Philosophy 497
Professor: Craig DeLancey

Past Assignments
31 August
Read: "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus, and "The Absurd" by Thomas Nagel. Answer the questions on Blackboard; or, if I can get them up there, answer on paper the following (this should only take a page or so, which you can hand in at the beginning of class):
  • What is the absurd for Camus?
  • What is the absurd for Nagel?
  • Are they addressing the same concerns?
Your answer can be written like a short paper, or as a few (three might seem natural) paragraphs; but I ask that for this and for future reading assignments you write a brief, clear reply in complete sentences that anyone else would be able to read (e.g., don't give me fragments in bullet points).

If you have time, you might find the following interesting: Viggo Mortensen reads from a translation of a lecture Camus gave in NYC some years before he wrote The Rebel. The conversation afterwards is interesting for the anecdotes about Camus's continuing reputation in France.
2 September
Read: the introduction (pages 3-11) of The Rebel (hereafter MR).
Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • Camus argues from the absurd we can conclude that we shouldn't kill ourselves. Can you tease out the argument(s)? Are they valid? Are they sound? (We want to take a few days to see if we can make sense of Camus's reasoning here in his introduction to this great work.)
This should only take a page or so, which you can hand in at the beginning of class if you haven't put them in blackboard.
7 September
In class, we will continue with the question of whether Camus has a valid argument in the introduction.

9 September
Read: (1) The Rebel pages 13-22. And (2) MLK, "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence." Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • When is revolt justified, according to Camus?
  • Scheler was a philosopher who, following Nietzsche, argued revolt was motivated by resentment by the weak of the strong. What are Camus's arguments against this claim?
  • What are the similarities or differences between Camus's view of revolt and King's view of non-violent action?
This should only take a page or so, which you can hand in at the beginning of class if you haven't put them in blackboard.
12 September
Read: the section Moderation and Excess (pages 294-301) of MR. [Correction: I should have said, pages 286-301 of MR.] Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • Camus lists a number of criteria that a revolt must have in order to not become pernicious. What are these criteria?
14 September
Alright, I'm a dumbass. I gave you the wrong page numbers last time. Much of Camus's suggestions about how to properly control revolt are in pages 286-293. Sorry. Let's discuss that section also today.

Read: MR pages 286-293; and the Sade selection; and then pages 23-25 of MR; and if you can, get a start on 36-47 of MR.

The Sade selection is the tamest selection I could find, but it is still disturbing; but we need to look at some of it if we are to understand what Camus thinks is the challenge to metaphysical rebellion.

In class, we'll continue with the question of how revolt can be justly done, assuming we still have things to say about that. Then we will turn to the question of metaphysical rebellion.

NOTE: JR.1.4.pdf is posted.
16 September
Read: finish 36-47 of MR, and in TRK read chapter 1 "The Violence of Desparate Men." Optional is pages 26-35 of MR. Answer the questions on BlackBoard, which are:
  • What is metaphysical rebellion?
  • What are the essential characteristics of Sade's metaphysical rebellion?
  • In what sense is King a criminal? Is it the same sense of "crime" that Camus uses sometimes in MR?
19 September
Read: pages 62-80 of MR. Answer the following questions:
  • Alas, like everyone else, Camus uses the word "nihilism" in different ways. What way(s) can you identify in this section? Explain it.
  • What, according to Camus, is Nietzsche's criticism of Christianity? Why does Nietzsche (according to Camus) see a kind of nihilism in Christianity?
  • What is the end of Nietzsche's metaphysical rebellion, according to Camus? What does Camus mean? (See pages 74 and following.)
21 September
Logic assessment. Please remember: this is done for us to assess whether people learn critical reasoning in the program. You should not study for it or otherwise try to prepare. It does count towards your grade in class, but only a tiny bit, to encourage you to take it seriously and to do your best.
23 September
NOTE: I have an unexpected emergency, and must cancel my offices hours this afternoon. Write me and we'll find time for you Monday if you need to see me.

Read: pages 55-61 of MR and read the selection from Dostoevsky. In this scene the brothers Ivan and Alyosha are talking. Ivan is an intellectual; Alyosha is a monk who has followed a Father Zosima. Here are the reading questions: they are optional and can replace any missed set of reading questions, or just count as extra credit.
  • What does Alyosha identify as Ivan's rebellion?
  • What does the Inquisitor mean by "taking the mantle of Caesar"?
  • Camus sees in Ivan a step in the historical progression of revolt, in which grace is replaced by justice. What does this mean?
Presentation: Nick C will give us background on Ivan and The Brothers Karamazov and the Grand Inquisitor.
26 September
Let's catch our breath. We'll catch up on Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and then consider a case as a break. The case is Otpor! (In class, we'll watch:

NOTE: I've only received a LindedIn link request from one of you. I'm pining for friends!
28 September
Let's catch our breath, part 2. Discussion of Otpor! Then, time allowing, return to the question of metaphysical rebellion.
30 September
Read: finish 47-54 of MR. Be aware: Camus in these sections sometimes uses the word "rebellion" in a negative and positive way (negative being rebellion that is proceeding dangerously).

Kaela will tell us about Baudelaire.

(Remember, when you do your presentation: (1) Explain the background, (2) explain the facts or events that Camus believes are relevant, (3) explain Camus's analysis or interpretation in MR, and (4) offer your own view on whether Camus is fair or right. I think PowerPoint or the equivalent (a handout?) is a good idea. Aim for 15-20 minutes.)

I apologize, but I have a conflict with my office hours on this day and will not be able to hold my office hours. Email me and we can meet another time if you need to talk with me.
3 October
No class.
5 October
Read: finish 88-104 of MR. Optional is 81-88.

Connor will tell us about melting clocks.

(We might want to peek at Un Chien Andalou.)
6 October
There is a philosophy talk on Mind, Metaphysics, and the Future, by Pete Mandik. It's in MCC132 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. This will be a fun talk. Also: we'll be meeting from 11:00 to 12:00 pm in the IPAC conference room to just talk philosophy--join us if you can!
7 October
Read: finish 100-117 of MR.

Taylor will express the General Will. (We'll be discussing Camus's thoughts on Roussea and The Social Contract; the most important concept in the book for us is that of the General Will.)

NOTE: my office hours must start at 2:00 today, but they can run as late as you would like!
10 October
Read: finish 117-132 of MR.

Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • What did St Just do that Camus considers important?
  • What does Camus mean by "formal morality"? Why does it "devour"?
  • What, according to Camus, is "the major principle of twentieth- century tyrannies"?
Allie will give us general background on the revolution and the terror.
12 October
No class.
16 October
HI, all, I'm sick and expect there is no chance I'll be better in time to teach. Why don't you meet to discuss, as we said before, the question of how we can improve the philosophy major. Meet at our usual time, and discuss the question, and then write a short document that expresses your suggestions. If you cannot agree on some things, then you can explain that in the document. Put on the document the names of all of those who participated. Then send it to me.

Questions to consider include: the structure of the major, the courses offered, the capstone, content of various courses, and ways we might help you outside of classes.
19 October
Optional read: pages 133 - 148 of MR. These deal with Hegel and we'll discuss Hegel a bit.

Very few of you have made your resumes on LinkedIn and sent me a link! Get started!
21 October
Let's remind ourselves of what Caus has said up to now!

We might talk briefly about Hegel.

Nick W will channel St Just.
24 October
Read: pages 164-173 of MR. Optional are pages 149 - 164 and 173-176. Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • What is it about these "fastidious assassins" that Camus respects?
  • What, according to Camus, is their view on violence and justification?
  • What, according to Camus, is their relation to nihilism?
Camus wrote a play on this theme, "The Just Assassins." An odd performance, in French but with subtitles, can be seen here.

I've posted a slightly revised version of my notes as "JR.1.5.pdf". So type that after "" iff you think it might be useful.
26 October

In case anyone is interested, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is having its Brown Bag lunch conversation on "Election 2016: Beyond the Soundbite," a discussion on what has been left out of the national conversations during this election cycle. The topics are: "A Vision of Other Economies" (me), "The Aftermath of Mass Shootings: The Gun Debate and National Crime Statistics" (Jacklyn Schildkraut), and "A Defense of Intellectualism and Science" (Shashi Kanbur). This is from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Speakers Corner of Penfield Library. You can bring food and eat it there....

We have gotten through most of Camus's discussion of historical revolt. We still have to understand this thoughts on art and his summary of just revolt at the end of the book. But this is a good time for a midterm exam in class. You may use Man in Revolt and The Radical King. Here are some study questions.
  • What does Camus mean by "the absurd"?
  • What can justify a revolt, according to Camus?
  • What kind of constraints ensure that a revolt is not unjustly done, according to Camus?
  • What is metaphysical revolt?
  • What are some examples of metaphysical revolt? Explain how they fit your definition of metaphysical revolt.
  • What is the danger in metaphysical revolt, according to Camus? That is, how has metaphysical rebellion led to bad outcomes (in Camus's judgment), as a matter of historical fact? Can you give and explain specific examples, with an analysis of the nature of their rebellion? (Nietzsche, Sade, Stirner, Breton...).
  • Is Camus fair or unfair to Nietzsche/Stirner/Sade/Breton? (Pick one.) Evaluate Camus's criticisms.
  • What makes for immoral crime, and moral crime? Consider the case of MLK. What is the ambiguity in this word "crime"?
  • Historical rebellion: what went wrong with the French revolution? Evaluate Camus's claim that the execution of the King is a crucial step in the failure of the revolution. Do you agree?
  • What is the danger in Rousseau's idea of The General Will, according to Camus?
  • Camus is more sympathetic with the individual Russian terrorists like Polivanov and Voinarovsky than he is with French Jacobins involved in the Terror, like Robespierre or Saint Just. Why? Evaluate his reasoning.
  • Is Camus's argument that we should not kill ourselves, and others, valid? Is it sound?
28 October
Read: pages 177 - 187 of MR.

Milo will tell us about the early Russian terrorists.

Triumph of the Will.
31 October
Read: pages 188 - 210 of MR and from The Radial King please read 245-251. I also had listed as a recommended text David Miller's Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. This would be a good time to read (up to) chapter 5 Justice, for some context on socialism.

Renson will give us background on (general, not necessarily Marxist) socialism.
2 November
Read: pages 210 - 226 of MR.

Ivan will explain the complete works of Marx.

Optional Read The Communist Manifesto. Free online editions include this one or even this this audiobook version.
4 November
Read: pages 226 - 252 of MR.

Ian will reenact the Stalinist show trials. Perfect for a terrifying post-Halloween.
7 November
Content assessment test.

By the way, I've learned that for a few days you can watch Before The Flood for free online. The question of climate change is an interesting one for Camus's theory. I'd like to discuss it at the end of the course, but the film might be of interest to you and it's free now.
11 November
Read: pages 253 - 277 of MR.

Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • What do you think Camus means when he says "Revolt... is a fabricator of universes."? Do you agree?
  • What is Camus's concern with formalistic art? What is his concern with (overly) realistic art? (By the way, his criticisms of American novelists of this time are likely directed at Steinbeck.)
  • What are the parallels between (just) revolt and (successful) art?
14 November
Read: pages 277 - 306 of MR.

Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • We tried this once before, but now that you have read the book, what constraints does Camus offer here for what a revolt must do to be justly done? What particular claims can you identify in this section? Show a quote, if you can, to confirm your claim.
  • Carefully explain the last paragraph. What are all these references? What does Camus mean to say here? (Why Ithaca? Who is in the unbeliever's plot? Who is the mummy?)
16 November
Jonah will channel Sartre's criticism of MR. This is also a good time for Peter to tell us about Haiti.

Send me your paper hypothesis before class.
18 November
Read: chapters 1, 2, & 3 of WIKOE. Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • What role does the Army play in the Egyptian revolution? Does this complicate a Camusian analysis of the events?
  • What is Jameson's view about the post-modern condition? Do you agree with Mason that Jameson's pessimism is no longer accurate? Why?
  • According to Mason, what is the "obvious but unspoken cultural difference between modern youth protest movements and those of the past"? Do you agree with his claim here?
Recommended: if you have Netflix and can spare the time, watch The Square (it's listed as a Netflix Original). This is a documentary about the Tahrir Square revolt. (Also on Netflix, Russell Brand's comic political movie The Emporer's New Clothes has an amusing contrast between the police response to the banking crisis and their response to the youth revolts described in chapter 3 of Mason.) Also, if you got Political Philosophy A Very Short Introduction as a reference, reading chapters 3 and 4 would be valuable to read.
28 November
Read: chapters 7, 9, and 11 of WIKOE.

Bring your one-page paper summary of your paper to class.
30 November
Read: chapters 12 and 14 of WIKOE.

Answer the questions on Blackboard, which are:
  • Suppose that Mason is right, and there is a tendency in contemporary activism away from theory and from vertical/hierarchical organization. Is this a change Camus would approve of? And would a Sartrean critique (that such a change will render the activism inefficacious) be fair?
  • Do you agree with Mason's claim that "In general, throughout history, social movements failed because they were not resolute enough, because they were self-deluding, bureaucratized or badly led, or because they were disunited"? Why or why not?
  • Of Mason's Twenty Reasons--critically evaluate one of them (for example, reason 3). Is it plausible?
Oops!, I should have pointed this out before. But you can watch Paul Mason's BBC piece about Greece, which makes a good accompaniment to the reading. Here are episode 1, episode 2, 3, and 4. They are Greece after he wrote the chapter we are reading.
2 December
Review of assessment results. Check in about papers and paper reviewing. Discussion of formatting of papers.

Then, time allowing: last thoughts on Mason; Occupy; and how should we assess differential claims to inequality?
5 December
Reading: please read Revolutionary Ecology by Judi Bari.

First drafts of your paper are due at the beginning of class; aim for 7-10 pages, since this be a draft. You must email me your title, and bring to class two copies that do not have your name on them. Then, during my office hours you can stop into my office and get your reading assignment (the two papers that you will review).

Judi Bari.
7 December
Judi Bari.
9 December
Your two reviews are due to my office before 4:00 pm. You must evaluate them using the rubric.

Summary of Camus and the question of revolt.