“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
– Bertrand Russell
The primary aim of this course is not to train you to be professional philosophers, but rather to teach you to think philosophically. The ability to think philosophically consists of four things: (1) the courage to question that we haven’t questioned (and often would rather not); (2) the ability to make distinctions; (3) the ability to interpret and understand complex ideas expressed in written or spoken form; (4) and the ability to intelligibly express one’s own questions, assumptions, or complex ideas. These skills are practical for almost any human endeavor, personal or professional. This is so in part because philosophy is everywhere; it’s just hiding and you have to know where to look.
To develop your ability to think philosophically, we will examine some long-standing philosophical questions, such as what’s the right thing to do and why should I do it, do I exist and if so what am I, what is my mind, do I have free will, and what’s the meaning of life anyway? We will examine the answers provided by some philosophers, both ancient and contemporary.
Deadlines at Glance
3 Sentence (Daily Reading Engagement) – Every Class Meeting (before class)
Dialogue Project 1 – Sept. 27 by 11:59 pm
Exam 1 – Oct. 9 by 11:59 pm
Dialogue Project 2 – Oct. 30 by 11:59 pm
Exam 2 – Nov. 8 by 11:59 pm
Dialogue Project 3 – Dec. 4 by 11:59 pm
Final Exam/Exam 3
- 001/DC3 – Dec. 10 by 3:50 pm
- 002/DC4 – Dec. 11 by 10:30 am
- 003/DC2 – Dec. 12 by 1:10 pm
Philosophy of Mind
Course Grading and Requirements
3 Sentence (Reading Engagement Assignments)
There are assigned readings for every class meeting. For each reading (accept the first), students are required to identify 3 sentences from the reading and submit them online through Blackboard prior to class. Even in cases of excused absences due to university travel (e.g., sports), this assignment is due at the assigned time and cannot be made up. These sentences can be any of the three following types and should be labelled:
Key Sentence (KS): A sentence that summarizes a main point of the reading or a section of it or that makes a claim that is central to the author’s main argument in the reading.
Bull (Bull): A sentence which makes a claim that you believe to be wildly implausible. (For example: “As everyone knows, the moral law requires of us all that we hop on one foot at least once a day and give Prof. Robinson half our salary.”)
What? (???): A sentence that is completely incomprehensible to you; you have no idea what it means.
Students should be prepared to report in class what sentences they selected and to explain why. For full credit, students must submit at least 2 KS’s and 1 other sentence of any type. Students may miss up to 4 reading participation assignments over the course of the term and still receive full credit.
Three group dialogue projects will be assigned through the semester. The groups will be two (or three if necessary and pre-approved by the instructor). Each group will conduct and record a philosophical dialogue on one of the assigned topics. Each student will then upload to Blackboard the audio file of the dialogue and a written summary. Students are individual responsible for ensuring that all files are uploaded to Blackboard on time. The minimum length of the dialogues will increase throughout the semester. The first must be 10 minutes; the second 20 minutes; the third 30 minutes. The conversation must stay on topic for that length of time. The conversation starters for the first dialogue will initially be supplied by the instructor, and students will become increasingly responsible for these for the next two. 20% of the grade will be based on the dialogue itself. 80% will be based on each student’s individual work (preparation for the dialogue and the written summary).
There will be three exams, each over two sections of the course. (See the Schedule below.) Since the point of studying
philosophy is not to memorize who said what, but rather to understand what was said (and be able to explain it in your own
words), the exams will be take-home and open-notes exams. The questions will be distributed at least one week prior to the
due date (see above). They are to be submitted via Blackboard; a demonstration of how to do this will be provided in class
prior to the first exam. Students are individual responsible for ensuring that all files are uploaded to Blackboard on time. They
will be subject to an automated plagiarism checker (Turnitin or similar). Plagiarism will result at minimum in zero credit for
Attendance and Participation
Since philosophy is hard and much of the course will be discussion based, attendance is necessary for learning. It is your responsibility to be in class. Attendance may be taken regularly at the beginning of class. You may miss up to five class days without penalty, but on the sixth missed day your overall grade in the course may be reduced by one-half grade for each day missed beyond the fifth. Please provide documentation if absences are due to legitimate reasons. Falsifying the attendance of another student by signing in for them carries the penalty of immediate course failure. (See Academic Misconduct below.) I do not provide make-up lectures for students who were absent from class. (If, however, a student has problems understanding certain points about material covered during an absence, I will help by answering specific questions.) I will review material from an excused absence, after the student has obtained notes from a classmate and if the student has clearly read the assignment first.
Participation includes being in class on time, having the assigned text for the day, and being attentive in class. Simply being physically present in class is not sufficient to attain a passing attendance grade. As such, it is necessary to demonstrate some form of active engagement in the learning process.
Besides being on time, and silencing cell phones, I must stress the importance of everyone allowing for an open forum for discussion, so that we are all free to speak our minds on any topic without condemnation or hostility. Our job is to examine and evaluate ideas, not each other.
The schedule for reading assignments is provided below. They are to be read prior to that day’s class. Students are required to always bring the assigned reading to class. Students are required to have either a printed copy or a means of accessing the PDF in class. Please download them before class.
Plagiarism on a exam or dialogue will result in no credit for the assignment and a report to the department chair and dean(s). Repeated plagiarism on more than one assignment can result in an automatic F for the course. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, paraphrasing or directly quoting published or unpublished work(s), words, ideas, or data by another person (including online resources) without documentation, citation, or acknowledgement. The submission of material(s) prepared by another person(s) or agency that sell academic papers or other mateiral(s) also constitutes plagiarism. In the context of this course, plagiarism also includes, but is not limited to, quoting from an assigned reading on an exam without putting it in quotation marks.
Students must write their exams separately, independently, and without outside assistant. It is each student’s responsibility to ensure that their answers on the exam are her/his own alone and do not match those of another student either from the same class, another section, or a previous semester. It is each student’s responsibility to ensure that his or her submitted work adheres the university’s policy on plagiarism and cheating. If you need help understanding this policy or what constitutes plagiarism, please contact me.
My office hours are listed above. My door is open and I highly encourage students to come see me. My job is to help you succeed, and one of the best times I can do that is during office hours. So please come see me. If my office hours don’t work for you, let me know and something can be arranged.
I am available by email and you are welcome to contact me with questions. I generally respond the same day. However, you should think of any email to me as something formal, instead of as a casual email to a friend. You should include a subject, a salutation, and your name. I advise you read the following as well: http://www.wikihow.com/Email-a-Professor.
Cell Phones, Computers, & Tape Recorders
(1) You may not use your phone during class (for calling or texting). (2) Unless otherwise stated, you may not use a computer (or tablet) in class, including to take notes or to view an assigned online reading. Studies have shown usage of computers in class leads to more distraction and lower grades for you and those around you and that you learn more by taking handwritten notes. (3) You may only record (audio or video) class sessions if you obtain my permission beforehand.
All assignments must be turned in by the date and time specified. I do not accept late work unless class was missed for a documented emergency that arose without time for you to submit your work in advance. If you know that you will miss a class session prior to that session, you will need to submit your assignment in advance.
A (100-90): Outstanding. The student displays thorough mastery of all material and genuine engagement with the subject matter. This grade is reserved for those individuals who attain the highest levels of excellence in thought and expression. Exceptionally good writing.
B (80-89): Good. The student displays accurate understanding of the bulk of material. Writing is clear and free of mechanical errors.
C (70-79): Adequate. The student displays basic grasp of roughly three-fourths of the course material. There may arise occasional misunderstanding or inaccuracy. Writing is acceptable.
D (60-69): Marginal. The student displays a grasp of the course material that deserves credit. Quality of apprehension of material indicates lack of effort and/or lack of aptitude.
F (<60): Unacceptable. The student displays virtually no grasp of the course material.
Names and Pronouns
If you prefer to be referred to by a different name or with a different pronoun, please let the instructor know. Please contact the instructor If you have any questions or concerns.
Changes to Syllabi
The standards and requirements set forth in this syllabus may be modified at any time by the course instructor. Notice of such changes will be by announcement in class, by email notice, and by changes to PHIL 1301 – Introduction to Philosophy this syllabus posted on Blackboard.