PHIL1301PCM: Introduction to Philosophy

Matthew Daude Laurents, Ph.D.

Synonym: 34949

Spring, 2006

Contact Information and Office Hours

Course Description

Students will be introduced to various significant philosophical issues and thinkers and to the practice of philosophical analysis.

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.

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.

Please note that you must complete the online Orientation prior to beginning work on this course.

Course Materials

Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy (ISBN 002367170X)*
Hume. Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (ISBN 0812690540)*
Palmer. Looking at Philosophy (recommended)

Texts marked with an asterisk are are available online; 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. I do not recommend a particular translation or edition; however, the ISBN will help you find an edition that is quite similar to what is online. If you decide to purchase the texts, you may find that the translation or pagination do not match the online versions.

The recommended text (which is widely available) 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.

Instructional Methodology

This is an online course, so 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, which are found on Blackboard.  The major form of individual assessment will be writing assignments (essays) and quizzes; there will be no major exams. I will also use online forms to gather information about your progress in the coursework.

Course Rationale

Philosophy is one of the principal forces that have shaped Western civilization and history, so a basic understanding of the method and subjectmatter of philosophy affords a deeper understanding of ourselves and an informed grasp of the present. In addition, the critical thinking skills are so central to the method of philosophy that the study of philosophy provides an opportunity to learn and practice those skills in a focused way.

PHIL1301 Objectives

Departmental Objectives/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.

Coursework and Grading Policy

Coursework includes reading assignments, online lectures, quizzes, and essays. (See the Coursework Guide for a more detailed discussion of the coursework.) We will also use a bulletin board and a virtual classroom for class discussion. I encourage you to post questions and comments about the course material, but I will remove material that is not substantially relevant to the coursework.

Your grade for this course will be based on written work demonstrating the pursuit of the goals of the course. There are two types of written assignments: (1) fifteen weekly quizzes on the reading assignments and lectures and (2) three essays on topics that I will provide. The final grade is determined by the grades on these four elements, weighted according to the following chart:

Quizzes 25%
Essay I 20%
Essay II 25%
Essay III 30%

Please review the Grading and Evaluation System for a detailed exposition of my approach to evaluation. You will find additional guidelines for each assignment on my instructional website. 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.)


Class Atmosphere

I favor an informal and open atmosphere in my classes, but I expect a level of civility conducive to inquiry. Consequently, we will adopt some basic conventions of respect and responsibility. Everyone must respect the views of others. "Respect" does not mean "agree with"; rather, it means that everyone gets a fair hearing. However, I also expect people to take responsibility for their contributions to discussion. Opinions offered in all forms of class discussion (including email discussion!) should be informed, thoughtful, and grounded; hence, all views will be subject to closer inspection and questioning (including my own).

Security and Privacy

The online classroom is a secure area, and you must follow some basic policies in order to help preserve security and to protect the privacy of your classmates.

  1. Do not share the password to the classroom or links to URLs inside the secure area.
  2. You may occasionally see the email addresses of classmates. You may use these email addresses only for course-related communication, unless the recipient specifically gives you permission for non-course-related communication. Report violations of this policy to me immediately.
  3. I will return your assignments, including your grades, by email only to the email address that you provide. If you are concerned about the privacy of your grades, you may want to discuss the matter with me.

In submitting your First Assignment, you agree to abide by these policies and procedures. I will pursue all allegations of abuse of the website, email addresses, course materials, and other material posted in conjunction with this course. Violation of these security policies constitute grounds for disciplinary action (which will include at least a failing grade in the course), and may involve criminal or civil penalties as well.

Please note that, except as specified above, I do not send student information (such as student ID numbers) by email.

Announcements and Deadlines

I hold you responsible for information and announcements sent by email or posted on the web pages for your class. This policy applies specifically to course assignments and deadlines, including essay due dates. Unless otherwise stipulated, all course materials (including readings, handouts, essay topics, and other assignments) will be posted on the web site for your class.

I expect all work to be turned in by the deadlines, and I do not accept late work except by prior arrangement or for compelling reasons. "Prior" means before the due date and time. "Compelling reasons" means circumstances beyond your control that were also unforeseeable.

For specific deadlines and other announcements, check the main page for your course (frequently). If I issue a due date without a specific time, you should have the assignment in before midnight.


Plagiarism involves passing off someone else's work as if it were your own. The term "plagiarism" does not imply intent: one may commit plagiarism with or without the intention of passing off someone else's work as your own. If someone else's words or sequence of ideas appears in your writing without proper documentation, then you have engaged in plagiarism irrespective of whether you meant to do so.

If you are unclear about which uses of material are and are not permissible, you should familiarize yourself with the notion of plagiarism. A good start is the guide, "Documentation and Plagiarism," published by ACC's Library Services. Reference librarians are also a valuable source of help. If you have further questions, you are welcome to contact me.

Students will receive no credit for any assignment in which there is evidence of plagiarism, and such assignments may not be resubmitted for additional credit. Students who plagiarize or engage in other forms of academic dishonesty may also be subject to disciplinary action by the College. (See the "Academic Dishonesty" section below.)


I do not "automatically" withdraw students. If you intend to drop this course you must do the paperwork yourself. Anyone who remains enrolled in the course will receive a performance grade derived according to the criteria for work and grading set forth in the syllabus. For the drop date (and other important college dates), refer to ACC's Academic Calendar.


I give incompletes only in extenuating circumstances, which must be documented. If you find that you need to request an incomplete, you must arrange a completion plan with me in advance and document that plan on an incomplete form. I will make exceptions to this condition only for compelling reasons, as defined above. Please note that I do not grant "routine" incompletes. I will award a performance grade derived according to the criteria for work and grading stipulated in the syllabus to everyone enrolled, based on whatever work I have received and recorded during the semester.

Final grades

In accordance with ACC policy, final grades will not be posted, nor do I notify students of final course grades by telephone or email. If you have questions regarding the computation of your grade, etc., see the Grading and Evaluation System or contact me.

Course Materials

Respect my rights! Most of the materials and the structure of this course are my work and thus are protected by copyright law. You may make printouts of course materials for your own use. Reproduction of course materials (including email communications) for public distribution or commercial use violates copyright law. For further details on ACC's policy regarding Copyright and course materials, see the "Copyright Policy Notice" found in the Student Handbook.

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.

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."

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

The Course Calendar available in the online classroom (Blackboard) includes a complete outline for the course. Check the Course Calendar frequently for due dates, announcements, and important links.

Proceed to the Orientation.

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This page was last updated 03/01/2009 07:09:31 PM by drdaude.