INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
V83.0001-002
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am-10:45am in LC 1 Tisch
New York University
Fall 2000



Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jw79@is9.nyu.edu
Course Webpage: http://pages.nyu.edu/~jw79/nyuintro.htm
or use the link from the Philosophy Dept. Webpage
Office Hours: Tuesday 11am-12pm, 2:30pm-3:30pm
Office: Main Building 503-O
Office Phone: 998-8330
Dept. Phone: 998-8320

TA: Chris Towl
email address: cst211@is9.nyu.edu
Office Hours: Thursday 1pm-2pm

 

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 current and historically important philosophers (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Hume, Russell, Perry, Nagel) on such classic philosophical topics as the existence of God, the nature of right and wrong, and the possibility of knowledge. Through our readings and discussions we will also attempt to reach a clearer understanding of ourselves (personal identity), our relationship to other people (moral responsibility), and our relationship to the world around us (freedom of the will). Some of the general skills students will develop include the formulating and defending of theoretical positions and the ability to think critically about difficult and abstract issues.


II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Books:

Nagel, Thomas. What Does It All Mean? New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Perry, John and Michael Bratman. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings (Third Edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

The books for the course are available at Posman Books located at One University Place.
(They are also on reserve at the Library.)

 

III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade

Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper..................................................................20%
Second Paper.............................................................25%
Third Paper.................................................................25%
Final Exam..................................................................20%

About the Requirements:

Class Participation--One thing this requirement covers is your class attendance (if you don't attend class you can't participate in it). However, to get an "A" for class participation you must do more than just show up; you have to contribute to class discussion. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it.

The First Paper--There will be a 3-4 page paper due in early October. Topics will be distributed 9 days before the paper is due. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late papers are subject to a substantial grade reduction (you really don't want to find out how much).

The Second Paper--There will be a second 4-6 page paper due in early November. Topics will be handed out about 2 weeks before the paper is due, and all papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late submission is still not a good idea.

The Third Paper--There will be a third 4-6 page paper due in early December. Again, topics will be distributed 2 weeks before the paper is due, and all papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late submission = bad idea.

The Final Exam--There will be a cumulative final exam given in class on our last meeting, Wednesday, December 13th (which runs on a Thursday schedule). The exam will consist of short answer questions and essay questions based on the readings and lectures.



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. TOPICS AND READINGS

Most of the readings will be from the Perry and Bratman book. These will be listed by their pages numbers in parentheses. Readings from the Nagel book are listed by chapter number.

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 time slowly while taking notes.

The course will cover topics presented in six units. The units and readings for them are as follows.

1. Purpose, Aims, Methods
Perry and Bratman, "On the Study of Philosophy" (1-6)
Russell, "The Value of Philosophy" (9-12)
Plato, Apology: Defense of Socrates (27-42)
2. God and Evil
Anselm, "The Ontological Argument" (45-46)
Descartes, "Meditation V" from Meditations on First Philosophy (131-133)
Aquinas, "The Existence of God" (47-49)
Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (57-71)
Pascal, "The Wager" (49-52)
Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence" (103-110)
3. Knowledge
Nagel, Chapter 2
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (116-139)
Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding : Sections IV and V (193-205)
Russell, "The Existence of Matter" from The Problems of Philosophy (online reading)
4. Free Will
Nagel, Chapter 6
Campbell, "Has the Self 'Free Will'?" (417-426)
Taylor, "Freedom and Determinism" (437-449)
Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" (450-459)
5. Morality
Nagel, Chapter 7
Mill, Utilitarianism (486-502)
Carritt, "Criticisms of Utilitarianism" (503-505)
Williams, "Utilitarianism and Integrity" (512-520)
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (529-545)
O'Neill, "Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems" (546-551)
6. Personal Identity and Survival of Death
Perry, A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (396-416)
Nagel, Chapter 9