TOPIC: Creation, Self-Exploration and Society


Fall 2008

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Ms. Allison Githens


Office: POLS Teaching Assistant Lounge DU 476

Email: agithens@niu.edu


Class Time: Wednesday, 3:30PM - 6:10PM

Classroom: DU 464

Office Hours: Tuesday, 3p.m. – 4p.m.; Thursday 2p.m. – 3:15p.m.; or by appointment


Course Objectives and Goals:

Welcome to POLS 497-01!  POLS 497 is a small group seminar which focuses more on discussion than lecture.  The topic of POLS 497 varies from professor to professor, this section will focus on the philosophical topic of self-creation.   Self-creation, most loosely, states that a person will decide their own values and create their own direction in life.


The objective of the course is to familiarize students with the philosophical concept of self-creation.  Furthermore, the instructor wants to work with students to increase their analytical skills and learn to look deeper into readings than just reading for content.  Students should not only learn what the author is writing in the form of words, but be able to interpret and gain a deeper meaning of the readings.  Many of the readings for this class were written to inspire people and hopefully the students will be inspired as well.  Additionally, students will work on their writing and discussion skills.


Classroom Etiquette:

Cell Phones: Turn off your cell phone or put it on vibrate.  Do not leave class to accept phone calls unless it is an emergency.  Additionally, you should not accept phone calls while in the classroom.  Cell phones are very disruptive and limit the learning process.  Do not text during class; the sound made from texting is very annoying and loud.  Using a cell phone during class will not be tolerated.


Speaking: Do not hold private conservations during class, it is rude and will cause other students to feel uneasy.  If you would like to contribute to the discussion please raise your hand or speak up.  Do not interrupt other students.  This is a philosophy course and disagreements will only be natural.  If you disagree with your classmate, disagree politely and kindly.  Do not make personal attacks.  Please remain respectful at all times.


Lateness: If you are late to class, please enter the class room quietly and take your seat.


Sleeping, eating, and etc.:  Sleeping during class will not be tolerated.  If a student is caught sleeping during class, he/she will be asked to leave the class.  Eating in class is permitted as long as students do not make a disruption.  If you eat during class, do not make a lot of noise or a mess.


University Policies:

Academic Dishonesty:  Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." The above statement encompasses a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgement of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.


Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have an impact on their coursework must register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Attendance and Participation:

Students should come to class having read all of the week’s assigned readings and ready to discuss the material.  In philosophy there are no wrong answers, please do not feel intimidated to speak and participate in class.  Attendance and participation count for a large portion of your grade and it would behoove you to attend every class and participate.  Understandably, there may be times when a student cannot come to class due to illness or family emergency.  If the illness or family emergency is documented, the student might be able to have the absence excused.


If you are more than five minutes late, you are absent.  This is not done as a punishment to students, but as a way to prepare students for “the real world.”  When you leave NIU and begin your career, tardiness will not be accepted and it will only be a little accepted here.


Department Website:

Students are encouraged to use the political science department’s website to answer their questions about their degree and keep up to date on any changes within the department.  My NIU allows the student to check the status of their degree, grades, and financial aide.  Both of these websites can be found on Blackboard.


Required Texts:

See Course Documents section of Blackboard for all of your reading materials.

Point Distribution: 100 Points

Five Journals: 50 Points (50 Percent)

Points Blackboard Postings: 20 Points (20 Percent)

Attendance and Participation: 30 Points (30 Percent)



A three page journal article will be due at the beginning of each class period except for the first class.


The journal should be a reaction to the week’s readings and not a summary.  Papers that place too much emphasis on summarizing the week’s readings will receive a lower grade than papers that are written as a reaction.  When writing the journals, students should discuss their reactions to the week’s readings, the significance of the readings and how the readings contribute to self-development.  Try to look deep into the readings and form an argument on your reaction and thoughts on the readings.  For the purpose of this assignment, the student may use the first person. 


Please do quality work.  The assignments for this course are not demanding and are meant to serve as a tool to help the student better understand the material and promote discussion. 


Journals should be written using a computer with 1 inch margins, double-spaced, and12-point Times New Roman font.  Using a large font to skip on paper length will result in a lower grade.


Journals are due at the beginning of class (3:30pm).  Late journals will be penalized by lowering the journal grade a letter grade (if the journal is one day late it will be lowered from an A to a B) for each day the journal is late.


Blackboard Postings:

The students are expected to participate in Blackboard discussions.  Class is held every other week, so Blackboard will serve as a means of communication and discussion between classes.  Only one Blackboard session will be open during a Blackboard discussion week.  The professor will post a topic for discussion and students are expected to participate.  Check the thread throughout the week because you will be expected to participate more than once.  If you responded to another student’s post, be respectful of the other student’s opinion.  Additionally, if you are writing a response, please click on the respond link to the previous student’s thread.  If you are starting a new discussion, please create a new thread.  This will be done so the discussion can remain more organized.











Week 2, September 3: Introduction

Assignment: None


Readings: None


Lecture:  Class Introduction & Overview

   Introduction of Basic Concepts

   General Discussion on Self-Creation


Week 4, September 17: Existentialism

Assignment: Journal 1 due at the beginning of class


Readings: Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Definition of Existentialism, Backgrounds on Camus and Sartre.


Lecture: What is existentialism and how does it relate to everyday life.


Week 6, October 1: Nihilism

Assignment: Journal 2 due at the beginning of class


Readings: Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Definition of Nihilism, Background on Nietzsche and Dostoevsky


Lecture: What is nihilism and how it relates to politics and society.


Week 8, October 15: Self-Creation and Society I:

Assignment: Journal 3 due at the beginning of class


Readings: Jose Gasset, Friedrich Nietzsche


Lecture: Discuss the difference between the average person and the self-created person.


Week 10, October 29; Self-Creation and Society II:

Assignment: Journal 4 due at the beginning of class


Readings: Hermann Hesse, Andre Gide,


Lecture: French existentialism and philosophy.








Week 12, November 12: Wrap-Up

Assignment: Journal 5 due at the beginning of class


Readings: Walter Kaufmann, Plato, Any student suggestions


Lecture: Overview the readings from the class and bring all the materials together.  What did you learn from this course and how will you use it in your future life.



The professor reserves the right to modify the syllabus at any time via verbal announcement in class or posting on Blackboard.