PROBLEMS OF PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 232 TTh 9am-10am in AUD A, Angell Hall
The University of Michigan
Fall 2004




Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jwood@umich.edu
Course Webpage: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jwood/umich/Phil232.htm
Office Hours: T 2pm-3pm, W 12:30pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: 2203 Angell Hall
Office Phone: 764-6882
Dept. Phone: 764-6285

 

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 historically important and current philosophers (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Hume, Russell, Frankfurt, 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 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, defending, and critiquing of arguments and 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.

Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments (Third Edition). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000.

The books for the course are available at Shaman Drum Bookstore located upstairs at 313 South State Street.

(They are also on reserve at the Undergraduate Library.)

 

III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

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

Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper...................................................................25%
First Test.....................................................................20%
Second Paper...............................................................25%
Second Test.................................................................20%


About the Requirements:

Class Participation--One thing this requirement covers is your (discussion section) attendance (if you don't attend section 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 arrive having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, as part of participation, during the term everyone must make at least six contributions to his or her discussion section's Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through C-Tools): three before the First Test and three after.

The First Paper--There will be a 4-5 page paper due in early October. Topics will be posted 9 days before the paper is due. Papers are due at the beginning of class (lecture) on the due date. Late papers are subject to a substantial grade reduction (you really don't want to find out how much).

The First Test--There will be a timed, in-class (lecture) test in late October. The test will consist of short answer questions and an essay.

The Second Paper--There will be a 4-5 page paper due in late November. Topics will be posted 9 days 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 Second Test--There will be a timed, in-class test given during the last lecture meeting. This test will consist of short answer questions and an essay question. It will heavily emphasize, but not be limited to, the material covered since the First Test.

Note: All requirements for the course must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass.


IV. CLASS FORMAT

The class will be a divided mixture of lecture and discussion. Both are crucial components of the course. The lectures are the starting point for discussion; discussion is your opportunity to express and explore your views about the topics we will address. 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 your discussion section leader) 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 page numbers in parentheses. Readings from the Nagel book are listed by chapter number. There are also some additional readings labeled "on-line" which will be available through the course Webpage.

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 pass taking notes.

The course will be divided into 5 units. Those units and the readings for them are as follows.

1. Purpose, Aims, Methods
Nagel, Chapter 1
Perry and Bratman, "On the Study of Philosophy" (1-6)
Russell, "The Value of Philosophy" (9-12)
Plato, Apology: Defense of Socrates (27-42)
Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, Chapters I-III, V, VI, X
2. God and Evil
Anselm, "The Ontological Argument" (45-46)
Gaunilo, "In Behalf of the Fool" (on-line reading)
Descartes, "Meditation V" from Meditations on First Philosophy (131-133)
Aquinas, "The Existence of God" (47-49)
Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (57-71)
Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence" (103-110)
3. Knowledge
Nagel, Chapters 2 and 4
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (116-139)
Locke, "Some Further Considerations Concerning Our Simple Ideas of Sensation"
     from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (139-144)
Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Sections II-VII (190-216)
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
Plato, Republic, Book II, Chapter V (694-699)
Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 13 and 14 (on-line reading)
Feinberg, "Psychological Egoism" (on-line reading)
Rachels, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (on-line reading)
Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapters 1 and 2 (486-495)
Carritt, "Criticisms of Utilitarianism" (503-505)