Philosophy 100: Introduction to Philosophy


Instructor Information

Instructor: Gary Zabel, Ph.D.

Department of Philosophy, UMB

Office: Wheatley 5/040

Office Hours: Wed 3:00-4:00  and by Appointment




The purpose of this course is to introduce students to philosophy by reading and discussing two key figures in the Western philosophical tradition: Plato and Nietzsche. These thinkers span an enormous stretch of time. Plato wrote in the 4th Century B.C.E.  and Nietzsche in the 19th Century C.E. Nonetheless, they speak to one another across the chasm of  nearly 2,400 years. In Nietzsche’s case, this is because he was once a professor of the ancient Greek language, read Plato’s Dialogues in the original Greek, and thought deeply about the unmatched impact Plato had on Western thought. It is also because he took Plato as his great adversary, seeing his own philosophy as an attempt to “reverse Platonism” which, he felt, still shaped Western culture in destructive ways. Of course, Plato was never in a position to read Nietzsche or to defend his philosophy against Nietzsche’s critique. But everything necessay to construct such a defense is already present in Plato’s writings. In this course, we are going to allow Nietzsche and Plato to speak to one another - across the millenia - by speaking through us. Our readings, classroom discussions, your essays, and my comments on them will not only examine what Nietzsche said about Plato, but also allow Plato to respond to the case against him. We will let Nietzsche  put Plato on trial, just as the Athenians tried Plato’s mentor, Socrates, and then proceed to construct the strongest possible case in Plato’s defense. But then, we will abandon the role of Plato’s defense attorneys, and assume that of his jury by trying to reach a verdict. In the process, we will see if we can understand exactly what Western (Euro-American-Canadian-Israeli-Australian) culture is, especially since it has now expanded to encompass the entire planet. After all, there are McDonald’s hamburger joints, car dealerships, and universities in all of the major cities of the world, and there are people in every country who begin their day by reading the stock market reports. We will also attempt to determine why, as Western culture expands, it appears increasingly more hollow and less able to satisy the need people have to lead meaningful lives, either inside or beyond what we still call “the West.”


1. Regular class attendence and participattion. I permit each student only two unexcused absenses before shaving points from the final grade.

2. A take-home midterm exam (approximately 6 typed, double-spaced pages) in the form of two essays on questions concerning Plato’s philosophy.

3. A final paper (10 to 15 typed, double-spaced pages) on the work of Nietzsche and its relation to Plato.


The course requirements have the following weight in determining the final grade for the course:

Attendance and participation in discussions = 20%

Midterm essays = 30%

Final essays = 50%

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s work as your own. It is possible to buy papers from other students or from internet sites, to copy passages or entire papers verbatim from the internet or other sources, or to paraphrase external sources at length withoutr attributing them to their real author or authors through textual citations. Any of these offenses will result in a grade of F for this course. You are welcome to work on your final paper with another student or students in the course, provided you clear this with me first; in other words, you are allowed to hand in a single paper that is the combined effort of the students involved. Plagiarism is an attempt at receiving a positive grade through an act of deception, and that is why a failuring grade in the course is an appropriate penalty. On the other hand, open and honest collaborative work with others can be a valuable  learing experience. So, zero tolerance for plagiaristic deception, and encouragement of honest collective effort.