Course: CHV 390 / PHI 390 / GSS 391
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course examines different philosophical perspectives regarding the nature of sexual consent, love, and marriage. Although these are the main topics covered (over the course of approximately three weeks each), other topics of the course include the nature of sexual perversion, and the ethics of pornography and prostitution (covered more synoptically). This course aims to provide you with perspectives that will challenge the foundations of your opinions on these topics, and give you the conceptual vocabulary to reconstruct your views more concretely. In other words, the goal of this course is as much to learn about “The Ethics of Love and Sex” as it is to teach you how to deconstruct and, hence, construct valid and strong philosophical arguments.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThis course is taught in seminar form, broken down into two 1h 20min sections per week. Professor Harman starts by illuminating the key points of the readings, summarized in her weekly handouts, which provide a thorough overview of the texts and help make sure that everyone is on the same page at the beginning of the discussion. Although these summaries provide a good overview of the material, it is definitely necessary to complete the readings as thoroughly as possible to be able to contribute to the discussion meaningfully. That being said, it is definitely possible to contribute to the discussion without a thorough understanding of all readings. The discussion is fast-paced, and, like most discussions, does not follow a straightforward or linear progression. This means that note-taking is hard while much focus is needed in order to remain engaged. Note-taking is also not absolutely necessary. Although many of my classmates chose to take notes on their own sheets of paper, I instead chose to take note of only some of my thoughts, and record those on the handouts. I found this to be an effective way of keeping a record of my key take-aways, while also letting most of the learning occur through engagement in the class discussions.
Learning For and From AssignmentsAbout 120 pages or reading are assigned, weekly. Written responses to these readings are submitted twice per week along with other assignments spread over the course of the semester (two 3-4 page papers, two 7-8 page papers, two 10 min presentations). In other words, this is a reading and assignment heavy course, so be prepared to work consistently. All the aforementioned assignments required the deconstruction of one of a chosen author’s argument into premises. Being called to deconstruct authors’ arguments on a regular basis, I did not only come to understand the texts better, but also became more effective at locating and outlining ones I subsequently came across, and constructing my own arguments more robustly. In other words, the written assignments of this course are an opportunity to both engage with the materials more closely, and improve one’s skills in understanding and creating philosophical writing.
External ResourcesProfessor Harman was the main resource I made use of throughout the course of this class! She encouraged all of us to submit drafts of our assignments beforehand and set aside time at the end of class to schedule meeting times with each and every one of us to discuss our drafts with her. During these meetings, she provided specific, pointed feedback that drastically improved the quality of each of my assignments. I encourage anyone taking this course to meet with Professor Harman to discuss each assignment, although I am sure that she herself will not be leaving students much of a choice not to!
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis is an intense course that requires consistent engagement, both inside and outside the classroom. It is by no means a class one should take if not intending to focus on it (potentially/probably more so than on other classes). I was the only student in the class who had not taken a class in the Philosophy Department before, and one of three Sophomores. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this class, I am aware that I would have been able to better understand the readings, and complete assignments with more ease, had I taken a class in the Department before. Based on my experience, I would say that it is definitely possible to get a lot out of this class with no prior experience in philosophy, but in this case one should really be prepared to work really hard.
The Ethics of Love and Sex