Syllabus: Honors Introduction to Philosophy

Matthew Daude Laurents, Ph.D.


MW 10:35-11:55 AM
RGC A256

Fall, 2010

Contact Information and Office Hours

Course Description

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

This course introduces major themes in Western philosophy by looking at the problem of happiness and the meaning of life. Various philosophical and literary texts, film, and works of art that deal with the meaning of life will provide opportunities to learn and prctice philosophical analysis. See the course prospectus for a more detailed discussion of the course theme.

There are no course prerequisites for Introduction to Philosophy. A passing score or the equivalent on the reading and writing portions of the skills assessment is required.

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

Course Materials


Cahn and Vitrano. Happiness: Classic and Contemporary Readings in Philosophy (ISBN 9780195321401)

Dostoevsky. Notes from Underground. trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky (ISBN 067973452X)


Birkenstein and Graff. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (ISBN-13 9780393924091)

Palmer. Looking at Philosophy (ISBN-13 9780072828955)

The required texts are are available in the ACC Bookstore. The recommended texts (which are widely available) include Birkenstein and Graff's excellent book on academic writing, and Palmer's entertaining overview of the history of philosophy (with explanations of most of the major figures). These may be helpful in filling in gaps or as a resource for your coursework.

Instructional Methodology

The class will consist predominantly of seminar-style discussion of the course material, which will involve group work and group presentations. There will also be "fieldwork," in which groups of students conduct interviews to elicit moral arguments for class analysis. We will discuss the fieldwork in more detail in class.

The major forms of individual assessment will be writing assignments (short essay exams, essays, etc.). I may also use online forms to gather information about your progress in the coursework. Writing assignments must be submitted by email or via the Blackboard classroom.

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

Your grade for this course will be based on collaborative and written work demonstrating the pursuit of the objectives of the course. (See the Coursework Guide for a more detailed explanation of the written work.)  These are the components of the course for grades up to a B:

Component Points
Class participation 220
Research proposal 200
Argument Analyses (4) 200
Analytical Essays (3) 600
Total 1220

To earn an A in the course, you must submit and earn an A on a 1500-word research essay on the topic that you have developed for your project. You must have an A average on prior written work to be eligible to submit the A essay. Students must submit all written assignments to earn a grade higher than a D. This means that a missing assignment is not merely a 0 for that assignment.

Please review the Grading System for a more detailed exposition of my approach to evaluation and gradingz.

Due dates for written work will be arranged in class and posted on the main page for your course. Please note that I will not accept work after the stated due date, except by prior agreement. All written work done outside of class must be submitted by email or posted on the Blackboard site for our class. Please see the Orientation for further instructions.

I expect everyone to participate in class discussion. Class participation should be informed. By this I mean that everyone should participate after having read and thought about the assignments. Religion can be a difficult subject for open discussion, and people sometimes have wildly differing views of which topics are offensive. Consequently, the conventions of respect and responsibility discussed in the Course Policies are of particular importance in this course. If you do find some aspect of the class discussion offensive, please discuss the matter with me, bearing in mind that people do have different levels of tolerance for critical investigation of religious topics. "Respect" does not necessarily mean "agree"; however, to the best of our ability, we will approach the topics of our discussion from the perspective of philosophical inquiry.


Review the Course Policies page and the instructions in the online Orientation. The Course Policies and the Orientation are to be considered part of this syllabus.

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 class interactions, 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 the student in conjunction with the course.

Scholastic Dishonesty

According to ACC's Student Discipline Policy, Section C,

"Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their own thought, research or self-expression. For purposes of these regulations, academic work is defined as, but not limited to exams and quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; papers; classroom presentations; and homework.

"When students borrow ideas, wording or organization from another source, they shall reference that information in an appropriate manner."

Cases of scholastic dishonesty will be pursued according to the procedure set forth in the Student Handbook, “ Student Discipline Policy,” Section J, "Academic Dishonesty Process."

Office of Students with Disabilities

"The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) assists students with documented disabilities to access reasonable accommodations. To request ACC accommodations, students must submit appropriate diagnostic documentation to the OSD supervisor at their primary campus. Students attending multiple campuses must meet with the OSD supervisor at each campus where accommodations are needed. Accommodations must be requested before each semester they are needed. NOTE: Students are urged to apply for accommodations at least three weeks before the star t of each term." (Student Handbook, Office for Students with Disabilities)

Course Outline



Hellenistic Theories: Epicureanism and Stoicism

Medieval Theories: Augustine and Thomas







Dostoevsky: Notes
(related activites)
Happiness as Pleasure
Happiness as Satisfaction
Happiness as More Than Satisfaction
Happiness and Virtue
Research Project Presentations and discussion
Concluding discussion

A complete Coursework Calendar, which includes course assignments, is available in the online classroom in (Blackboard). 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 2010-08-22 21:20 ]