Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics PH 338

Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics PH 338

What do we learn in this course?

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In this course we shall talk about how our social reality is constructed. By society we mean ‘institutions’ like government, law, marriage, and money. The reality of such social institutions are dependent on the reality of basic facts. The basic facts are not dependent for their existence on us. we experience them directly. But institutional facts are dependent on basic facts. Our ability to analyze and understand society itself was considerably aided by the work of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Carnap, Strawson, and Austin who were the individuals involved in constructing what is known as the Philosophy of Language.We shall rely on the methods of study which philosophy of language developed to understand what the philosophy of society talks about. To be a human beings is distinguished from being other animals, on the basis that human specious is able to use a language to express what is on their minds. Language is an institution but it is not just an institution but the primary one. Human beings and they are able to live in institutions of society which they have themselves instructed. To inhabit these institutions the human beings will have the ability to speak a language. The rudimentary details of how this has taken place is what this course will attempt to explain.

  1. How is the course taught?

In the course I shall first introduce the ideas that are necessary to imagine how reality, especially social reality is constructed by us. I shall introduce six such notions. They are, 1. status functions, 2. collective intentionality, 3. deontic powers, 4. desire-independent reasons for action, 5. constitutive rules, 6. institutional facts. After we lean what these fundamental ideas are, we shall apply them to see how sisal reality functions in our lives. I shall take atomic theory of matter in physics and evolutionary theory of life in biology as my guidelines of how to develop our view of society.

  1. What are the main requirements to complete the course?

Before I state these requirements here are some directions in answering the questions. Each of these question was formulated with great care for you to answer. We have learned as children that promises are to be kept, and lying and stealing is bad, and that no harm should be inflicted upon living creatures. But what we have learned are not explained to us. As children we don’t really know why truth should be told. We think that it is because our parents require this. But as adults we know that truth telling is required by living in society because it secures one’s trustworthiness. Why this is so is something as an adult we come to understand. So think carefully when you answer these questions. Read the book, get a good idea of what is discussed, put your own views in non-technical words as far as possible, compose you answers to the point of what is asked, and write for informing rather than making impressions. This course explains what institutions are and why they were constructed by us and how it serves our purposes, and how sometimes it is corrupted by some of us, we cannot as a group function with out some institutions. We constantly try to make the institutions better.

  1. The assignments and requirements for this class fall into five categories.

Essays are based on Making the Human World: Structure of Human Civilization. John R. Searle, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195396171

For the essays here, they should be written in nontechnical, straightforward, ordinary language. They should be a approximately a 1000 words, without errors that might impede their understanding as a reader. If you use a technical term please immediately say how the term is to be understood. Thank you.

These are:


Essay 1. On the conceptual equipment. (Chapter 1 of the book)

You should address the following questions in this essay.

(a) In physics we talk of the atom, in chemistry we talk of the bond, in biology it is the cell, genetics the DNA, in geology it is the tectonic plate. What do we talk about in sociology (the systematic study of sociology)?

(b) What other ideas are necessary to explain the logical mechanism of society?

(c) Status functions, what are they?

(d) Collective intentionality, what is it?

(e) Deontic powers, what are they?

(f) Reason indipendente of desires for action, what sort of reason is it?

(g) Constitutive rules, how are they different from regulative rules?

(h) Institutional facts, what are they?


Essay 2. On intentionality. (Chapter 2 of the book)

You should address the following questions in this essay.

(a) What does it mean to form intentions?

(b) How is consciousness different from intentions?

(c) If you were to explain intentionality, what is its general structure?

Essay 3. On Colective intentionality. (Chapter 3 of the book)

You’r essay should address the following.

(a) what are we talking of when we are talking of the logical properties of something?

(b) Collective intentionality or we-intentionality as opposed to I-intentionality, what is it?

(c) What are some of the current ways of talking of collective intentions?

(d) How can collective intention move individual bodies?

(e) Distinguish the idea of cooperation from that of collective recognition

Essay 4. On Language. (Chapter 4 of the book)

Your essay should address the following.

(a) How is the biological and social elements distinguished in Language?

(b) Explain briefly the phonology, syntax and semantics of language.

(c) The common features of language and pre linguistic mentality.

(d) What has language got that prelinguistic mentality lacks?

(e) What are the features of consciousness tat language lacks?

(f) What are the functions of language and explain the difference between representation and expression.

(g) Show the features of language that is active in creating society.

(h) Sho how commitments are part and parcel of using langue.

(i) How does language enable us to construct social institutions?

Essay 5. On Language and Social Reality. ( Chapter 5 of the book)

Your essay should address the following.

(a) What is institutional reality?

(b) Creating institutional facts: How does a wall become boundary?

(c) Creating institutional facts: How does one thing counts as another thing in certain context?

(d) How is something like a corporation constructed?

(e) Explain speech acts with reference to construction of social events.

(f) What is the special function of writing?

Essay 6. On Free Will (Chapter 6 of the book)

Your essay should address the following.

(a) How do human institutional facts lock in to human rationality?

(b) Why does the institutional structure of society be there?

(c) Can society be constructed as an engineering problem?

(d) Can unconscious robots have institutions?

(e) Is it possible to program human beings to act like robots?

(f) What does ‘Deontology’ mean and how is this thought involved with rationality and freedom?

Essay 7. On Power (Chapter 7 of the book)

Your essay should address the following problem.

(a) What is the idea of power and specifically the idea of political power?

(b) What is bio-power, what is French thinkers Foucault ideas of power.

(c) What is the idea of a background/network power?

(d) How does the existence of background/network power explain who or what is exercising this power?

(e) State the paradox in political power.

(f) Can democratic societies be made consistent with religious societies?

(g) What in summary is the conclusion of the discussion of political power in the text book?

Essay 8. On Rights.

Your essay should address the following.

(a) What are riots or what does it mean to have rights?

(b) I have duties and rights as a father, and a son, and a teacher, but do I have any as a human being?

(c) How does rights come to be?

(d) Why do all rights also imply obligation?

(e) How can there be universal human rights?

(f) Is there a distinction of sorts between positive and negative rights?

(g) what are the common logical mistakes about the idea of rights?


Essay 9. On the book, a book report.

Your essay should address the following.

(a) With what purpose is the book written?

(b) Does the book achieve that purpose?

(c) What makes people accept the ideas in the book?

(d) Is the logic of the book and the way the author argues his points compelling for you?

(e) Where or to which part do you disagree with the author?

(f) Provide a summary of what you are doing in writing this book report.


Essay 10: On collaborative Learning.

Write in simple readable prose. Word limit 1000

(a) In collaborative learning you are not in competition with the other students, instead, you learn from the other student and give help in return.

(b) You have to initiate questions, what did you do especially to accomplish this?

(b) You have to respond in a nonoffensive way to other’s responses. What did you learn about this?

(c) Making your question and response conversational, this means one thing leads to another, your questions will invoke a response.

(d) How do you show that your interlocuter was wrong or you have to disagree? Were you able to state your disagreement and yet not offend the person?

(e) Please note that collaborative learning is a Marianist and a Hawaiian educational feature. Can collaborative learning be a good thing for all human beings?


Essay 11: On practical or service-learning. (Sometimes known as the x-factor assignment.)

Write in simple readable prose. Word limit 1000

(a) What kind of service-learning were you doing that makes it relevant to what this course is? Was it something requiring manual labor, intellectual help, emotional companionship or any other like these?

(b) Service-learning means that you interacted with others. What did such interaction teach you about the people, their circumstances in life, about yourself?

(c) When you learn to do something usually there are many practices that you learn. What practice did you learn by serving others?

(d) Why were those practices instructive? What did you learn from them?

(e) Why did those practices matter? What value did they have for you?

(f) Please note that this is a Marianist requirement. Can serving others also be a good thing for the rest of us members of human beings?

  1. What do we read as texts in this course?

We shall read the following.

Making the Human World: Structure of Human Civilization. John R. Searle, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195396171

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