HIEU 380 ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT
Allan Megill, University of Virginia, Fall 2002
Cabell 311, 2:00-3:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays c:\MyFiles\380cont\38003desyes
COURSE DESCRIPTION AND REQUIREMENTS
Note: For full information about this course, you need to have in your possession both this handout and the handout headed "Syllabus." You should read both handouts carefully.
INSTRUCTOR CONTACT INFORMATION: Office Location: 221 Randall Hall.
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 3:40-4:40, and by arrangement. You should not feel confined to my scheduled office hours. An efficient means of arranging appointment times is by e-mailing me. Often, I can arrange meetings at other times than the official hours. Note: On occasion I shall have to cancel office hours because of other obligations. It is helpful, therefore, to contact me ahead of time even if you plan to come during regularly scheduled hours. I do not guarantee my presence at any particular scheduled office hour, unless you have alerted me that you will be coming to see me then.
Telephone Numbers: Office: 924-6414 (voice mail after several rings if there is no answer). Home: 971-8744 (answering machine after several rings).
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Instructor home page: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~adm9e
Course home page: http:/toolkit.virginia.edu/HIEU380. Some class handouts will be available via the toolkit (and via my personal home page). But you should not expect to pick up all class handouts in that way.
SUBJECT MATTER: The course examines some important topics in intellectual history from Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) onward. The course does not claim to survey the intellectual history of the period in question. Instead it focuses on a few important themes--themes that I take to be important for understanding the historical background to current theoretical reflection. The themes that we consider include: (1) the decline of belief in the notion of a single, progressive historical process, a notion that dominated much of nineteenth-century thought; (2) the rise of the notion of a pre-rational or irrational unconscious, which paralleled doubts concerning the rational ordering of the world in general; (3) the emergence of "aestheticism" and of "crisis thought"; and (4) the emergence of new views of interpretation and of science. The overall theme is the presence of, and challenges to, the notion that there is a rationality embedded in the world.
Aim and Style: The primary aim of the course is to impart some understanding of the intellectual positions advanced by the thinkers whom we shall be reading. A lesser aim is to explain why they arrived at those positions. The explanations that I offer will usually be rather "internalist" in character, emphasizing dialogue and conflict within intellectual traditions. I shall also take note of "externalist" explanations for intellectual persistence and change, pointing, for example, to sociological and psychological influences, although I often find such explanations trivial. I am interested in describing contexts external to texts or intellectual traditions only insofar as those contexts are relevant to understanding the texts that we shall be reading. I do not deal with the texts as a means of illuminating non-intellectual contexts.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS IN GENERAL: Emphasis will be on the student's own reading of the works with which we shall be dealing. The idea is that by the end of the semester you should be able to present, and argue the case for, your own well-considered ideas concerning the thinkers and themes covered, instead of simply regurgitating lecture notes. Of course, I do expect that your understanding of the texts will be accurate. So, you will need to
(a) begin by reading carefully and attentively;
(b) correct your initial understanding of the reading in the light of what is said in class;
(c) revise and review; and
(d) come up with some ideas of your own concerning the material.
You should not assume that the course will resemble in its approach other courses you may have taken in the history department, or elsewhere at UVa. It is not the classic "just take good notes" class--although I do urge you to take good notes.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS IN DETAIL:
(1) To give a focus to the reading and to stimulate intelligent comments and questions, I assign weekly "think" questions (TQs) during most of the semester. These are based on the reading and require informal one-paragraph answers. They are marked on a pass-fail basis. It is crucial that the reading be done on time, so that you read it before I explicate it in class. If you do the reading only after I have discussed it, you will never know the material for yourself, and it will show.
Note: Usually I do not accept late TQs, and I generally accept substitute TQs (when agreed-upon with me) only one lecture period past the time when the skipped TQ was to be handed in.
(2) There will be a midterm test, 50 minutes long, which will be given in class period 14, on Monday, October 20, 2003. Consider it as counting for 15% of the grade: in fact, the midterm is likely to be decisive for your grade only in cases of ambiguity. For example, if at the end I have given you a B/B+ as a tentative grade (based on an equal weighting of requirements  and ), your midterm grade, along with your TQs, will come into play in helping us to decide which of these two grades to give.
(3) This is an important class requirement: The following assignment serves as a substitute for the traditional "term paper" requirement. Toward the end of the semester students will make up a "restricted term paper" for the course, of not more than six single-spaced typewritten pages. Pages should be numbered. Turn of right-justification. (By a "restricted term paper" I mean a term paper that does not require new reading or research, but instead requires you to reflect more deeply on what you have already read.) Requirement (c), and (d), below, are far weightier than (a) and (b) in determining the final grade; (c) and (d), further, are about equal in importance.
You are to pose a question or questions (most likely only one) designed to cover the material of the course, and answer the question or questions in as concise, integrated, and original a way as possible. The question or questions chosen should provide an opportunity for displaying an understanding of the course as a whole. The "restricted term paper" will be marked on a letter-grade basis. I consider this paper to be about as important as the final exam in determining the grade: that is, very important. To allow the marking and return of these papers before the end of classes, the due date is Tuesday, November 25, 2002 (last day before the Thanksgiving Break), by 4 p.m., under the door of my office, 221 Randall Hall. Note: I do not want electronic submission; it is a pain. And I want the paper submitted only under the door of my office, not anywhere else. For reasons of fairness, the deadline is quite rigid, and exceptions will be granted only under unusual circumstances. Also, students are expected to retain a copy of their paper, and of their working notes and drafts, until the middle of next semester. Finally, you should visibly identify your authorship of the paper by using your social security number only, which you should put on the first page, and which you should also include as header text on each subsequent page. Please do not include a separate cover page. As for your name, please do write it under a folded-down corner of the final page.
Note: A few students with prior background may wish to write a traditional term paper (focused on a specialized topic) instead of the "restricted term paper." Any such student should discuss the matter with the instructor. Topics need to be cleared in advance. However, the vast majority of students find that the "restricted term paper" requirement better suits their needs and time constraints.
(4) There will be a 2 1/2-hour closed-book closed-notes examination; it will be held on Monday, December 15, 2003, from 2:00 to 4:30 pm. This is an important class requirement. Thus, a pretty good term paper followed by a messed-up final will have consequences for the grade.
(5) The "restricted term paper" and the final exam count about equally for the final grade. The midterm test may marginally influence the grade when there is some doubt in my mind as to what, exactly, it should be. The number and quality of the "think questions" also has some marginal influence on the grade.
Graduate Students: Graduate students are welcome to sit in on the class (if there is space), but they are generally not supposed to say anything during the class. Sometimes graduate students audit the class, while pursuing some well defined term paper project under a graduate number.
CONCERNING PREREQUISITES: After taking a 300-level course taught by me, sometimes students have complained because I did not set any prerequisites for the course. In fact, no specific prerequisite courses are needed: people who are entirely ignorant of the subject matter can do very well in it, as long as they can write reasonably well and think in a precise and critical way. (For example, chemistry majors, math majors, engineers, and others who don't know the subject matter can do quite well in the course, as long as they can write reasonably well and are not under the misapprehension that this is a gutless humanities course that does not require good note-taking and systematic effort generally.) Needed are: (a) the ability to discern the argument or arguments in what one is reading, (b) the ability to read critically, (c) diligence, and (d) attention to detail.
HONOR REQUIREMENT: It is acceptable, and is in fact encouraged, for students to discuss course material among themselves. It is also acceptable for students to discuss possible topics for the "restricted term paper" among themselves. I do not consider such discussion to constitute an honor violation, even though it may well aid you in your work. In cases of doubt you should ask, and in general you should follow a policy of full disclosure. (Of course, I urge you very strongly to discuss with me your ideas for a restricted term paper topic: I can often provide good advice.)
BOOKS (available at UVa Bookstore, with a few copies also at the Student Bookstore, 1515 University Avenue; the texts will also be on reserve in Clemons, for "emergency" use). I list new price/used price as stated by the UVa Bookstore.
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, ed. Joseph Carroll (Broadview). ISBN 1-55111-337-6. [There is also a Penguin paperback of the book as well as a Mentor paperback. The Broadview paperback has some additional material, but one could get away with using the Penguin or the Mentor, and consulting the additional material (of which I shall refer to only a small part) by using the Clemons reserve copy. The Penguin and Broadview texts are of the first edition, of 1859, or essentially so; the Mentor edition incorporates substantive revisions from later editions. We are most interested in the 1859 edition.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (Penguin). Other editions are acceptable. Walter Kaufmann's translation of BT is good. Golffing's translation, in "The Birth of Tragedy" and "The Genealogy of Morals" (Doubleday) sometimes diverges seriously from the original.
Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (California)
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Kaufmann (Penguin)
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Hackett). This is a new edition, superior to all previous English versions of GM. But Kaufmann's translation is also good, and, once again, one can live with Golffing's translation if you have it already.
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (Discus Avon)
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (Norton)
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (SUNY Press)
Class Packet, The Copy Shop, 5-B Elliewood Avenue, 295-8337. The price is $18. For your convenience, one copy is on reserve in Clemons.
In addition, there is a relatively small amount of in-copyright material that students will have to photocopy for themselves, from Mandelbaum, History, Man, and Reason, Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Sigmund Freud, Standard Edition, vol. 2 ("Anna O."), and Heidegger, Being and Time. I list the specific pages in a separate handout headed "Additional Reading."