Phil 104A S19: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 104A: History of Western Philosophy 

Spring 2019

Section 97884    TTH 11:10-12:35    SB-211


Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: MW 11:00-12:00; TTH 10:00-11:00; T 5-6:00pm
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 29: Introduction, What is Philosophy?

Thursday, January 31: The Pre-Socratics and the Sophists (Chapter 2)
Homework Due: Why is Thales considered the first philosopher?

Week 2: The Ancient Greeks

February 5: Pre-Socratics and Sophists Continued
Homework Due: What is Parmenides' main metaphysical position? What is his argument for this position?

February 7: Pre-Socratics and Sophists Continued
Homework Due: Explain one version of Zeno's Paradox. What conclusion does Zeno want us to draw from this paradox? 

Week 3: Socrates

February 12: Socrates (Chapter 3)
Homework Due: What is relativism? What are some of the considerations that support relativism, and what are some problematic implications of relativism? 

February 14: Socrates Continued, please read the Euthyphro (link to a web version)
Homework Due: In the Euthyphro, what are the candidate definitions for piety? 

Week 4: Plato

February 19: Plato (Chapter 4)
Homework Due: Explain Plato's Allegory of the Cave. What conclusions can we draw from this Allegory. 

February 21: Plato Continued
Homework Due: Explain one objection to Plato's Theory of Forms.

Week 5: Aristotle

February 26: Aristotle (Chapter 5)

February 28: Aristotle Continued
Homework Due: What is Plato’s account of Justice? What is Plato’s analysis of the state? How does that relate to this analysis of the soul and justice?

Week 6: Exam

March 5: Review for Exam 

March 7: Exam 1

Week 7: Aristotle

March 12: Aristotle Continued

March 14: Aristotle Continued
Homework Due: What is Aristotle's argument for God. What role does this God or prime mover serve for Aristotle's philosophical system?

Week 8: The Hellenistic Era

March 19: The Hellenistic Era (Chapter 7)

March 21: The Hellenistic Era Continued
Homework Due:
First Philosopher Report Due 


March 26: NO CLASS!!

March 28: NO CLASS!!

Week 10: The Hellenistic Era

April 2: The Hellenistic Era Continued

April 4: The Hellenistic Era Continued
Homework Due: Explain one of the modes of Pyrrhonic Skepticism. How is this relevant to the broader project of Pyrrhonic or Academic Skepticism. 

Week 11: Plotinus

April 9: Plotinus

April 11: Buddhism, Plotinus Continued
Homework Due: Read Section 6.2 on Buddhism in the textbook. 

Week 12: Exam

April 16: Review for Exam


Week 13: Medieval Philosophy

April 23: Exam 2

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

Week 14: Medieval Philosophy

April 30: Medieval Philosophy (Chapter 8)

May 2: Medieval Philosophy
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis statement to class.  

Week 15: Medieval Philosophy

May 7: Medieval Philosophy 

May 9: In-class peer editing. 
Homework Due: Bring three copies of a draft of your essay to class. Second Philosopher Report Due 

Week 16: Medieval Philosophy

May 14: Medieval Philosophy 

May 16: Medieval Philosophy  
Homework Due: Final Paper Due

Week 17: Final

May 21: Review for Final

May 23: Final Exam

Assignments: Your grade in the course will be out of 550 points and will be based on the following assignments:

  • Exam 1: 100 points.
  • Exam 2: 100 points.
  • Final Exam: 100 points.
  • Philosopher Reports: 50 Points. You will write two reports on two different philosophers that we do not discuss in class. Each report is worth 25 points. More information on this assignment can be found on the course web page. You may do one additional report and presentation for 25 points worth of extra credit. 
  • Final Paper and Pre-Writing: 50 points. More information on this assignment will be provided later.
  • Homework and In-Class Exercises: 50 points. Each homework assignment will be worth 2.5 points. These are due at the start of the class for which they are assigned. Late assignments will not be accepted.
  • Pop Quizzes: 100 points. Each quiz will be worth 10 points. These will be given at the start of class and will cover material from the previous class. They cannot be made-up if missed, but I will drop the lowest quiz score.

Grade Scale:

    ≥ 495 points = A
    ≥ 440 points = B
    ≥ 385 points = C
    ≥ 330 points = D
    < 330 points = 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 (February 8) due to excessive absences. Students who remain enrolled in a class beyond the published withdrawal deadline (April 12), 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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