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Russell G. (Greg) Moses, Ph.D.
INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
Austin Community College: All Sections MWF
Not included in web syllabus
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.
Daily writing assignments require computer printing.
Steven M. Cahn, Ed. Classics of Western Philosophy 6th Edition (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002)
The instructor uses a Socratic or “discovery” method of instruction, designed to assist the student in drawing her or his own lessons from materials through a daily process of reading, writing, and small group discussions.
Reading and writing assignments have been carefully selected with a view to providing manageable challenges that slowly increase a student’s ability as an active participant in a philosophical process of inquiry.
Small group discussions provide space and time for students to explore with each other developing meanings that emerge from inquiry and dialogue. The instructor will expect students to take responsibility for carrying forward these discussions through respectful listening and experimental speaking (in other words, you may not know exactly what you’re about to say as you explore intuitions about the materials at hand, but you try to work something out.)
Following these preparatory exercises, the instructor will facilitate class discussions in order to further explore student understanding.
The instructor will seek to ensure that all students participate in class discussions. This means that students should be prepared to answer questions at any time when called upon.
Philosophy is one of the principal forces that have 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.
Students will demonstrate improved critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
Students will be able to reason philosophically about issues of both personal and universal significance.
Students will be able to identify major divisions and concepts in philosophy.
Students will learn how to identify and approach philosophical materials with increased confidence in their own ability to make the experience meaningful to themselves.
COURSE EVALUATION / GRADING SYSTEM
Final grade will be based on a portfolio of the semester’s work
A = all materials are complete (no more than three assignments missing or “late”); and the student has produced work that is frequently noted as beyond the call of the regular assignments (further reading, detailed argumentation, interesting applications, etc.)
B = all materials are complete (no more than five assignments missing or “late”); and the student has produced work that meets the call for regular assignments (assigned readings, thorough citations, some argumentation, some application, etc.)
C = materials are nearly complete (up to seven assignments missing or “late”), and the student has produced work that often includes repetitive comments from the instructor, indicating that hints toward improvement are not being followed, etc.
D = materials are incomplete (eight assignments missing or “late”) or materials are frequently marked as “insufficient.”
F = more than nine assignments missing or late (three weeks).
In order to count for full credit in the portfolio, students must bring the work to class on time the day it is due and return the marked paper to the instructor in the final portfolio. A missed class usually results in an assignment being marked “late” or “absent”, even if the paper arrives in the absence of the student (this is because the paper is intended as a preparation for class development, not simply as an end in itself). Excused absences can be made up, if they are properly documented within one week.
The instructor does not aim to achieve a grade distribution curve. All students who share a level of achievement will get the grade, no matter how many or how few.
Attendance: It is essential that students come to class prepared. Failing to attend or prepare will result in loss of grade points as explained above in the grading system. Excused absences must be documented within one week. Two late marks on the attendance sheet will convert to one absence.
In saying that “A” work may include up to three absences, etc., the instructor is acknowledging that things come up, accidents happen, and life rhythms ebb. It is not necessary to have an “excused” absence every time to do very well in this course. Some flex time is built in. However, students who use up their flex time early in the semester may find that accidents continue to happen, etc., and this will begin to affect grades. In the end, it is only fair that students who attend regularly should be able to earn higher grades, especially in a classroom pedagogy that emphasizes dialogue between students. When a student does not attend class, possibilities for fruitful discussion decrease.
Withdrawal: The instructor has no stipulations other than what is allowable by the college.
Incompletes: The instructor discourages resort to “Incomplete” grades.
Scholastic Dishonesty: "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." Academic Freedom: 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.
Student Discipline: 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)COURSE OUTLINE/CALENDAR
In this section of the course, we will read Aristotle’s Books on Friendship and Plato’s dialogue Phaedo, in which friends have a final conversation about the ultimate meaning of life. In addition, we will research other sources on Friendship and select a film that might help stimulate exploration of concepts relating to Friendship. On Valentine’s Day, we’ll have a little fun with essays on Love.READ
First Paragraph: Summarizing key claims from the reading (with careful page references, scholarship)
Second Paragraph: Working up a response (What do you want to say in response to this material? Why do you say it? Why do you think your reasons add up? Can you anticipate how someone might object? What would you say to that objection?)
Small Group Discussion: Take time for each to share their impressions of the reading and their response.
Instructor Question: What form of friendship is appropriate to this class?Jan. 17 (Monday) Holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr.
A. First setting forth and defending a thesis that you think is important to the topic of friendship.
B. Examining Aristotle’s writings for passages (if any) that support your thesis.
C. Examining Aristotle’s writings for passages (if any) that contradict or challenge your thesis.
D. Responding to Aristotle, making sure to give your own reasons why you agree (if you agree) and why you disagree (if you disagree) and why you think your own reasons add up.PLEASE READ VERBATIM IN GROUPS, NOMINATE ONE TO SHARE
In this section of the course we examine philosophical approaches to reality, sometimes called metaphysics (or even anti-metaphysics). We will begin by looking back on previous materials to see how they might already be working with concepts of reality in their approaches to friendship. Then we will take a look at one of the more original and enigmatic metaphysical systems, the one developed by Spinoza, whose treatment of Nature and God has often earned him the reputation of pantheist. Again, students will be asked to research other theories of reality, choose a film that explores reality, and write up their own arguments concerning what’s true about reality.WRITE one page
How have any of the sources about friendship involved concepts of reality? What is one concept of reality being drawn upon? What is your opinion about the validity of such a concept of reality? Why do you think your opinion stands up?
Prior to determining whether God exists, one must have a clear idea about what to look for. In this passage, Spinoza makes no claims about whether God exists, but he does clearly define what kind of existence God would be. Please write two paragraphs: (1) what is Spinoza’s definition of God and how do you understand it? (2) Given what you understand about the definition of God, how does it compare with your own definition? How do you define God, whether you define God for the purpose of affirming or refuting existence?DISCUSS
Whether we assert or refute the existence of God, how do we conceive the thing in question, i.e. what sort of reality would we be looking for? This question can be answered equally well by those who affirm or deny the existence of God, since even those who deny the existence of God must have some idea of what they are denying.Feb. 28 (Monday)
In this part of the course we will explore the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes, a classic account of how justice emerges from human activity. And students will be asked to do some independent research on other sources of justice as we once again select a film. In the end, students will be encouraged to develop their own views of justice.READ: Hobbes (pp. 489-495)
In this section of the course we will look at Pragmatism and Existentialism, two contemporary movements in Philosophy. Students will also be encouraged to research other contemporary movements of interest.READ