Phil 102A S16 T: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 102A: Knowledge and Reality

Spring 2016

Section 40643    T 6:35-9:45    SB-212


Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: MW 2-3:30; T 5:30-6:30; F 8:30-9:30
Office: SB-311H
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 Objective: Students will gain familiarity with some of the major thinkers and issues in the fields of metaphysics and epistemology.

Student Learning Outcomes: 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.

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, January 26: Introduction, Plato, "The Defence of Socrates" (pp. 12-32).
Homework: In the Descartes reading for next week, Descartes consider three forms or sources of doubt. For each of those three, explain the nature of the doubt, what beliefs that doubt calls into question, and which beliefs survive that form of doubt. 

Week 2: Epistemology

February 2: Rene Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy" (pp. 58-61); George Berkeley, "A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge" (pp. 61-68).
Homework: According to Hume, what is the difference between an idea and an impression (page 70)? What are the two arguments Hume gives for the claim that all ideas must be derived from an impression (pages 70-71)? 

Week 3: Epistemology

February 9: David Hume, "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (pp. 69-76); A.J. Ayer, "What is Knowledge?" (pp. 76-78); Edmund L. Gettier, "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" (pp. 78-79).
Homework: In our text, Uma Narayan discusses a number of ways that an individual might respond to “having to inhabiting two mutually incompatible frameworks that provide differing perspectives on social reality.” Explain them. 

Week 4: Epistemology

February 16: Uma Narayan, "The Project of Feminist Epistemology" (pp. 79-82); Christopher Gowens, "Buddhist Epistemology" (pp. 83-86).

Week 5: Epistemology    

February 23: Watch Film in Class 12 Angry Men, Discuss Film. 

Week 6: Exam 1

March 1: Review for Exam; Exam 1

Week 7: Metaphysics - Mind and Body    

March 8: Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy" (pp. 88-93); Gilbert Ryle, "The Ghost in the Machine" (pp. 93-97); Paul M. Churchland, "The Mind-Body Problem" (pp. 97-107).
Homework: According to Thomas Nagel, how does reflection on what it is like to be a bat relate to the mind-body problem? According to Barbara Montero, what is "the body problem"?

Week 8: Metaphysics - Mind and Body

March 15:  Thomas Nagel, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?" (pp. 107-110); John Searle, "Do Computers Think?" (pp. 110-112); Barbara Montero, "The Body Problem" (pp. 112-116).

Week 9: Metaphysics - The Self   

March 22: Joe Kuperman, "Hinduism and the Self" (pp. 116-122); Thomas P. Kasulis, "The Buddhist Conception of the Self" (pp. 122-127).
Homework: Identify some of the major similarities and differences between the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of the self. Your answer should be 1-2 pages in length.


March 29: NO CLASS!!

Week 11: Metaphysics

April 5: Watch Film in Class, Discuss Film

Week 12: Exam 2

April 12: Review for Exam; Exam 2

Week 13: Free Will

April 19: Thomas Nagel, "Free Will" (pp. 131-136); W.T. Stace, "Free Will and Determinism" (pp. 136-138)

Week 14: Free Will

April 26: Steven M. Cahn "Freedom or Determinism" (pp. 138-146); Harry Frankfurt, "The Principle of Alternative Possibilities" (pp. 147-148); Select a topic for the essay.

Week 15: God

May 3: Anselm and Guanilo "The Ontological Argument" (pp. 150-153); Thomas Aquinas, "The Five Ways" (pp. 153-155); In-class peer-editing. Bring three copies of a draft of your paper to class.

Week 16: The Problem of Evil

May 10: Ernest Nagel, "Does God Exist?" (pp. 158-163); Richard Swinburne, "Why God Allows Evil" (pp. 163-172); Paper Due

Week 17: Final

May 17: Review for Final; Final Exam

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

  • 20% Exam 1
  • 20% Exam 2
  • 20% Final Exam
  • 10% 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 in the course. More information on this assignment will be provided later in the semester.
  • 10% Homework: This is due at the start of the class for which it is assigned. Late assignments will not be accepted.
  • 20% 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:

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

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 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 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 619-388-2780.

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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 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!