Introduction to Philosophy

Spring 2017

Tuesdays and Thursdays

Dr. Andreas Keller

office hours Tuesdays 5-6pm room 6/334B


             COURSE DESCRIPTION: The general aim of this course is to serve as an introduction to central philosophical problems and methods of philosophical argumentation and analysis. We will consider three philosophical questions in detail.

             READING: All of the readings/materials for this course will be available through the course website


                          - a youtube channel called Wireless Philosophy

                          - podcasts called

                          - online: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

             COURSE REQUIREMENTS: There will be one in-class exam on 4/6. In addition, you will write two essays. In the first essay, you will summarize a reading. In the second essay, you will develop and defend your own philosophical thesis by giving arguments and responding to objections.

             GRADING: First essay 25%; Second essay 35%; Exam 25%; Attendance and Participation 15%

             LATE ASSIGNMENT POLICY: Late papers will only be accepted in cases of emergency. Arrangements must be made with me at least 48 hours in advance.

             ATTENDANCE: Regular attendance is required. You will be granted up to three excused absences throughout the term. An excused absence is an absence that you tell me about via email before or within 24 hours after the session. If you need more than three excused absences, come talk to me. Unexcused absences and late arrival to class will affect your grade significantly. More than three unexcused absences will result in failing the class.

             PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism and other forms of cheating will be subject to penalties in conformity with the College’s policy on Academic Integrity. (

             LEARNING COURSE OBJECTIVES: By the end of this course you should: (1) Be able to read philosophy; that is, to identify the thesis of a piece of philosophical writing and the arguments or evidence adduced in support of that thesis. (2) Be able to write philosophy; that is, to present a claim in clear terms and to defend it in a logically coherent manner. (3) Be able to reconstruct and debate some foundational issues in the Western philosophical tradition.

             As part of the College’s General Education Curriculum, this course is designed to satisfy the requirements for a Logical-Philosophical Perspective course. Students successfully completing this course will develop the following proficiencies: will have had multiple experiences in communicating ideas in writing and speaking by completing writing assignments, will have had experiences that emphasize analytic and/or philosophical reasoning to critically examine fundamental questions of ethics, justice and epistemology, and will have had multiple experiences in finding information and evaluating the reliability of this information.


The Basics and some examples of philosophy

Tue 1/31           Session 1: Introduction: syllabus, introductions, course requirements

Thu 2/2             Session 2: Introduction: What is philosophy? Why study philosophy?

Tue 2/7             Session 3: Doing philosophy: arguments

Thu 2/9 snowday!!!

Thu 2/14           Session 4: Doing philosophy: fallacies

Tue 2/16           Session 5: Doing philosophy: cognitive biases

Thu 2/21          Session 6: Is the actual world entirely physical?

                           required reading: Frank Jackson What Mary Didn't Know (excerpt) (3 pages)

Tue 2/23           Session 7: Does God exist?

                          required reading: St. Thomas Aquinas The Five Ways (5 pages)



Tue 2/28           Session 9: Descartes I

                           required reading: Descartes Meditation I (3 pages)

                           The topic of the first essay, about "Kidney for Sale?" is announced

Thu 3/2             Session 10: Descartes II

                           required reading: Descartes Meditation II (5 pages)

Tue 3/7             Session 11: Plato

                           required reading: Plato Republic (excerpt) (7 pages)

Thu 3/9             Session 12: David Hume

                           required reading: Hume Of the Standard of Taste (excerpt) (13 pages)

   questions about the first essay will be answered

Tue 3/14           Session 13: John Locke

                           required reading: Locke An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (excerpt) (4                                pages)

Thu 3/16          Session 14: Immanuel Kant

                           required reading: Kant Critique of Pure Reason (excerpt) (4 pages)

                           First Essay is due (bring it to class or email it to me before class)

   example of a first essay that got an A


Are the consequences of an action what determines whether it is right or wrong?

Tue 3/21           Session 15: Introduction to Utilitarianism

                           required watching on youtube:

                           PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1 (5 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1 (6 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1 (3 min)

Thu 3/23          Session 16: The Greatest Happiness Principle

                           required reading: Stuart Mill Utilitarianism (excerpt) (6 pages)

Tue 3/28           Session 17: Applied Utilitarian Ethics

                           required reading: Peter Singer Famine, Affluence, and Morality (15 pages)

Thu 3/30          Session 18: What matters to us most?

                           required reading: Robert Nozick The Experience Machine (2 pages)


Writing workshop

Tue 4/4             Session 19: Writing a philosophy paper

                           recommended reading: Jim Pryor on Writing Philosophy (10 pages)

                           Topics for Second Essay are announced


Thu 4/6             Session 20: In class exam HERE IS THE MATERIAL TO STUDY FOR THE EXAM

Tue 4/11           SPRING BREAK!!!!

Thu 4/13          SPRING BREAK!!!!

Tue 4/18           MORE SPRING BREAK!!!!


What are the limits of what the state/government should do?

Thu 4/20          no class (Monday schedule)

Tue 4/25           Session 21: The Limits of Majority Rule

                           required reading: Stuart Mill On Liberty (excerpt) (6 pages)

Thu 4/27          Session 22: Distributive Justice

                           required reading: Robert Nozick Anarchy, State and Utopia (excerpt) (15 pages)

Tue 5/2             Session 23: Government and Marriage

                           required watching on youtube:

                           PHILOSOPHY - Political: Government and Marriage (Government's Role) (6 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Political: Government and Marriage (Minimal Marriage) (6 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Political: Government and Marriage (Friends with Legal Benefits) (6 min)


Who am I?

Thu 5/4             Session 24: Introduction to Personal Identity 1

                           required watching on youtube:

                           PHILOSOPHY - Mind: Personal Identity (The Narrative Self) (9 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Mind: Personal Identity (The Essential Moral Self) (5 min)

                           PHILOSOPHY - Mind: Personal Identity (The True Self) (5 min)

Tue 5/9             Session 25: Introduction to Personal Identity 2

                           required listening on philosophy bites:

                           Christopher Shields on Personal Identity (22 min)

Thu 5/11          Session 26: Am I my Body or my Brain?

                           required reading: John Perry: The Third Night (7 pages)

Tue 5/16           Session 27: The Narrative Self

                           required reading: Daniel Dennett: The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity (9                                    pages)


The end

Thu 5/18          Session 28: Review; Questions; Open discussion

Fri 5/19 Session 29: Student presentations

                           Second Essay is due