Introduction to Philosophy – PHIL BC1001

Barnard (Columbia), Fall 2014

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COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is an introduction to philosophy. Its aim is two-fold:

• to familiarize you with some of the central issues in Western philosophy, with some of the positions philosophers have taken on these issues, and with some of the arguments that have been offered for and against these positions.

• to equip you with critical reasoning skills that will enable you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a given argument and to reason through an issue to decide on your own point of view. These are skills that you can apply well beyond philosophy to any issue that calls for rational assessment.

 

Here is how the structure of the course will look like.

PART I. We begin with a general overview of the subject. We also look at some of the main branches of this field of studies, and their main questions.

PART II. We zoom in on one of' the central areas of philosophy: ethics. We study three classic works of this discipline and one modern work that criticizes it.

 

TEXTBOOKS

1. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, in On Liberty and Utilitarianism (New York: Bantam Books, 1993).

2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by Roger Crisp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

3. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. by Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

4. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Penguin Books, 2006).

I have ordered these texts at Book Culture on 112th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. Further readings and lecture notes will be uploaded on Courseworks.

 

REQUIREMENTS & EVALUATION

i) Midterm Exam 10% of the final grade. The exam takes place on Oct.2nd, 8.40- 9.55 am, Milbank 328.

ii) 1st Paper: 22%; 3 pages (900 words). This paper is due on Oct. 24th at 6:00 pm. You will be able to upload the assignment on Courseworks (under ‘Assignments’ on the left bar). Please make sure that the paper is anonymous: your name is not supposed to appear anywhere in the file.

iii) 2nd Paper: 35%% of the final grade; 4-5 pages (1200-1500 words). This paper is due on Nov. 16 at 6pm.

iv) Final Exam: 33% % of the final grade (Dec. 17, 9-12 noon. The exam cannot be taken at any other time. Please plan accordingly.)

v) Regular attendance to the lectures; unexcused absences may lower your grade up to a 10% of the final grade. If you have a good reason to miss a class, please inform the instructor or a relevant teaching assistant as early as possible.

vi) Participation in lecture is highly encouraged and may improve your grade up to a 10% of the final grade.

All requirements are to be fulfilled in accordance with the Barnard Honor Code (see http://barnard.edu/dos/honorcode).

 

I strongly encourage you to read “Guidelines for Writing a Philosophy Paper” before you begin your first paper: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html

 

COURSE SCHEDULE & WEEKLY READINGS

You can assume I will follow this schedule as it is. Any exceptional changes to the schedule will be announced both in lecture and on Courseworks.

 

PART I: INTRODUCTION TO THE DISCIPLINE AS A WHOLE

 

 

[Wed, Sept. 3] Introduction to the course, and a first take on what philosophy is.

Readings

-  Pryor, Jim, “Guidelines on Reading Philosophy”, available on-line at

http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/reading.html

-  Simon Blackburn, “What Is Philosophy?” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

[Mon, Sept. 8] Logical reasoning

Readings

- Simon Blackburn, “The Elements of Logic” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

Exercises

I have uploaded some basic logic exercises on Courseworks. Solutions will be uploaded a week later. You are strongly encouraged to do these exercises. But there is no need to submit them, and you will not be graded on them. They are, however, a great way to get a first grip on how logical reasoning works, and how philosophers make their reasoning more rigorous. Give them a go!

 

[Wed, Sept. 10] Epistemology (the study of knowledge) & Philosophy of Mind

Readings

-  Plato, “What is Knowledge?” from The Meno [Uploaded on Courseworks]

-  Descartes, René ‘The Sixth Meditation” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

Further Optional Readings

- “Epistemology”, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; available at

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/

[This is an excellent overview of the whole discipline of epistemology. It sets a lot of background, and it is quite thorough. That’s why it’s so long; read what interests you most. Also, some bits of this piece are quite advanced; don’t worry if you don’t get all of it]

-  Gettier, E. “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

-  Nozick, R. “Knowledge” [Uploaded on Courseworks; this is a response to Gettier]

 

[Mon, Sept. 15] Metaphysics & Ethics

Readings

-  Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

-  Plato, “Glaucon’s Challenge” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

Further Optional Readings

-  “Metaphysics”, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

[This is a good overview of the whole discipline of metaphysics. It sets a lot of background, and it is quite thorough. That’s why it’s so long; read what interests you most. Also, some bits of this piece are quite advanced; don’t worry if you don’t get all of it]

-  Quine, W. “Posits and Reality” [Uploaded on Courseworks]

 

PART II. Looking in depth at a core branch of philosophy: ethics

Lectures notes about this part of the course will be distributed in class; they are also available on Courseworks (see “Resources”, and then “Part II”).

 

[Wed, Sept. 17] Aristotle’s ethics (part 1)

Readings

- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Books I and II (pp. 3-36 on the CUP edition)

[Mon, Sept. 22 & Wed, Sept. 24] Aristotle’s ethics (part 2)

Readings

- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book III sections 1-9, Book VI sections 12-13, Book VII sections 1-10 (pp. 37-54, 115-118, 119-136 on the CUP edition)

[Mon, Sept. 29 & Wed, Oct.1] Aristotle’s ethics (part 3)

Readings

- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII sections 11-14, Book X sections 1 -8 (pp. 136-142, 183-199 on the CUP edition)

 

[Mon, Oct. 6] Midterm Exam (usual classroom, usual time)

 

[Wed, Oct. 9] Mill’s ethics (part 1)

Readings

- Mill, Utilitarianism, chapter 2 (pp. 159-185)

 

Oct. 10: Essay Question for the first paper is released [Where? On Courseworks and via e-mail]

How about the writing center? Good question! Details here:

-  Deadline for signing up with the writing centre: Oct 10 -  Deadline for submitting your draft at the writing centre: Oct 13 Please sign up/submit drafts via e-mail to the Barnard Writing Centre. This course is officially affiliated with the centre. What this means is that, if you sign up by the deadline given above, the centre guarantees you will get an appointment with a writing fellow, who will give you feedback on your drafts. The feedback is very valuable! Do take advantage of this opportunity! Needless to say, instructor and TAs are also happy to discuss essay outlines during office hours,

 

[Mon, Oct. 13 & Wed, Oct. 15] Mill’s ethics (part 2)

Readings

- Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapters 3-4 (pp. 186-205)

 

[Mon, Oct. 20] Mill’s ethics (part 2 - continued)

Readings

- Mill, Utilitarianism, Chapters 3-4 (pp. 186-205)

 

[Wed Oct. 22] Review, Catch up

 

Oct. 24: FIRST PAPER DUE (at 6 pm; on-line – on Courseworks)

 

[Mon, Oct. 27] Kant’s ethics (part 1)

Readings

- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface & Sec. i (pp. 1-18)
 

[Wed Oct. 29] Kant’s ethics (part 1 - continued)

Set Readings

-  Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface and Sec. i (pp. 1-18).

-  David Velleman’s “Reading Kant’s Groundwork” (on Courseworks).

Optional Readings

- Velleman’s “Formulations of the Categorical Imperative” (optional but helpful; on Courseworks)

 

[Mov, Nov. 3] NO CLASS (Academic Holiday)

 

[Wed, Nov. 5] Kant’s ethics (part 2)

Readings

- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Section ii (pp. 19-34).

 

Nov. 6: Second Essay Title Released! [Where? On Courseworks and via e-mail]

Remember the writing centre is there for you!
-  Deadline for signing up with the writing centre: 10 Nov 

-  Deadline for submitting your draft at the writing centre: 13 Nov

 

[Mon, Nov. 1o] Kant’s ethics (part 2 - continued)

Readings

- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Section ii (pp. 34-50).

 

[Wed, Nov. 12] Review, Catch up

 

[Mon, Nov. 17] Arendt on ethics (part 1)

Readings

- Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, pp. 1-150 (More pages than usual, but very readable ones! Arendt is a great writer)

 

[Wed, Nov. 19] Arendt on ethics (part 1 - continued)

Readings

- Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, pp. 1-150. 

 

Nov. 21: SECOND PAPER DUE (at 6 pm)! [Please submit via Courseworks, in “Assignments” on the left bar.]

 

[Mon, Nov. 24] NO CLASS [Wed, Nov. 26] NO CLASS

 

[Mon, Dec. 2 & Wed, Dec. 3] Arendt on ethics (part 2)

Readings

- Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, pp. 206-298.

 

[Mon, Dec. 8] Last day of our semester – Review

 


Dec. 17: FINAL EXAM 9-12noon Best of luck! (But you will need no luck!)