INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 101, Sec. 1011: MW 1pm-2:15pm in CBC C115
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Spring 2017
Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage: http://faculty.unlv.edu/jwood/unlv/Phil101S17.htm
Office Hours:  M 2:30pm-4pm, T 12:30pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433

I. COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course introduces the general nature of philosophical thought and its basic methods and goals. The material covered includes selections by both historically important and more recent philosophers (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Hume, Russell, Frankfurt, Williams) on such classic philosophical topics as the nature of right and wrong, the relationship between the mind and body, and the possibility of knowledge. Through our readings and discussions we will also attempt to reach a clearer understanding of our relationship to other people (moral responsibility) and of our relationship to the world around us (freedom of the will). Some of the general skills students will develop include the formulating, defending, and critiquing of arguments and theoretical positions, as well as the ability to think critically about difficult and abstract issues.

Learning Objectives:
To demonstrate familiarity with basic philosophical concepts and knowledge of
     some central questions in the main branches of philosophy.
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
     Identify some central issues or debates in the different fields of philosophy,
     Articulate and, when appropriate, compare or contrast, different views one might
          take with respect to these issues,
     Summarize major motivations or arguments for these alternative positions,
     Present significant objections that have or could be raised to these positions,
     Assess the relative merits of these arguments and objections.

II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Books:
Nagel, Thomas. What Does It All Mean? New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Perry, John, Michael Bratman, and J. M. Fischer. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and
     Contemporary Readings (7th Edition).
New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments (4th Edition). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008.

The books for the course are available at The UNLV Bookstore.
There will also be several online readings linked on the Website or available through WebCampus.

III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade
Class Participation......................................................10%
Short Essay..................................................................15%
First Test......................................................................25%
Second Test..................................................................25%
Final Exam...................................................................25%

About the Requirements:
Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things. First, there is your contribution during class. Class attendance is thus necessary. However, to do well you must do more than just attend. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, everyone must make at least six contributions to the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through WebCampus) during the term: three before March 11 and three after.

Short Essay--There will be a short (2-3 page) essay due in mid February. The topics will be distributed one week before the due date.

The First Test--There will be a timed, in-class test in early March. The test will consist of several short essay questions.

The Second Test--There will be a second in-class test in early April, covering the material introduced since the First Test. The Second Test will consist of several short essay questions and one long essay question.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given on Monday, May 8, 2017 at 1pm in our regular classroom. The final will consist of short and long essay questions covering the whole course, but emphasizing the material covered since the Second Test.

The Optional Paper--There will be an optional 5-6 page paper due in late April. If your write the optional paper, then your paper grade will replace the lower of your two test grades.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. More than 3 unexcused absences reduces your final grade by 1/3 of a letter grade; more than 5 is a full letter grade deduction; more than 8 is automatic failure of the course.

IV. CLASS FORMAT

The class will be a mixture of lecture and discussion, and I want to encourage discussion. I hope that you will all have views about the topics we will address, and I want you to express and explore those views. It is the nature of the issues we will be considering that people's views will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) when anyone says something you disagree with, but everyone should always keep in mind that disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire toward it.

V. CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE

In recent years it has become necessary to make a further comment about classroom etiquette. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, checking Facebook, tweeting, IMing, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you are sitting in the back and presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities at all times.

VI. TOPICS AND READINGS

Most of the readings will be from the Perry, Bratman, and Fischer book. These will be listed by their page numbers in parentheses. Readings from the Nagel and Weston books are listed by author and chapter number. There are also some additional readings labeled "online" and linked at WebCampus.

A note about the readings: Philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. Do not be fooled by the shortness of an assignment into thinking that it will take little time. Most of these readings should be read at least twice. I recommend a first time straight through and then a second pass taking notes.

The course will be divided into 5 units. Those units and the readings for them are as follows.

1. Purpose, Aims, Methods
Nagel, Chapter 1
Perry and Bratman, "Philosophy: Introduction" (1-7)
Perry, Bratman and Fischer, "Logical Toolkit" (8-13)
Russell, "The Value of Philosophy" (17-20)
Plato, Apology: Defense of Socrates (21-36)
Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, Chapters I-III, V, VI, X
2. Morality
Nagel, Chapter 7
Plato, Euthyphro (online)
Rachels, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (online)
Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapters 1 and 2 (483-492)
Carritt, "Criticisms of Utilitarianism" (500-502)
Williams, "Utilitarianism and Integrity" (510-518)
3. Free Will
Nagel, Chapter 6
Campbell, "Has the Self 'Free Will'?" (online)
Taylor, "Freedom and Determinism" (online)
Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" (440-449)

4. Mind-Body Problem
Nagel, Chapter 4
Descartes, "Meditations II and VI" (159-163 and 174-181)
Churchland, "The Ontological Question (the Mind-Body Problem)" (online)
Ryle, "Descartes's Myth" (272-279)
Armstrong, "The Nature of Mind" (279-286)
5. Appearance, Reality and Skepticism
Nagel, Chapter 2
Descartes, "Meditations I and II" (157-163)
Russell, "Appearance and Reality" (online)
Russell, "The Existence of Matter" (online)
Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Sections II-V (211-226)

*The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.