Phil 102A F18: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 102A: Knowledge and Reality

Fall 2018

CRN 90497    TR 9:35-11:00    Location: SB-212


Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: MTWR 9:00-9:30 and 12:30-1:00; Tuesday 5:00-6:00
Office: SB 311-H
Phone: 619-388-2294

Course Description: This course is an introductory study of the aims, methods, types and problems of philosophy and philosophical inquiry. Emphasis is placed on the nature of reality and knowledge. Materials for this survey of philosophy may draw from classical and contemporary thinkers. Students are encouraged to articulate, analyze, and evaluate their own beliefs/positions in the context of meaningful philosophical inquiry. This course is intended for anyone concerned with human existence and humanity's place in the universe. Associate Degree Credit & transfer to CSU. CSU General Education. IGETC. UC Transfer Course List. 

Course Objectives: Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  1. Describe the aims, methods, issues and problems associated with philosophy, and distinguish philosophy from other areas of inquiry. 
  2. Identify, define, and/or describe the philosophical terminology commonly used to classify positions associated with theories of reality and knowledge. 
  3. Analyze, compare, and contrast basic concepts, principles, and theories related to reality and knowledge. 
  4. Critically evaluate the arguments for theoretical positions related to knowledge and reality. 
  5. Trace the theoretical and practical consequences of concepts, principles, and theories related to knowledge and reality.
  6. Critically evaluate their own beliefs in light of philosophical investigation into theories regarding the nature of knowledge and reality.

Course Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of the course the student will be able to: 

  1. Think critically in reading, writing, and/or speaking about the aims, methods, types, and problems of philosophy and philosophical inquiry at an introductory level, with an emphasis on the nature of reality and knowledge, thereby identifying problems, theses, arguments, evidence and conclusions.
  2. Write or speak about the aims, methods, types, and problems of philosophy and philosophical inquiry at an introductory level, with an emphasis on the nature of reality and knowledge, thereby addressing problems, formulating theses, making arguments, analyzing and weighing evidence, and deriving conclusions.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to analyze one’s own beliefs/positions in the context of meaningful philosophical inquiry.

Requisites and Advisories: Advisory: ENGL 101 with a grade of "C" or better, or equivalent or Assessment Skill Level R6/W6; or ENGL 105 with a grade of "C" or better, or equivalent or Assessment Skill Level R6/W6.

Textbooks: There is one text for this course:

  • The World of Philosophy: An Introductory Reader. Steven M. Cahn Ed. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780190233396. An e-version of the book is available and is an acceptable option. 

Reading assignments can be found below on the schedule.

Schedule: (topics and important dates included): Homework will be due daily and assignments will be announced in class. Do not be concerned if we fall ahead or behind on this schedule. The most important goal is that everyone understand the concepts and problems. This schedule is subject to change. All changes will be announced in class and posted on the course website. Unless otherwise noted, all readings come from the above text.

Week 1: Introduction

Tuesday, August 21: Introduction 

Thursday, August 23: Plato, "The Defence of Socrates" (pp. 12-32).
Homework Due: What is Socrates story about the Oracle at Delphi? What conclusions does he draw from this story?

Week 2: Epistemology

August 28: Rene Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy" (pp. 58-61)

August 30: George Berkeley, "A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge" (pp. 61-68).
Homework Due: In the reading Descartes considers three increasingly radical forms of doubt. What are these three forms? For each form, what beliefs are called into question and which beliefs survive that form of doubt.

Week 3: Epistemology

September 4: Berkeley Continued
Homework Due: What does Berkeley mean by his claim that esse is percipi

September 6: David Hume, "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (pp. 69-76)

Week 4: Epistemology

September 11: Hume Continued
Homework Due: Hume claims that all ideas are derived from some impression or set of impressions. What are the two arguments he gives for this claim?

September 13: A.J. Ayer, "What is Knowledge?" (pp. 76-78); Edmund L. Gettier, "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" (pp. 78-79).
Homework Due: Explain the counter example provided by Gettier. Try to come up with your own counterexample that gets at the same point as Gettier's. 

Week 5: Epistemology    

September 18: Watch Film in Class 12 Angry Men
Extra Credit: Read one of the other two articles in the chapter on epistemology in the textbook. Briefly summarize it. What do you think of the position articulated in that article? 

September 20: Continue and Discuss Film

Week 6: Exam 1

September 25: Review for Exam

September 27: Exam 1

Week 7: Metaphysics - Mind and Body    

October 2: Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy" (pp. 88-93)

October 4: Alan Turing, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" online link (PDF); John Searle, "Do Computers Think?" (pp. 110-112)
Homework Due: What is a Turing Test? Do you think this is a good test of intelligence? Why or why not?

Week 8: Metaphysics - Mind and Body

October 9: Paul M. Churchland, "The Mind-Body Problem" (pp. 97-107).
Homework Due: How does Searle's Chinese Room Argument respond to Turing? What do you think of this response? 

October 11: Churchland Continued

Week 9: Metaphysics - The Self   

October 16: Thomas Nagel, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?" (pp. 107-110)
Homework Due: How does Nagel respond to and refute reductionism. 

October 18: Joe Kuperman, "Hinduism and the Self" (pp. 116-122); Thomas P. Kasulis, "The Buddhist Conception of the Self" (pp. 122-127).
Homework Due: What are two major similarities and two major differences between the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of the self. 

Week 10: Metaphysics

October 23: Watch Film in Class, Film TBD

October 25: Continue and Discuss Film

Week 11: Exam 2

October 30: Review for Exam

November 1:  Exam 2

Week 12: Free Will

November 6: Thomas Nagel, "Free Will" (pp. 131-136); W.T. Stace, "Free Will and Determinism" (pp. 136-138)

November 8: Continue Discussion
Homework Due: How does Stace argue for the compatibility of free will and determinism? 

Week 13: Free Will

November 13: Steven M. Cahn "Freedom or Determinism" (pp. 138-146)

November 15: Harry Frankfurt, "The Principle of Alternative Possibilities" (pp. 147-148)
Homework Due: Bring a thesis statement for your paper to class. 

Week 14: Thanksgiving!!

November 20: NO CLASS!!


Week 15: God

November 27: Anselm and Guanilo "The Ontological Argument" (pp. 150-153); Thomas Aquinas, "The Five Ways" (pp. 153-155)

November 29: In-class peer-editing. 
Homework Due: Bring two copies of a draft of your paper to class.

Week 16: The Problem of Evil

December 4: Ernest Nagel, "Does God Exist?" (pp. 158-163)

December 6: Richard Swinburne, "Why God Allows Evil" (pp. 163-172); Paper Due

Week 17: Final

December 11: Review for Final

December 13: Final Exam

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

  • 100 points: Exam 1
  • 100 points: Exam 2
  • 100 points: Final Exam
  • 50 points: Final Paper. Though only worth 10% of your grade in the course, failure to complete this assignment or the associated pre-writing will result in an F on the assignment. More information on this assignment will be provided later in the semester.
  • 50 points: Homework. This is due at the start of the class for which it is assigned. Late assignments will not be accepted.
  • 100 points: Pop Quizzes. These will be given at the start of class and will cover the material from previous classes. They cannot be made-up if missed. 

Grade Scale:

    ≥ 450 = A
    ≥ 400 = B
    ≥ 350 = C
    ≥ 300 = D
    < 300 = F

Student Responsibility to Drop/Withdraw
It is the student’s responsibility to drop all classes in which he/she is no longer attending. It is the instructor’s discretion to withdraw a student after the add/drop deadline (August 31) due to excessive absences. Students who remain enrolled in a class beyond the withdrawal deadline, as stated in the class schedule (October 26), will receive an evaluative letter grade in the class.

Attendance: During the first two weeks of class, students will be dropped for any 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: Mesa 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 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 academic accommodations should discuss options with their professors during the first two weeks of class. You should also contact DSPS. DSPS can be found at or they can be contacted by phone at 619-388-2780.

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 and all the readings. The homework will be collected every time, and spot-checked, and the readings will help you understand the course material.
  3. Be prepared to spend time outside of class working on class material, doing readings, homework, preparing for quizzes and exams, etc.
  4. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  5. 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!
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Ian Duckles,
Oct 2, 2018, 10:00 PM