INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 201, Sec. 01: MWF 9am-9:50am in 221 Blair Hall
PHIL 201, Sec. 02: MWF 10am-10:50am in 201 Blair Hall
The College of William and Mary
Fall 2001




Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jawoo2@wm.edu
Course Webpage: http://faculty.wm.edu/jawoo2/wm/wmintro.htm
Office Hours: M 1:30pm-2:30pm, W 2:30pm-3:30pm and by appointment
Office: 126 Blair Hall
Office Phone: 221-2713
Dept. Phone: 221-2735

 

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, Russell, Frankfurt, Williams) 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 (personhood), 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 The William and Mary Bookstore located in the basement of Barnes and Noble in Merchant's Square.

(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%
Midterm Exam............................................................20%
Second Paper..............................................................25%
Final Exam..................................................................25%


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 late September. 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 Midterm Exam--There will be a timed, in-class midterm exam in mid October. The exam will consist of short answer questions and an essay.

The Second Paper--There will be a 4-6 page paper due in late November. 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 is still not a good idea.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (1.5 hours), in-class final exam given during the scheduled exam time for the class (12/19 for Sec. 1, 12/20 for Sec. 2). The final will consist of short answer questions and essay questions heavily emphasizing, but not limited to, the material covered since the midterm.



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 page 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 pass taking notes.

The course will cover topics presented in five 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 II-V (190-205)
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)