PHIL 2215: Nature of Self

“Dark Was the Night"
Blind Willie Johnson

Who am I?  Who are we?  What does it mean to be a human being in this world?  Is there some kind of human nature, good or bad?  Or are we, in the end, empty beings, perpetually (and freely) recreating ourselves as we see fit?  Questions like these — and there are many others — are undeniably philosophical, and in this introductory course, we will explore them critically and with open minds; we will investigate our own humanity.

There are many approaches to these undeniably difficult questions, and we will consider at least fifteen of them: from Confucianism and Upanishadic Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, from Plato and Aristotle to Freud and Sartre, from ancient Buddhism to contemporary Darwinism.  You might find some of these approaches insightful; you might find some of them perfectly ridiculous — if not downright offensive. The point, either way, is to work at understanding them.

Time permitting, we will also watch the controversial American film Fight Club, which explores many of the anthropological questions that animate this course.  But be warned: It is extremely violent and contains images that are reminiscent of the 9/11 terror attacks.

These are the materials that we will cover:

Twelve Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson, David L. Haberman, and Peter Matthews Wright; 978-0-19-985903-0

The Study of Human Nature: A Reader edited by Leslie Stevenson; ISBN: 978-0-19-512715-7

And here are some course-related media:



© Douglas Ficek