Students will be introduced to various significant philosophical issues and thinkers and to the practice of philosophical analysis.
There are no course prerequisites for Introduction to Philosophy. A passing score or the equivalent on the reading and writing portions of the TASP is required.
Philosophy is one of the principal forces that has shaped Western civilization and history, so a basic understanding of the methods and subject matter of philosophy affords a deeper understanding of ourselves and an informed grasp of the present. In addition, critical thinking skills are so central to the methods of philosophy that the study of philosophy provides an excellent opportunity to learn and practice those skills in a focused way.
Course Goals and Outcomes:
Departmental Course Goals
1. to understand the nature of philosophy as both a process and a subject matter.
2. to learn and practice critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
3. to become familiar with major divisions and problems of philosophy.
1. Students will demonstrate improved critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
2. Students will be able to reason philosophically about issues of both personal and universal significance.
3. Students will be able to identify major divisions and concepts in philosophy.
My instructional methodology is quite simple: I will lecture to the extent that doing so is necessary to gaining a basic understanding of the philosophical theories and their flaws. Beyond that, we will be free to discuss the material in whatever ways the students wish.
Plato: Five Dialogues, Descartes: Meditations, Hume: Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Mill: Utilitarianism, Sartre: No Exit
Course Evaluation / Grading System:
Your grade will be based on five factors: a short answer midterm, a short analysis paper, a short answer final exam (non-comprehensive), a journal, and class participation. The midterm and final exam will be composed of short answer questions that are purely factual in nature. These will test only your understanding of the material we cover in class. They will be graded based on how clearly you demonstrate a complete understanding of the material in question. No analysis is required for these tests. The midterm will be worth twenty percent of your final grade while the final will be worth twenty five percent. If you must miss one of the exams, you will be allowed to take a make up exam provided you inform me in advance of the initial exam or can provide adequate justification for missing it. The paper will be a short (~2-3 page) examination of some argument or theory we cover that you find interesting. You will be expected to explain the argument or ideas, and then give a critical examination of your chosen topic. A more detailed set of instruction will be given in class, but the assignment’s point is simple: to have you participate in the philosophical discussion in the same way we will have throughout the semester. We will be examining theories and arguments, considering whether or not we think they are good or bad, and explaining exactly why we think this. The paper will be your chance to show you can carry out this task on you own, and it will be graded on the basis of how well you argue for whatever claim you wish to make. The key factors used to determine your paper grade will be consistency, thoroughness, creativity, and clarity. The paper will be worth twenty five percent of your final grade. The journal assignment is my way of encouraging even the shy amongst you to participate in our discussion. For each reading assignment we do I’ll expect a short response in your journal (not just notes). You may respond to the reading with questions, objections, personal experiences, or any other thoughts that come to mind. The journal will be worth twenty percent of your final grade and will be graded based on the content of your interaction with the material (details to follow in a handout). If you take the exercise seriously and try to come to terms with the readings in a thoughtful way, all will be well. The final ten percent of your course grade will be based on class participation. The class participation grade is my way of rewarding those students who help the class by stimulating further discussion of the material. In so doing, they help us all to understand the material better and they engage in the philosophical enterprise in its purest form. This grade in not in place to punish students for being shy – if you attend class, pay attention, and don’t interfere with the educational process, you will receive most of the participation points. In light of the previous statement, it should be clear that there is such a thing as negative participation and such behaviors will result in a reduced grade for participation.
Attendance: There is no attendance policy as such. Be aware, however, that participation is part of your class grade and failure to attend class regularly will cost you participation points. If you fail to attend at least half of the classes, you will receive no participation points. I will probably circulate a sign up sheet most days but will not be consulting them unless there is a grade dispute that centers on lack of attendance.
Withdrawal: I will not withdraw you from the class, so we shouldn’t have to worry about reinstatement at all. If you want to remove yourself from the class for whatever reason, please feel free to do so. Do not, however, expect me to drop you from the class if you stop attending. There are no excuses for failing to remove yourself from a class that you no longer wish to attend.
Incompletes: I do not give incompletes. If you have an emergency at the end of the semester then we will either work out a way for you to complete you work before the semester ends, or I will turn in a failing grade for you, and do a grade change form when/if you complete your coursework.
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.
Acts prohibited by the college for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work. Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, research, or self-expression. Academic work is defined as, but not limited to tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations, and homework." (Student Handbook, 2002-2003, p. 32)
Cases of scholastic dishonesty will be pursued according to the procedure set forth in the Student Handbook, “Student Rights and Responsibilities,” Section J, “Academic Dishonesty."
Students at the College have the rights accorded to all persons under the Constitution to Freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, petition, and association. These rights carry with them the responsibility for each individual to accord the same rights to others in the College community and not to interfere with or disrupt the educational process. As willing partners in learning, it is expected that students will comply with College rules and procedures. ACC students are recognized as responsible persons who neither lose the rights nor escape the responsibilities of citizenship. Enrollment in the College indicates acceptance of the rules set forth in this policy, administered through the office of the Campus Dean of Student Services. Due process, through an investigation and appeal process, is assured to any student involved in disciplinary action. (See the "Student Discipline Policy" in the Student Handbook, http://www.austincc.edu/handbook/policies4.htm for details.)
Office of Students with Disabilities:
"Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester." (Student Handbook, 2002-2003, p. 14)
If you are having a problem related to this course or related to me as your professor your first step generally should be to speak with me. If I cannot resolve the problem or satisfy your concern, or if for some reason you would preerer not to address teh issue with me, you can appeal to the Chair of the Department for help by completing and submitting the form available at http://philadmin.constantinformation.com/forms/f_prob_res.htm
Class Policy Addendum:
Students are obviously responsible for course material covered in class and they are also responsible for other matters discussed in class such as policy and schedule changes and explanations (whether they are in attendance at the time of these discussions or not).