hilosophy 110 — Introduction to Philosophy 11:00-12:00 MWThF, MI 208
D. Vessey 363-2146 (Office) Office Hours: 210 MI
email@example.com 368-9612 (Home) MW 12:00-1:00
Required Texts: and by appointment
Plato, Five Dialogues
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics
René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Grand Inquisitor
Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
Additional photocopied readings from Plato, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, and Patrica Hill Collins
In this course we will tackle three of philosophy’s most fundamental questions: What can we know? What ought we do? and For what may we hope? We will look at the answers given to these questions by philosophers in three different historical periods: Ancient Greece, Europe in the early stages of the scientific revolution, and the brink of the twentieth century. The goal will be to see the way these views were informed by their particular cultural-historical context, but yet can still provide us with many important philosophical insights. The Final two weeks of the class will be on a topic decided by the class just before midterm break (so there is time to order the books).
To the extent that we are concerned with coming up with true understandings of the world, philosophy must not be an activity of mere thought, but one of dialogue. To this end, every Monday will be set aside solely for discussion (though discussions will not be restricted to Mondays!). In order to discuss an issue, however, we must be able to both understand what we have read, and briefly and clearly articulate our own views on the issue. No activity works better for learning these skills than writing. There will be a number (9 from which I will count the top 6 grades) of typed, single page, discussion-prep papers which will be graded A,B, C, F. Since the papers are meant to facilitate the discussion, there is no point in turning them in after the Monday class. There will also be four, 4 page papers which will allow us to explore more in depth our own reactions to particular arguments. All typo grading policies apply to both papers (lose one grade for every four typos). Finally, there will be a midterm and (in class) final exam.
Exams: 20% Long papers: 40% Participation/Discussion Papers: 40%
1. Wed., Sept. 1 Introduction
2. Thurs., Sept. 2 Plato — Background
Reading: Apology 17-24b
3. Fri., Sept. 3 Plato — What sort of life is led in pursuit of truth? Reading: Apology 24b-42
4. Mon., Sept. 6 Discussion Plato — What makes a good definition? Can a definition tell us anything new?
Reading: Meno 70-86d
Discussion Paper #1 due
5. Wed., Sept. 8 Plato — Is knowledge any better than true opinion?
Reading: Meno 86d-100b
6. Thurs., Sept. 9 Plato — Can we ever achieve full knowledge in thislife? What is the best motivation for living?
Reading: Phaedo 57-69e
7. Fri., Sept. 10 Plato — What is our knowledge of? Are there procedures which, when followed, will lead us to
Reading: Phaedo 74b-77a; 96a-102
8. Mon., Sept. 13 Discussion Plato — Is there a connection between experience and knowledge?
Reading: Republic Bk. V (handout)
Discussion Paper #2 Due
9. Wed., Sept. 15 Plato — Does morality pay? Should we be good “for goodness sake”? Is anyone ever good only for its own sake?
Reading: Republic Bk. II (handout)
10. Thurs., Sept. 16 Plato — What is our obligation to the state?
Reading: Crito 43a-53e
11. Fri., Sept. 17 Aristotle — Introduction
12. Mon., Sept. 20 Aristotle — What kind of life is the best life?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 1.1-1.4
Long Paper #1 Due
13. Wed., Sept. 22 Aristotle — What is the role of knowledge in leading the best life? What are the criteria for the best life?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 1.44-1.52
14. Thurs., Sept. 23 Discussion Aristotle — Is there any human nature? Is there a type of life which fits human nature?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 1.52-1.7
15. Fri., Sept. 24 Aristotle — What role do external goods (money, friends, good family, . . .) play in the best life?
Reading: Nichomachean Ethics 1.7-2
16. Mon., Sept. 27 Discussion Aristotle — What are Virtues and how are they acquired?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 2.1-2.3
Discussion Paper #3 due
17. Wed., Sept. 29 Aristotle — What is required of us to be virtuous? Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 2.3-4
18. Thurs., Sept. 30 Aristotle — Why are friends valuable?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 9.1-9.49
19. Fri., Oct. 1 Aristotle — Should the government encourage us to live the best life?
Reading: Nicomachean Ethics 13.1-14.43
20. Mon., Oct. 4 Discussion Augustine — Is there any possibility of true happiness in this life?
Reading: City of God, Bk. XIX (handout)
Discussion Paper #4 Due
21. Wed., Oct. 6 Aquinas — Is faith rational? Is reason ultimately based in faith? Does it make sense to use reason to show God’s existence?
Reading: Summa Contra Gentiles I:3-5, 7 and Summa Theologica I:I, Q.2, A.3 (handout)
22. Thurs., Oct. 7 REVIEW FOR MIDTERM EXAM
23. Fri., Oct. 8 MIDTERM EXAM
24. Mon., Oct. 11 Descartes — Background to the Modern Age
25. Wed., Oct. 13 Descartes — Is anything certain?
Reading: Meditations, Meditation I
Long Paper #2 Due
26. Thurs., Oct. 14 Discussion Descartes — “I think therefore I am”
Reading: Meditations, Meditation II
27. Fri., Oct. 15 Descartes — Where do our ideas come from?
Reading: Meditations, Meditation III
28. Mon., Oct. 25 Discussion Descartes—How do errors arise?
Reading: Meditations, Meditation IV
Discussion Paper #5 Due
29. Wed., Oct. 27 Descartes — Can we be certain of the material world?
Reading: Meditations, Meditation V
30. Thurs., Oct. 28 Descartes —Is the universe fundamentally dual? Are there two separable substances: minds and bodies?
Reading: Meditations, Meditation V
31. Fri., Oct. 29 Pascal — Is humanity powerful or weak?
Reading: Pensées §II (All), §III (All); 198-202, 401
32. Mon., Nov. 1 Discussion Pascal—Should one gamble on religion?
Reading: Pensées 387, 418, 449 (Handout)
Long Paper #3 Due
33. Wed., Nov. 3 Pascal— Where should we look to find spiritual guidance?
Reading: Pensées §VII (All); §X (All); §XI (All);
564, 403-407 (Handout)
34. Thurs., Nov. 4 Pascal—What control do we have over our “hearts”? Should we listen to our “gut?
Reading: Pensées §VI (All); §XIII (All); 423-4, 620-1
35. Fri., Nov. 5 Kant — Is anything unqualifiedly good?
Reading: Grounding, §393-§397
36. Mon., Nov. 8 Discussion Are there moral duties?
Reading: Grounding, §397-§405
Discussion Paper #6 Due
37. Wed., Nov. 11 Kant — Can we have certain moral knowledge?
Reading: Grounding, §406-§419
38. Thurs., Nov. 12 Kant — The Categorical Imperative
Reading: Grounding, §420-§432
39. Fri., Nov. 13 Kant — What does it mean to be free? Are we always determined by external desires?
Reading: Grounding, §433-§445
40. Mon., Nov. 15 Kant — Can God and Evil co-exist?
Reading: “Grand Inquisitor” pp. 1-18
Discussion Paper #7 Due
41. Wed., Nov. 17 Dostoyevski — Is freedom light or heavy? A blessing or a
Reading: “Grand Inquisitor” pp. 19-37
42. Thurs., Nov. 18 Dostoyevski — Are we “responsible for all”?
Reading: “Grand Inquisitor” pp. 38-end
43. Fri., Nov. 19 Marx and Engels — What is the role of class in the way we think? Can you be a poor worker and free?
Reading: The Communist Manifesto pp. 49-65
44. Mon., Nov. 22 Marx and Engels — Is there hope for a perfectly free society?
Reading: The Communist Manifesto pp. 65-91
Discussion Paper #8 Due
45. Wed., Nov. 24 Patrica Hill Collins — Do gender and race shape knowledge?
Reading: “Towards an Afrocentric Feminist Epistemology” (Handout)
46. Mon., Nov. 29 To Be Voted Upon
Discussion Paper #9 Due
47. Wed., Dec. 1 To Be Voted Upon
48. Thurs., Dec. 2 To Be Voted Upon
49. Fri. Dec. 3 To Be Voted Upon
50. Mon., Dec. 6 Discussion — To Be Voted Upon
Long Paper #4 Due
51. Wed., Dec. 8 To Be Voted Upon
52. Thurs., Dec. 9 To Be Voted Upon
53. Fri., Dec. 10 To Be Voted Upon
54. Mon., Dec. 13 To Be Voted Upon
55. Wed., Dec. 15 Review and Evaluations
Fri. Dec 17, 2:00-5:00 FINAL EXAM