Phil 205 S18: Schedule and Syllabus

Philosophy 205: Honors Critical Thinking and Writing in Philosophy

Spring 2018

CRN 65445 F 9:30 AM-12:40 PM Location: SB-212

Instructor Information  

Dr. Ian M. Duckles
Office Hours: MW 11:10-12:10; TTH 10:00-11:00; F 8:30-9:30
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 ObjectivesUpon 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 AdvisoriesPrerequisite: ENGL 101 with a grade of "C" or better, or equivalent or Assessment Skill Level R6/W6. 

Honors: This is an Honors course, so there will be greater expectations from you as a student than in a regular course. In particular, you will be asked to research and present course material to the class. In addition, you will help edit and grade the final research paper for your peers. Finally, you will be expected to attend lectures and events outside of the course and report back on them to me.

Texts: This course has two required texts. These texts should be brought to class every day. They are:

Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases. Lewis Vaughn, ed. Oxford, 2017
ISBN: 9780190250102
There is also an eBook available. 

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 will be updated as the course progresses and student groups select the topics and issues they will present to the class. The syllabus uses the following abbreviations:

  • B for Bioethics
  • WP for Writing Philosophy
Week 1 
Friday, February 2: Introduction, Reading Philosophy (WP Chapter 1) 

Week 2 
February 9: Arguments and Fallacies (WP Chapters 2 and 5)
Homework Due: Read and Summarize James Rachels' essay "Active and Passive Euthanasia" (B pp. 678-681). 

February 16: NO CLASS!!

Week 4
February 23: Arguments and Fallacies Continued, First Short Paper Due
Homework Due: Pick one of the arguments in Rachels' essay. Reconstruct/paraphrase that argument. Identify the type of argument, and evaluate its strength or validity and its cogency or soundness.  

Week 5 
March 2: Review for Exam, Exam 1 
Homework Due: Identify your group and the topic on which your group will lead a class discussion. 

Week 6 
March 9: Writing Papers and Defending a Thesis in an Argumentative Essay (WP Chapters 3 and 4) 
Homework Due: Pick an op/ed for Essay #2, and bring a copy to class.  

Week 7 
March 16: Plagiarism and Proper Citations; Introduction to Ethical Theories and Bioethics (B Chapter 1) 
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #2. 

Week 8
March 23:NO CLASS!! Second Short Paper Due (Email it to me)

March 30: NO CLASS!!
Week 10
April 6: Introduction to Ethical Theories and Bioethics Continued (B Chapter 2)
Homework Due: Pick a topic for Essay #3. 

Week 11 
April 13: Class will start late at 10:15; Student Led Discussion: Truth Telling and Confidentiality (Chapter 4)
Homework Due: Bring a copy of your thesis for Short Essay #3. 

Week 12
April 20: Student Led Discussion: Human Research (Chapter 6); Third Short Paper Due 
Homework Due: Pick a topic for Essay #4 

Week 13 
April 27: Student Led Discussion: Genetic Choices (Chapter 9) 
Homework Due: Bring two copies of a draft of Short Essay #4 for in-class peer-editing

Week 14 
May 4: Student Led Discussion: Dividing Up Health Care Resources (Chapter 11); Fourth Short Paper Due

Week 15 
May 11: Student Led Discussion: Reproductive Technology (Chapter 8)

Week 16 
May 18: Student Led Discussion: Informed Consent (Chapter 5); Response Papers Due

Week 17 
May 25: Presentation of Final Paper; Final Research Paper Due 

Assignments: Your grade in the course will be based on your performance on the following assignments: 
  • Short Papers (350 points): Over the course of the semester you will be assigned FOUR short papers of varying length. The first paper will be worth 50 points. The remaining papers will each be worth 100 points.  
  • Response Papers (100 points): You will need to grade the papers of two of your peers using my grading rubric (25 points each). Then, you will need to write a 1-2 page responses to each of the two essays you graded (25 points each).   
  • Final Paper (200 points): This will be an 8-10 page research paper that will be due at the end of the semester. This essay will incorporate the response papers described above, and you must respond to at least one objection or criticism raised in each of the two response papers. In addition, you will present your paper to the class. 
  • Exam (100 points): There will be one midterm exam. 
  • In-class presentation and leading of class discussion (100 points): You will form a group of 4-5. This group will be responsible for presenting an issue of your choice raised in one of the texts, and then leading a class discussion on that issue. More information on this assignment will be announced later.  
  • Participation (50 points): This includes attendance, participation in pre-writing and peer-review, participation in class discussions, visiting with the professor in office hours.  
  • Attendance and Participation in an Honors events outside the course (50 points): A list of events can be found on the Mesa Honors website here. To get credit, you must come talk to me about the event during my office hours.
  • Attendance at an Academic Lecture (50 points): This can be done at Mesa College, or at any other academic institute. This lecture does not need to be about an issue in Bioethics (though it certainly can be), or a philosophy lecture (though again, it can be). You should clear the lecture with me beforehand. To get credit, you must come talk to me about the lecture during my office hours.  
Grade Scale:
≥ 900 = A
≥ 800 = B
≥ 700 = C
≥ 600 = D
< 600 = F

Late Assignments: 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 (February 9) due to excessive absences. Students who remain enrolled in a class beyond the published withdrawal deadline (April 13) 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 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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