PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Morality & Politics of Analogies
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/30/21 - 12/10/21 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


This course is inspired by my growing realization of the important role that analogies play in political and moral disagreements. Which similarities (and differences) are relevant when it comes to making policy, interpreting the law, or determining how one is permitted to act? The ability to distinguish the fruitful, informative analogies from the misleading, and even dangerous, analogies is an ability we all need if we are to reach reasonable/thoughtful conclusions about many of the most important issues that confront us as individuals and as a group – and if, in particular, we are to avoid being manipulated by people who want us to make certain comparisons and avoid making others. (Is the requirement to wear masks in public places more like the requirement to drive no faster than 65 mph? The prohibition against smoking in a restaurant? The prohibition against wearing a hijab? The prohibition against wearing a political button? Or ???) In order to develop the ability to draw analogies and to sort the more significant similarities from the less significant, students in this seminar will explore a range of moral issues that philosophers and others have tried to illuminate by appealing to certain similarities and differences. We will compare different scenarios in which one person refrains from helping another; and different scenarios that, like the case of unwanted pregnancy, involve the dependence of one person on another person’s body. We will compare killing in self-defense with killing in war, and taxation, and forced labor. We will ask how helping someone to die when she has a terminal illness differs morally from other cases of assisted suicide, and how is determined by one’s character or desires is similar to/different from having one’s brain manipulated by mad scientists -- or by powerful rhetoric. In examining these discussions, we will gain a deeper insight into the issues themselves. But we will also develop the skills necessary to better understand our own views and the views of others. We will learn how to identify the source of our disagreements, and to think about how we might try to persuade one another to see the power of alternative analogies (and disanalogies).

Course Requirements:

Students will be required to find examples of the use of analogies in history, in present-day policymaking, and in decisions of the Supreme Court. They will write two brief analyses of two such cases, and present their findings to the class. They will also be required to write a short essay on how they or someone else used an analogy to help someone understand something better, or how the use of an analogy inspired innovation.

Intended Audience:

This course is intended to serve as an introduction to philosophy. Previous experience in philosophy will not be required or assumed.

Class Format:

Two 1.5 hour seminar sessions per week. Attendance and discussion will be a big part of course work.


PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
6Enrollment Management
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
8/30/21 - 12/10/21

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