Integrative Studies 231A,

Human Values, The Arts, and Humanities

Topic: Human Nature

Fall Semester 2009,
Michigan State University

Dr. Christian Lotz



Tentative Schedule (last UPDATE: February 08, 2010)

Number Date Topic Reading Information Other General Assignments
1 Sep 2 Introduction        
2 Sep 7 University Holiday University Holiday University Holiday    


3 Sep 9 Human Nature and Transcendence 1: Human Life in Search of the Absolute Augustine, Confessions, Book 1 Augustine    
4 Sep 14 Human Nature and Transcendence 2: Memory, Childhood, Life Augustine, Confessions, Book 1      


5 Sep 16 Human Nature and Immanence 1: Human Life in Search of Itself Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp.17-54 Sartre    
6 Sep 21 Human Nature and Immanence 2: Atheism, Freedom, Essence Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp.17-54      
7 Sep 23 Human Nature and Immanence 2: Action, The Other, Anguish Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp.17-54      


8 Sep 28 Existence, Spirituality, Art: Introduction to the Russian director A. Tarkovsky: Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie) Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie); Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, chapter II (download pdf) and Sculpting in Time, chapter V (download pdf)    
8a Sep 30 Image and Symbolism in Tarkovsky's Film Theory Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie) Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie); Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, chapter II (download pdf) and Sculpting in Time, chapter V (download pdf)    
9 Oct 5 Formal Analysis of Tarkovsky's Film Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie) Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie); Tarkovsky, Interviews on Stalker (download pdf)    
10 Oct 7 Faith and the Meaning of Life Tarkovsky, Stalker (movie) Tarkovsky (excellent site)    
11 Oct 12 Faith and Happiness Tarkovsky, Stalker (further analysis) Stalker; check out this essay   Take-home response paper assignment passed out in class


12 Oct 14 Human Life and Culture: Difference between Human and Non-Human Animals Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter II+III Helen Keller    
13 Oct 19 Symbols, Language, Meaning Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter II+III Cassirer   Take-home response paper due
14 Oct 21 Culture, Space, Time Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter IV      
15 Oct 26 Culture, Memory, Ideals, Ethics, Utopia, Narratives Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter V+VI      
16 Oct 28 no class no class no class   discussion sections meet as scheduled

17 Nov 2 Human Life and Civilization: Original Position Rousseau, 2nd Discourse, pp. 16-37 Rousseau    
18 Nov 4 The Destructive Forces of the Process of Civilization Rousseau, 2nd Discourse, pp. 37-50      
19 Nov 9 Instrumental Rationality and the Destruction of Pitty Rousseau, 2nd Discourse, pp. 37-50      
20 Nov 11 In-class exam In-class exam In-class exam In-class exam In-class exam


21 Nov 16 Rousseauism, Language and Culture: Introduction to Herzog's Film in Connection with Rousseau Film, Herzog "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" Film, Herzog "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser"; Herzog, Interview on Kaspar Hauser (download pdf)    
22 Nov 18 Society as a Negative Force Film, Herzog "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" Werner Herzog
23 Nov 23 Pitty, Non-Instrumental Attitude Towards Nature Film, Herzog "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" Kaspar Hauser   Take-home response paper assignment passed out in class


24 Nov 25 no class no class no class    
25 Nov 30 Human Nature according to Hölderlin: Knowledge, Action, Love Hyperion, 9-72 Hölderlin   Take-home response paper due
26 Dec 2 Love and the Unity of Human Experience Hyperion, 73-124     Hoelderlin assignment in discussion section
27 Dec 7 Death and Nature Hyperion, 125-215      
28 Dec 9 Wrap Up Wrap Up Wrap Up    


Class Meetings: 
Days: MW 
Time: 3:00p
Place: 402 Computer Center

517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 501 S. Kedzie Hall (part of room 503, front office)

Hours: MW (1:00-2:00pm), by appointment and by phone


Other Contact:
Home Phone: 734.975.0803

(Please check the webpage regularily for the current schedule)

You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (and in front of my office)

Teaching Assistant 1: Matthew Johnson

Phone: see GoogleTalk
Place:  South Kedzie Hall, room 528
Hours: Wednesdays 1-3pm


Teaching Assistant 2: Michael Brown

 ask instructor
Place: 529 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: Tuesdays 10-12pm, and by appointment

Other Contact:

Course Description

Who are we? What are we? What does it mean to be a human being? This integrative studies lecture class will discuss selected aspects of a philosophy of culture by reflecting on the human condition. In this vein, we will consider the following questions: What does it mean to be human, and why do we need the humanities? How are the humanities differentiated from the natural sciences? After introducing four traditional answers to the question of what human beings are, from the perspective of Augustine (Theology), Sartre (Existentialism), Rousseau (Romanticism), and Hoelderlin (Literature) we will - from a general human point of view – reflect on central aspects of the human condition, such as religion, history, culture and language, by studying Ernst Cassirer’s An Essay on Man. Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture. In addition, we will discuss the need of the humanities and the human sciences for a proper understanding of human culture. Finally, we will discuss two films: "Stalker" by Andrej Tarkovsky, as well as "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" by Werner Herzog.

IAH Course Goals

Integrative Studies at MSU seeks to assist students to become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities.  IAH courses encourage students to engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s); they also encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies.  They focus on key ideas and issues in human experience; encourage appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior; emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship; highlight the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts; and alert us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world.


Real learning is not properly measured by multiple-choice tests; especially since in the humanities there is no specific content of a sort that may be covered well in standardized examinations, which every student in the humanities should be expected to master. Instead, you will - hopefully - come to recognize that this class is about a general intellectual reflection on what we are and why we are here. The class deals with your dignity as human beings and with your intellect and reason, which is best expressed in a form of learning that is based on understanding and insight, and not mere learning by heart. It is hoped that the class will stimulate the view that intellectual activity (and therefore human reality) has to do with the passion of thinking, and the passion of understanding of our world. Intense confrontation with texts is the center of this class.

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • selected interdisciplinary views on human nature: 1. theological paradigm (Augustine), 2. existential paradigm (Sartre), 3. social paradigm (Rousseau), 3. cultural paradigm (Cassirer), and 4. aesthetical paradigm (Hoelderlin)
  • the idea that human culture is the expression and objectification of human activity
  • the idea that every form of scientific and academic inquiry presupposes a conception of human nature, and that it is important for every academic discipline to reflect on this conception
  • the basic ideas about human life as a whole (from a non-naturalistic standpoint)
  • faith and meaning as essential components of human life
  • the role of symbols, language and thought in human life
  • the role of memory, death, and freedom for human existence
  • the central role of love for humans

Required Texts (Bookstore)

  • Cassirer, An Essay on Man : An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture
  • Augustine, Confessions
  • Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism
  • Hoelderlin, Hyperion
  • Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

Course Organization

The course will be organized such that, ideally, each class period will include [i] "interactive" lecture, [ii] discussion time or [iii] response time. Students will be asked to intensively prepare a certain text or part of a text for the next class period.

Course Requirements

  • Daily reading and studying (around 5-10 pages)
  • 5 response sheets
  • 1 exam
  • 2 response papers
  • Assignments and active participation (discussion section)


The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in your papers and in the exam you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss the exam or the movie for excusable reasons must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up the exam and movie assignment. I will only accept official doctor notes (no faxes, no emails) or letters from other professors.

Class Attendance

I hope and strongly encourage that students attend all lectures. However, I will not require attendance, as I think that college students should manage their own class attendance decisions. Nevertheless, please be aware that you should not make me responsible for a failure that results out of your decision. You should be aware that chances to master this class are minimal, if you do not show up for class or if you do not prepare the readings (=studying).

Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit "response sheets" after my lectures. Every student can submit up to 5 response sheets over the course of the semester.

Click here to download the response sheet (Word document)

Note: I will only accept responses that are given on this form.

Response Time

Selected response sheets will be addressed at the beginning of each class. The rest of the response sheets will be handed over to the TA, who will use them to address selected questions in his/her sections. This procedure will help you to clarify problems, reflect on topics, and to find answers to questions that came up during the lecture.

Response Paper Assignments

There will be 2 paper assignments (2 pages, 600 words, 12pt Times New Roman, 1 inch margin). The paper assignment should lead you to a reflection and consideration of what we have discovered on the theoretical level about human nature. I expect well constructed essays that begin with an introduction, present a main claim and are explanatory. Mere summaries or simple "reflection" and "I feel 'X'" papers will not be satisfactory. I will pass out in class on selected dates (see schedule) questions, the written answer to which you will turn in the class after the assignment was passed out (email submissions are not acceptable). Late turn ins will result in loosing 20%-40% of your grade. It is your responsibility to get a copy of the assignment from a study buddy in class if you missed class. I will not send you the assignment per email if you missed class.


We will be discussing one of Andrei Tarkovsky's films in class. Tarkovsky is probably the most acclaimed and famous Russian director of the 20th Century. His films are highly poetical and intellectual. Accordingly, be prepared for an intense visual experience and intellectual challenge. Thinking about Tarkovsky will challenge you on all levels. Accordingly, be prepared to put some research time into the assignment and come with enough sleep to class. 


There will be one in-class essay exam. You will be offered a set of essay-questions about the material that I discussed in my lectures. Note that mere memorization of what I lectured about will not be a satisfactory preparation of the exam; rather, you should demonstrate that you thought about and understand the material. You will not be able to answer the exam question(s) if you did not study the texts.


You will receive points for participation and (group work) assignments in your discussion section (see below).

Course Evaluation

You will be evaluated on the basis of:

5 response sheets (to be submitted during the course of the semester) 20 points
1 exam 30 points
2 response papers 10/10 points

Discussion section:
Assignments and participation in discussion section 30 points
  100 points


4.0 100 - 93
3.5 92 - 87
3 86 - 82
2.5 81 - 77
2 76 - 72
1.5 7165
1.0 6460
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Helpful information about oral presentations, paper writing and plagiarism

Click here to find help on your presentations and your writing

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn't very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU's library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU's writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]: download document (pdf)

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that "The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards." In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.

Back to classes