Last Offered: SPRING 1994

Syllabus Index:

Course Objectives Texts Course Division Assignments Attendance
Make-Up Exams Grade Repair Option Grades Philosophical Essays Map of the Ancient World


The problems treated in this course all arise from standard philosophical attempts at questioning human nature and experience. While the discipline of philosophy does encompass specialized agendas and many complex technical issues, the sorts of questions we will address are ones to which most of us have, at one time or another, evolved some answers, however rudimentary.


   The following texts are required:
   --Matthews, Gareth B. Philosophy and the Young Child. Harvard University 
     Press, 1980.
   --Stevenson, Leslie. Seven Theories of Human Nature, Second Edition. 
     Oxford University Press, 1987.
The following texts are recommended: --Audi, Robert. Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates. American Philosophical Association, 1982. --Biffle, Christopher. A Guided Tour of René Descartes' MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY. Mayfield Publishing, 1989. --Palmer, Donald. Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter, Second Edition. Mayfield Publishing, 1994. --Seech, Zachary. Writing Philosophy Papers. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993.


After a brief overview of the main branches of contemporary philosophical practice, readings, lectures, exercises, and discussions will pursue the following topic areas:



For the most part, reading assignments will be made on a weekly basis. 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. Class format will follow but will not always overlap the readings, so it is important that you keep up with the designated material.


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 EITHER four (4) class meetings on the TR schedule OR six (6) class meetings on the MWF schedule may result in a grade-penalty.


Students who miss an examination or 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 examination or exercise. Make-ups will be provided at the earliest mutual convenience of both student and instructor. Students who miss an examination or 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. Students falling into this category may, HOWEVER, take advantage of the GRADE REPAIR OPTION specified below.


Any student who wishes to improve what he or she takes to be an unsatisfactorily low grade may submit (in lieu of the material for which that grade was received) a FULLY COMPLETED copy of the programmed text, A Guided Tour of René Descartes' MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY (see "Recommended Texts" above). If the grade assigned this additional work proves more satisfactory, the new grade will replace the old.

NOTA BENE: the following conditions will apply to the use of this option in all cases:

(a) use of the option must be approved by your instructor prior to your submitting the text;
(b) texts must be submitted on or before the due-date assigned by your instructor at the time you secure option-approval;
(c) the option may be used only ONCE per semester;
(d) the option does NOT apply to the FINAL examination;
(e) all copies of texts submitted for a grade will be retained by your instructor.


Both exercises and exams will receive numerical scores intended to reflect your performance levels on an absolute scale (measured against your instructor's expectations). Each exercise or exam 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.)


Most of the exercises and examinations in this course will comprise some short-answer and some essay writing. In both instances, 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 consists mainly of verbatim notes, you can expect at best the equivalent of a C-grade on that question. If you feel uneasy about writing philosophical essays, you are strongly encouraged to consult Seech’s Writing Philosophy Papers (see "Recommended Texts" above).