Phil 2010, Introduction to Philosophy

Fall 2014
TR 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm Classroom South 100 CRN 85817/88994

Instructor: Tim O'Keefe
Office: 1105 34 Peachtree
Phone: (404) 413-6108
e-mail: tokeefe AT gsu DOT edu (preferred method of contact)
Office Hours: 1:30-2:15 MW, 2:30-3:15 TR, and by appointment
Writing Across the Curriculum Consultant: Andy Britton, wbritton1 AT

Course Description and Objectives:

This course will be a topical introduction to philosophy. We will explore issues in metaphysics (what exists? and what is its nature?), epistemology (what can we know? and how can we know it?), and ethics (what actions are moral or immoral? and what is the good life for a human being?). We will concentrate on developing the skills needed in order to understand the arguments offered by the philosophers we study, to evaluate those arguments, and to formulate cogent philosophical arguments of our own. After a brief introduction to what arguments are and how to evaluate them, we will examine the following questions:

TEXTS: Almost all of the texts for the semester will be available (for free!) on the class Desire2Learn site in .pdf format. A few readings will be available on the internet (I will inform you of these as they come up and provide links).
Midterm 20%
Final Exam 30%
Paper (4-6 pages) 30%
Reading response papers and responses 10%
Quizzes 10%

Class format and evaluation

Each class will open with a three question multiple choice quiz on the reading for the day. The questions should be straightforward and easy if you've done the readings. The scale is: 0/3=40%, 1/3=60%, 2/3=80%, 3/3=100%, did not take quiz = 0%.

In each class we'll have a member of the class contribute a short reading response paper. I will rotate the schedule of reading response papers, so that every class period two or so students will submit a paper. These papers will typically involve setting out and evaluating one of the arguments in the reading for that class day. You will post this paper to the class bulletin board. Please post your paper the night before the class. As long as you post your paper on time, and it's a credible attempt at responding to the paper prompt, you will receive full credit. (Points will not be deducted merely because you may misunderstand the argument, your writing is unclear, etc.)

Everybody (other than people who wrote a paper) will be responsible for reading the reading response papers before the class meeting and posting a reply to one of the papers, or a reply to one of the replies, even.

You can post several types of replies:

  1. Clarification request. You claim p, but I don't know what you mean by saying p. Please clarify. Do you mean by this p', p''...?
  2. Argument request. You claim p. I think I know what you mean by p. But why do you claim p? I don't see any argument for p, and I think you need to give an argument for it.
  3. Objection. You claim p (and maybe you argue for it). However, I think that p, (or your argument for p), is problematic. Here's my objection to p (or to your argument for p): q. What do you say in response to q?
  4. Assistance. You claim p. I agree with you that p, but I think the following additional reason (which you do not mention) can be given in support of p: q.
  5. Competing interpretation. You say that the reading claims that p. However, I don't think that this is exactly what it says. Instead, I think it says p' (and here's why I think this).
  6. Suggestion of parallels. You claim p. P (or your argument for p) reminds me of so-and-so's claim that q (or his argument for q). Are the two really similar? Does comparing p to q help illuminate p, or is it just misleading?
Sometimes, the bulletin board may be down. If so, please e-mail me your paper or question before class.

The exams will consist mainly of essay questions I will give you before the exam, plus a few short answers.

The final paper will be a position paper--that is, a paper in which you advance arguments of your own in support of a thesis related to the topics we've been studying. In order to make the process of composing the paper fruitful for you, the composition of your paper will be multi-stage. The basis for your paper will be one of your reading response papers. (If you see a topic you'd like to write on, and you're not scheduled to write on that topic, you have the option of volunteering to write an extra reading response paper on that topic, so that you may base your final paper on it if you wish.) There will be a mandatory draft of the paper due before you turn in the final version. (Students who do not turn in the draft by the deadline will have a penalty assessed on their final paper grade.) Our Writing Consultant, Andy Britton (wbritton1 AT ), will give you feedback on your reading response papers and your draft before you turn in the final version.

Typically, I will explain the material in the first part of the class, and the latter part of the class will be devoted to discussing the material, using the reading response papers and replies as a way to start the discussion. But this division is not meant to be hard and fast: discussions and evaluation will often break out during the first part of the class, and during the course of discussing the material in the second part, sometimes I may go back to clarify some points in the material.

The bulletin board also has a forum for posting questions about the material. If anything in the reading is unclear to you, or you have any other questions about the material, please post them in this forum. I will look over it before class.

Important Dates (subject to change):

October 2: Midterm
October 30: final paper draft due
November 20: final paper due
Tues. Dec. 9 10:45 a.m.: Final Exam

You are responsible for attending class regularly. If you know beforehand that you'll be unable to attend a class, let me know so that we can arrange for you to receive notes, discuss the material, or do anything else necessary so that you do not fall behind. If you miss a class without notification, you will still be responsible for knowing course content discussed in the class that day, learning about any announcements made in class, etc. If you are absent or late for a class, you will not be allowed to make up any quizzes. Please turn off your cellphone before attending class, and do not use laptops or other electronic devices in class. I reserve the right to withdraw from class students who miss the midterm.

Please also see the Philosophy department's general syllabus statement for more important information on matters such as withdrawal dates, academic honesty, etc.

Return to the Introduction to Philosophy web site.
Return to the course materials index.
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