Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
PHIL 3342.001
The Philosophy of Love and Sex
Spring 2020
TR 2:00 – 3:15
Online via Zoom


Don Berkich, Ph.D.

Office: FC-280
Hours: TR 1:00 - 2:00, and by online only appointment. All office hours, group and individual, will be held via Zoom. Meeting links/ID's TBA via GroupMe.
Office#: 3976 (do not leave a message, send email or text instead)
Mobile#: 361-944-2756 (never after 9:00 p.m., texts much preferred--be sure to identify yourself!)

A Note to Students

This course is aimed at a broad range of undergraduate students and requires no prior training in philosophy. It is, however, a decidedly philosophical course: Its focus is entirely on the development of the philosophical and analytical skills necessary for thinking clearly, carefully, and effectively about issues which, burdened as they are by long histories of intense fears and desires, all too rarely receive clear-headed attention. Unless one finds rigorous philosophical argumentation and analysis titillating, the course is not for titillation. Students who expect otherwise will be sorely disappointed. Nevertheless, at points in the semester we will view and discuss material of a highly sexual or sometimes disturbing nature: Hence, no one under eighteen years of age is permitted in the course. At no time in the semester will recording equipment of any kind be permitted in the course unless it is done so under the direction of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Course Description:

This course is a study of the philosophical and ethical dimensions of human social and sexual relationships. Since before Socrates, philosophers have had a keen interest in understanding the personal dimension of human relationships, a dimension which is essential to any sense of human flourishing. Following this long tradition of philosophical inquiry, the course will pursue discussions of these and other questions.

What is love?
What is lust?
What kinds of personal relationships ought a person seek?
What ethical issues enter into personal relationships?
How does one make wise decisions about personal relationships?
Does romantic love require sex? Does sex require romantic love?
Is lust a vice or a virtue?
What is 'natural' and what is 'perverse'?
Why are love and sex so often the targets of social control?
How should society treat personal relationships?

Student Learning Outcomes*

As demonstrated by pre and post-test, students will

Learn the names of at least three important philosophers who have written on these topics--e.g., Plato, Augustine, and Frankfurt.

Learn the names of at least three important philosophical theories on these topics--e.g., Nozick's Welfare View of Love, Firestone's Mutual Vulnerability View of Love, and Blackburn's Hobbesian Conception of Lust.

*Ignore this. It's just something we're required to have on our syllabi. Pointless drivel. A requirement of the University for accreditation purposes only. A result of the contemptible commodification of education and the corporatization of its institutions. Used as the basis for a pre- and post-test in a facile attempt to demonstrate quality in teaching and learning. Fails to reflect any grasp of the distinction between training and education by presupposing that understanding, discovery, and knowledge can be precisely measured, economized, and controlled. An embarrassing academic fad and an affront to the towering intellects whose investigations we have the privilege of pursuing this semester.

The professor whose course this is has been informed by the administration that the above statement repudiating Student Learning Outcomes is both 'uncivil' and 'sets a poor example for students'. The professor is deeply grateful and takes no small pride in the administration's echoing (albeit unwittingly and however distantly) Meletus' charges against Socrates. Frankly, there can be no greater honor for those who find inspiration in Socrates the gadfly, Socrates the midwife, and, above all, Socrates the self-stinging stingray.


Baker, R., K. Winninger and F. Elliston, Eds., Philosophy and Sex, 4th ed. (Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 1998). [ISBN: 157392184X; Amazon: $20.23]
Solomon, R.C. and Higgins, K., Eds., The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1991). [ISBN: 0700604804; Amazon: $11.33]
Frankfurt, H.G., The Reasons of Love (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004) [ISBN: 0691126240; Amazon: $8.39]
Blackburn, S., Lust (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) [ISBN: 0195312074; Amazon: $8.75]

*Useful but not required--selections from these and other sources will be provided as necessary.

Requirements Pre Covid-19


There will be a midterm examination due Tuesday, 3/17, and a final examination due Tuesday, 5/12, by 4:00pm. The examinations will be essays chosen from a selection of questions. The examinations will be take-home and will include material from lecture, discussion, guest lecturers, and panel discussions. Students may expect approximately two weeks to work on each examination.

Daily Reading Quizzes

Every class will begin with a very brief reading quiz. No notes or open readings are permitted. Each reading quiz will consist of a short-essay (no more than one side of one page, usually much less) answer to a question chosen from three published in advance. Only the best scoring twenty quizzes count towards the course grade. Each quiz is worth up to 25 points as per the following distribution:

Points Comment
0 Where were you? We missed you!
5 Nice drawing! But next time, don't procrastinate so much.
10 Nice answer, but which question were you answering?
15 There are some serious gaps here, but you're heading in the right direction.
20 Good! You've got the basics covered, but there is a much better way to put it.
25 Outstanding! Clear, concise, and correct!

Grading Formula

There are 1000 points possible as follows:

Reading Quizzes: 25 points each
Midterm Examination: 200 points
Final Examination: 300 points

Total Points = Sum of the best twenty reading quizzes + Midterm Examination + Final Examination

Course Grade is determined by the following scale:

A 900-1000
B 800 - 899
C 700 - 799
D 600 - 699
F 000 - 599

Requirements Post Covid-19


There will be a midterm examination due Tuesday, 3/24, by email in an editable format and a final examination due Tuesday, 5/12, by 4:00pm, again by email in an editable format. The examinations will be essays chosen from a selection of questions. The examinations will be take-home and will include material from lecture, discussion, guest lecturers, and panel discussions. Students may expect approximately two weeks to work on each examination.

Daily Reading Quizzes

I will take your best 8 out of the 13 Daily Reading Quizzes we have so far completed. We will not continue them when we reconvene. Instead,

Weekly Topical Essays

I will assign an essay each week on the readings for that week, to be emailed, marked, and returned by email the following week. Only the best 6 six such essays will count towards your course grade.

Grading Formula

There are 1000 points possible as follows:

Best eight reading quizzes: 25 points each = 200 points total
Best 6 weekly essays: 50 points each = 300 points total
Midterm Examination: 200 points
Final Examination: 300 points

Total Points = Sum of the best eight reading quizzes + Sum of the best six weekly essays + Midterm Examination + Final Examination

Course Grade is determined by the following scale:

A 900-1000
B 800 - 899
C 700 - 799
D 600 - 699
F 000 - 599


The professor assumes that students enrolled in this course are sincere student-scholars. That is, the professor shall treat students with the respect due scholars, and students shall do their best to live up to the standards of scholars. To wit,


Scholars carefully read assignments in advance of class, take notes on their reading, explore specific issues in discussion with fellow scholars, and follow-up class by re-reading portions of the required readings and exploring suggested readings.


Scholars are eager to respectfully, openly, and critically discuss arguments and issues raised by the readings. Scholars are adept at following a line of reasoning wherever it may lead. Most importantly, scholars welcome the insights and criticisms of their peers: A scholar understands that it is possible to entertain a proposition without believing it, just as it is possible to present an argument without personally endorsing the argument. Scholars enjoy vigorous deliberations and are always careful to treat fellow scholars with patience and good humor.


Scholars fully immerse themselves in assignments and never assume that an assignment is only legitimate if it will be covered on a test. Scholars are naturally curious and see every assignment as an opportunity to explore new issues, see old issues in new light, and hone their growing skills.


Scholars are very careful to give proper credit and maintain the highest standards of scholarly conduct. Scholars who fail to meet their responsibilities let themselves down, the professor, and, most importantly, their peers. In an effort to protect this community they will be prosecuted by the professor to the fullest extent allowable by university guidelines.


Scholars always attend class barring serious injury, illness, or disaster. Scholars view class-time as rare and valuable for the thought it evokes and the opportunities it presents. Scholars arrive early for class and never leave class early without obtaining prior approval from the professor. That said, it is important to bear in mind that some of our investigations are of such an extremely sensitive nature even the most sophisticated scholars may find it too uncomfortable for their own personal reasons to attend. Thus scholars are encouraged to make their own decisions about whether to attend on a given day. No questions will be asked. Nevertheless, scholars who miss class are responsible for obtaining class-notes, doing the readings, and fully answering any exam questions derived from class discussion. Make-up reading quizzes will be provided upon request, although the question asked may not be the question chosen in class.


Due to a raft of recent research and the professor's own experience, no scholar will use a screen (laptop, tablet, cellphone, reader, or what have you) in class without some specific requirement authorized by the office of disability services and discussed with the professor in advance. Scholars so addicted to their screens they cannot refrain from consulting them will be dismissed from class.

A Special Note Regarding These Extraordinary Circumstances

It has been said that online education is ten times the effort for a tenth of the benefit, which I've always found a rather generous sentiment. Nevertheless, we will do our level best to rise to the challenge. It is going to require patience, mine and yours. It is going to require effort, mine and yours. And it is going to require good humor, mine and yours.

When larger events threaten to make a mere college course pale to insignificance, we shall soldier on, doing the best we can to help one another under trying and tragic circumstances. In the end, we shall be the better for it, and we shall have made our friends and parents proud by dint of our fierce effort and indomitable spirit.

Additional Notes

This syllabus is authoritative and tentative. That is, the syllabus as it appears on this page in its most recent form supersedes any other version with which it conflicts. At the same time, any change to the syllabus will be made here and announced in class. Further, no change will be made which would be detrimental to the student's grade. The professor and the students are only responsible for the syllabus as it appears in its entirety here, including particularly the schedule on the course home page, which should be considered part of this syllabus.

Any student missing a due date must provide a documented, acceptable reason according to university guidelines. Students with a proper excuse for missing a due date will be given a reasonable extension.

Subject to professor discretion, students without a proper excuse for missing a due date will lose 20 points per day after the due date.

Required University Note to Students with Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please call or visit Disability Services at (361) 825-5816 in Corpus Christi Hall 116. If you are a returning veteran and are experiencing cognitive and/or physical access issues in the classroom or on campus, please contact the Disability Services office for assistance at (361) 825-5816.

Required University Note on Dropping a Class:* I hope that you never find it necessary to drop this or any other class. However, events can sometimes occur that make dropping a course necessary or wise. Please consult with your academic advisor, the Financial Aid Office, and me, before you decide to drop this course. Should dropping the course be the best course of action, you must initiate the process to drop the course by going to the Student Services Center and filling out a course drop form. Just stopping attendance and participation WILL NOT automatically result in your being dropped from the class. April 6th, 2018 is the last day to drop a class with an automatic grade of “W” this term.

*Please note that the professor whose course this is did not write this note, despite its having been written in the first-person. Whoever it was meant well, no doubt.

Required College of Liberal Arts Note on Academic Advising: The College of Liberal Arts requires that students meet with an Academic Advisor as soon as they are ready to declare a major. Degree plans are prepared in the CLA Academic Advising Center. The University uses an online Degree Audit system. Any amendment must be approved by the Department Chair and the Office of the Dean. All courses and requirements specified in the final degree plan audit must be completed before a degree will be granted. The CLA Academic Advising Office is located in Driftwood #203. For more information, please call 361-825-3466.

Required College of Liberal Arts Note on the Grade Appeal Process: As stated in University Procedure 13.02.99.C2.01, Student Grade Appeal Procedures, a student who believes that he or she has not been held to appropriate academic standards as outlined in the class syllabus, equitable evaluation procedures, or appropriate grading, may appeal the final grade given in the course. The burden of proof is upon the student to demonstrate the appropriateness of the appeal. A student with a complaint about a grade is encouraged to first discuss the matter with the instructor. For complete details, including the responsibilities of the parties involved in the process and the number of days allowed for completing the steps in the process, see University Procedure 13.02.99.C2.03, Student Grade Appeals. These documents are accessible online at: For assistance and/or guidance in the grade appeal process, students may contact the Dean’s office in the college in which the course is taught or the Office of the Provost. For complete details on the process of submitting a formal grade appeal, please visit the College of Liberal Arts website, For assistance and/or guidance in the grade appeal process, students may contact the Associate Dean’s Office.

By accepting this syllabus the student indicates that the syllabus has been read, all requirements are understood, and all policies are acknowledged.