PHIL 201L: Introduction to Philosophy -- Spring 1997

Ron Bombardi
Department of Philosophy
Middle Tennessee State University

Leonardo Project Syllabus

Illustration w/link to Alice                        Orientation
"The Garden of Eden was lost for partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, lost not for lust but for curiosity, not for sex but for science" (Nelson Goodman). In this course, neither fluency nor even passing acquaintance with the history and practice of Western philosophy is presupposed; curiosity, on the other hand, is. Curiosity, notwithstanding the proverbial fate of the proverbial cat, lies at the marrow of all intellectual passion--where art, science, and philosophy cohere as one single instinct: the irrepressible human need to explore, to explain, to inquire.

Course Materials

Required Texts
  • Battin, Margaret P., et al. Puzzles about Art: An Aesthetics Casebook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.
  • Matthews, Gareth. Philosophy and the Young Child. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.
  • Paulos, John. I Think, therefore I Laugh: An Alternative Approach to Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
Recommended Texts
  • Bedau, Hugo. Thinking and Writing about Philosophy. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996.
  • Burke, James. The Day the Universe Changed. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1987.
  • Heath, Peter, ed. The Philosopher's Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. New York; St. Martin's Press, 1974.
  • Williams, John Tyerman. Pooh and the Philosophers. New York: Dutton Books, 1995.
Course Links

Course Outline
The themes, topics, readings, and related materials presented below follow a calendar that aims to support the integration of perspectives derived from all the Leonardo courses in Cluster 4. The themes treated each week will serve a s shared contexts, while the topics and materials that articulate each theme will be specific to philosophy.

Week 1
     Theme: The languages of art and music.
     Topic: Why does language matter to philosophy?
     Issues: Realism vs. nominalism; thought & language; the meaning of meaning.
     Readings: Matthews, Philosophy and the Young Child, Chapters 1-3.
 Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter IV: Humpty Dumpty.
 [Handout ] Wiseman, B. Morris the Moose.
Week 2
     Theme: The concept of culture.
     Topic: Who are we?
     Issues: Knowledge & culture; relativism; disputes across cultures.
     Readings: Matthews, Philosophy and the Young Child, Chapter 4: Piaget.
 Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, Chapter 1: The Way We Are.
 [Handout] Gaarder, Sophie's World, Chapter 14: Two Cultures.
Week 3
     Theme: Puzzlement
     Topic: What does it mean to tell the truth?
     Issues: Stories, fantasies, and reality; narrative and the problem of history.
     Readings: Matthews, Philosophy and the Young Child, Chapters 5-6.
Week 4
     Theme: What is art/music?
     Topic: Puzzles about art: is art beyond definition?
     Issues: Essentialism vs. nominalism; open and closed definitions.
     Readings: Battin, et al., Puzzles about Art, Chapter 1.
Week 5
     Theme: Independence of the musical score.
     Topic: More puzzles about art: creativity & fidelity: what is rightness of rendering?
     Issues: What is an "authentic" score? What do bad performances express?
     Readings: Battin, et al., Puzzles about Art, Chapter 4.
Week 6
     Theme: Art & music as intellectual/emotional complexes.
     Topic: How do we think aesthetic time and space?
     Issues: Is there a hinterland between art and science?
     Readings: Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, Chapter 4: Point of View.
Week 7
     Theme: Environment, subsistence, government, and kinship.
     Topic: What is justice?
     Issues: Is good government relative to culture?
     Readings: [Handout] Excerpts from Plato and Mencius.
Week 8
     Theme: Open
     Topic: Open
     Issues: Open
     Readings: Open
Week 9
     Theme: Play.
     Topic: Sense and Nonsense in the Philosophy of Science.
     Issues: Induction, deduction and abduction; geometrical and physical magnitudes; artificial
 intelligence vs. artificial stupidity.
     Readings: Paulos, I Think, therefore I Laugh, Chapters, 1, 3 & 4.
Week 10
     Theme: How culture affects art and music.
     Topic: Whose justice? Whose rationality?
     Issues: Cultural Relativism
     Readings: Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, Chapter 7: Fit to Rule.
Week 11
     Theme: The Mask.
     Topic: Who are you?
     Issues: The problem of personal identity; masks and allegory; masks and psychology.
     Readings: [Handout] excerpts from Baum, The Wizard of Oz.
Week 12
     Theme: Worldview, religion, science, and magic.
     Topic: Why can't you get there from here?
     Issues: Personal enlightenment and social conditioning; Dr. Who & the philosophers.
     Readings: [Handout] from Cleary, ed., Immortal Sisters: The Secrets of Taoist Women.
 [Handout] Lewis, David. "Is Time Travel Possible?"
Week 13
     Theme: Reasoning.
     Topic: Thinking things through.
     Issues: The logics of closure and disclosure; logic vs. reasoning.
     Readings: Paulos, I Think, therefore I Laugh, Chapter 2: Logic.
 Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter VI: Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Week 14
     Theme: Open
     Topic: Open
     Issues: Open
     Readings: Open
For the most part, reading assignments will follow the above course outline; occasional university holidays will be accommodated by extending the course week beyond the calendar week, so you should expect some deviation from the general pattern specified above. Class format will follow but will not always overlap the readings, so it is important that you keep up with the designated material. Exercises will be assigned at least one full calendar week before coming due; however, exercises will be accepted for credit ONLY on or before the assigned days.

Philosophy Project

In addition to three periodic exercises and the final examination, there is one further written assignment, to be selected from the following options:
  • Lab Report (using dialogues from Philosophy and the Young Child as examples, first, conduct a field-research project involving philosophical questioning and young children; second, present the results of your project in the form of a case study).
  • Course Dictionary (first, identify thirty key philosophical terms or phrases--words from whose acquaintance/meaning other students might profit; next, define each term or phrase in a manner which directs insight toward an understanding of a philosophical issue or problem).
  • Annotated Bibliography (locate twenty-five books dealing with one or another of the course topics; read each thoroughly enough to provide a two-hundred-word annotation on its contents).
  • Thematic Analysis (using a conceptual coordinate system with at least seven orthogonal axes around the origin, construct an interpretive case study of an important philosophical issue as it developed over at least one historical period).

All students are expected to attend all class periods. While reasonable pleas for exemption from the attendance requirement will be duly considered, a 'reasonable plea' should ordinarily be documented by a physician, team coach, faculty advisor, or a dean. Unexcused absences exceeding six (6) class meetings may result in a grade-penalty.

Students who fail to hand in an exercise AND who satisfy the conditions for exemption from the attendance requirement (specified above), are entitled to receive a MAKE-UP exercise. Make-ups will be provided at the earliest mutual convenience of both student and instructor. Students who fail to hand in an exercise BUT who DO NOT satisfy the conditions for exemption from the attendance requirement, will receive NULL CREDIT for that exercise or examination.

The exercises and final exam, as well as the philosophy project, will receive numerical scores intended to reflect your performance levels on an absolute scale (measured against your instructor's expectations). Each assignment will also receive a letter grade indexed according to the (relative) class mean. Final grades sent to the registrar are based on cumulative average performance: specifically, the overall class average is set to the current University mean GPA, with letter grades adjusted to yield this mean. (Note: the purpose of this grading policy is to avoid grade-inflation WITHOUT penalizing students arbitrarily.)

Schedule of Exercises and Exams

Exercise #1Puzzlement301515
Exercise #2Conceptual Play301530
Exercise #3Reasoning301545
Exercise #4Philosophy Paper603075
ExaminationComprehensive Final5025100

Philosophical Essays
The exercises and final examination in this course will comprise some short-answer and some essay writing; the philosophy project will likewise involve the exercise of your writing skills. In each instance, you will be asked to reflect on a prominent course-topic and to provide some indication as to how thoroughly you understand that topic; your writing will, however, indicate little or no actual understanding if you restrict your exposition simply to the recapitulation of reading and/or lecture material. When assessing written work, your instructor will generally be looking for evidence of your ability to carry a reading assignment or class discussion beyond its initial presentation (rule of thumb: you may be said to understand something when you know what to say next). Accordingly, if your response to an essay question or paper assignment consists mainly of verbatim notes, you can expect at best the equivalent of a C-grade on that item.

Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability that may require assistance or accommodation, or you have questions related to any accommodations for testing, note takers, readers, etc., please speak with your instructor as soon as possible. Students may also contact the Office of Disabled Students Services (898-2783) with questions about such services (policy statement prepared by Docia Rudley, Department of Accounting).

Portrait of Leonardo