PHL 1613: Introduction to Philosophy

Matthew M. Daude

Summer 1998

Section 4331

MTWHF 9:00-10:25 AM

RGC 314


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." We will pursue three goals in this course:

    1. To learn and to practice cogent reasoning
    2. To become acquainted with several major philosophers and their views
    3. To consider some of the central problems of philosophy

My theme for this semester’s exploration of philosophy is "Minds, Brains, and Consciousness." We will consider some of the major issues involved in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, including the "mind-body" problem, the nature of consciousness, memory, personal identity, etc. We will be exploring two classical theories of mind, and we will examine how neuroscience may impact our understanding of consciousness, mind, and self.

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.

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 of mental activity we will study. The major forms of assessment will be tests (both short-answer and essay) and writing assignments.

Texts and Reading Assignments

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

These texts will be available in the ACC bookstore(s). We will study the required texts in the order given. The recommended text is an entertaining overview of the history of philosophy (with explanations of most of the major figures). There will be a number of handouts, each of which will be available on desk reserve or on my homepage (http:\\\~mdaude). If you find that you must miss class, please get the handouts prior to the next class. I expect you to keep current on reading assignments.

Work and Grading Policy

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

3 tests (20% each)




Term paper (required for A)




Due dates for written work will be arranged in class. 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 typed (using a standard font—no italics!) and double-spaced. (Please see my "General Course Policies" for further information.)

I plan to give a test every two weeks. Each test will involve an in-class portion and a take-home essay component. The in-class portion of the tests, worth twenty-five points, will consist of short answer items in which I ask you to identify and explain important concepts and terms. We will identify these important ideas as we proceed, and I will give you study questions on each section to help you prepare for the test. If you like, I will also conduct discussion groups on the material outside of class. The take-home essay portion of these tests will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the texts. I will usually give three essay questions for each test, each worth twenty-five points.

I am also requiring a writing assignment, which I am calling a "journal." This will be an opportunity for each of you to "discuss" an issue of philosophical consequence. I will give you additional guidelines for this assignment, but the basic idea involves your applying the theories we are studying to a philosophical issue.

The term paper is required (but not sufficient) for an A. The paper will be a four-page exploration of a philosophical question of your choice. I am not stipulating a particular format for this paper; any standard format for term papers is acceptable (MLA, for instance). I will discuss term papers in more detail as the semester unfolds, and I will likely make topic suggestions in class. Please do not hesitate to talk to me about your interests. If you choose to write a term paper, you must hand in a rough draft at midterm, and the final version will be due on Monday of the final week of the semester.

Homework will include work assigned other than 1 through 3. It will be mainly vocabulary and concept identification, preparatory to our class discussion.

I expect everyone to come to class having read and thought about the assignment. Reading philosophy takes tenacity; expect to spend at least a couple of hours outside of class for every hour we spend in class. Be sure to get in touch with me if you are having problems with the course content.

Office Hours

2:00-4:00 PM
10:30-11:30 AM
(or by appointment)
ACC office (at RVS)



For each reading assignment, make a list of (at least) five terms or concepts from the reading that you think are important, along with definitions. Your emphasis should be on the philosophical importance of these terms. Be sure to indicate the reading assignment on each vocabulary list. Keep the lists in a homework folder, and have these folders with you in class and ready to turn in. I will ask for them periodically.


The Journal

The theme of the journal is the Melissa/Melinda quandary and the ways in which the philosophers we are studying may contribute to their deliberation. Each week, I will give you some time in small groups to discuss the connection of the readings and their problem, and I will help by asking you some questions. You will address these questions in your journal entry for that assignment. Clearly label the entries (so I can tell the assignments apart!) and keep them (in order!) in a folder labeled with your name. Be ready to turn the folder in every Friday. The journal is a writing assignment, so the usual considerations apply: it should be typed, etc.