PHIL 100 (section 6)




Instructor:                         Dr. Peter Marton

Classes:                     Tuesday, Thursday 1:00 – 2:15

Office Hour:               Tuesday, 11:45 – 12:45 or by appointment at Wheatley, 5th floor, Rm. 40

E-mail:             (preferred),




Course Description:

This course provides an introduction to some of the central issues and puzzles of philosophy. What is Philosophy? What is it to be a Philosopher? Why Philosophy? These questions will lead our enquiries during the quarter. We will read and discuss several basic philosophical texts to find some answers to these and other philosophical questions.

Readings of this course are arranged into four major topics: We will start with a very short introduction to logic (just to get the basics for evaluating philosophical arguments), then we read and discuss texts from one ancient author (Plato), one modern ( Descartes), one 19th century British author (John Stuart Mill) and  several articles from contemporary authors. Problems examined in connection with these texts include the nature of morality, radical skepticism, the mind-body problem, the problems of political freedoms and obligations, and the possibility of thinking/conscious machines.



Subject Matter Goals

By the end of the course, you should understand the following things:

-         The Socratic method

-         Our obligations toward others and the state

-         The problem of defining concepts

-         Plato’s Theory of Forms

-         Descartes’s Methodological Skepticism and his Cogito argument,

-         Cartesian and contemporary views on the relation of philosophy and science

-         The philosophical foundations of free speech

-         The mind-body problem and the possibility of thinking machines



Skill Development Goals:

A central goal of the course is to strengthen your ability to:

-         read and interpret complex texts,

-         make logical inferences from various ideas and statements;

-         explain your own and other people’s views clearly – both orally and in writing;

-         evaluate views and arguments;

-         develop your own views, both about the questions we are studying and other issues



Required Books:

- Plato: Last Days of Socrates, Penguin,
- Descartes: Discourse on Method and Meditations,
- Hofstadter and Dennett (editors): The Mind’s I,
- John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, Norton Critical Edition

Recommended Books

- Gordon Harvey: Writing with Sources,
- Anthony Weston: A Rulebook for Arguments, 3rd edition


Course Requirements and Evaluation:

(i)                Quizzes:

o       every week (usually on Tuesdays, see schedule) there will be a short, multiple-choice quiz on the required reading assignment(s).

o       Absolutely no makeup of missed quizzes (even if your absence is excused)!

o       These quizzes will not only be part of your grade, but if you miss or fail more than 4 quizzes during the semester, then you will not get a passing final grade! (In special circumstances I might offer/accept an alternative to the required number of successful quizzes – as e.g. an oral qualifying exam about the reading materials.)

o       The 3 weakest of your quizzes will be dropped.

o       You can use your own handwritten notes during the quizzes.

o       Important notice: If you have difficulty to read the assigned texts and/or you feel that your quiz grades do not reflect your effort/understanding you should talk to me immediately! I will advise you how to read/take notes more effectively and I will work with you to improve your philosophical reading skills.

(ii)              3 short essays: During the semester I will assign topics for consideration. These topics will help you to develop your own ideas about philosophical issues and arguments we read about and discussed in class. These papers should be 2-3 typed page (double lined, in ordinary 12 pts font, with at least 1” margin all around).

(iii)            Final Cumulative Exam will cover the entire material of the course. You can use your books and notes during the exam (“open book exam”).

(iv)            Attendance: Attendance is mandatory.

o       0 - 4 absences: no consequences (other than missed quizzes)

o       5-9 absences: 1% will be taken for each absence from your final grade

o       10 or more absences: No final grade will be given.

(v)              Participation and e-mail questions:

o       Your participation in class discussions, and especially in the discussion sessions, will also be part of your final grade.

o       Every week you must send a detailed e-mail question or comment (by Wednesday 5 pm) based on some aspect of the course: the readings, lectures, or discussions. These questions will be posted on the course webpage and our Thursday discussions will be based on the best of them. Please read the questions before you come to the discussion sessions.


Quizzes                                 15%

Three essays                          36%   (12% each)

Final exam                             25%

Participation                          16%

Weekly e-mail questions           8%




(i)               Unforeseen events may cause the schedule of assignments to change. If there is a change in the number or importance of any of the assignments, each assignment’s effect on your grade may also change, but you will receive notice of any such changes.

(ii)            No “incomplete” will be assigned except in cases of real emergency, in which cases it must be approved by the department chairperson.

(iii)          A doctor's certificate or such verifiable documentation will be required to make-up missed deadlines or exam.



Accommodation for Students with Special Needs or Disabilities

If you have any special need, please inform me about it in your e-mail (see next topic), or visit me during my office hours, to describe your special situation.



Introductory e-mail

Please send me an introductory e-mail, as soon as possible (say today), with the following basic data and contact information. If you do not have to access to e-mail, please, talk to me after class.


Your e-mail should contain the following information:


[E-mail address(es):]

[Phone #:]




Information concerning special needs or disabilities*:

Your favorite book(s) and movie(s)*:

Any book you read and you would deem to be “philosophical” (it can be both fiction and/or book on philosophy)*:


(Questions marked by (*) are optional. If you do not feel comfortable about them, do not answer them.)


Your questions, comments, suggestions by e-mail are always welcomed. You cannot, however, to send in your written assignments (short essays, term paper) by e-mail.





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