PHIL & 101 Syllabus
Instructor: W. Russ Payne
Phone: (425) 564-2079
Office location: R 230 M
Course location: C165
Course time: 12:30 – 1:20 daily
Item no: 1807 (section C)
Office Hours: 11:30 – 12:20 Monday – Thursday
Philosophy department’s web site: http://bellevuecollege.edu/philosophy/
The range of questions that philosophers investigate is perhaps as diverse as can be found in the empirical sciences. However, a handful of philosophical issues can provide useful reference points for appreciating a broad range of more specific issues. The author of our text, Elliot Sober takes up such a handful. He has selected problems and topics that give a nice overview of philosophy as a field of inquiry and are accessible and appealing to newcomers. Our text, Core Questions in Philosophy covers topics in the philosophy of religion, the theory of knowledge, the philosophy of mind and ethics. We will begin with a brief introduction to logic and critical thinking. While philosophical arguments over the existence of God fail to ultimately settle matters of faith, they do reveal many interesting things about possibility and necessity, probability and the nature of science. In lectures on the theory of knowledge we will consider the nature of knowledge and what is takes for our beliefs to be justified. The Philosophy of mind begins with the question of what the mind is and progresses to questions about the nature of mental states like beliefs, desires, perceptions, hopes and fears. Philosophers of mind are now among the major contributors to a new science of the mind (along with psychologist, neurophysiologists and information scientists). Ethics is concerned with morality, good character and social justice. In this text we will address the nature of morality generally, some theories of right action and Aristotle’s work on the nature of the good life. If time allows, we will also look at some theories of social justice from other sources.
Occasional lecture notes, review questions and topics for discussion or writing will be posted on my website as we proceed.
In case you are considering majoring in philosophy, you should be prepared to answer you parents and friends when they ask what you plan to do with a philosophy degree. Tell them you plan to live well and make a living. Tell them that philosophy majors earn more than any other arts and humanities major and more than most social science majors (the exceptions being the dark arts of economics and political science.)
Of course, you might find philosophy enjoyable even if you are already anxious to go into Management Information Systems or Aerospace Engineering.
The official outcomes for this course are as follows:
Now I will try to relate my deep reservations about this sort of corporate style bureaucratic nonsense. People come in all kinds of different. What you get out of studying philosophy depends as much on who you are and how you’ve experienced the world so far as anything I or any other philosopher can tell you. Philosophy provides rich intellectual (and emotional and spiritual) nourishment. But to commit to specific outcomes about what you will be or be able to do at the end of this course is analogous to a gardener saying plant here and you’ll get a nice zucchini. But maybe you are a rose, not a zucchini.
According to Socrates, the point of doing philosophy is the leading of the examined life. But the examined life is not a bit of knowledge or a specific skill or ability that can be captured in any sort of course outcome. Leading the examined life does involve applying one’s capacity for reason to better understanding one’s own nature as a human being and the nature of the world. But given our unique backgrounds, talents and limitations, there is no saying just what route your examined life will take or what perspectives it will open up for you. The real outcomes for studying philosophy can only be identified after the fact. For me to specify the outcomes for your study of philosophy up front would amount to stating the moral of your story without having read it (much less lived it). One shudders at the arrogance of it.
Though Socrates was among the founders of philosophy as an academic discipline (and I’m not so sure he’d be happy about that) this hardly gives him the final say about the point of doing philosophy. My motivation for doing philosophy has never been quite so noble as attaining enlightened self-awareness or acquiring wisdom. I’ve simply found the problems of philosophy to be amusing and absorbing. And this is the outcome I’d most sincerely wish for you. Perhaps, just as the Buddhist cannot transcend his own appetites and desires simply by desiring such enlightenment, the self-referential (narcissistic?) aims of attaining wisdom and enlightened self-awareness can only be attained in some such indirect way. Or, perhaps not. In any case, it is a blessing to be amused and absorbed by interesting ideas. A blessing I look forward to sharing with you if you are willing.
How Outcomes will be met
A good deal of reading, some writing and lots of conversation
Your grade in this course will be determined by your performance a few essay tests plus a few short at home writing assignments, and participation in class. The tests will typically consist of written answers of four or five questions. Each answer will be graded on a 10 point scale with 9 or 10 point scores representing the A to A- range, 8 point scores representing B work, 7 point scores representing C work and so forth. Take home writing assignments will be similarly scored. So at any point in the course, you should be able to roughly figure your grade based on written work. In class participation will include frequent in class five-minute written answers to comprehension question on the assigned reading. These will be worth up to 3 points each. In addition to taking part in class discussions, you grade can be helped by e-mail dialogues, and office hours conversations that provide me with further evidence of philosophical scholarship.
Absences in excess of 3 may adversely affect your grade. Well-intentioned contributions in class can help you significantly. Inappropriate or disrespectful behavior may adversely affect your grade in the course. You should consult the BC course catalog for information on grading standards at this institution. http://bellevuecollege.edu/about/publications/catalog/
Books and Materials Required
Core Questions in Philosophy, Elliot Sober (Pearson, Prentice Hall). This text is currently in its 5th edition. You may use older editions.
Additional course materials will be posted on my website at http://facweb.bcc.ctc.edu/wpayne/
Classroom Learning Atmosphere
Maintaining a good learning environment will be your responsibility as well as mine. Philosophy is best learned through actively engaging in discussion of the issues. You may have strong feelings about some of the issues we will discuss. This is fine and it will present no problem so long as we all make respect for each other a guiding principle of our inquiry. While the experience will be new to many of you, talking about the existence of God or the nature of morality with people that disagree with you can actually be fun. Keep in mind that what matters most in philosophy is that we do a good job at evaluating the reasons for and against the views we consider. And we can do a good job at this quite independent of our feelings about those views. That we all end up agreeing is not essential to a fruitful philosophical dialogue. That we are amicable and gracious towards one another is.
I take a dim view of cheating and plagiarism. Write your own stuff. I have a duty to report cheating, plagiarism and other conduct that is destructive to the course to administration and student services. I would appreciate not having to act on that duty.
Affirmation of Inclusion
We value our
different backgrounds at
You should also the Arts and Humanities Expectations posted here: http://bellevuecollege.edu/artshum/policy.html
Information about Bellevue Colleges copyright guidelines can be found at: http://bellevuecollege.edu/lmc/links/copyright.html
A good resource for Plagiarism is the Writing Lab: http://bellevuecollege.edu/writinglab/Plagiarism.html
stealing and plagiarizing (using the ideas or words of another as one’s own
without crediting the source) and inappropriate/disruptive classroom behavior
are violations of the Student Code of Conduct at
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Final Exam Schedule
The Bellevue College Academic Calendar is separated into two calendars. They provide information about holidays, closures and important enrollment dates such as the finals schedule.
· Enrollment Calendar - http://bellevuecollege.edu/enrollment/calendar/deadlines/. On this calendar you will find admissions and registration dates and important dates for withdrawing and receiving tuition refunds.
College Calendar - http://bellevuecollege.edu/enrollment/calendar/holidays/0910.asp. This calendar gives you the year at a glance and includes college holidays, scheduled closures, quarter end and start dates, and final exam dates.