Spring 2015: Phl 850 – Rationality and its Other II

benjaminGeneral information


Here is more information about Prof. LotzHere is more information about Prof. Hedrick

Class Meetings

Days: T
Time: 7 PM – 10 PM
Place: 530 South Kedzie


Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 + 519 S. Kedzie Hall
Hours: by appointment

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu / hedrick@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: https://christianlotz.wordpress.com


You will find our box in the front office of the philosophy department



Jan 13, Introduction
Adorno, The Actuality of Philosophy; Adorno, The Idea of Natural History

Philosophy and Experience

Jan 20, Concept and Experience
Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface and Introduction (online)

Jan 27, Concept and Experience
Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface and Introduction (online)

Feb 3, Concept and Experience
Benjamin, Experience; Experience and Poverty; On the Program of a Coming Philosophy; On the Mimetic Faculty; Doctrine of the Similar; Benjamin, On Language in General;
[protocol: John]

Feb 10, Thought Images
Benjamin, Prologue to The Origin of the German Trauerspiel; Adorno, On Benjamin’s One Way Street, Benjamin, One Way Street, selections (those mentioned by Adorno)
[present.: Chris]

Capitalism as Dream Culture, History

Feb 17,
no class

Feb 24, Dialectical Images
Benjamin, Paris, the Capital of the 19th Century (expose of Arcade Project, 1935 version), Benjamin, Arcade Project, section on theory of knowledge/progress (N); Adorno, Hornberg letter (8/2/1935) and letter to Benjamin on 11/10/1938; voluntary: sections on Marx (X); good background material is available here: Susan Buck-Morss
[present.: Brian]

March 3, Historical Dialectics
Benjamin, On the Concept of History
[protocol.: Michael]

March 10,
Spring Break

March 17, Kracauer

Kracauer, Photography; Kracauer, The mass ornament; Kracauer, Those who wait; Kracauer, On the writings of Benjamin; Kracauer, Cult of distraction; Kracauer, Boredom; Adorno, The Curious Realist
Guest Lecture by Prof. Handelman

March 24, Culture Industry
Adorno/Horkheimer, The Culture Industry
[present. Michael, protocol. Chris]

Social Pathologies, Practical Reason, and Rationality

March 31, Ideology
Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interest, ’The Idea of the Theory of Knowledge as Social Theory’; ’The Scientistic Misunderstanding of Metapsychology’; and ‘Psychoanalysis and Social Theory’.
[present.: Aidan]

Apr 7, Ideology
Habermas, The Hermeneutic Claim to Universality
[present. John]

Apr 14, Ideology
Habermas, Labour and Interaction; Habermas, Science and Technology as Ideology
[protocol Aidan]

Apr 21, Pathologies
Honneth, Love, Rights, and Solidarity; Honneth, Organized Self-Realization; Honneth, On object relations psychoanalysis

Wrap Up

Apr 28, Wrap up

May 4
Final paper due by the end of the day (by email)

Course Description

Unlike approaches to social philosophy in Anglo-American philosophy, where appeals to common sense or moral facts, principles, and intuitions are more routine, in the post-Kantian continental tradition the entanglement of reason with history, society, embodiment, and trauma is a persistent issue. This has dramatically impacted the conceptualizations of critique that emerge from this tradition, making the identification of social obstacles to the development of human potentialities a central undertaking, and complicating the issue of whether and under what conditions philosophy as a critical enterprise is possible in the first place. In this year-long seminar, we will explore several facets of this broad issue in the following modules, which link 19th century critics of rationalism with 20th and 21st century critical theorists: Reason and History; Repression and Embodiment; Dialectics, Experience, and Philosophy; Capitalist Culture and Fetishism; Social Pathologies and Practical Reason.


Although this course is meant to run over two semesters and though the second semester presupposes some topics discussed in the first semester, enrolling in one of the semesters should not present an issue.

Course Goals

This course should students make familiar with critical conceptions of reason and rationality in the German tradition of critical theory, in particular the idea that rationality and irrationality are intertwined and that rationality can only be understood with its “other,” such as repression, dreams, embodiment, social pathologies, and that this entwinement leads to a social-material conception of reason and rationality.


This graduate seminar is not based on a set of fixed knowledge and, as such, is not based on a behavioral idea of education; rather, we will try to learn together and critically examine the material.

Required Texts

TBD in class

Course Requirements

  • Protocol, write-up, up to 900 words, 10%
  • Oral presentation, 20 minutes, 20%
  • Final paper, 10-12 pages, 70%
  • Regular participation, you are expected to not miss any class session

Protocol (German tradition)

The class protocol should cover our discussion in class. Protocols should have a length of 2-3 pages (no more than 900 words), and they will in and outside of the classroom force us to have an ongoing reflection on our texts that we study for class. They can also include problems or questions that the writers had either with our class discussion or with the texts itself, but above all protocols should cover what we lectured about and what we discussed afterwards. Protocols should clarify and discuss selected issues in question. Protocols have to be sent out to other students two days before class. We’ll radically mark down late turn ins. The student who wrote the protocol will address questions during the first 15 minutes of the next class meeting, and he/she will lead the class discussion.


Each student will be responsible for one class and for working out an introductory presentation, which should function as a platform for our discussions. Please focus on one or two aspects of the readings; desired length of presentations: no more than 20-25 minutes.

General Remark

Given that this is a graduate seminar, we expect self-motivation, autonomy, as well as self-responsibility. The attendance requires the willingness to intensively study the text selected for class.

Final Paper

The class essay should be well researched and should present a substantial reflection on some parts of the material discussed in class. We expect excellent papers in regard to research, form, and content. We will fail papers that do not comply with formal standards (footnotes, literature, etc.). The paper should be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 150 words. The paper should be “conference style,” i.e., it should have a length of around 12 pages.


We will refuse giving DFs in this class, unless you find yourself in a real emergency situation (hospitalization, etc.)

Course Evaluation


1 final paper (up to 3600 words) 70 points
1 oral presentation 20 points
1 protocol 10 points (pass/fail)
100 points


4.0 (=A) 100 – 93
3.5 92 – 87
3 (=B) 86 – 82
2.5 81 – 77
2 (=C) 76 – 72
1.5 71 – 65
1.0 (=D) 64 – 60
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops and cell phones in class. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

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 + Paper Writing Tips

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

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 http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

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.]

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: www.msu.edu) 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 https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

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.

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