(Spring 2024, Pitt) PHIL 0010: (Queer) Concepts of Human Nature

Traditional questions about human nature tend to concern what is essential to human nature, what makes humankind different from the various other forms of life. This sort of thinking about humanity has often served as a basis for ethical and political thought, including questions such as who counts as a human, whether humans are naturally social and in what way, and how we should organize human life; the flipside of this is that the concept of human nature has tremendous potential to be used in mass exploitation, dehumanization, and genocide. For example, queer people have historically been called “deviants,” in the sense that they deviate from some given human norm, a human nature. But an important question is whether there is even a norm or nature to deviate from. This question will be the background for us as we explore some more specific aspects of human experience that queer life and deviance highlights: the legitimacy of talking about different “kinds” of humans, the nature of desires and passions that we have, and the myriad possible ways humans can relate to one another. In this course, we will explore such questions as we also deviate and break out of the norms of traditional philosophy, reading plays, poems, and fiction by people not traditionally considered philosophers, alongside more traditional philosophical texts. (syllabus available on request)