PHIL 1301: Introduction to Philosophy PCM

Matthew M. Daude

Section 0 9341 (16-week)
Section 07781 (8-week)

Fall, 1999

The ACC catalogue describes this course as "A study of the nature of philosophy and various traditions. Includes a study of major western philosophers, philosophical problems, and critical thinking."

PHIL1301 Objectives

  1. to understand the nature of philosophy as both a process and a subjectmatter.
  2. to learn and practice critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
  3. to become familiar with major divisions and problems of philosophy.

PHIL1301 Outcomes

  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 theme for this semester’s exploration of philosophy is "Human Knowledge and Reality." We will consider some of the major issues involved in metaphysics and epistemology, focusing on the ultimate nature of reality and the relation between any such reality and human knowledge.

Preliminary Issues

There are no prerequisites for Introduction to Philosophy. A passing score or the equivalent on the reading portion of the TASP is required, and I highly recommend a passing score or the equivalent on the writing portion. The major form of evaluation will be written work, and the main instructional methods will include readings and email discussion.

Internet access, including an email account, is required. All written work and other course business will take place by means of email and the web pages for these sections. (To find the main page for your section, go back to the top of this page and click on your section number.)

Our objectives for the semester reflect the goals listed above: demonstration of improved critical thinking skills, familiarity with the basic problems and concepts of philosophical thought, improved understanding of our philosophical tradition, and a working knowledge of the theories we will study. The major form of assessment will be writing assignments (essays and research papers).

Office Hours

Please refer to my main page for office hours and locations.

Texts and Reading Assignments

I will post reading assignments in the "classroom" (a password-protected page). I expect everyone to read and think about the assignment. Reading philosophy takes tenacity; expect to spend several hours a week working through the readings. The major texts for the course are

Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy*
Hume. Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding*
Palmer. Looking at Philosophy (recommended)

Texts marked with an asterisk are are available on line; I will post links to these texts on the reading assignments page. These texts are also available in many bookstore(s), if you prefer to do your readings off-line. The recommended text is an entertaining overview of the history of philosophy (with explanations of most of the major figures). It may be helpful in filling in gaps or as a resource for your coursework (and paper topics!).

For each reading assignment, I will post a "lecture" which (I hope!) will help you work through the reading. In addition, I will give you study questions for each reading assignment. Links to reading assignments, study questions, lectures, and other handouts will be found on the reading assignment page. Be sure to get in touch with me if you are having problems with the course content.

Work and Grading Policy

Your grade for this course will be based on written work demonstrating the pursuit of the goals of the course. There are three components:

Essays (5)


Analytical Essay


Term Paper


Due dates for written work will be posted; please check the main page for your section regularly for announcements and deadlines. You may hand in assignments earlier than the due date, but assignments must follow the stated sequence. (For instance, I will not accept essay 3 before essay 2.) Please note that I will not accept work after the stated due date, except by prior agreement. All written work must be submitted by email. Please see the Procedures section of the Orientation for guidelines on email.

Coursework Guidelines


The main theme of the five essays is the Melissa/Melinda quandary and the ways in which the philosophers we are studying may contribute to their deliberation. I will give you a topic for each essay, consisting of several questions regarding the application of the theories we are studying to the Melissa/Melinda quandary. The point of the essay is not merely to answer the questions, but primarily to justify your answers, using reasons drawn from the texts and from your reflections on these theories.

For fans of Bloom's taxonomy, the essays begin at the knowledge and comprehension levels and move beyond comprehension to application (at least).

Analytical Essay

This assignment is an opportunity to analyze a philosophical problem in some detail. I will assign the topic, which will be derived from our readings and which will involve comparing and contrasting particular approaches to a major philosophical issue. I will include further instructions in the assignment.

Research Paper

The paper will be a five-page exploration of a philosophical question, preferably relating to the theme of the course. I am not stipulating a particular format for this paper; any standard format for term papers is acceptable (MLA, for instance). However, please note that (1) you must use some recognizable format and you must be consistent, and (2) the format will have to be adjusted somewhat for email delivery. I will give you more guidelines for the term paper as the semester unfolds, and I will likely make topic suggestions periodically in emails and in my lectures. Please do not hesitate to contact me about your interests. I am requiring that you hand in a topic question and a rough draft. See the PHL 1613 PCM main page for due dates.

Study Groups

I am planning to divide the students in this course into discussion groups of three or four. I will monitor these groups and comment where appropriate, but I will not evaluate the conversations and you will not receive a grade for participating in them. (On the other hand, I will encourage you to engage other students in such conversation: if you find something difficult, chances are someone else in the class is having a similar reaction.)

Course Calendar

Check the main page for your section frequently for due dates and other announcements.

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This page was last updated on 03/01/09 by mmd.