Seminar Syllabus (Draft)

Oklahoma Scholar-Leadership Enrichment Program (OSLEP)
Seminar Syllabus (Draft)
Public Philosophy: Sharing Your Ideas in an Anti-intellectual Age
February 18-22, 2015
University of Oklahoma
Scholar: Jack Russell Weinstein, Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Institute for Philosophy
in Public Life at the University of North Dakota.
Email: Website:
Faculty Resource Person: Neal Judisch, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of
Oklahoma. Email:
Course Description: We live in an age in which the world is accessible through friends, or friends of friends,
or friends of friends of friends. Yet it sometimes seems like cat videos, Buzzfeed polls, and “click-bait”
eclipse the more thoughtful aspects of the internet. This class presents an opportunity for you to accept the
web as it is, but translate your philosophical thoughts into more accessible media without sacrificing
sophistication, integrity, or critical thinking. In the class, you will evaluate existing public philosophy and
use your new insights to create original work that will reach well beyond your own university. Whether your
concerns are political, moral, social, or just musings, this class will help you develop the skills to package
them for the new media that connects us all.
General OSLEP Seminar Requirements: Prepared attendance is crucial to the success of the course, and
you should come to class each day ready to analyze the material, pose questions, try out new ideas,
and listen to and challenge the ideas of your classmates and teachers. The grades “S” and “U”
(satisfactory/unsatisfactory) will be used for this seminar. Your grade in the class will be based on
your preparation for the class; your participation in the discussions (both quality & quantity); your
written work both before and after the class meetings; and your participation in all class activities.
Your participation in the seminar discussions will constitute 50% of your grade. OSLEP classes are
kept small in order to encourage discussion. Your contribution is essential to the success of the
seminar. Absences are only permitted in exceptional cases and with permission.
Students taking the seminar for graduate credit will be required to do additional assignments.
Requirements will be determined through discussion with the instructor.
Required texts:
Blackburn, Simon. Think.
Cathcart, Thomas. Plato and A Platypus Walk Into a Bar.
Gaarder, Jostein. Sophie's World.
Holt, Jim. Why Does the World Exist?
Williams, Joseph M. Style: Lessons in Clarity & Grace
Course requirements: Students in this course will write one or two blog posts of at least 1200 words (to be
determined in class), create 10 publishable Instagram infographics, 12 publishable Facebook or
Twitter posts, participate actively and constructively in peer-review activities, and complete the
required reading.
Please bring a functional laptop with wifi capabilities. Students must also have installed at least one
program that allows them to superimpose text on images, which is capable of altering the font, shape,
color, and direction of the text. While tablets may be used for some of the graphics-based work, they
are not suitable for the advanced word-processing we will do. Students who do not have laptops may
contact OSLEP to arrange to borrow one.
Blogs suitable for publication will be featured on, the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life
blog, and publishable Instagram posts will be distributed via the institute’s Instagram feed
Pre-seminar assignment: Please read each of the books through the pages listed:
Gaarder, pp. 1-72; Blackburn, pp. 1-81; Cathcart and Klein, pp. 1-76; Holt pp. 1-62.
For each, answer the following questions thoughtfully and in detail (please type your answers).
1. Why is this a philosophy book?
2. Is this book mores suitable for classroom reading or for one’s free time? Why?
3. Would you consider the language of this book simple, moderate, or complex? Give some examples to
justify your answer. Was it easy or difficult to understand?
4. What do you think the key ideas of the book are?
5. Summarize the book in one paragraph without indicating whether you liked it. (Do not look at the back
cover or other summaries.)
6. Which ideas in the book did you find the most interesting?
7. Which ideas would you want to discuss with others? Why?
8. Which ideas would you not want to discuss with others? Why?
9. Do you think you would like the author? Why?
10. Is there anything in the book you found unsuitable, inappropriate, or problematic? Why?
11. Is the cover intriguing? Why?
This assignment is due in the Desire2Learn drop box by Feb. 16, 2015
Please note: every class will be a mixture of discussion, writing, computer work, and seminar-style
coursework. The topics listed here represent a thematic unity to each session, not the entirety of the class
Wednesday, Feb 18:
9:30 Am
OSLEP orientation and introductions
Morning: What is philosophy? What is Public Philosophy?
Afternoon: What is a philosophical question? Reading and discussion: Simon Blackburn, Think.
Homework: Read: Read: Weinstein, “Philosophy and its Public” and “What does public philosophy
do?” & Review: Gaarder, Sophie’s World.
Thursday, Feb 19:
Morning: The importance of the history of philosophy. Reading and Discussion: Gaarder, Sophie’s
Afternoon: What Does Public Philosophy Do? Read: Weinstein, “Philosophy and its Public” and “What
does public philosophy do?”
Homework: Post first Facebook post & Review Holt, Why Does the World Exist?
Friday, Feb 20:
Morning: Philosophy and the other disciplines. Reading and Discussion: Holt: Why does the world
Afternoon: Identifying philosophical questions.
Evening: Movie: Pump up the Volume.
Homework: Post second Facebook post & review Cathcart and Klein: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a
Saturday, Feb 21:
Morning: Philosophy and personality. Reading and discussion: Cathcart and Klein: Plato and a
Platypus Walk into a Bar.
Afternoon: Philosophy and Social Media.
Homework: Prepare at least five Instagram posts for presentation in class.
Sunday, Feb 22
Morning: Revision and peer review.
Final assignment due by March 13, 2015