Mosaic II (Spring 2009) - Syllabus

Mosaic II: Humanities Seminar

IH 0852 | CRN 087599 - 58 | TR 11:40-1:00 | Room: Gladfelter Hall 449 | Spring 2009

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | | office hours: 746 Anderson Hall, 4:15-5:00 TR


The Mosaic humanities seminars are topically organized explorations of the human situation. In the first Mosaic course (or in IH 1), you were introduced to influential works of poetry, drama, philosophy, literature, and religion. The second Mosaic seminar covers four additional topics: Science, Power, Money, and the City. The goal of the course is to help students better understand who we are, how we got here, and where we might aspire to go. Our focus will be more philosophical than historical. We will begin with an exploration of the ethics of medical testing and then move on to a brief look at the fundamental theory of modern biology—evolutionary theory. Next, we will study the philosophically rich epic the Illiad. Then we will turn to political philosophy, staring with John Locke’s influential Second Treatise of Government. We will ask questions such as: Can we justify private property? What is the basis of political authority? When is it justified to overthrow a government? After Locke we will look at More’s Utopia and several chapters from Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Nozick challenges the basis of forms of political power that one might assume are perfectly justified. Just what is it, if anything, that gives the state the right to tax citizens and enforce laws? After Nozick, we will read a few chapters of Jacobs' important study of what makes a good city. Finally, returning to evolutionary theory, we will read de Waal’s study of the evolution of morality—what it is that, among other things, allows us to live together relatively peacefully in close proximity to others. Here we will ask whether an evolutionary explanation of the source of moral motivation has implication for theories of moral knowledge. We will also raise general questions about the epistemic value of evolutionary psychological explanations.


There are eight required texts for this course:

  1. *Jenner, Edward. Vaccination Against Smallpox. Prometheus Books, 1996. ISBN 1573920649

  2. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. Harmondsworth, Penguin Classics, 1985. ISBN 0140432051.

  3. *Homer. The Iliad. Trans. and ed. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1997. ISBN 0872203522.

  4. Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Ed. C.B. Macpherson. Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, 1980. ISBN 0915144867.

  5. *More, Thomas. Utopia. Trans. Clarence H. Miller. Yale Univ. Press, 2001. ISBN 0300084293.

  6. Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books, 1974. ISBN 0465097200.

  7. *Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage, 1992. ISBN 067974195X.

  8. De Waal, Frans. Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN: 0674356616.

I will post a few additional readings on Blackboard.

*All Mosaic I courses are divided into the same four, loosely connected units. The texts marked with an asterisk are required of all Mosaic I courses.


There will be three forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 25) daily quizzes, two papers, and two examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. There will be two papers of 3-4 pages on assigned topics. There will also be a mid-term and a final examination.

Quizzes (10%) + Paper 1 (20%) + Paper 2 (25%) + midterm (20%) + final (25%).

Attendance Policy

If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course.

Class Schedule (tentative)

Unit I Science

Week 1

T (1/20): Introduction to the Liberal Arts

R (1/22): Human Subject Testing: Gloucestershire to Tuskegee

Jenner, ch. 1 (pp. 13-40); “Belmont Report” (NIH) [BB]

Week 2

T (1/27): Germ Theory: Guinea Worms to Superbugs

“Guinea Pigging” (The New Yorker) [BB]

R (1/29): Unconscious Selection: How to Make an Almond

Darwin, The Origin of Species, ch. 1 (pp. 71-100)

Week 3

T (2/3): Natural Selection: Australian Rabbits and Tanzanian Perch

Darwin, The Origin of Species, chs. 2 and 3 (pp. 101-130)

R (2/5): How to Make a Human: The Big Bang to the Bronze Age

Darwin, The Origin of Species, ch. 4 (pp. 130-172); and Darwin, The Descent of Man, ch.21 [BB]

Unit II Power

Week 4

T (2/10): The Bronze Age (of ancient Greece) to the Present

Iliad, books 1-2 (pp. 1-49)

R (2/12): Diomedes' Glory: Who's Responsible?

Iliad, books 3-8 (pp. 50-159)

Week 5

T (2/17): The Doloneia

Iliad, books 9-11 (pp. 160-223)

R (2/19): Sarpedon's Fate

Iliad, books 12-16 (pp. 224-332)

Paper I Due

Week 6

T (2/24): Achilles' Weeping Horses: Immortality Reconsidered

Iliad, books 17-19 (pp. 333-386)

R (2/26): "The gods have woven pain into mortal lives"

Iliad, books 20-24 (pp. 387-492)

Week 7

T (3/3): The Social Contract: Hobbes and Locke

Locke, chs. I-IV (pp. 7-18)

R (3/5): Private Property Rights

Locke, ch. V "Property" (pp. 18-30)

Week 8

Spring Break (3/9-3/13)

Week 9

T (3/17): Justifying the State

Locke, chs. VI-IX (pp. 30-68)

R (3/19): Overthrowing the State

Locke, chs. XVIII-XiX (pp. 101-124)

Unit III Money

Week 10

T (3/24): Utopia, Book 1 (pp. 3-50)

R (3/26): Utopia, start Book 2 (pp. 51-95)

Midterm Due

Week 11

T (3/31): Utopia, finish Book 2 (pp. 95-139)

R (4/2): The Experience Machine

Nozick, ch. 3 (pp. 26-45)

Week 12 Distributive Justice

T (4/7): Justice as Fairness

Rawls, selections from A Theory of Justice [BB]

R (5/9): Is Taxation akin to Slavery?

Nozick, ch. 7 (pp. 149-182)

Unit IV Environment / City

Week 13

T (4/14): Jacobs, ch. 1, "Introduction" (pp. 3-28)

R (4/16): Jacobs, ch. 2, "The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety" (pp. 29-55) and ch. 5 "The Uses of Neighborhood Parks" (pp. 89-111)

Week 14

T (4/21): Jacobs, ch. 7, "The Generators of Diversity" (pp. 143-151), and ch. 11, "The Need for Concentration" (pp. 200-221)

Paper II due

R (4/23): De Waal, Prologue and ch. 1 (pp. 1-39)

Week 15

T (4/28): De Waal, ch. 2, "Sympathy" (pp. 40-88)

R (4/30): De Waal, ch. 3, "Rank and Order" (pp. 89-132)

End of Classes

Week 16 (Final exam week)