Great Philosophical Questions (0122-110)

This is a sample from a previous semester

Course Description:

This course fulfills part of the Philosophy and Theology requirement (Area F) of the  GEC.  The course is a historical introduction to philosophy; we will look into a wide range of philosophical ideas in order for you to familiarize yourself with the fundamental issues discussed in philosophy--values, knowledge, reality, our world, and the meaning of human existence.  We will examine both classical and contemporary writings of philosophers from various backgrounds, as well as explore our own ideas.

Course Objectives:

Philosophy is not about memorizing facts or stating one’s opinions about the “meaning of life.”  It is rather about developing good thinking skills, deepening our understanding about the ideas which have been discussed for centuries by philosophers, and responsibly cultivating our own responses to the issues.  These skills will affect all aspects of your life beyond the classroom; it is a necessary skill for having a rewarding life in general.  In order for us to become better thinkers in this vein, we will do the following:  1) We will learn how to read/examine/analyze difficult philosophical texts:  2) We will then analyze/examine/construct our ideas or responses.  This process will require examining/discovering our own biases, presuppositions, and thinking patterns:  3) Finally, we will learn to put our ideas together in a clear, philosophically coherent manner.  In other words, the hope is that at the end of the

Texts:  (In the order we will study):  Please purchase 1, 3, 4, and 5 as soon as possible.

1.  Plato.  Five Dialogues.  (We will read Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito from the selections)
2.  Chuang-Tzu  (Daoism Handout--will be distributed in class)
3.  Boethius.  The Consolation of Philosophy.
4.  Descartes, Rene.  Discourse on Method and the Meditations.
5.  Sartre, Jean-Paul.  Existentialism and Human Emotions.

Additional reading material (xerox) will be distributed in class.

The reading assignments must be read before the class.

* Please activate your email account and check regularly, as I will be using it for various communications.  You are of course welcome to contact me any time.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1.  Mini-essay (in-class) at the beginning of the third week.  10 points.  The topic will be taken from the class material and will be given during the second week.  If you must miss the day of the essay, you must make it up within one week. (2 points penalty unless you have a valid excuse.)  After one week past the day of the essay, it will not be accepted.

2.  Weekly Essay Reflections (take-home).  5 points each, 50 points total.  Throughout the semester, you will turn in 10 well-written, one to two page essays.  Since there are 14 weeks applicable for this project, you have a chance to miss 4 papers.  Strategically schedule the weeks to skip, given your schedule for other classes.  The topics (you will have a choice every week) will be given out at the end of the class on Thursdays, for the material that was covered for that week.  This is NOT a research paper nor a summary of the author’s views, although from time to time I will ask you to clarify the philosophical ideas covered by the author.  Mostly, however, I will ask you first to state the argument in the book and then ask your responses.  The essays are collected at the beginning of every Tuesday class; any paper turned in after that time on Tuesday will be penalized by 2 points (in other words, DO NOT try to write the paper for the previous week during the Tuesday class).  Any paper turned in on Wed or Thurs will be penalized by 2.5 points.  You may only write on the topic for the week in question--in other words, if you forget to do one, then you’ve missed your chance on writing for that week; you just have to select another topic for another week.  No paper will be accepted beyond Thursday on the topic from the previous week.  They cannot be made up, so don’t miss your chances.

3.  Final Essay Exam (take-home).  20 points.  The final will be “comprehensive” in the sense that the questions will ask you to utilize the material from the entire course.  It is not comprehensive in the sense that I am not going to ask you a detailed question from the early part of the course.  It will be given out the last week of class and will be due on the scheduled final day for this class.

4.  Group Project.  10 points.  At the end of the course, we will have a group presentation/debate of the philosophers we studied.  Each of you will select a philosopher of your choice among the ones we’ve read, and as a group (e.g., the “Socrates” team) you will debate with other philosopher teams.  The topic for the debate will be given later, as well as the details about the presentation and sign-up sheet.  This cannot be made up, so do not miss your presentation.  If you fail to show up, you don’t get the points.  If it is an emergency, however, I’ll work out something with you.  If you have a SEVERE problem doing a presentation, come talk to me (no penalty for extreme shyness but there is a reason why you should try to participate in this project).

5.  Participation.  10 points.

100 points total.  A: 92-100.  A-: 91 and 90.  B+: 89.  B: 81-88.  B-: 80.  C+:78 and 79.  C: 71-77.  C-: 70.  D: 60-69.

Course Schedule

August 27:  Introduction

On the Method of Thinking:

Week 1 (Sept 1, 3) “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (Handout),  Introduction to Socrates (lecture)

SOCRATES:  An Examined Life

Week 2 (Sept 8, 10)  Euthyphro (Plato pp 5-22)
Week 3 (Sept 15, 17)  Mini-essay on Tues, Sept 15.  Begin Apology (Plato pp. 23-44)

Week 4 (Sept 22, 24)  Apology continued.

Week 5 (Sept 29, Oct 1)  Crito (Plato pp. 45-58)

DAOISM:  Balance and the Way of Nature

Week 6 (Oct 6, 8)  Daoism:  “Half of It” and Chuang Tzu (Handout)

Week 7 (Oct 13, 15) Daoism continued.

BOETHIUS:  Happiness, God, and the Problem of Evil

Week 8 (Oct 20, 22) Boethius Book II (pp. 21-41), III: Prose 9-12 (pp. 56-74)

Week 9 (Oct 27, 29) Boethius Book IV: Proses 1-6, and Book V: Proses 3, 4, and 6

DESCARTES:  The Birth of Scientific Method and the Quest for Uncertainty

Week 10 (Nov 3, 5)  Descartes, Meditations I and II (pp. 95-112)

Week 11 (Nov 10, 12)  Descartes, Meditations III and V (113-149)

Week 12 (Nov 17, 19)  Descartes summary, Eve Browning Cole (“Body, Mind, and Gender” handout)

SARTRE:  Freedom and Responsiblity

Week 13 (Nov 24) Sartre,  “Existentialism”

Week 14 (Dec 1, 3) Sartre continued,  Summary of the course

Week 15 (Dec 8)  Last Day:  Group Presentation and Discussion.

Final is due on Thursday, December 17, 1pm.

Policy on Attendance, Turning in your papers, etc.

You are expected to attend every class.  I will accept VALID excuses (medical emergency, or other events which are totally beyond your control).  It is your responsibility to contact me if you must miss class.

Please note that “turning in the paper” means that I receive it; it does NOT mean that you dropped it off.  When in doubt, you must make sure with me that I actually have your material.

If you must drop the course, it is your responsibility to take care of the paperwork and to contact me.  If you stop coming and your name appears on the roster at the end of the course, you will receive an F (not my choice, but if your name appears on the final grading sheet, I have to assign a grade).  An “I” grade can be given only for a missed FINAL.  It must be arranged with me beforehand.

Feel free to talk to me about any concerns you may have about the course.  I am always interested in what you have to say.

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