• Class Number 8185
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Michael Yuen
    • Michael Yuen
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

Philosophy has always been concerned with exploring fundamental questions about the nature of humanity, questions that still preoccupy us today and inform many of the other disciplines studied at university. This first year course aims to introduce students to philosophical reflection on questions (a) to do with ‘humanity’ in the sense of an ethical aspiration proper to human existence and the meaning and potential inherent in human life, and (b) how we can hold ‘humanity’ to be metaphysically unique, both as a civilizational achievement and as opposed to entities such as non-human animals or machines. Being human implies that we can be ‘inhuman’, by violating a basic ethical code that defines us. What is the status of that code and how does it inform ideas about human rights? How is the ideal of humanity linked to claims about human privilege and difference? And can ideas about the high value of what is properly human effectively license violence against other beings deemed less important or valuable? 

In particular the course will focus on four overlapping topic areas: humanity and rights; humanity and animals; humanity and race; and humanity and gender. Alongside philosophy, works of film and literature will inform the discussion. The course treats philosophical questions as arising out of dense problem areas, often most effectively mapped in literary treatments. Beginning from skepticism that we know what humanity is, or what it is worth, the course probes three intersectional issues - gender, race and animality - that render the practice and grasp of our ‘humanity’ particularly complex and demanding. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Understand some core areas of philosophy, particularly those concerning questions of what humanity consists in
  2. Engage in argumentation, the critical evaluation of texts, basic research and essay writing etc, as appropriate for a first year course
  3. Engage in well-reasoned, justified and articulate discussion and debate.

Students can find all required reading on Wattle.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 What is Humanity? Indicative readings listed below
2 Human Dignity & Political Entitlements Nussbaum, Martha - 2008 - Human Dignity and Political Entitlements Singer, Peter - 1979 - What Is Wrong With Killing
3 Showing Humanity to Animals Diamond, Cora - 1978 - Eating Meat and Eating People Coetzee, J.M. - 1999 - The Lives of Animals
4 Vulnerability & Freedom Hägglund, Martin - 2019 - Natural and Spiritual Freedom
5 Pandemics, Biopower & States of Exception Agamben, Gorgio - 2020 - The Inventions of an Epidemic Foucault, Michel - 1995 - Panoptico
6 Kant's Idea of Human Progress Kant, Immanuel - 1784 - The Idea of Human Progress Mensch, Jenifer - 2017 - What's wrong with inevitable progress?
7 Race—Structures & Experiences Mills, Charles - 1997 - The Racial Contract (Excerpts) Fanon, Frantz - 1952 - Black Skin, White Masks (Excerpts)
8 Performative & Punitive Gender Butler, Judith - 1988 - Performative Acts and Gender Constitution de Beauvoir, Simone - 1949 - The Second Sex (Excerpts)
9 Social Contracts & Recognition Pateman, Carole - 1988 - The Sexual Contract (Excerpts)
10 Evil Hannah Arendt - 1963 - Eichmann in Jerusalem
11 Hope & Humanity's Future Rorty, Richard - 1999 - Social Hope
12 Conclusions: What can we say for humanity?

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Weekly Reading Response 10 % * * 3
Weekly Small Group Discussion Activity 15 % * * 3
Short Critical Analysis 5 % 12/08/2020 19/08/2020 1 and 2
Short Essay 25 % 20/09/2020 02/10/2020 1 and 2
Long Essay 45 % 04/11/2020 24/11/2020 1 and 2

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 3

Weekly Reading Response

Students are required to submit a brief response (100-200 words) to the readings assigned for each week using Wattle at least 24 hours in advance of that of the lecture. These responses may raise questions about the reading, raise a point of confusion, explain a term or idea, or aim to resolve an issue that had been raised in a previous discussion or in the readings. These responses will assist you when it comes to writing your essays and will help you guide your reading. Students can, also, email responses to their tutor.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 3

Weekly Small Group Discussion Activity

There are 2 parts to this task:

(a) Students are required to meet independently in online groups of approximately 4 students to discuss the week's material and produce notes about the week's main themes.

(b) Students are required to report back to a wider cohort and discuss the main themes.

This task will be assessed on the basis of contributions to the discussion and each week's activity, with an expectation that you are able to discuss the topic when called upon to do so and that you volunteer contributions. Listening and responding constructively to others are also valued contributions. It will be assessed in terms of the quality of contributions to the discussion: insight, relevance and appropriateness of comments, based on proper preparation.

Everyone will be expected to have read the extracts, articles or chapters set, before the meeting, and to have thought about them in a way that enables contribution to the discussion. 

Assessment Task 3

Value: 5 %
Due Date: 12/08/2020
Return of Assessment: 19/08/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1 and 2

Short Critical Analysis

This is a short low stakes piece aimed at developing writing skills and getting early feedback. Identify 3 key points in one of the texts set for discussion in the class to date (a chapter or article) and comment on (a) why they are important, and (b) how the author argues for or elaborates them. Explain how you understand the points to be related to one another and form a critical evaluation of the idea the text presents. As this is a short piece it is very important that you write concisely. Although wider reading in the critical literature will help you in this task, and you should acknowledge sources where you use them, the primary focus of this task is on careful reading and exposition of a fairly short text.   

600 words

Assessment Rubrics

•      Evidence of careful reading/examination of the primary material.

•      Understanding the primary material.

•      Ability to present a clear structured argument.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 20/09/2020
Return of Assessment: 02/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1 and 2

Short Essay

Short essay questions will be posted in week 5 on Wattle You should answer one of them. 1250 words

Assessment Rubrics

•      Evidence of careful reading/examination of the primary material.

•      Understanding the primary material.

•      Ability to present a clear structured argument.

•      Ability to argue a critical position.

•      Evidence of awareness of the overarching themes of course.

•      Ability to read and incorporate a range of secondary sources.

•      Ability in written expression.


Essays should contain an appropriate amount of reference to primary and secondary material. Approximately. 3-4 works should be mentioned for the short essay.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 45 %
Due Date: 04/11/2020
Return of Assessment: 24/11/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1 and 2

Long Essay

Long essay questions will be posted in week 8 on Wattle. You should answer one of them. 2500 words

Assessment Rubrics:

•      Evidence of careful reading/examination of the primary material.

•      Understanding the primary material.

•      Ability to present a clear structured argument.

•      Ability to argue a critical position.

•      Evidence of awareness of the overarching themes of course.

•      Ability to read and incorporate a range of secondary sources.

•      Ability in written expression.


Essays should contain an appropriate amount of reference to primary and secondary material. Approximately, 8-10 works should be mentioned for the short essay.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Michael Yuen

Research Interests

Kantian Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, Epistemology, European philosophy

Michael Yuen

By Appointment
By Appointment
Michael Yuen

Research Interests

Michael Yuen

By Appointment
By Appointment

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