Instructor: Scott Dixon
Phone/Email: 909-869-4592/4766(Department Office)/email@example.com
Office Hours: Tues. 9:55 a.m.—10:35 a.m., Thurs. 7:25 a.m.--7:55 a.m. & by appt.
Course Website: http://scotrates.tripod.com/phil201and202
Language, Truth, and Logic, Alfred Jules Ayer, Dover Pub.
Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes, Third Ed., Trans. by D. A. Cress, Hackett Pub.
The Handbook (Encheridion), Epictetus, Trans. by N. White, Hackett Pub.
Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard, Trans. by A. Hannay, Penguin Books.
Reader to be passed out that
includes: John Wilson, Conceptual Analysis; Thomas Nagel,
Subjective/Objective and Death, Laura Ekstrom, Paradise Island, David Hume, Suicide, Albert Camus,
The Myth of Sisyphus, Ernest Nagel, Defending Atheism; C. Van Til, Why I Believe in God; St. Anselm,
The Ontological Argument; St. Thomas Aquinas, The Five Ways; and William Paley, The Design Argument .
This course is an introduction to some of the basic issues in philosophy. Specifically, we will cover four
main areas: logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics—all through original source materials.
Philosophical movements to be presented and discussed include rationalism, empiricism, existentialism,
ordinary language and logical positivism. Topics include: anguish, the absurd, death, suicide, basic logical
notions, free will, determinism, skepticism, virtue, the mind/body problem, personal identity, the relationship
between science and philosophy, the existence of God, metaphilosophy, and the practical value of philosophy.
We will stress to a large degree practical applications of philosophy. Students will also learn a method of
doing philosophy through conceptual analysis.
By the end of the course,
students will have a good grasp of some of the significant issues and schools
thought in philosophy. They will also improve their writing and reasoning skills, along with increasing their
verbal articulation abilities.
There will be three tests of competency.
1. Exam on Epictetus,
and related issues. 100 points
2. Exam on Descartes/Kierkegaard, and related issues. 100 points
3. Exam on Ayer, and related issues. 100 points
All exams have two components.
1) The essay portion is take-home and is worth 40 points. I will usually
pass them out on a Tuesday or a Thursday and you’ll have at least one week to complete it. All essay
questions will be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and in a standard font—Arial, Times New
Roman, or New Courier. You will have your choice of a few questions.. If you want to work together on the
essay portion, that’s fine—as long as you understand the following: just make sure your work is not the same
and is independent enough so that I don’t have any questions about who did it. IF you submit the same exam
as your partner(s), you will both/all receive failing grades for that assignment and possibly for the course.
Please see the essay question guidelines attached to the syllabus for further information. 2) The in-class
portion consists of objective questions and true/false answers. These, to a large degree, come from the
reading questions and the lectures. This portion of the exam is worth 60 points and is usually broken down
into 30, 2 point questions.
For the remaining 200 points, the distribution is as follows:
5. Reading Questions. In
order to encourage you to do the reading and as a way to increase your
understanding of the material, I will assign reading questions. These will be passed out the class
period before the lecture they specifically refer to. They will be collected at the beginning of the period
they are due and no late ones will be accepted. Be sure to run off a copy for yourself as you will be
questioned on them during class. There are no make-up reading questions.
12 @ 12 points each = 144 points
6. In-class Work. Group
work. Daily you will be put into groups to analyze a problem that is dealt
in that day’s lecture. One member of the group will report to the class the consensus of the group’s discussion.
Each member will report at least two times during the quarter. Also, I may meet with groups individually for
intensive discussion following the normal group work. Writing assignments. I will sometimes assign in-class
writing assignments when the topics are of a more personal nature. These are graded pass or fail, if you take
the assignment seriously you will get credit. 56 points
NOTE: This is not a correspondence
course; just because you do the exams and turn in some other work
does not entitle you to a passing grade. I expect you to be in class on a regular basis, preferably every
session. I can't stress this enough, if you are not going to come to class, don't take this course. I reserve
the right to fail any student who misses four or more class sessions. I do notice who attends and who
doesn't, and I selectively call role with respect to students I know are not there.
Total Possible for 1-6: 500 points
Grading Scale (tentative)
B: 80-89% F: below 59%
2) Metaphilosophy (Part 1)—General Introduction to Philosophy
3) Wilson on Conceptual Analysis and Some Basic Logical Notions
4) Nagel on the Sub./Obj.
5) Epictetus on the Practical Value of Philosophy and Virtue
6) Epictetus and Ekstrom
7) Epictetus and Nagel on Death
8) Camus and Hume on Suicide (Epictetus Essay Questions Passed Out)
9) Descartes, Med, 1-3
10 Descartes, Med, 4-6 (Epictetus Essay Questions Due and In-class Exam)
11) The Linguistic Arguments
12) Genesis 18-23, K-gaard, 41-56
13) K-gaard, pp. 57-83
14) K-gaard, pp. 83-96 (Descartes/ Kierkegaard Essay Questions Passed Out)
15) K-gaard, pp. 96-109
16) Ayer, Ch. 1 (Descartes/Kierkegaard Essay Questions Due and In-class Exam)
17) Ayer, Ch. 2-3
18) Van Til, Anselm, Aquinas and Paley
19) Ayer, Ch. 6, Nagel, Defending Atheism
20) Ayer, Ch. 7 Review, and Final Essay Questions Passed Out
Final Exam: Your final exam
is scheduled for 9/5/2002 from 7:00—9:00 a.m. We will begin the
exam at 7:30 a.m., as 1 1/2 hours is more than enough to complete it.
This course looks easier
than it really is especially the Epictetus section; however it requires
effort. Many, if not all of you, will find Nagel and Ayer very difficult. Kierkegaard is a different breed, some find
him very intuitive; others will find him the most difficult of all. I recommend reading each week’s material at
least once before class and at least once after class. While there is not a lot of reading required per class
session, the material is dense. Be prepared to struggle with it. Philosophy is difficult. To paraphrase P.F.
Strawson, there is no shallow end of the pool in philosophy; it is all deep.
If you have any questions
do not hesitate to come and talk with me. Make use of my office hours.
to e-mail me with any questions. Please do not hesitate to ask questions or stop me in-class when you do
not quite understand something. It is trite, but true, to mention that if you have a question, undoubtedly
others do, so please ask it in class; the ensuing discussion will benefit us all. There are no stupid or obvious
questions: Indeed, the hardest questions are the most obvious.
If you want to succeed in
this course you need to do five things: 1) You need to come to class regularly;
2) You need to take the group work and writing assignments seriously; 3) You need to participate in the
discussions, asking questions when you don't understand something; 4) You need to do the reading and
answer the reading questions before that class period; and 5) You need to come see me or e-mail me when
you need help. Doing 1-5 will enable you to do well on your exams and will give you the best possible results
with respect to your participation grade.
Course and Classroom Conduct
Philosophy courses, in general,
often contain discussions of issues where strong opinions are held.
expect all students to be respectful of each other and of the instructor. To this end, any disrespectful or
inflammatory behavior will be dealt with immediately. Repeated behavior of this type will result in the student
being excused from the class and subsequently dropped from the course.
All students should familiarize
themselves with the University policies on cheating and plagiarism found
the University’s Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog. The instructor will not be held responsible for
misunderstandings resulting from the student’s lack of knowledge. Thus, it is imperative that each of you
is aware of 1) what constitutes cheating; 2) what constitutes plagiarism; 3) the avenues of university response;
and 4) your student rights.
Remember, if you are in doubt
about citing a source, then you should cite it. Points are not taken off
a source, but not citing a source can cause you to lose not only the grade for that assignment, but for the
course as well. You are required to cite anything used from the class notes. When in doubt, cite!
No late work will be accepted
without prior approval of the instructor—and in general will not be granted.
will not e-mail in-class assignments, essay questions, or reading questions to those that choose not to
attend that session. If you are not here when I pass out the additional readings, you need to come to my
office to get them. It is your responsibility as a student to make sure you have what you need to effectively
complete the course. As well, extra-credit work will not be provided to make-up for missed assignments. I
expect you to come to class on time, ready to discuss the material, and stay for the full duration of time. lt
will be difficult to pass this course if you do not attend regularly. So, if you cannot attend on a consistent
basis, you should take another course.
Finally, this is a writing
intensive course. The vast majority of your grade will come from the three
and reading questions that are short-answer (444/500 points). If you are not a good writer or have not had
at least English 104, preferably English 105, this course may be very difficult. A good command and facility
with the English language is necessary to express the ideas of the course. If you have any doubts about your
preparation, please come talk to me early in the quarter.
The general format of the
class period will proceed like the following:
Lecture: 30-55 minutes
In-Class Writing Assignment: 15-30 minutes
Group Work: 15-30 minutes
During my lecture I will
go over and add to the handout that you should have downloaded from the
It is imperative that you have the notes before class starts. Since I lecture for a relatively short period of
time, you need to be to class on time; otherwise, you’ll miss things you need to know for your exams.
You need to pay attention and be focused during the lecture because you’ll miss the subtleties if you don’t.
I will also assign short
in-class writing assignments instead of group work, especially if the questions
of a more personal nature. You need show me that you've thought about the issues and demonstrate your
competency to me on the matters at hand. The more you write about philosophy, the easier it becomes.
I highly recommend you take
the discussion portions of this course very seriously. You will learn a
it will carry over to the rest of your Cal Poly education. Philosophy is hard to talk about and if you can do it in
even the most minimal way that is intelligible, you will gain a greater confidence to speak openly in other
courses. More so though, if you’ve thought about something and talked about it in detail, your testing and
writing for this course will go much easier. Make sure you note that over a 1/3rd of your grade is determined
by participation in one form or another. Consistently, those that don’t participate in the group work have the
lowest grades in class. This is not only because they lose participation points but it shows in the lack of
competency in their other work for the course. Since I never keep a class for the full period, there is really
no excuse for leaving early and not participating. To be clear: YOUR LACK OF PARTICIPATION WILL
AFFECT YOUR GRADE NEGATIVELY.
I pass out supplementary
readings for each section of the course. You should do your best to get
these readings, as you will be tested on them. I will go over them in class; however, given that they are
primary source materials, they can be difficult.
ADDITIONAL COURSE POLICIES
One criterion for the satisfactory completion of the mandatory assignments includes meeting all of the
ethical requirements of academic scholarship. It is your responsibility as a student that you complete all
assignments with respect to the rules regarding academic misconduct. By failing to take this responsibility
seriously, you will not only be penalized and failed for neglecting to complete the assignment in an acceptable
manner, but you will also subject to any appropriate penalty for academic misconduct. © J.A. Johnson
I don’t expect you to have
original thoughts on the subjects of this course. However, what I do expect
that you are honest and document your sources whether they come from my course notes, the textbook,
the class readings, the Internet, or any other secondary source. Cite the material and give the author his/her
correct due. Taking someone’s work as your own is plagiarism and as the paragraph above states, not only
will I fail you for that assignment (and possibly the course), I will also turn it over to Academic Affairs. The
same goes for cheating in class during quizzes/exams. If you choose to try it, make sure it is worth possibly
ending your academic career at Cal Poly.
You need to download the
course notes from my web site while they are available. After the first
they will be taken down and the Epictetus notes will be posted. Once we're done with Epictetus, they will come
down and the Descartes notes will be posted. Check the web site regularly. I may post when we are having
quizzes and study guides for them depending upon class participation.
Make use of my office hours if you have questions. I’ll also make appointments if my hours don’t work for
you. If you are a new Freshman, a returning student, or someone who has avoided philosophy, I would especially
like to speak with you about any concerns you might have about the course or the subject. While the material
in the course can be daunting, it is understandable with effort and time. Feel free to e-mail me 24/7 if you have
questions about anything. firstname.lastname@example.org
The plan for the quarter
goes something like this. We begin by introducing you to some of the basic
distinctions within philosophy to start building your philosophical vocabulary. To do philosophy, you must
learn the language and the first three lectures gives us a common ground on which we can discuss the
issues in the rest of the course. We then read a paper by Thomas Nagel that we refer to through out the
course. This paper is deflative, that is, it takes a particular position on four of the common philosophical
problems. It also gives us a way of looking at philosophy through the subjective/objective distinction, which
we'll see in Epictetus, Descartes, and Kierkegaard to name a few. Our first text is the work of Epictetus.
We use Epictetus and a few other select philosophers for a wide range of issues, but specifically to talk
about 'virtue', philosophy as a way of life, the free-will determinism debate and death/suicide. Our next text is
Rene Descartes' Meditations. Issues in epistemology and metaphysics are our primary emphasis in our
study of his thought including skepticism, foundationalism, truth, certainty, the mind/body problem and
internalism. We'll consider some objections to Descartes through the views of three 20th century linguistic
philosophers. The next part of the course takes on a different tone. We begin by reading a story in the Bible,
and subsequently, Soren Kierkegaard's book "Fear and Trembling." We try to get at what he means by 'faith',
'anguish', 'resignation', 'the absurd', and how this affects his thinking about the Genesis story and Christianity.
Our final author is A.J. Ayer. Ayer is an example of pure academic philosophy and we'll contrast his work with
that of Epictetus and Kierkegaard. Ayer sets forth a distinct method of philosophy and we will follow it through
the problems he thinks are significant. Two of these include the existence of God and a novel ethical theory
called 'emotivism'. We then conclude the course with a discussion of personal identity also done through the
work of Ayer.
Essay Question Guidelines for Philosophy 201
1. Title page: Exam Topic, Student Name, ID#, Date, and Instructor Name
Cal Poly Student
Instructor: Scott Dixon
2. Number your pages in the
following way: 1 of 2, 2 of 2. That way I know if something is missing.
do it by hand. Don’t count the title page.
3. State the essay question you are answering.
1. What does Plato mean by anamnesis?
4. Answer the question. Try to be as clear as possible.
5. Any sources you use please
cite in some form. If you use anything from the class handouts, you are
required to cite them as well. It is good practice. Footnotes or endnotes are both acceptable.
1. Metaphilosophy class handout,
2. Plato, Euthyphro, p. 29.
3. Hume, p. 15
6. Exams with too many grammar
and spelling errors will be marked down. Use the grammar and spell
check programs on your computer, not to mention a dictionary. Also, make use of the writing center.
There is no excuse for not improving your writing with all of the resources available to you on campus.
If you get your question done early enough, I will be glad to look it over and make suggestions.