Course Description: Introduction to Philosophy investigates the aims, nature and problems of philosophy with emphasis upon the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics and philosophy of religion. Satisfies: Humanities, Liberal Arts, Open/Free, Philosophy & Religion, Reading Content. Prerequisites/General Requirements: Basic reading and writing proficiency.
Required Texts: Plato: Apology of Socrates (found in The Trial and Death of Socrates)
Plato: Republic (Penguin)
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World Classics)
Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy (Oxford World Classics)
Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Hackett)
These books are available in the bookstore. In most cases it is acceptable for you to use different editions (just check with me to make sure that what you are reading is in fact the same book as the one the class is reading). In addition to these books, we will be reading excerpts from the works of several other philosophers such as Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Hume, and Nietzsche. These excerpts along with other relevant course information will be provided for you via Blackboard.
a.) Identify major authors and developments in the history of philosophy.
b.) Evaluate and critically assess different forms of philosophical argumentation drawn from various disciplines and schools of thought.
c.) Construct good philosophical arguments of your own in an organized, detailed, and cogent manner.
d.) Establish an evolving philosophic dialogue between students in the class, and between the books they read and their own lives.
Course Methodology: I believe that an emphasis on collaborative learning is the best and most effective way to conduct the class. We will engage in activities that foster a student-centered, active learning environment. Philosophy has always taken the form of a dialogue, and this class will be no exception. Although I will frequently provide lessons and make clarifying remarks along the way, I will do so in order to prompt discussion among the class. This class will be conducted in Socratic fashion, which means that it will be more about helping students discover and clarify their own opinions and knowledge rather than about imparting knowledge. In this way, it is important that each and every student participates in class discussion and comes to class prepared every day (i.e., having done the reading carefully) so that class discussion will be productive and interesting. To this end, it is also important that students remain open-minded in two crucial respects: 1) be open and respectful of the views of others, and 2) be open and willing to share your own experiences and thoughts with the class.
Assessments and Grades:
1.) Reflective Writing and Editing: You will have three short, 1-2 page reflective writing essays due throughout the semester. The reflective essay ought to express a thesis of your own about the reading and give at least one clear argument for the thesis. You must cite sources of all ideas, quotes, or paraphrases that are not your own.
Topics: The specific topics or theses are left entirely for you to decide. However, you must write one reflection paper on Plato, one on Aristotle, and one on some other philosopher that we read in class.
Editing and Deadlines: You must turn in a first draft of your paper to me on the day it is due. On that day, you will also turn in a copy of this first draft to a peer editor, who will then edit the paper in class and give it back to you to revise. Editors must write their name on the paper that they are reading. (I will not be grading or returning first drafts; I collect them as place-holders.) One week from the day the first draft was due, you will turn in to me a final version of the paper, together with the first, edited draft. The final version of the paper should be stapled on top of the first draft you got back from your editor. Also, I will be providing some short questionnaires for the editors to fill out while reading the papers. These must be included when you turn in the final copy to me. The three short essays will count collectively as 20% of your final grade. To receive full credit, you must write, edit, and then rewrite. The editing stage will be just as important as the writing stages when determining grades. (As the course progresses, I will be giving you a handout further explaining these papers and assigning peer editors.)
2.) Term Paper: You will have one major paper of 5 to 7 pages due in class. I will suggest paper topics, or you can write on a topic of your own choosing, provided that you discuss the topic with me first. I will spend some class time before the paper is due explaining how to write a good philosophy paper and how it will be graded. A great philosophy paper would have a great question that guides the formation and structure of the paper, and your thesis would be an attempt to answer and cast light upon that question. In general, however, papers will be graded according to (1) how well you have understood and presented the class material your paper covers, (2) how well you have thought through the issues and presented a clear thesis of your own regarding the topic, (3) how well you have defended this thesis with cogent, well-organized arguments. The term paper will count as 20% of your final grade.
3.) Reading Quizzes: I prefer not to give reading quizzes, but I will do so as needed if I feel students are not keeping up with the reading. Some quizzes may be announced in advance, but others may be unannounced. Quiz grades will be included in your participation grade.
4.) Midterm Exam/Paper: Your midterm will be a take-home essay. I will announce the topic at the appropriate time.
5.) Final Exam: There will be a comprehensive final exam during the exam period at the end of the semester. It will also be a mix of short-answer and essay questions.
Grades will be determined as follows:
Short Papers & Edits: 20%
Term Paper: 20%
Midterm Exam: 15%
Final Exam: 25%
Attendance, Late Papers and Missed Quizzes/Exams: In order to sustain and develop an evolving dialogue, it is necessary that students attend class regularly. Therefore, I will take attendance everyday. I do understand that emergencies occur, and should you need to miss a class for a legitimate reason, I ask that you email me and let me know so that I can make note that your absence was excused. A student can miss 4 classes without penalty. After that, additional absences will be reflected in your attendance/participation grade (10 points). Peer editing assignments cannot be made-up. You may still turn in your reflection paper, but you can at most receive only 1/3 credit if you are absent during editing. Missed quizzes and the mid-term exam can be made up only for excused absences. Papers turned in anytime after the class period in which they are due are late, and will have one full grade deducted. They will have an additional full grade deducted for each day they are late thereafter. I do not generally accept papers that are emailed to me as an attachment, but in some cases this will suffice as a place-holder until you can give me a hard-copy.
Academic Integrity: I take academic dishonesty very seriously. All quotes and paraphrases on papers must be cited; references to texts outside the required reading should be stated in footnote or a bibliography. Cheating on exams or plagiarism (the attempt by a writer to represent the work of another as his or her own) will not be tolerated. Any violation of this policy is a serious offense against both one’s own intellectual development and the larger intellectual community. Acts of academic dishonesty will therefore be met with the most severe consequences, including a failing grade for the course.
Academic Freedom: Students have the right to believe whatever they happen to believe and, within the appropriate constraints that follow from the organization of a course and its class meetings, to express those beliefs. Grades will never be based on the beliefs that a student maintains, but only on the quality of the philosophical work performed by a student in conjunction with the course.
Classroom Policies: Please be considerate to your neighbor! Try to eat before you come to class. Keep your phones out of sight unless it is an emergency (if it is, then you probably shouldn’t be in class anyways). In sum, I ask that students abstain from any disruptive behavior during the course. Should the need arise for disciplinary action, I will first talk to the student individually and make known the nature of the problem and what needs to be done to correct it. If the behavior persists, I will follow the appropriate channels and report the student to the judicial officers.