Syllabus Ross Chapman PHIL 202

Syllabus Ross Chapman PHIL 202

Welcome to Phil 202 Philosophy of Love and Sexuality



The week’s work will become visible at midnight on Sundays, a week before it is due.  The Midterm and Final will appear as Writing Assignments.  The Midterm and Final will become visible at midnight on Fridays, two weekends before they are due.  There are no other writing assignments or discussions the weeks of the midterm and final.  All work will be due at 11:59 PM on Sundays, except for the midterm examination, for which you will receive extra time. (Once the clock turn 11:59, your time is up.  You do not have the 1 minute between 11:59 and midnight.  So, submit your post no later than when the clock reads 11:58.) Read the syllabus and then click on the Discussion in the Week 1 Module to begin the course. 


Read the following carefully.  It is a contract between you and the instructor, which will govern the conduct of the course.  The instructor will not deviate from this syllabus and you will be held to the requirements of the syllabus.  After reading the syllabus go to the Modules and open the Discussion to begin the class.


Warning: Grading this course is based on your ability to write essays of 500 and 750 words.  If you do not have a facility in writing essays, you will do poorly in this class.  That said, it is unlikely that anyone who has a basic facility in reading and writing and who does the work regularly will receive less than a C in the course.


Do not go to Wikipedia to find answers for the writing assignments, discussions, midterm examination or final examination.  Do not go to any other outside source.  Use my weekly comments to increase your understanding; but do not quote my comments.  You are to derive your answers from your reading of the textbook, the discussions, my comments on your assignments and my weekly comments, which I will email to you. Do not quote from the textbook.  Your task is to provide an explanation that fellow students might find useful. 

Instructor:  Dr. Jeffrey Berger

Office: Hours: 10:30-12:50 and 2:30-3 Tuesdays and Thursdays

Office: BR 25L

Texts: The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love edited by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins

The Philosophy of Sex, Seventh Edition (You must use the 7th edition.  The assigned essays do not appear in previous editions.)  edited by Nicholas Power, Raja Halwani and Alan Soble.  (Both books are probably cheaper on Amazon than they are in the college bookstore.) 


As you can see, like most men,I can’t manage to get love and sex together and have them separated in two different books.  Likewise, I haven’t managed to get them together during the semester.  The first half of the semester will discuss love---from The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love.  And the second half of the semester will discuss sex (from The Philosophy of Sex).  At least, unlike most men, I have organized the course to have love come before sex.  This paragraph is intended to be light-hearted and joking about male proclivities.  You can laugh now.  We will be dealing with sensitive issues, so we want to be sensitive to differences in attitudes to both sex and love; but we should also be lighthearted.  Feel free to criticize other people in the class, including me, for what you take to be sexist comment.  However, if you are going to accuse someone of being sexist, you should explain why you think a particular remark counts as being sexist, and be ready to receive a defense and engage in debate.  So, if you think my characterization of male proclivities is sexist, say so and explain why.  I won't be offended, although I have engaged in self-deprecating humor to make sure that I was making fun of myself and not a group to which I didn't belong. In general please try not to mistreat other people in the course.  Respond to their positions, certainly; but don’t attack them personally.  Remember, there can be honest differences of opinion. 

         The Philosophy of Love and Sexuality discusses philosophical problems that arise within our everyday lives.  Philosophical problems are distinguished from other problems in that philosophical problems are uniquely concerned with conceptual analysis.  Problems in philosophy are related to the concepts that we use to talk about the world.  Philosophy is, thus, talk about talk.  The sciences rely on empirical observation---facts; but in order for sciences to decide on which facts are relevant to developing theories, they have to decide on how to talk about these facts---they need concepts.  Thus, the first job of any discipline is to decide about which concepts they are going to use to explain reality, i.e., to develop theories about the nature of reality.   For example, in order to determine if a transsexual is to count as a man or a woman, we need to decide whether to use chromosomes, genitals or something else as our criterion.  If we use chromosomes, then a man who has had a sex change operation would not be a woman; but that means that this person who is now anatomically like a woman would have to use the men's room (as we see in North Carolina) and would be placed in a men's prison, if he committed a crime. On the other hand, if we use genitals, a 6'11" former man, who would have a big advantage over women with XX chromosomes, would be able to play in the WNBA.  Finally, if we say that your gender is based on what you believe you are, that would mean that we would not be able to determine the gender of babies, and that people would simply pick one when they become 18 (or some other arbitrary age) and might even be able to go back and forth depending on how they felt each day.  Gender would then become fluid.  As we will see later in the course, many theorists differentiate sex from gender, making gender more problematic.  Problems like this come up all the time, and these are the types of problems philosophers discuss.  Philosophers ask questions about which set of concepts best illuminate the nature of reality and which conceal important aspects of reality.   In this class, we will look at a series of problem that arise when we try to talk about the concepts of gender, sex, love, objectification, consent, sexual orientation, and transsexuality (which we began discussing above).  The clarification of these concepts will help us in our ability to evaluate our attitudes towards love and its place in human life, sex and its place in human life, and homosexuality and transexuality and its place in society.

Course Learning Objectives


Upon completion of this course students will be able to:


  • Explain the relation between philosophical concepts and contemporary debates on sexual ethics and theories of love
  •  Analyze philosophical texts for key concepts and/or  arguments
  • Critique arguments concerning philosophical concepts of love and sexuality.



 Course requirements:

 There will be 12 writing assignments, 13 discussions, a midterm and a final.  Each discussion and each writing assignment will be worth 2 points, except that in the first week, there will be no writing assignment and the discussion will count 4 points, so that there will be a total of 52 possible points for writing assignments and discussions.  The midterm and final will be worth 24 points each, and will appear as "Assignments," with more than a week to complete them.  There are, therefore, a total of 100 points possible.  In order to get an A in the course, a student would have to earn 88 points, for a B 76 points, for a C 64 points, D 52 points, and below 52 is an F.  All writing assignments, tests and discussions will be based on readings in the text.  No outside reading is required or expected. All work will be due at 11:59 PM on Sundays, except for the midterm and final, where you will be given extra time.


 Technical Requirements:

 Students are required to post writing assignments, discussions and examinations within the time allotted.  No excuses will be accepted either due to technical difficulties or personal problems.  Thus, a wise student will post early and not wait until the last moment.  A wise student will also write the post in Word and then copy it or upload it to the Discussion, Writing Assignment or exam.  This will guarantee that you will not lose your material through some computer glitch.  If you are unable to submit your post through the Canvas system due to technical problems, submit your post to me at or through the Canvas email system.  Students can get help with Canvas by calling the IT department's Help Desk at 215-496-6000. Students can also request help by using the "Help" link in Canvas.



 Students who are registered with the Center on Disability must inform the instructor by the end of the first week of classes if special accommodations are requested. If you have any questions about special accommodations, you may also contact the Center on Disability at 215-751-8050. They are located in Room BG-39.



 Writing Assignments and Discussions:

Each week there will be posted questions about a reading or set of readings in the course.  You will be required to post an answer of about 500 words for each writing assignment and discussion.  All work will be due at 11:59 PM on Sundays, except for the midterm and final, where you will be given extra time.

In your Writing Assignment and Discussion posts, you should not quote from the text or paraphrase.  Writing Assignment questions will call upon you to explain aspects of the text, and you will be given 2 points for an adequate explanation.  Adequate explanations are explanations that show that you have read and attempted to understand the text, which includes the author's argument, and which would allow someone who had not read the text to understand what the author is doing in the text.  Authors are never simply stating beliefs.  They are always involved in solving some sort of problem and are always involved in some sort of controversy with another person or position.  The nature of the problem and or controversy should be made clear in your presentation.  Inadequate posts will be given 1 point, provided that they are at least on topic and approximately 500 words long.  Inadequate responses to the writing assignment show little or no attempt to understand the text and are much less than 500 words long.  Failure to post will result in a 0.

In discussions, you will be asked for your own considered position on the readings and will be given 2 points for an adequate considered position (not simply your opinion).  An adequate considered position provides a reason for your audience to agree with you.  Inadequate posts will get 1 point.  It is expected that you will not simply repeat what someone else has posted, which means that you will have to read the other posts in order to ensure that your post is not the same as a fellow classmate's.  (Obviously, this gives you an incentive to post early.)  You may, however, comment on other student's posts instead of starting a new thread in the conversation.  Reasonable comments would include criticism of other students' considered positions, agreement and extension of what another student says, a characterization of what another student or group of students are saying, a characterization of a debate among the students, noting differences among students and trying to clear up disagreements among students.  I will make comments on your Writing Assignments and Discussion entries, and email my comments on the overall discussions and writing assignments each week after I have received all of the submissions.   Your responses to the writing assignments and the discussions, and my responses will then serve as study notes for the midterm and final exams.  The quality of your posts will determine how useful they will be both for yourself and fellow students. 

Failure to post within the allotted time will result in 0 points.  Miss more than 3 weeks of posts and it will be impossible to get an A.  Miss more than 6 weeks of posts and it is impossible to get a B, although by that time, I will have dropped you from the class. 

 Mid-term and Final Examinations:

The midterm will test students on the first set of 6 readings, and the final will test students primarily on the second set of 6 readings, although there may be references in the final to the first set of readings and the test will require a general understanding of all the controversies we have discussed during the semester.  Each test will consist of 3 questions, and students will be expected to write about 750 words in response to each question.  Since each test has a total of 24 points, each question is worth 8 points.  Students who show that they have an adequate understanding of the material and can write an intelligent essay will receive the full 8 points.  Students who have a vague understanding of the material will receive 4 points.  Students who do not post or have no understanding will receive a 0.  Basically, A: 8, A-/B+: 7, B: 6, B-/C+:5, C: 4, C-/D+: 3, D: 2, D-: 1, F: 0.  You will have at least 10 days to complete the midterm and final exams.  The exams will be posted as “Writing Assignments.” The midterm and final will become visible at midnight on Friday over a week before they are due (3/14 and 5/1 respectively).  All other work will be due at 11:59 PM on Sundays.  There will be an extra credit question and points for early submission on the final examination which together would allow you to earn an extra 10 points.                                                                                                                                           


Rules for Writing Assignments, Discussions, and Midterm and Final Examinations:

  1. You must use complete English sentences, spell check and proofread your essay.  Do not use texting symbols or abbreviations.  Do not use profane language, except where warranted by the material. 
  2. This is a formal essay.  You should write as if you were trying to explain these issues for a friend who had not read the text.  However, you should write a formal essay.  Do not directly address your audience informally, as if you were speaking to them.  Write as if you were writing an essay that would be included in a book.
  3. Remember that there are other human beings in the discussion with you and not just a computer screen.  The basic rules of civility apply. Do not curse or berate people with whom you disagree.  Disagreements are not personal and the person you disagree with should not be treated like an idiot. 
  4. Do not go to Wikipedia to find answers for the writing assignments, discussions, or examinations. Do not go to any outside source.  Use my weekly comments to increase your understanding; but do not quote my comments.  You are to derive your answers from your reading of the textbook; but do not quote from the textbook.  Your task is to provide an explanation that fellow students might find useful.
  5.   Do not plagiarize.


Disobey any of the first 3 rules and you will have 1 point deducted from your grade for the writing assignment, discussion or exam.  Disobey the fourth rule and you will receive an 0 for the assignment, discussion, or examination.  Disobey the fifth rule and you fail the course.


Plagiarism will result in an F for the course.  Plagiarism consists in presenting the words of someone else as your own by not enclosing them in quotes.  If you plagiarize, I will find it, I will fail you, and I will report you to the Dean of Students.


Academic Integrity Policy

“Even one violation of academic integrity results in your automatic failure of the course.   There are no exceptions.  Take this policy very seriously.  Ignorance and carelessness are not acceptable excuses.  If you are unsure about what is or is not appropriate, please contact the instructor without delay.” 


* Departmental policy dictates that a violation of the College academic integrity policy will result in the student automatically earning no credit for the course. The student may withdraw from the course if the incident occurs early enough in the term; otherwise, the student will earn an F for the course. Faculty are also encouraged to report all violations to the Dean of Students using the Behavioral Reporting Form within MyCCP.



Course Outline


All readings in the first half of the course are from The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love.

All readings in the second half of the course are from The Philosophy of Sex.


Week 1: Getting to Know One Another: No Reading

Week 2: Plato from Symposium, “The Speech of Socrates” (21-27), Augustine, from The City of God (44-48) 

Week 3: Arthur Schopenhauer from World as Will and Idea (121-131)

Week 4: Sigmund Freud “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love,” “On Narcissism: An Introduction,” and “’Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness” (153-176)

Week 5: Simone de Beauvoir from The Second Sex, (233-240), Shulamith Firestone from The Dialectic of Sex (247-256)

Week 6: Irving Singer from The Nature of Love “Appraisal and Bestowal” (267-278)

Week 7: Robert Nozick “Love’s Bond” (417-432)

Week 8: Midterm Examination

Week 9: #2 Greta Christina "Are we Having Sex Now or What?" (31-37) and 

#24 David Benatar "Two Views of Sexual Ethics: Promiscuity, Pedophilia, and Rape" (437-448)

Week 10: #23 Shaun Miller "BDSM" (421-436)

Week 11:  #19 Seiriol Morgan "Dark Desires" (349-370) and 

# 20 Robin West “The Harms of Consensual Sex” (371-379)

Week 12: #21 Linda Papadaki "Sexual Objectification (381-399)

Week 13: #13 William S. Wilkerson “What is Sexual Orientation” (221-240)

Week 14: #8 Talia Mae Bettcher "Trans 101" (119-137)

Course Summary:

Date Details Due