Phil 205 S15: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 205: Critical Thinking and Writing in Philosophy

Spring 2015

CRN 97451 TH 6:35-9:45 PM Location: H-104

Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: By Appointment

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 two required texts. These texts should be brought to class every day. They are:

Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Bioethical Issues 15th Edition. Ed. Gregory E. Kaebnick, McGraw-Hill, 2014.
ISBN: 9780078139499

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 on Bioethical Issues
  • WP for Writing Philosophy

Week 1

Thursday, January 29: Introduction, Reading Philosophy (WP Chapter 1)
Homework: Read and Summarize the essay by Tom Koch, "The Challenge of Terri Schiavo: Lessons for Bioethics" (pp. 36-39).

Week 2

February 5: Arguments and Fallacies (WP Chapters 2 and 5)
Homework: Read and Summarize the essay by Jay Wolfson, "A Report to Governor Jeb Bush and the 6th Judicial Circuit in the Matter of Theresa Marie Schiavo" (TS 27-35). Then identify and reconstruct two arguments from the essay. Are the arguments deductive or inductive? Valid/invalid or strong/weak? Sound/Not Sound or Cogent/Not Cogent?

Week 3

February 12: 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 19: Review for Exam, Exam 1

Week 5

February 26: Writing Papers and Defending a Thesis in an Argumentative Essay (WP Chapters 3 and 4)

Week 6

March 5: Read Issue 6, "Should Physicians be Allowed to Assist in Patient Suicide?" (TS 113-133); Citing Sources (WP Chapter 6)First Short Paper DuePick an op/ed for Essay #2, and bring a copy to class. 

Week 7

March 12: Read Issue 13, "Should Performance-Enhancing Drugs Be Banned from Sports?" (TS 267-279); Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #2.

Week 8
March 19: Read Issue 15, "Should Scientists Create Artificial Organisms?" (TS 293-309);
 Second Short Paper Due; Pick a topic for Essay #3.

Homework: Write 1-2 pages on the following question: What qualities or characteristics make an entity worthy of the same moral consideration we give to humans?

Week 9
March 26: Read Issue 7, "Is Abortion Immoral?" (TS 136-156); Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #3. 

Week 10
April 2: Spring Break; NO CLASS!!

Week 11
April 9: Read Issue 16, "Is an Individual mandate to Purchase Health Insurance Fair?" (TS 312-322); Third Short Paper Due

Homework: Pick a topic for essay 4; write a 1-2 page paper articulating and defending your view of moral status.

Week 12
April 16: 
Read Issue 3, "Should Adolescents Be Allowed to Make Their Own Life-and-Death Decisions?" (TS 43-58)

Week 13
April 23:
  Read Issue 20, "Should There Be a Market in Human Organs? (TS 365-378)Fourth Short Paper Due
Homework: Write a 1-2 page paper answering the following question: "If you needed a kidney would you consider purchasing one on the black market? Why or why not?"

Week 14
April 30: 
Read Issue 9, "Should a Pregnant Woman Be Punished for Exposing Her Fetus to Risk?" (TS 172-190)

Week 15
May 7: In class Peer-Editing. Bring three copies of a draft of your Final Paper to class.

Week 16
May 14: Presentation of Final Paper; Long Research Paper Due

Week 17
21: 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.