Dr. Antonio T. de Nicolas   TR. 10:50-12.05 p.m.

Spring 2004 Phil/Religion  

Upper level course  Course Number 3930 BG                                                          

INTRODUCTION AND COURSE OBJECTIVES:   Decision-making is a needed skill in a world that is so ambiguous, and it is hardly ever mentioned in classes at the University level. It is at this time of the life of our students that is, between the ages of 19 to 30, that the frontal lobes may open if properly exercised. And these frontal lobes are essential for decision-making in complex situations. Our educational system is biased in favor of veridical decisions, decisions geared to agreements between subject and object, logical, disembodied models, right and wrong.   For this kind of decisions no neural development is necessary, no frontal lobes need to open, the rules are in the game. But there are no mechanisms in education to teach anyone decision based on multiple, ambiguous situations, “what is the best choice from among the possible”, as Plato so eloquently wrote in The Republic, in a concrete situation facing a subject. Prior to the method of division Aristotle exemplified, and was transmitted to us by the Medievals, there was another culturally verifiable form of division that Plato in his dialogues proposed as the project of philosophy for the organization and foundation of the Polity. This form of division is to be sought not through the application of cognitive and fictive skills, which yield only a shadow of knowledge, but through the direction of a will trained to select, to sort out from among the possible - lives, narratives, acts - what is best. This form of division focuses exclusively on the quality of the acts performed, on the selection of things from images, of originals from copies, and of good copies from simulacra. Claims are judged internally as they fit a lineage of performance that separates the pure from the impure, the authentic from the inauthentic. This Platonic method of division is not primarily concerned with breath, in the determination of the species from a genus, but with depth in the selection of the lineage of the act performed so as to sort out claims, to distinguish the true claimant from the false, the bad life from the good, the good narrative from the bad one. Decisions, if they are good, will produce good visible forms; the quality of the form is a measure of the quality of an inner act. This is also the lesson of Indic texts and the literature of the mystics. Arjuna in the Gita collapses in the first chapter unable to make the decision to fight in a very ambiguous –to him—situation. Family, friends, are on both sides of the battle field. Krsna takes him on a journey of communities and acts ( yogas) he was familiar with for ten chapters until all his intelligence-centers open and thus he is able to  see (chapter eleven) the geometries on which the passage and dissolution of nama-rupa, names and forms, takes place. This is the embodiment of the Avatara in its full manifestation. A man has been able to embody in one life time the technologies of the present culture to the point of having it constantly present so that when called upon he may make the best decision, from among the possible, for the benefit of all. It is after this realization that the Gita, in chapter twelve, spells out the meaning of the “battle field” as the human body, and of the technologies of decision-making, as the opening of memory, that opens the heart, and opens finally the frontal lobes so that in the end the subject, Arjuna, may by habit decide from the desires of his heart whatever he wants: yatha icchasi tatha kuru (now that you know do as you wish). This is a course designed to train students to recognize the distinctions between veridical and complex decisions and the technologies involved in both. What we had discovered in those early cultures about decision-making in complex situations through the study of culture, modern discoveries in neurobiology confirm the same epistemologies and training.       

GOALS OF THE COURSE AND PREDICTED OUTCOMES: upon successful completion of this class, students will be able to recognize various philosophical positions within their historical contexts on decision making and offer analysis based upon methodological approaches within the discipline of philosophy.

The Student WILL also LEARN to focus not only on the statements of philosophers but more importantly on the mental acts leading to those statements and methods, and the mental habits they create. The key lesson of the course is to develop the ability to focus on what philosophers do to say the things they say. This focus will enable the students to see and through repetition embody how decisions are made, how individual thinking is conditioned by the past, how we have used in history and education certain mental acts only and left others unused. Writing papers, presentations in class and dialogue with one another will help the students join the conversation of philosophers and with each other so that the common and individual challenges are more easily overcome.


                -attend classes

                -read assigned sections

                -participate in class discussions

                -complete assignments (listed below) with passing scores


                The methods of instruction shall be lecture and class discussion.  The grading practices are as follows:

                Three written papers………………………60%

                Communal presentation………………… 30%

                Attendance………………………………….. 10%

The grading scale is as follows: (on a 4.0 scale)

A=3.6-4.0;  B= 2.6-3.5;  C=2.0-2.5;  D=1.6-1.9; F=below 1.6

POLICY ON ATTENDANCE AND PLAGIARISM:  (see College Catalog for general policy.)

The professor reserves the right to fail any student who misses three or more classes.

Plagiarism shall not be tolerated and shall result in AT LEAST a failing grade for the course.


Students experiencing difficulties that interfere with their learning should contact the instructor as soon as possible to arrange assistance. Examples of these difficulties might include: ineffective study skills,  preoccupation with emotional issues, or problems with stress management.


-Colavito, M. The New Theogony. SUNY Press. 1992

 -de Nicolas, A. Habits of Mind:Introduction to Clinical Philosophy 2003.

-de Nicolas, Avatara: The Humanization of Philosophy through the Bhagavad Gita. 2003

- de Nicolas, A. Powers of Imagining, SUNY Press

-Goldberg, E. The Executive Brain: Frontal lobes and the Civilized Mind. Oxford. 2001

-Hesse, H. The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi).Owl Books. 1990


-Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (4th Edition).

      See: http://www.uiaorg/homeency.htm/  and the following articles:



        Other relevant articles will be assigned as we go along and needed.

WEEKS ONE AND TWO: Discussions on neurobiology and cultural imperatives on how the brain works. This will help the student to keep as a background or mental image while taking the course and thus understand the context of the discussion of philosophers and their truth and falsity value at the epistemological level and thus understand better the ways to decision making. Handouts will be also given in class to better understand the neurobiological background.

Text: The Executive Brain

WEEKS THREE AND FOUR: Plato’s cave, the prisoners, the people in front of the fire, the “light with which we see” after having seen the sun outside of the cave. The technologies of decisions making explained.

                Texts: Habits of Mind

                    The New Theogony,

WEEKS FIVE AND SIX: Modernity with Galileo, Descartes, And Newton: Veridical decisions and their technology introduced.

Classical and Modern Logic:

Some Logical Terms, Definitions, Axioms, Formulae.

Text: “The Sciences have Masks on them,” by Colin M. Turbayne

Text: “Being Otherwise” A. Judge, UIA and UN.

WEEKS SEVEN AND EIGHT: The Narratives: Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, UIA and UN. Selected texts.

-Powers of Imagining

WEEKS NINE AND TEN: The Critics: Voltaire, Vico, Dewey, Ortega y Gasset.

The Writers of the Constitution of the United States.

Texts: Habits of  Mind

Candide, Voltaire

Experience and Education, John Dewey

The Revolt of the Masses and Mission of the University, Jose Ortega y Gasset.

Magister Ludi, Hesse

WEEKS ELEVEN AND TWELVE: The return to the origins of philosophy: Plato, the Poets, Pythagoras, Indic Texts. The Mystics.


The Republic, Plato

Daedalus and Icarus,

The Golden Verses of the Pythagoreans

Bhagavad Gita, from Avatara.

Powers of Imagining: Elections, signs, joining the public domain, decision-making.

WEEKS THIRTEEN, FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN: Class presentations. Exercises using Magister Ludi, mythology and the technologies of the mystics.

NOTE: Regarding communal presentations.

The students divide themselves according to their own decision in groups covering the main topics of the course. Each group is responsible for choosing a leader, a topic, and distributing the tasks of the presentation among themselves in such a way that the rest of the class will be able to “know” the topic (author, habit of mind, aid in decision making etc.) the group presents. In order to achieve this goal the student will have to make up an image and act out the “habit of mind” and decision possibilities of their presentation.

The range of topics ( historical events) of the history of philosophy ( as in the books used in class) are covered by the presentations. This is the best introduction for the students to be able to participate in practicing decision making in class and also participate in Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game. This book is excellent for the students to participate in decision-making in complex situations.

Note regarding readings: Most of the texts are in the books assigned for the course.