Phil 104A S17: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 104A: History of Western Philosophy 

Spring 2017

Section 60905    TTH 11:10-12:35    SB-211


Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: MWF 8:30-9:30; TTH 10:00-11:00
Office: SB-311H
Phone: 619-388-2294

Course DescriptionThis course is an introduction to the issues and problems exemplified in the process of meaningful philosophical activity related to the history of western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the close of the Medieval age. Students in this course survey representative theories and philosophical reflections related to the history of early western philosophy. Students are encouraged to engage in independent research, analysis and formulation. This course is intended for students pursuing studies in History and Humanities, and anyone interested in the history of western philosophy.

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

  1. Describe the aims, methods, issues and problems associated with philosophy and philosophical activity from the pre-Socratic origins to the close of the Middle Ages.
  2. Identify, define and/or describe the philosophical terminology or nomenclature commonly used to classify positions, methods/approaches associated with the history of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic origins to the close of the Middle Ages.
  3. Compare and/or explain/contrast basic concepts, principles and theories commonly meaningful to philosophical inquiry in the history of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic origins to the close of the Middle Ages. 
  4. Critically evaluate the arguments related to philosophical activity in their historical context from the pre-Socratic origins through the Medieval period, such as the positions of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas.
  5. Trace the theoretical and practical consequences of concepts, principles and theories in their historical context from the pre-Socratic origins to the close of the Middle Ages.
  6. Critically evaluate their own beliefs in light of the positions of significant thinkers in early western philosophy.

Course Learning Outcomes:

  1. Critical Thinking: 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 history of Western philosophy to the end of the Medieval period, thereby identifying problems, theses, arguments, evidence and conclusions;
  2. Communication: Write or speak about the aims, methods, types, and problems of philosophy and philosophical inquiry at an introductory level, with an emphasis on the history of Western philosophy up to the end of the Medieval period, thereby addressing problems, formulating theses, making arguments, analyzing and weighing evidence, and deriving conclusions;
  3. Self-awareness and Interpersonal Skills: 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 required for this class:

  • Vaughn, Lewis. Living Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780199985500 (An e-book is also available)
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. Students should check tyhe course website (this one) regularly. 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.

Week 1: Introduction

Tuesday, January 31: Introduction, What is Philosophy?

Thursday, February 2: The Pre-Socratics and the Sophists (Chapter 2)

Week 2: The Ancient Greeks

February 7: Pre-Socratics and Sophists Continued

February 9: Pre-Socratics and Sophists Continued
Homework Due: Briefly explain one of Zeno's paradoxes. 

Week 3: Socrates

February 14: Socrates (Chapter 3)
Homework Due: Explain the Socratic Method. 

February 16: Socrates Continued
Homework Due: Try and reconstruct Socrates' argument against Meletus on page 70 in the text. 

Week 4: Plato

February 21: Plato (Chapter 4)

February 23: Plato Continued
Homework Due: Identify and explain two objections to Plato's Theory of Forms. 

Week 5: Aristotle

February 28: Aristotle (Chapter 5)
Homework Due: What is the story of the Ring of Gyges (Page 98)? What would you do if you obtained such a ring? And why? 

March 2: Aristotle Continued
Homework Due: What are Aristotle's Four Causes? Illustrate them with an example. 

Week 6: Exam

March 7: Review for Exam 

March 9: Exam 1

Week 7: Aristotle

March 14: Aristotle Continued

March 16: Aristotle Continued

Week 8: Eastern Thought

March 21: Eastern Thought (Chapter 6)
Homework Due: Come up with a conception of the function of an American citizen. Then, come up with a moral virtue that is appropriate to this function. In articulating your virtue, be sure to explain what emotion or appetite it is concerned with, and spell the vices of excess and deficiency. 

March 23: Eastern Thought


March 28: NO CLASS!!

March 30: NO CLASS!!

Week 10: The Hellenistic Era

April 4: The Hellenistic Era (Chapter 7)

April 6: The Hellenistic Era Continued
Homework Due: What do you think of Cynicism as a philosophical school? Do you think it is workable or provides any value to our philosophical thought? Would you want to spend any time with a Cynic? Why or why not. 

Week 11: The Hellenistic Era

April 11: The Hellenistic Era Continued
Homework Due: Explain one of the modes of Pyrrhonic skepticism (page 175-76). How is this relevant to the broader Pyrrhonic project. 

April 13: The Hellenistic Era Continued;

Week 12: Exam

April 18: Review for Exam

April 20: Exam 2

Week 13: Plotinus

April 25: Introduction of Paper Topic, How to Write Philosophy

April 27:  Plotinus

Week 14: Medieval Philosophy

May 2: Medieval Philosophy (Chapter 8)
Homework Due: What characterizes Medieval philosophy, what makes it different or distinct from the other philosophical traditions we have been studying?

May 4: Medieval Philosophy
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis statement to class.  

Week 15: Medieval Philosophy

May 9: Medieval Philosophy 
Homework Due: Articulate one of the criticisms made of Anselm's Ontological Argument. How might Anselm respond to this criticism. 

May 11: In-class peer editing.
Homework Due: Bring three copies of a draft of your essay to class. Continue Discussion

Week 16: Medieval Philosophy

May 16: Medieval Philosophy 

May 18: Medieval Philosophy  (Final Paper Due)

Week 17: Final

May 23: Review for Final

May 25: 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 and Pre-Writing: 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/WithdrawIt 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 (April 14) due to excessive absences. Students who remain enrolled in a class beyond the published withdrawal deadline, as stated in the class schedule, 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 also 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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