Phil 205 S17: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 205: Critical Thinking and Writing in Philosophy

Spring 2017

CRN 60936 F 9:30-12:45 PM Location: SB-212

Instructor Information  

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

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. This course is designed for students who want to hone their writing and critical thinking skills in Philosophy.

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

  1. Identify assumptions and differentiate between beliefs, truth, validity and inductive strength.
  2. Distinguish between deductive and inductive reasoning.
  3. Critically evaluate arguments and differentiate between non fallacious and fallacious reasoning.
  4. Read critically and conduct research, using the results to effectively fulfill the course assignments.
  5. Develop strong arguments based on sound reasoning.
  6. Compose clear, carefully-reasoned expository and argumentative prose dealing with complex/sophisticated philosophical materials.
Course Learning Outcomes: 
  1. Critical Thinking: Think critically in reading, writing, and/or speaking about various areas of human experience and aspiration (metaphysical, cosmological, scientific, political, ethical, aesthetic, and religious), thereby identifying problems, theses, arguments, evidence and conclusions.
  2. Communication: Write or speak about various areas of human experience and aspiration (metaphysical, cosmological, scientific, political, ethical, aesthetic, and religious), thereby addressing problems, formulating theses, making arguments, analyzing and weighing evidence, and deriving conclusions.

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

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 16th Edition. Ed. Gregory E. Kaebnick, McGraw-Hill, 2016.
ISBN: 9781259374036

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. Students should check the course website (this one) regularly. 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

Friday, February 3: Introduction, Reading Philosophy (WP Chapter 1)

Week 2

February 10: Arguments and Fallacies (WP Chapters 2 and 5)
Homework Due: Read and Summarize the essay by Tom Koch, "The Challenge of Terri Schiavo: Lessons for Bioethics" (pp. 36-38).

Week 3

February 17: NO CLASS!

Week 4

February 24: Arguments and Fallacies Continued
Homework Due: 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 30-35). 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 5

March 3: Review for Exam, Exam 1
Homework Due: 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 6

March 10: Writing Papers and Defending a Thesis in an Argumentative Essay (WP Chapters 3 and 4)First Short Paper Due
Homework Due: Pick an op/ed for Essay #2, and bring a copy to class. 

Week 7

March 17: Abortion, Read the Chapter on Abortion 3.1, pp. 69-83. Read the summary of Roe v. Wade 
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #2.

Week 8

March 24: Abortion Continued, Read Judith Jarvis Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"; Second Short Paper Due; Pick a topic for Essay #3.

Week 9


Week 10
April 7: Medical Enhancement, Read Chapter 5.1, pp. 137-153.
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #3.

Week 11
April 14: Medical Enhancement Continued; 
Watch and Discuss Film in Class; Third Short Paper Due

Week 12
April 21: In-Class Peer Editing. 
Homework Due: Bring three copies of a draft of Essay 4 to class. 

Week 13
April 28:
  Artificial Life, Read Chapter 5.5, pp. 197-215; Fourth Short Paper Due

Week 14

May 5: The Organ Trade, Read Chapter 6.5, pp. 259-269.

Week 15
May 12: In class Peer-Editing.
Homework Due: Bring three copies of a draft of your Final Paper to class

Week 16
May 19: Presentation of Final Paper; Long Research Paper Due

Week 17
26: 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 of varying 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 cannot 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 on the day they are due. 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/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 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: 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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