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PHIL 396: Philosophical Transformation

Historical and Contemporary Prospects for Philosophy as a Way of Life

Spring 2016
TTH 10:30-11:45 am, HH339
Professor: Matt Halteman
Office: 353 Hiemenga
Campus: 526-6726
Office Hours: by appointment
I. Required Materials
Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will (Hackett)
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Penguin)
Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Beacon)
Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life (Blackwell)
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Penguin)
Lao Tzu, The Way of Life (Perigee)
Simone Weil, Late Philosophical Writings (Notre Dame)
Cornel West, Democracy Matters (Penguin)
Course readings pack
II. Course Description
Philosophy is often viewed as an abstract, theoretical investigation of logical space. But there is an
underemphasizedoften hiddentradition stretching from antiquity to the present that sees
philosophy not merely as theoretical discourse, but as a way of life that can lead to spiritual
transformation for the practitioner. Our seminar will explore this vision of philosophy as
transformative experience by way of engaging in two closely-related and often simultaneous tasks:
(1) well excavate some key prospects from the hidden history of philosophy as a way of life,
paying attention not only to the Western historical roots of this tradition, but also touching down in
Chinese and Indian strains of thought that view philosophy as transformative experience (this task
will involve both foregrounding the work of thinkers viewed as marginal to the standard Western
history, like Marcus Aurelius, Gandhi, and Simone Weil, and reimagining the work of some of its
canonical figures, like Plato, Augustine, and Descartes); and (2) well consider contemporary
applications of philosophy as a way of life with an eye toward drawing out their prospects for
provoking redemptive responses to a variety of social ills (including careerism, materialism,
scientism, and structural sexism, racism, and speciesism). Well pay careful attention throughout to
the implications of this vision of philosophical transformation for Christian thought and practice.
III. Course Objectives
This course is designed to help you meet the following four objectives.
Objective One: To cultivate understanding and appreciation of important but often
underemphasized traditions within the history of philosophy of approaching the love of wisdom as a
way of life whose goal is existential transformation.

Objective Two: To highlight parallels and divergences among accounts of philosophical

transformation developed in western and eastern philosophical and spiritual traditions, and to
observe the critical value of a comparative approach to engaging these traditions.
Objective Three: To stimulate reflection and discussion of the prospects for approaching philosophy
as a way of life today, and to inspire experimentation with some of the techniques of philosophical
transformation employed throughout the history of philosophy.
Objective Four: To discern the prospects and pitfalls of approaching philosophy as a way of life for
thinking and living in Christian community.
IV. Requirements, Procedures, and Grade Assessment
This course fulfills the requirement for philosophy (single) majors to take either PHIL 395 or PHIL
A. Participation (Attendance, Question Sets, and Discussion)15%
Since some of us are naturally inclined to verbal participation and others of us are not, frequency of
verbal input isnt always the most reliable indicator of who is involved; it is possible, in other
words, to participate vigorously without speaking up a whole lot in class. My aim is to foster a
classroom environment in which different people with different learning styles may flourish equally,
and that means I never put people on the spot and I strive to include as many people in the
discussion as can be persuaded to get involved. The more tightly-knit our classroom community, the
more progress we are likely to make together (both academically and personally), so please be
attentive to your colleagues different learning styles and comfort levels.
What is a question set?: To insure fairness and to make our classroom friendly to a variety of
different learning styles, then, the large majority of your participation grade will be determined
in view of the effort you invest in composing question sets. A question set is a set of three typed
questions that you have developed in response to the assigned reading. Question sets are intended to
do three main things: (1) they provide a (relatively) non-burdensome mechanism for maintaining
reading accountability; (2) they offer an occasion to get you thinking in advance about the ideas that
come up in lectures and discussions; (3) they enable me to stay abreast of what people are interested
in or puzzled about as the course proceeds.
Procedures: Not counting the first week of class, there are a total of thirteen Tuesday meetings.
Each Tuesday (and only on Tuesday), I will accept question sets. Over the course of the semester,
you must turn in eight sets (which means that you are at liberty to skip composing question sets
for five of the thirteen possible Tuesdays). Your questions will be graded on the basis of effort, so
please make sure that your engagement with the reading is evident in the questions you compose. A
grade of check means good effort, a grade of check-minus means inadequate effort, and a grade
of check-plus means extraordinary effort. Because the purpose of these assignments is to get you
prepared for class, you will not receive written feedback on them apart from the check/checkminus/check-plus grade at the top of the paper. If you would like to receive more specific feedback
on your question sets, please make an appointment to review them with me in hard copy.

How participation grades are established: I will calculate your final participation grade by
converting the check-grades to numbers (check-minus = 1, check = 2, check-plus =3), adding the
numbers into a final participation point total (that includes additional points for attendance record,
in class participation, and other participation factors), and then assigning a number grade to the
point total based on how you have performed compared to your peers. Students who turn in eight
question sets and receive a check on each set can expect a participation grade in at least the high B
range (86+).
B. Short Paper20%
The first graded assignment is a 4-to-5-page paper on an assigned topic TBA that will emphasize
textual exposition, cross-cultural synthetic thinking, and critical appropriation. There will be some
choice of topic within a set range of options. I will assign the paper on Thursday, February, 25;
the paper is due in class on Thursday, March 10, 2016. This deadline is firm.
C. Research Project Proposal10%
In order to incentivize good time management on the final paper project, well negotiate a topic well
in advance of the deadline by way of a 1-to-2-page paper proposal in which you outline one or more
potential research projects (relevant to course themes) of interest to you.
Proposals can be informal, but must include for each potential topic (a) an explanation of the main
idea in the context you wish to explore it, (b) a statement of interest in the topic that explains your
motivation for taking it up and offers a tentative projection of what you hope to achieve in doing so,
and (c) a short annotated bibliography including at least one primary text and two secondary texts
that will figure into the project (note that is an excellent research tool for zeroing in
on prospective secondary sources). You may submit your paper proposal via email at any time,
but all proposals must be received no later than by class time on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. This
deadline is firm.
D. Research Paper (or Comparable Final Project)30%
The culminating project for this course is a 12-to-15-page research paper (or approved comparable
alternative) that incorporates primary and secondary source work into an original project developed
in accordance with the protocols described in the research paper proposal description above. As
long as you are able to offer a cogent explanation of how your project illuminates or extends course
themes in a successful proposal, you are at liberty to choose any topic and any approach to the topic
that interests you.
Because the scope of philosophy as a way of life is much wider than that of philosophical discourse,
I am willing to approve well-conceived non-traditional projects that involve artistic or practical
components such as poetry, prose, film or video production, art-making, performance, travelogue,
field guidesyou name it! There is no need to range beyond a traditional research exercise in
philosophical discourse to fulfill this assignment, but those interested in a less traditional approach
have latitude to explore some alternatives in a well-argued proposal if they so choose. The final
paper is due in class on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. This deadline is firm.
E. Final Exam25%

There will be an essay-based final exam. A detailed review sheet will be circulated in advance in
order to help you prepare the material.
V. Accommodations
Calvin College will make reasonable accommodations for a student with a documented disability.
You should notify a disability coordinator in the Office of Academic Services (located in the
Spoelhof College Center, suite 342-361) in order to arrange your accommodations. Once you have
made those arrangements, please talk with me sometime during the first two weeks of class so that
we can get your accommodations up and running.
VI. Plagiarism
Plagiarism is a very serious form of academic dishonesty that is covered in detail in the Calvin
College Student Handbook and Student Conduct Code available at As a student of Calvin College, you are responsible for having read and
understood this information, and I will conduct class with the expectation that you are aware of and
responsible to the colleges definitions, policies, and sanctions concerning plagiarism. I am not
trying to scare anyone here, but it is my duty to make you aware that Calvin College takes academic
honesty very seriously.
In order promote thorough understanding of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, I am providing
you here with a link to some helpful information on plagiarism from the Calvin College English
Department. My expectation is that you will read this information carefully and ask any
questions you may have about it before turning in your first written daily assignment for this
class. (
VII. Course Calendar
The following schedule is merely a regulative ideal, and the topics scheduled for a certain day will
often carry over into the next meeting. As the semester progresses, we will nip and tuck the
schedule as necessary. The abbreviation CP indicates that the assigned text is in the Course Pack.
Week 1
T. Feb. 2

Introducing Philosophical Transformation

What to do with (the history of) philosophy?
Background reading:
1. Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle, When Philosophy Lost Its Way
2. Eric Schwitzgebel, Cheeseburger Ethics: Are Professional Ethicists Good
People? According to our research, not especially. So whats the point of learning
Recommended Reading (browsing/skimming is encouraged)*:
1. Wolterstorff, Learning for Shalom and Justifications for Theorizing, CP 1-9.

2. Foucault, What is Enlightenment, CP 10-18.

3. Gadamer, selections from Truth and Method, CP 19-24.
4. Rorty, The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres, CP 25-38.
*NOTE: You will not be held accountable for recommended reading, but some
strategic browsing and skimming is valuable both for gaining insight into some of
the secondary sources that frame my lectures and for going deeper into potential
research subjects.
Th. Feb. 4

Week 2
T. Feb. 9*

Critiques of Philosophical Discourse (Theoretical Philosophy)

Western Philosophy and Its Discontents
Recommended Reading (browsing/skimming is encouraged):
1. Halteman, Ontotheology, CP 39-49 (Continental)
2. Rorty, Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality, CP 50-59. (Pragmatic)
3. Allen, To Really See the Little Things, CP 60-68. (Chinese)
4. Long, The Jain Doctrines of Relativity: A Philosophical Analysis, CP 69-84.
Retrieving Philosophy as a Way of Life (Philosophical Transformation)
Hadot: Recovering Spiritual Exercises
1. Davidson, Introduction: Pierre Hadot and the Spiritual Phenomenon of Ancient
Philosophy, in Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 1-45.
2. Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 264-275.
3. Hadot, Spiritual Exercises, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 81-125.
Recommended Reading* (browsing/skimming encouraged):
1. Aubry, Philosophy as a Way of Life and Anti-philosophy, CP 85-91.
2. Flynn, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Foucault and Hadot, CP 105-117.
3. Cooper, On Philosophy as a Way of Life, CP 118-129.

*First opportunity to turn in questions sets. Remember that you must turn in eight sets in total
over the course of the semester.
Th. Feb. 11

Nussbaum: Recovering the Medical Model and Therapeutic Arguments

1. Nussbaum, Therapeutic Arguments, CP 139-153 (through VI; stop at VII).
2. Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire, CP 176-191.
Recommended Reading (browsing/skimming is encouraged):
Nussbaum, Epicurean Surgery: Argument and Empty Desire, CP 157-175.

Week 3
T. Feb. 16

Glimpses of a Hidden History of Philosophy as a Way of Life

1. Hadot, The Figure of Socrates, 147-178.

2. Hadot, Ancient Spiritual Exercises and Christian Philosophy, in Philosophy

as a Way of Life, 126-144.
3. Kobusch, Descartesin the Tradition of Spiritual Exercises, CP 130-138.
Recommended Reading (browsing/skimming is encouraged):
1. Rebecca Konynkyk DeYoung, Monastic Wisdom and Public Life: Finding New
Rivers in the Desert,
2. Montaigne, That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die, Read online at:; If you prefer to listen to the text read as as an audiobook, click here:
Th. Feb. 18

Catch-up Day

Week 4
T. Feb. 23

(Selected) Models of Philosophical Transformation

Stoicism: Being toward Cosmic Consciousness
1. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Introduction, Books 1-4
2. Hadot, Marcus Aurelius, in Philosophy as a Way of Life, 179-205.
3. Massimo Pigliucci, How to Be a Stoic, handout.

Th. Feb. 25* Stoicism, continued

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, browse/skim Books 5-12 with eyes peeled for the
themes that emerged as important from the previous readings.
*Short paper assigned.
Week 5
T. Mar. 1

Th. Mar. 3

Daoism: Being toward Resonance with the Whole

1. The Way of Life according to Lao Tzu, Introduction + Complete text
2. Allen, Daoists,* CP 224-256.
Daoism, continued
Allen, Resonance, CP 257-271.

*Allens Daoists will serve as helpful background for all the readings pertaining to this particular
model. It is a long piece, so a bit of browsing/skimming is encouraged.
Week 6
T. Mar. 8

Jainism: Being toward Compassion for All Things

Long, The Jain Path, CP 208-224.

Th. Mar. 10* Guest Speaker: Brianne Donaldson (Monmouth College)**

Donaldson, Environmental Rites: Plants and Animals in Jain Repentance,
CP 311-322.
*Short paper due in class.
**Dont miss Prof. Donaldsons public lecture at 3:30 pm in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall!
Spring Break
Spring Break (Mar. 15, 17)
Week 7
T. Mar. 22

Christianity: Being toward Freedom in Christ

Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will, Introduction (xi-xix), Books I and II (1-69),
skim/browse Book III (but do read section 21 (pp. 111-114)).
Recommended Reading (browsing/skimming encouraged):
Nussbaum, The Christian Ascent: Augustine, CP 192-207.

Th. Mar. 24

Christianity: Being toward Ecstatic Union with Christ

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Introduction (vii-xxxi), The Short
Text (3-38), skim/browse The Long Text (read the italicized section summaries and
let your interests guide you).
Recommended Browsing:
For more on Julians texts and their context, consult Julia Bolton Holloways

Week 8
T. Mar. 29

Th. Mar. 31
Week 9
T. Apr. 5

Christianity: Being toward Shalom

1. Wolterstorff, Learning for Shalom, CP 1-3.
2. Halteman, Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation,
3. Halteman, Knowing the Standard American Diet by Its Fruits: Is Unrestrained
Omnivorism Spiritually Beneficial?,
Catch-up Day
Strong Poetry: Being toward Self- (and Other-) Provocation*
Reading: (Walden)
1. Jonathan Ellsworth, How Walden Works: Thoreau and the Socratic Art of
Provocation, CP 291-311.

2. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, read/browse Chapter 1: Economy

3. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 2: Where I Lived & What I Lived For
4. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 18: Conclusion
Th. Apr. 7

Strong Poetry and Thoreau, continued.

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience,

*All Thoreau readings are available online at

Week 10
T. Apr. 12

(Selected) Applications from Personal to Prophetic

1. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, selections TBA.
2. Halteman and Halteman Zwart, Philosophy as Therapy, CP 323-333.

Th. Apr. 14

Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, continued.

Week 11*
T. Apr. 19

Simone Weil, Late Philosophical Writings, selections TBA.

*Research paper proposal due by email no later than class time today.
Th. Apr. 21

Simone Weil, Late Philosophical Writings, continued.

Cornel West, Democracy Matters, chapters 1-3, 1-105.

Week 12
T. April 27


Th. Apr. 29

Cornel West, Democracy Matters, chapters 5-7, 145-218.

Week 13
T. May 3

Students Choice: Research Roundup or Add a Topic/Case Study

Well use these days either to discuss (or extend previous discussion on) an agreedupon topic relevant to our interests or to share information and ideas on the research
that people are doing for their final papers/projects.

Th. May 5

Students Choice, continued.

Week 14*
T. May 10

Course Retrospective

*Final paper due in class.

Exam Week
T. May 17

Final Exam, 1:30 pm