Philosophy 375: Special Topics/Human Nature

Fall Semester, 2007
Jacksonville University
Dr. Scott Kimbrough
Office: Council 127
Office hours: M 11:00-1:00, W 10:00-12:00, or by appointment
Office phone: 256-7118
e-mail address:

Last updated 12/6/07

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Course Description:

What does it mean to be human? Are we naturally good, or naturally bad? Can we draw any ethical conclusions from an account of our nature? If we achieve the power to change human nature, should we use it? This course will examine recent scientific efforts to answer these questions, especially those based in Darwinian evolutionary theory. Topics include evolutionary psychology, gender, the origin of morality, and the ethics of enhancing human nature.

Required Books:

Frans de Waal. Primates and Philosophers, Princeton University Press, 2006.

Michael Gazzaniga. The Ethical Brain, Harper Perennial, 2005.

There will be a number of electronic texts, either posted in the reading list below or in the Course Documents section of Blackboard.

Course Requirements:

Participation and Attendance: Attendance and participation in discussions are expected.

Reviews of studies (10%): Each student will write two 2 to 3 page reviews of studies relevant to the course topic. The reviews include a summary of the studies methods and conclusions, and a critical analysis thereof. Students will tell the class about the studies they find.

Evolutionary theory exam (5%): Because many of our later readings will presuppose a basic understanding of evolutionary theory, we will have an exam covering the main concepts of the theory on Wednesday 9/19.

Argumentative essays (20% each): Two five to seven page argumentative essays will be assigned.

Research Paper (25%): A ten to twelve page research paper on a topic of your own choosing is due Monday, November 19th. One-page topic abstracts are due by Monday, October 15th. Students will present their research findings to the class after the Thanksgiving break.

Final Exam (20%): The take-home exam will be comprehensive and essay format.

Plagiarism and Turn It In

Definition of plagiarism: Plagiarism consists in copying or closely paraphrasing the work of another, in whole or in part, without citing the source. Plagiarized papers will receive a zero. Furthermore, plagiarists will be reported to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

All papers must be submitted electronically to

A hard copy of each paper must be submitted as well. The hard copy must have the turnitin reciept number for the paper written on the upper right corner of the first page.

To register for turnitin, click on New User on the upper right hand side of the screen and follow the instructions.

To log on, you will need the class ID number and the password. Here they are: ID 1965489, password human.

Papers that are not submitted to turnitin will receive an F.

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