Michael Russell, Professor of Philosophy and Human Services

Spring 2006  Monday & Wednesday, 1:00—2:15, MH 406


TEXT:  Robert Trevas, Arthur Zucker, Donald Borchert, PHILOSOPHY OF SEX AND LOVE:  A READER (Prentice Hall,  1997, isbn 0-02-312431-8)

There will be other required readings to be down-loaded or purchased as reprints.


Office:  Humanities 311-B, (714) 278-2752


Web page:

Office hours:  Mondays and Wednesdays 12:30—1:00, Wednesdays 2:30—3:30.  Appointments very strongly recommended.  Lots of other times are possible, also by appointment. But if I don’t know you are coming I’m probably busy with something else, maybe elsewhere.



325 Philosophy of Sex and Love (3)
Prerequisite: completion of GE. III. B. 2. Investigates philosophical approaches to love, friendship, marriage, and eroticism. Covers the nature of love, the relationship between sex and love, gender roles, and gender equality. Includes investigation of ethical and legal controversies in sexuality, marriage, and privacy. 


Reader:   I have asked a student to assist me in the grading of this class.  I regard her as bright and capable.  She and I will review your work, though in many cases she may do this more thoroughly than I.  In the event that you believe she may not be qualified to understand your contributions, please tell us (preferably, tell her) so that I can make an extra effort to appraise your work.


“Technology” requirement:

This class will make extensive use of Blackboard.  You will need to frequently go on line to check for messages or revised assignments and to keep current on interactions there.  When you submit something electronically either on Blackboard or by email, always make your last name the first word in the subject.  That is how I keep track of what you submit.  Always make yourself a copy of whatever you send me: things get lost all the time.


Shock warning:

This course promotes philosophical reflection on various issues having to do with love and sex.  While it is certainly possible to discuss such matters in ways that are neither vulgar nor provocative, I do not think that an inhibited environment is very conducive to thinking and learning about these things.  People will doubtless differ in their opinions about what is humorous or tasteless or appropriate.  I hope we can all find ways of being respectful of one-another’s differences.  However, I am sure that some of us will at times express ourselves in ways that are offensive to others, and all of us will need to be tolerant of our differences. I am sure to occasionally use the ‘f-word’ and other slang terms for bodily parts and processes; doubtless I will occasionally yield to the temptation to be a bit shocking.  No doubt some students will also do this. If you anticipate being strongly offended by this sort of thing, or strongly feel it to be inappropriate in ‘mixed company’ or a university context, please consider taking some other course rather than needing to  impose your views on me or on others.  Equally, I am sure that some of us will at times reveal more about ourselves than may be prudent.  Class members are expected to treat potentially embarrassing disclosures of classmates or the instructor as confidential.   Finally, I am sure to be opinionated about some issues.  My opinions are part of the course.  You are welcome to be opinionated also.  If you do not accept the stipulations of this paragraph you are not welcome in this class.


Quizes, exams, participation points, etc..   I am planning to make extensive use of short exams, perhaps unannounced.  Depending on how well this works, I plan on also having a mid-term and a final exam.  There will also be other sorts of contributions which can be factored into your overall grade.  One of these will be meaningful participation in discussions on Blackboard.  Another will be an (optional) opportunity to write a paper.   . 


You should always be prepared, without notice, to do any of these things: 


Typically, a short exam would have one question on it.  This would be worth 3 points.  “2” means “good”, and would be the usual grade.  “3” means “exceptionally good” and would be the exception.  “1” means “acceptable and worthy of some credit.”  If there is a question that you are at a loss to answer (because you missed that class or didn’t get to the reading or just didn’t get the idea) you can get a point (even 2) for faking it in a worthwhile way, e.g., discussing something else that clearly pertains to the class.    In my view “A” means exceptionally good,” “B” means “good,” “C” means acceptable.


The mid term will probably have three questions for 9 points possible. The final probably will have four questions, for 12 points possible.  There probably will be about 5 quizzes, one question each, for 15 points possible.  12 more points are possible by active and meaningful participation on Blackboard, both in your own posts and in your occasional (and substantive) responses to classmates.  If you wish, and if you notify me that you are doing so, you can opt (instead) to seek 6 points from Blackboard participation and 6 points from an optional paper.  You automatically get 10 points for being in the course, and I subtract 1 for every recorded absence. You automatically get 3 points if you attend two or more sessions of the Philosophy Department Symposium, March 17 and 18. There may be other requirements or point opportunities. (For example, last Wednesday I asked the class to post a brief response to “Hedwig.”.  You got a point if you did this, and may have gotten a second point if I regarded your contribution as substantive.)  At the end of the semester I will “curve out” these and other points and make a determination about where and how to define final grades, including plus/minus grading.  Theoretically, it is possible for everyone in this class to get a final grade of “B” or better.  The point system will guide me in making my determination of your grade in the course, but that grade represents my overall assessment regardless of point count.   Course grades will utilize a “plus-minus” notation.


All work is to be your own.  Acknowledge sources and, if you collaborate with other students, say so.  Academic dishonesty can result in failing the course and in notification of university authorities.



Some dates:

I will be out of the country for class meetings on April 18, 20, 24 and 26.  There will be an exam on one of those days and a film and/or guest lecture on the other days.  The final exam will be during finals week, on Monday, May 22, from 2:30 to 4:20 (note the time).   Optional papers can be submitted any time up to the last day of regular class meetings.


Reading assignment schedule:

Unfortunately or not, I need the flexibility to make up the direction to take with reading as we go along.  I can tell you where we will start, and make a reasonable prediction of what will be included along the way.  Your first assignment is chapter  2, “The Debate Between Sex With Love Versus Sex Without Love.”  This includes remarks by the editor and sections from Peter A. Bertocci, Russell Vannoy, and Lillian B. Rubin.  Due Monday, February 6.


Probable next assignment:  Most (but not all) of Chapter 1.  After that, we’ll see, but I’m most interested psychoanalytic material in the Appendix, the chapters on feminist critiques (chapter 3), marriage (chapter 4), adultery (chapter 5), the natural and the perverse (chapter 7), homosexuality (chapter 8), and pornography (chapter 9).  There will also be readings from elsewhere, including a few articles of my own. 


Ř      A sampling of issues about love and sex:

Ř      What is it we want, when we want to have sex?

Ř       What is romantic longing all about?

Ř       Why should we so want to be in love, or fall in love, given how painful this seems to have been for many?

Ř      What’s wrong with “superficial” interests (attraction, sensual pleasure, self-image, self-esteem)?

Ř      Why are we so ready to be embarrassed to discuss our sexual behaviors?

Ř       When is it a turn on to talk dirty, and why?

Ř      Why should we be so ready to have opinions about what’s right or wrong for other people e.g., normalcy, fidelity, monogamy, sexual orientation, masturbation, exhibitionism, prostitution, adultery, pornography, celibacy?

Ř       Why do we care about satisfying our sexual partner?

Ř       Why might someone find it exciting to watch others engage sexually?  Why should we even be interested in what others do sexually?

Ř       What’s ‘natural,’ what’s ‘normal’, and what’s desirable?

Ř       Why should it seem all too frequent that love turns to contempt?

Ř       Is it true that sex is better with someone you love?

Ř       What can we hope for, and what can we expect, in a life-long relationship with others?

Ř      What are the prospects for our talking very honestly about any of this?

Ř       What are some connections between love, sex, and sexism?

Ř       What is perversion?

Ř      Why should so much of the way we talk about sex either seem too crude or too sterile?

Ř      How pessimistic should one be about such things?

Ř       What’s life all about, anyway, and where do love and sex figure in?


Course objectives:

  1. Increase understanding of what counts as a philosophical issue
  2. Increase understanding of conceptual analysis as philosophical methodology
  3. Increase capacity to think phenomenologically
  4. Increase capacity to identify and articulate the views of various specific  philosophers
  5. Do the above in reference to the nature of love and sex
  6. Enhance critical thinking regarding the above
  7. Enhance awareness of ones own views regarding the above
  8. Enhance appreciation of and tolerance for the views of others regarding the above
  9. Enhance the capacity to be articulate regarding the above
  10. Enhance personal sense of comfort regarding the above.


General Education objectives: 

CSUF course syllabi are to include several features, including indicating how course objectives are related to General Education objectives. 

The relevant GE goals are these:

[1].  University Policy Statement UPS 411.201:

Course outlines (syllabi) for courses that meet General Education requirements shall include the following:

a. a statement of the specific General Education requirement(s) that the course meets;

b. an inclusion of the learning goals for the General Education category or categories in which the course carries credit; and

c. an indication of the way in which the General Education writing requirement shall be met and assessed. ….

G.E. 3-B-3, Explorations, and Participatory Experience in the Arts and Humanities include the following goals for student learning:

a. To understand broad, unifying themes in the arts and/or humanities from cross disciplinary perspectives.

b. To solve complex problems that require artistic or humanistic understanding.

c. To relate the arts and/or humanities to significant social problems or to other related disciplines.

d. When deemed appropriate, to apply disciplinary concepts from the arts and/or humanities in a variety of settings, such as community-based learning sites and activities. …


This course will address many humanistic themes and concerns focusing on the nature of love--primarily romantic love-- and sexuality, drawing from numerous philosophical perspectives, and, to some degree, from psychology, literature, and religion.


Course syllabi must specifically and in detail address paragraph four of 411.201, which states: “…general education courses will include student writing assignments appropriate to the course.  Writing assignments in General Education courses should involve the organization and expression of complex data or ideas and careful and timely evaluations of writing so that deficiencies are identified and suggestions for improvement and/or for means of remediation are offered.  Assessment of student’s writing competence shall be used in determining the final course grade.” (p.1).

These objectives are addressed by means of considering writing quality in assessing quizzes, examinations, papers and Blackboard contributions.