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PHILOS 2ZZ3 Philosophy of Love And Sex

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Diane Enns

Email: ennsd@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 318

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27529


Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (or by appointment)

Course Objectives:


The focus of this course is intimate love—what we generally call romantic or sexual love—one of the most exhilarating and painful experiences of human life. We will attempt to understand the nature and experience of this form of love without eliminating its contradictions. Readings will take us back to Plato’s troubling division between vulgar and noble love and the poet Sappho’s celebration of erotic desire—their juxtaposition invoking a tension that will continue through texts by Augustine and the famous love letters between Abelard and Héloise. In the second half of the term we will explore twentieth century texts that analyze the particular psychological and social contexts of sexual love, and the myths and pathologies these contexts generate, before concluding the course with a brief look at the changes to intimacy brought on by digital technology.

Aside from the obvious questions—What is love? What is sex?—we will consider some of the following: What is universal about romantic love and what is a cultural construct? What is distinct about sexual love from other forms of love, like friendship? How do we distinguish love from desire, lust or need? Why do we idealize the person we love romantically? What is the nature of desire? How are we to understand (and manage) the relationship between sex and love? What can virtual sex tell us about contemporary intimate relationships (or lack thereof)? And, of course: Haven’t we talked enough about sex?

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

Sigmund Freud, Sexuality and the Psychology of Love

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction

Plato, Symposium

Online articles


Method of Assessment:

1. Three writing assignments (1200-1500 words, 20% each) = 60%

2. Final Exam = 30%

3. Tutorial Participation = 10%


1. Three writing assignments (1200-1500 words, 20% each) = 60%

These short assignments will be similar to take-home exams in that you will be required to write an essay in response to a specific question on the assigned readings. Questions will be posted on Avenue two weeks in advance. The purpose of this assignment is to help you keep up with the readings and to reflect critically on the texts. They will also help prepare you for the final exam and develop your writing skills. More information will be provided on Avenue.

These assignments should be submitted in hard copy as well as electronically, using the dropbox on Avenue appropriate to your tutorial. Work submitted on Avenue may be checked automatically by Turnitin.com to reveal plagiarism. If you do not want to submit your paper under these terms then please email your T.A. an explanation and attach your assignment. A hard copy is also required.

Assignments should be submitted at the start of class the day they are due. They are not to be submitted to anyone else or in the Philosophy department office or under anyone's door. Assignments will not be graded until a hard copy is received.

Each assignment will be given a mark out of 20, toward a final grade of 60% of the total grade. These assignments will be graded by your T.A. and returned to you in your tutorial within two weeks.

Extensions will not be granted except under extenuating circumstances and only if you notify your T.A. of these circumstances in advance of the due date. Late assignments will receive a 3% deduction per day (including weekends) unless medical documentation from your Faculty office is provided.

2. Final exam = 30%

The final exam will consist of short answer and essay questions and will be scheduled during final exam period.

3. Tutorial Participation = 10%

It is expected that all students will regularly attend tutorials and contribute to discussions. If you miss 3 tutorials or more you will get 0/10 even if you participated when present unless you provide medical documentation.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

As above

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Class Schedule:


wk 1      Sept. 6: Introduction to course


Sept. 8: Todd May, "Love and Death" (courseware)


2             Sept. 13: 1) Fragments, Sappho, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (courseware)

                                2) Anne Carson, "Bittersweet," (courseware)


Sept. 15: Plato, Symposium, pp. 1-44


3             Sept. 20: Plato, Symposium, pp. 45-77


                Sept. 22: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Books VIII     



4             Sept. 27: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Books IX



Sept 29: Augustine, Confessions, "Book II: Adolescence" and "Book III: Student at

 Carthage" http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/augconf.htm


5             Oct 4: Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Letters II, III, IV and V



Oct. 6: Irving Singer, “Appraisal and Bestowal” (courseware)

Assignment #1 due




6             Oct. 18: Schopenhauer, "The Metaphysics of the Love of the Sexes," (courseware)


Oct. 20: Schopenhauer, cont.


7             Oct. 25: Freud, "Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction

Between the Sexes" pp. 173-183 in Sexuality and the Psychology of Love


Oct. 27: Freud, cont., "'Civilized' Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness"

pp. 10-30


8             Nov. 1: Freud, cont., “A Special Type of Object Choice Made by Men,” and “The Most

Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Life” pp. 39-60.


                Nov. 3: Sartre, “First Attitude Toward Others: Love, Language, Masochism”


Assignment #2 due


9             Nov. 8: Sartre, “Second Attitude Toward Others: Desire, Hate, Sadism” (courseware)


Nov. 10: Simone de Beauvoir, "Myths" (courseware)


10           Nov. 15: Simone de Beauvoir, "The Woman in Love" (courseware)


Nov. 17: Michel Foucault, "We 'Other' Victorians" pp. 3-13, and "The Incitement to

Discourse” pp. 17-35 in The History of Sexuality


11           Nov. 22: Foucault cont., "The Perverse Implantation," pp. 36-49



                Nov 24:  Foucault cont., “Method,” pp. 92-102; "Domain," pp. 103-114.


12           Nov. 29: Intimacy and technology, readings posted on Avenue

Assignment #3 due


                Dec. 1: Intimacy and technology, readings on Avenue 


13           Dec. 6: review


Final exam TBD (during exam week)

Other Course Information: