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JOHN CABOT UNIVERSITY

COURSE CODE: "PH 101 "
COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Philosophical Thinking "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021
SYLLABUS

INSTRUCTOR: Annette Merle Bryson
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 11:30 AM 12:45 PM
TOTAL NO. OF CONTACT HOURS: 45
CREDITS: 3
PREREQUISITES:
OFFICE HOURS:

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
We all have opinions about what is true and false, right and wrong, what is just, divine, and beautiful, what the self, mind, and soul are, or what makes us free. But can we justify our opinions about such things? Have we given rational and open-minded consideration to criticisms and alternatives, or are our opinions perhaps based only on prejudices and assumptions? In this course you will learn to use philosophical thinking to test and improve your opinions and your ability to evaluate the claims of important philosophers. Through the study and discussion of philosophical texts, classic or contemporary, you will grapple with issues of fundamental human importance and develop your capacities for careful reading, clear writing and speaking, and logical argumentation.
SUMMARY OF COURSE CONTENT:

This course provides an introduction to some of the most enduring and difficult philosophical questions. These include: Can we know that the external world exists? Can we know that there are other minds? What is the relation between mind and body? What is personal identity? What is race? What is gender? Does anything really matter? Does God exist? We will explore the intellectual significance of the questions we address and evaluate some of the answers philosophers have proposed.We will consider both contemporary and historical responses. We will develop and defend our own ideas regarding these and other questions while refining the skills we will need to critique our own answers as well as those of others through readings, class discussions, and writing assignments.         

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

By the end of this course, you will have gained:  

·         a clearer understanding of some of the fundamental philosophical questions and the range of answers that have been given;

·         a better understanding of the shortcomings and strengths of these various approaches to answering these fundamental questions;

·         a refinement of your own critical reasoning and argumentative skills;

·         a refinement of your capacities to recognize and assess philosophical arguments;

·         an enhancement of the conceptual tools we need to develop and defend our own philosophical views;

·         a refinement of your abilities to defend and express philosophical positions in a clear, well-reasoning way through both writing and conversation;

·         the (re)discovery of the joy of philosophical inquiry!

TEXTBOOK:
NONE
REQUIRED RESERVED READING:
NONE

RECOMMENDED RESERVED READING:
NONE
GRADING POLICY
-ASSESSMENT METHODS:
AssignmentGuidelinesWeight
EngagementOur time together will be more rewarding for all if everyone does the reading before class and takes part in our class discussions, both during class meetings and on the discussion forums on Moodle. 20%
QuizzesEach week, you will be expected to take a quiz. All quizzes will be open-book (on Moodle).20%
Writing Assignment 1You will be expected to write a short paper, which will be due mid-way through the term. Details about the paper will be provided in class.20%
Writing Assignment 2You will be expected to write a second short paper, which will be due at the end of the term. Details about the paper will be provided in class.20%
Final Exam The final exam will cover all material we have covered over the course of the semester. (The final exam will be on Moodle.)20%

-ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:
AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

-ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS:
We all have opinions about what is true and false, right and wrong, what is just, divine, and beautiful, what the self, mind, and soul are, or what makes us free. But can we justify our opinions about such things? Have we given rational and open-minded consideration to criticisms and alternatives, or are our opinions perhaps based only on prejudices and assumptions? In this course you will learn to use philosophical thinking to test and improve your opinions and your ability to evaluate the claims of important philosophers. Through the study and discussion of philosophical texts, classic or contemporary, you will grapple with issues of fundamental human importance and develop your capacities for careful reading, clear writing and speaking, and logical argumentation.
ACADEMIC HONESTY
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING OR OTHER DISABILITIES
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.

SCHEDULE

Note: This syllabus is intended to give the student guidance in what may be covered during the semester and will be followed as closely as possible. However, the professor reserves the right to modify, supplement and make changes as the course needs arise.

 

Week 1 (Jan. 19 & 21): Introduction to each other and to philosophy                                       

I. Does God exist?

What sorts of arguments might we make for or against the existence of God?

Week 2:           Anselm's Ontological Argument  

  Thomas Aquinas, "The Five Ways"

Weeks 3:      William Paley, "The Argument from Design"

  Eleonora Stump, "The Problem of Evil"; Louise Antony, [The Problem of Evil]

Can it be reasonable to believe in the absence of evidence?

Week 4:   Blaise Pascal, "The Wager"

  William James, "The Will to Believe"

II. What can we know? 

What is knowledge?

Week 5:            Edmund Gettier, "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge"

  Timothy Williamson, "Knowledge and Belief"

What can be called into doubt?

Week 6:            Rene Descartes, Meditations [excerpts]: What Can be Called into Doubt?

  Christopher Grau, "Bad Dreams, Evil Demons, and the Experience Machine: Philosophy and The Matrix"                                                                 

Can we know that there is or anything about an external world?

Week 7:       G. E. Moore, "Proof of an External World"

  [Discussion of first writing assignment and how to write a philosophy paper]   

Week 8:       Bertrand Russell, "The Argument from Analogy to Other Minds"

[Other responses to skepticism to be added later]

 III. If there are other minds, what are they like?

Is mind material?

Week 9: Rene Descartes, Meditations [excerpts]

  Gilbert Ryle, "Descartes' Myth" J. J. C. Smart [...]

What is consciousness?

Week 10:  [David Armstrong, Thomas Nagel,]

  Patricia Churchland [...]

IV. What is personal identify? What is race? What is gender?

Week 11:  [John Locke, Derek Parfit, Bernard Williams] 

Week 12: Sally Haslanger "Gender and Race: "(What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?

  Anthony Appiah, "The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race"

  Elizabeth Barnes [...]

 

V. Does anything really matter?

What is the meaning of life?

Week 13:   Richard Taylor, "The Meaning of Life"

  Susan Wolf [...]

  Thomas Nagel [...]

Final Week

Week 14: [Wrapping up & Final exam preparation]