Phil 205 S14: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 205: Critical Thinking and Writing in Philosophy

Spring 2014

CRN 54924 TH 6:35-9:45 PM Location: H-104

Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: Thursdays from 5:45-6:30 in H-104

Course DescriptionThis critical thinking and writing seminar in Philosophy is designed to enhance the student's critical thinking, writing, and research skills in preparation for upper division academic activity. Issues addressed in this class may involve various areas of human experience and aspiration: metaphysical, cosmological, scientific, political, ethical, aesthetic, and religious. Together with the application of basic principles of deduction and induction, special attention is given to identifying and avoiding fallacies in reasoning, and to techniques and aids to research, reasoning, and writing.

Texts: This course has three required texts. These texts should be brought to class every day. They are:

Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Constitutional Law. Ed. Thomas J. Hickey. Mcgraw-Hill, 2011
ISBN: 9780078050794

A copy of The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Any version is fine. An online version can be found here. A mobile friendly version can be found here.

Writing Philosophy. Lewis Vaughn. Oxford, 2006.
ISBN: 9780195179569

Schedule: This schedule is subject to change. Changes will be announced in class and online on this website. All Reading assignments come from the texts above. The syllabus uses the following abbreviations:

  • TS for Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Constitutional Law
  • WP for Writing Philosophy

Week 1
Thursday, January 30: Introduction, Reading Philosophy (WP Chapter 1)

Homework: Paraphrase Article III of the US Constitution.

Week 2
February 6: Arguments and Fallacies (WP Chapters 2 and 5)

Homework: Read the Introduction to Issue 1 and John Marshall's majority opinion in Marbury v. Madison (TS 2-15). Summarize Marshall's argument in favor of granting the court the power of judicial review. Is this a deductive or inductive argument? Is it valid/strong? Is it sound/cogent? Why? What do you think of the argument?

Week 3

February 13: Arguments and Fallacies Continued

Homework: Take a look at the issues in the Taking Sides Book and pick the top three issues you would like to discuss as a class.

Week 4
February 20: 
Review for Exam, Exam 1

Week 5
February 27: Writing Papers and 
Defending a Thesis in an Argumentative Essay (WP Chapters 3 and 4)

Week 6
March 6: Citing Sources (WP Chapter 6)
First Short Paper Due
Homework: Pick an op/ed for Essay #2, and bring a copy to class. Read John B. Gibson from Eakin v Raub (pp. 16-20), and try to reconstruct how he responds to Marshall's argument in Marbury v Madison.
In particular, what does Gibson think is the point of a written constitution?

Week 7
March 13: Issue 9: Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee a Right to Privacy? (pp. 193-209)
Homework: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #2.

Week 8
March 20: Issue 10: Does a Constitutional Right to Privacy Protect the Right to an Abortion? (pp. 210-237)
 Second Short Paper Due
Homework: Pick a topic for Essay #3.

Week 9
March 27: Issue 18: Does a Law Requiring the Teaching of "Creation Science" in Public Schools Violate the First Amendment? (pp. 429-463)
Homework: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #3. 

Week 10
April 3: Spring Break; NO CLASS!!

Week 11
April 10:  Watch Film Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial; Discuss Film; Third Short Paper Due

Week 12
April 17: 
Issue 20: Does the First Amendment Permit the Government to Censure the Media? (pp. 495-521)

Week 13
April 24:
  Issue 14: Is the Death Penalty an Unconstitutional Punishment for Juvenile Offenders? (pp. 321-344)Fourth Short Paper Due

Week 14
May 1: 
Issue 12: Does the Constitution Protect the Right to Posses a Firearm Unconnected with Service in a Militia? (pp. 268-298)

Week 15
May 8: In class Peer-Editing. Bring three copies of a draft of your Final paper to class.

Week 16
May 15: Presentation of Final Paper; Long Research Paper Due

Week 17
22: Review for Final; Final Exam

: Your grade in the course will be based on your performance on the following assignments:

  • 30% Short Papers: Over the course of the semester you will be assigned FOUR short papers 3-4 pages in length. Each paper will be worth 10% and I will drop the lowest paper.
  • 20% Final Paper: This will be an 8-10 page research paper that will be due at the end of the semester. In addition, you will present your paper to the class.
  • 20% Exams: There will be one midterm exam and a final. Each will be worth 10% of your grade. You can make-up the first exam, but there will be no make-ups for the final exam.
  • 20% Weekly Quizzes: There will be a quiz each day of class. Sometimes these quizzes will cover the material discussed in the previous week, other times they will involve in-class writing. These quizzes will be given at the beginning of class, and can not be made-up if missed. 
  • 10% Homework. There will be regular homework assignments for each class. These are due at the beginning of the class for which they are assigned. I will not accept late homework.
Grade Scale:

        ≥ 90 = A
        ≥ 80 = B
        ≥ 70 = C
        ≥ 60 = D
        < 60 = F

Late Assignments: 
No quizzes can be made up and I will not accept late homework. The essays must be turned in within the first ten minutes of class. Papers turned in after that time but before the end of class will be docked 1/2 a letter grade (an A becomes a B+; a C+ becomes a C-, etc.). After that, papers will be docked two full letter grades (A becomes a C, B+ becomes a D+, etc.) for each week that the paper is late. There will be no exceptions to this policy.

Student Responsibility to Drop/Withdraw: It is the student’s responsibility to officially add, drop, or withdraw from the course stated in the class schedule. Failure to do so can result in a failing grade.

Attendance: During the first two weeks of class, students will be dropped for any unexcused absence. Starting during the third week, students may be dropped for missing two classes. In addition, students who arrive unreasonably late or leave unreasonably early will be marked absent.

Professionalism: It is assumed that students will conduct themselves in a professional manner with a positive attitude. An open mind is one of the most important tools required for success in academia. If a student is negative and feels as is there is nothing of value to be gained by the college experience or this course, he or she will not do well in this course.

Academic Integrity and Conduct: Miramar College students are bound by the Student Code of Conduct, Policy 3100.  In this course, cheating, plagiarism, disruptions of instructional activity, fraud and/or lying will result in, at a minimum, a grade of “F” for the assignment/test with no make up permitted.  Any of these infractions may result in an “F” for the course as well and formal disciplinary action by the Dean of Student Affairs as described in the code (as published in the catalog or online).

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and DSPS. DSPS can be found at or they can be contacted by phone at 619-388-7312.

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TIPS FOR SUCCESS IN THIS COURSE (Thanks to Professor June Yang):
  1. Be optimistic about your ability to learn from the textbook, the instructor, and each other.
  2. Do all homework. It will be collected every time, and spot-checked.
  3. Do all assigned reading.
  4. If you find you fall behind in your understanding, contact the instructor.
  5. Be prepared to spend time outside of class working on class material, doing readings, homework, preparing for quizzes and exams, etc.
  6. Have confidence in your ability to do the work.
  7. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  8. Remember that you are gifted with more education and intelligence than many persons on this planet. If you try, you are sure to get it, or at least most of it!
  9. Remember that we are all here to learn.