Sophomore Seminars

Being Reasonable


In everyday life, we ask each other to be reasonable, and we fault unreasonable behavior in ourselves and others. Moreover, the Anglo-American legal system makes extensive use of the “reasonable person standard” in everything from negligence to administrative law. What is it to be a reasonable person? What do we mean by “reasonable”? This course will look at applications of the concept, and attempts by philosophers and legal theorists to understand what reasonableness is. We’ll also look at criticisms of the use of the concept by feminist and critical legal theorists.

Course expectations: Philosophy involves lots of independence of mind, and you spend a lot of time reading and then writing, in order to sort out what you think. It also involves lots of time spent with others, discussing ideas and arguments. Our class will divide into time you spend reading and writing reactions to your reading (budget about 5 hours per week), and then hours spent together, in a free-ranging question and answer session, and a more formal, focused discussion of the reading (about 2 hours per week). You’ll be working on a final short paper throughout the quarter. You should have a reliable internet connection. We’ll talk via Zoom and use Canvas for shared reading reactions. First preference to Sophomores; second preference to Frosh. No prior Philosophy courses needed.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Krista Lawlor

"When I was an undergraduate at a small state school (UNH), I liked mathematics, and I also studied a bit of philosophy on the side. I never thought about teaching as a career, until a friend of mine decided to head off to graduate school in English. Her example gave me the idea to explore a subject I really had enjoyed most of all—philosophy. One thing led to another, and I got my PhD in philosophy (from another, much larger, state school: University of Michigan). Stanford hired me, and I’ve been very happily teaching and exploring ever since."