please note that behavior appropriate for a college class is expected of all students
in this course. This is a serious undertaking, and your classmates deserve that the
classroom remain a professional learning environment. Cell phones (pagers, etc.)
must be turned off (not merely put on "vibrate" mode) upon entering the classroom.
Students should get a drink of water or use the restroom facilities before coming to
class. Students may bring something to drink to class, but should not bring other
food items into the classroom. If you come to class feeling ill, you should sit by the
door to make a quick and unobtrusive exit if you need to. Under no circumstances
should you arrive at class late, walk between the instructor and the rest of the class,
or ask for a copy of that day's materials (if any) once the class session has begun.
Nor should you begin zipping or unzipping your backpack in preparation to leave
prior to the end of the class session. Please re-read this paragraph!
On Laptop Computers: I certainly appreciate how convenient it can be to type
notes directly into your computer in class. In the past I've permitted this because I
didn't see any reason not to (does that make me a Liberal?). The last few semesters,
however, have convinced me that this was a mistake. [Insert deep sigh here....]
Despite one's good intentions, the temptations to check email, chat, or engage in
other non-class-related activities are probably too great for most mere mortals to
resist. I wish that it could be otherwise, but (Plato would be so proud!) I have to
accept reality. So, sorry, but no laptop (or desktop, or mainframe ...) computer
use in class.
Loyola Marymount University is a community
dedicated to academic excellence,
student-centered education, and the Jesuit and Marymount traditions. As such, the
University expects all members of its community to act with honesty and integrity at
all times, but especially in their academic work. Academic honesty respects the
intellectual and creative work of others, flows from dedication to and pride in
performing one’s own best work, and is essential if true learning is to take place.
Academic integrity is absolutely essential
to the educational enterprise. Consequently,
academic dishonesty of any sort is completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated,
and consequently will be dealt with as the serious violation it is. The University's
policy on Academic Honesty and Integrity is explained in LMU's Undergraduate
Bulletin, which reads (in part) as follows:
from all members of its community. Applied to the arena of academic performance
these standards preclude all acts of cheating on assignments or examinations,
plagiarism, forgery of signatures or falsification of data .... Students who commit
any offense against academic honesty and integrity may receive from an instructor
a failing grade in an assignment or a failing grade in a course without possibility of
withdrawal. The nature of any of the offenses mentioned above may dictate
suspension or dismissal from the University....
The following are examples
of academic dishonesty. This list is not exhaustive.
the student’s responsibility to make sure that his/her work meets the standards of
academic honesty set forth in the Honor Code. If the student is unclear about how
these definitions and standards apply to his/herwork, it is the student’s responsibility
to contact the instructor to clarify the ambiguity before work is turned in for credit.
and Facilitating Cheating
1. Possession, distribution, and/or use of unauthorized materials or technology
before or during an examination or during the process of preparing a class
2. Collaboration on class assignments, including in-class and take home
examinations, without the permission of the instructor.
3. Provision of assistance to another student attempting to use unauthorized
resources or collaboration on class assignments or examinations.
1. Presentation of someone else’s ideas or work, either in written form or
non-print media, as one’s own.
2. Omission or improper use of citations in written work.
3. Omission or improper use of credits and attributions in non-print media.
C. Improper Use of Internet Sites and Resources
1. Inappropriate use of an Internet source, including, but not limited to,
submission of a paper, in part or in its entirety, purchased or otherwise
obtained via the Internet, and failure to provide proper citation for sources
found on the Internet.
If you are unsure what sort
of behavior constitutes academic dishonesty,
an excellent time to consider the issue more carefully and to find out. The potential
consequences of committing an act of academic dishonesty, intentionally or
unintentionally, are dire. This is not something you should want to experience.
SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS: Students with special needs who need
reasonable modifications, special assistance, or accommodations in this course
should promptly direct their request to the Disability Support Services Office.
Any student who currently has a documented disability (physical, learning, or
psychological) needing academic accommodations should contact the Disability
Services Office (Daum Hall # 224, x84535) as early in the semester as possible.
All discussions will remain confidential. Please visit http://www.lmu.edu/dss
for additional information.
If you have any questions
or concerns you wish to discuss in connection
course, do not hesitate to contact me. The best way to reach me outside of office
hours is by email: email@example.com. Occasionally I may need to contact you
by email, e.g, to alert you to a change in the Syllabus, if I should have to miss class
for some reason, etc. Unless you provide me with another email address, I will
assume that your email address is the firstname.lastname@example.org address provided
by the University. You should check your LMU email account every day so that
you don't miss important messages.
I look forward to getting to know you this semester!
-- Prof. Shanahan