Personal and Social Responsibility

January 29, 2001

This is a two-semester, 12 credit course fulfilling all core requirements in philosophy and theology. Its contents include your activities in field projects as well as readings, classroom discussions, and conferences with the instructor. You may select your field involvement from the range of field projects sponsored by the Pulse Program. (Contact the Pulse Office, McElroy 117.)

The classroom and field project are intended to complement each other in leading students to reflect upon the meaning of their lives and the society they live in. In your field projects, you will undoubtedly encounter places, people and situations which will cause you to wonder about much that you had previously taken for granted. The focus of the class readings will be on the writings of men and women who have entertained similar questions. These experiences and readings will lead us to consider the capacities and limitations of our social, political and economic institutions for meeting the challenges of our day. They will raise questions as to what constitutes human fulfillment, genuine happiness. Through our discussions and readings, you will be engaged in the challenge of personal self-discovery and growth as they relate to the question of what it means to assume responsibility for social problems.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS: An evaluation of your field work by your field supervisor will count for 40% of your grade. (N.B.: If you have difficulty being placed in your field project, you must speak with me.) The remaining 60% will be based on the midterm and final exams on the readings, classroom and discussion group participation, and the content of your regular written assignments. (These will include either a journal, or three (3) short papers).
Failure in either class or field placement constitutes a failure in the course.

CLASS PARTICIPATION AND DISCUSSION GROUPS: Initially we will be meeting as a whole class 3 times a week, and concentrating on the assigned readings. We will begin meeting in smaller discussion groups (officially designated “PL 080, sects. 09 & 10) the week of September 13. Discussion group times are as follows:
Tuesdays, 12:00-12:50 (PL080, section 09, Carney Hall 007)
Wednesdays, 11:00-11:50 ( PL080, section 10, Carney Hall 009)

From then on, in addition to the three regular meetings of the class as a whole (TTh 10:30), your discussion group will also meet on a weekly basis. The discussion groups will focus on your project experiences, questions and reflections pertaining to the readings, and periodic assignments. The Assignment for the week of September 13 is Rachel Remen, “In the Service of Life” (Photocopied material to be distributed).(N.B. If you find it difficult to speak up in a group setting, please see me.)

REGULAR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS: Each student must submit either (A) a weekly journal or (B) three (3) short papers. You must decide on option (A) or (B) by September 9, and inform me in writing. (A Preference List will be circulated in class on September 9).

In addition, (C) everyone must complete regular, assigned installments on her or his “Institutional Analysis.

(A) JOURNAL: Journal entries must be written and turned in to the instructor every week. They will be returned to you in your discussion groups.

It is difficult to say precisely what a journal should be, because journals are very individual things. Some people take to them very spontaneously; but others find they “can’t think of anything to write about.” (N.B.: For this and other reasons, I may ask those who choose the journal option to change to the (3) short papers option if, in my judgment, this is warranted.)

Essentially journals tend to begin with detailed descriptions of people, situations, deeds, thoughts, or feelings which arise in connection with your project or class readings or discussions. However, your journal topics need not be limited to these areas, and may range to touch upon any subject you desire. After detailed description, your journal should move on to “reflection” on what you’ve described. Such reflections should move in directions suggested by class readings and discussions. These must draw upon class readings, lectures and/or discussions to illuminate and criticize the concrete occurrences described in the detailed descriptions.

(B) THREE (3) SHORT PAPERS: Three short papers of 4-5 pages each will be due on September 30, October 28, and December 2.

Each paper should have two parts–PART I: take a theme or idea from the class readings and explain it. What did the author mean? What was his/her approach, method? etc. Then, PART II: apply the idea or theme to some issue, event, etc. which happened at your field placement. (Your other life experiences are also welcome here.) [You will be evaluated both for the accuracy of PART I, and the creativity and insightfulness of PART II.]

(C) INSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS: An important part of this course consists in understanding the ways in which we are social creatures, what benefits we inherit from our social memberships, what responsibilities we have to society and history, what ills betrouble social groups, and how social institutions function to promote or inhibit the realization of a just society. The Institutional Analysis assignment for this course is designed to help you begin to think concretely about these issues. It will help you understand and explore them through the lens of the agency you volunteer for. Instructions for composing institutional analysis are available on a separate sheet.

Course Calendar and Reading List
(Fall, 1999)

Week of: Reading Assignment
August 30 Introduction

September 6 Axline, Dibs: In Search of Self
Carter, “Insufficiency of Honesty” (Photocopied, to be distributed)

September 13 & 20 Plato, Gorgias
Lonergan: “Beliefs” (Photocopied material to be distributed)

September 24 – October 4 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics


October 11 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

October 18 Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane

October 25 Lonergan: “Religion” (Photocopied material to be distributed)

November 1 – 8 Haughton, The Transformation of Man

November 15 – 22 Himes, Doing the Truth in Love
Lonergan, “The Question of God”

November 29 – December 6 St. Augustine, Confessions

Midterm exam: In-class, written exam, Thursday, October 7

Final exam: Written Exam, Tuesday, December 14, 9:00am

School: Boston College
Professor: Patrick Byrne
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