change grading scheme--100 pts per test, w/ 20% weight.  On each test, likewise give % weight for each question--allow grader to work on 10 pt or 100 pt scale

Introduction to Philosophy
Fall, 2002

  1. Course Information 
  2. Course Goals 
  3. Readings 
  4. Course work 
  5. Grading policies 
  6. Academic misconduct 
  7. Reasonable accommodation 

1. Course Information 
  • Course Number: PHIL 1013, Section 2
  • M,W,F, 10:30 - 11:20
  • 128 Dale Hall

  • Instructor
  • Teaching Assistant
    • Matthew Hodge
    • Office: 616 Dale Hall Tower
    • Phone: 325-6324
    • E-mail:
    • Office Hours:  W, 11:30-12:30; R, 1:00-2:00; or by appointment

    2. Course Goals
    Philosophy, like other disciplines in the Humanities, explores some of life's most fundamental questions. What is distinctive about Philosophy is its effort to address these questions through the human capacity to reason: philosophical answers are based on reasoned arguments, which analyze and seek to justify beliefs. Thus, Philosophy is a kind of self-examination, in which you discover what you think, and then reflect on whether your opinions are really worth holding. This is the essence of the life of reason: to look critically at your own ideas.

    During the term you will examine your views on several core philosophical topics: the existence of God, the possibility of knowledge, morality, and the legitimacy of government. Along the way you will: 

    • read philosophical texts, in order to analyze their arguments and evaluate their answers to the questions of the course;
    • see how philosophical concepts can help you understand practical dilemmas; and
    • express your ideas through arguments--both verbal and written--which present your reasons for holding your beliefs.

    3. Readings
    • Robert C. Solomon, The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy, Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace.

    • This is the main text for the course. It discusses the major areas and problems of philosophy and presents summaries of the views of important thinkers. We will use in detail the sections that deal with the questions of the course; the page assignments are listed on the Readings page in this web site. However, I encourage you to read the whole chapters from which these sections come, to gain further background on the topics you will study.

      NOTE: If you buy a new copy of the book it will be the 6th edition, if you buy a used copy it will probably be the 5th edition.  I will give page assignments for both editions.  Be sure to use the correct assignments for your edition.

      If you purchase a used copy of the text book, please see me to make sure the page assignments are correct.

    • Texts by various authors, on the course web site.

    • Throughout the term I will ask you to work through selections from classic texts from the history of Philosophy.
    • Dion Scott-Kakures et al, History of Philosophy (HarperCollins College Outline), New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

    • This is a reference book that presents overviews of the major figures in the history of Western philosophy. You may use it to learn more about the philosophers mentioned in Solomon, and to help you understand the additional course readings.
    • Philosophy sites on the World Wide Web

    • There are many, many web sites that deal with philosophical issues and writers. A good place to start searching for information about Philosophy on the Web is the OU Philosophy Department's home page: This site contains information about the OU Philosophy Department, including announcements of up-coming events--I encourage you to check it regularly. In addition, the Philosophy Department site contains a page on "Philosophy Resources in Cyberspace", which has links to sites on the Internet that deal with Philosophy. If you would like to get help in using the web to learn more about the issues that come up in this class, or about Philosophy generally, please see the instructor or a TA. 

    4. Course work 
    Summary of Assignments
    (click for explanations)
    Assignment Points
    Individual exercises 15
    Unit exams (3 @ 20) 60
    Final exam 25
    Of the various assignments in this course, you are only required to take the final exam.  You may do as much or as little additional work as you choose.  Of course, you must do more than take the final to pass the course--but what and exactly how much you do is up to you. 

    Your grade in this class will be based on the number of points you earn.  You must earn 90 points to get an A, 80 to get a B, 70 to get a C, 60 to get a D; if you earn less than 60 you will get an F.  Your performance on each assignment will determine how many points you earn from it, as explained below. 

    Individual exercises

    Philosophy is an activity you learn by doing. Therefore, this course is organized around exercises designed to help you explore philosophical problems by considering hypothetical situations and analyzing philosophical passages, among other activities. Typically you will do an exercise as homework, usually involving readings, to help you prepare for class. On most days, you will then do another exercise in class ("class work") to help you develop your understanding of the day's topic further. 

    Often you will then work on the problem covered by the exercises with a small discussion group.  During class I will call on groups to make brief presentations about their decisions, and the reasoning behind them. I will assign you to a discussion group in the fourth week of the semester; you will work (and sit) with that group for the rest of the term. 

    All the exercises will be posted on the course web site; you may print them out for your convenience. Click here for further information.  The easiest way to reach the exercises for a given class is through the Schedule--go to the given date and click the appropriate buttons. 

    You will turn your homework exercises in for grading. Grading will be pass/fail--not on the basis of your having gotten the answer right (since in many cases there won't be a "right" answer), but rather on your effort. If you make an honest effort, you will get a credit; if not you will receive a 0 for that exercise. You may work with other students on your homework exercises. If you do, however, you should indicate who you worked with. (See Section 6.) 

    You may submit your homework on paper, or electronically using the forms on the course website.  Your homework will be returned (either the paper copy you turn in, or as an e-mail message if you submit electronically), indicating whether or not you received credit.  You are responsible for saving your returned homework.  You can use it to study for exams, and in the event you believe you have not received credit for the correct number of homeworks you must present copies of what has been returned to you.

    NOTE: if you miss class you may still turn in your homework for that day. It is due by 10:30 AM on the day of the class for which it is assigned. You may turn in homework at the Philosophy Department office (605 Dale Hall Tower), or by e-mail.  Late homework WILL NOT be accepted--except if you register for the course after the first day, in which case you may make-up the homeworks assigned prior to your registration.

    Your grade for your homework exercises will be based on how many credits you earn out of the total number assigned (there are approximately 25 homework exercises over the term).  To allow for occasional absences, I will adjust this number by dropping a few exercises from this total when I calculate your final grade.  You will receive 15 points for your exercises if you have 100% of the (adjusted) number of possible credits, 13.5 points if you have 90%, and so on.

    Unit exams
    The course is divided into five 3-week units (see the Schedule for dates, and the Outline for the topics to be covered in each). At the end of each unit I will offer an in-class exam (see the Schedule for dates).  Each exam will consist of several essay questions on the learning goals for the given unit, and will be worth 20 points. The exams will be closed-book.

    You may take as many of the exams as you would like--all five, four, three, two, one, or none at all.  In calculating your final grade I will use your three highest exam scores.  For example, if you take four, I will drop the lowest score.  If you take fewer than three, you simply forego those points. 

    There will be no make-ups for missed exams.

    Final exam
    The final exam for this course will be held on Wednesday, December 18, at 8:00 AM, in 128 Dale Hall. 

    The final will cover the entire course. It will contain 50 multiple-choice questions about the highpoints of each of the five units. It will be closed-book, but you will be permitted to bring one sheet of notes, which you must turn in with your exam. 

    You will receive points for the final in proportion to the number of questions you get right (100% = 25, 90% = 22.5, etc.).  You must take the final to pass the course.

    5. Grading and other policies 
    Late work. Late work will not be accepted. Exceptions to this and other grading policies will be granted only on the basis of a substantial and demonstrable hardship (e.g. a verified medical, family, or job-related emergency). 

    Religious observances.  It is the policy of the University to excuse the absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required classwork that may fall on religious holidays.  In this course, because no assignment (except the final exam) is specifically required, and because I drop several homework exercises, I anticipate that you will be able to choose which assignments to do in a way that avoids conflicts with your religious observances.  If you find that this is impossible, or have any questions on this matter, please contact me.

    Re-writes. No re-writes of exams will be permitted.  If you do poorly on an exam I encourage you to seek assistance from me or the TA to prepare for the next one. 

    Posting of grades.  In order to keep you informed of your overall performance in the course, after each unit I will post grade information on the Grades page of the course web site.  Early in the term you will choose a secret  id code, in order to keep your grades confidential.  You may inform me that you choose not to have your grades posted. 

    Attendance. Just showing up for class will not, in itself, improve your grade.  If you do attend, I expect you to participate fully in your group discussions and other class activities.  If you are unable to do that, I encourage you to keep up with the work for this course on your own, by using the course web site to review class work and lecture notes.  Note that your active participation in class helps me learn your name, and can be a factor in your final grade (see below). 

    Calculation of final grade. Your final grade will be determined by adding up all the points you earned as explained in Section 4. Your grade for the course will be a straight letter grade, dropping any plus or minus. However, if you are close to the borderline for a higher mark, your grade might be rounded up on the basis of my evaluation of your attendance (see above). 

    Cell phones.  Please turn off cell phones before you come to class.  If you must be available for a call, set your phone to signal you silently, and take the call in the hallway.

    6. Academic misconduct 
    I will rigorously enforce the University's policies on academic misconduct, as set forth in the Student Handbook. In your homework, you must cite all the sources you consult. In closed-book exams, you may not consult any materials while you write, and of course you may not copy from another student.

    However, respect for academic honesty is consistent with discussing the ideas of the course with others. In particular, it is consistent with full participation in group discussions. Honesty simply demands that you acknowledge substantial help you receive from other members of your group--in or out of class--on your own written work. In fact I urge you to discuss the issues of the course outside of class--but you must do your exams on your own. Please ask me if you have any questions about academic honesty in general, or about specific situations that might arise during this course. 

    7. Reasonable accommodation 
    If you have a disability that may prevent you from fully demonstrating your understanding of the material in this course you should contact me personally as soon as possible so we can discuss accommodations necessary to ensure your full participation and to facilitate your educational opportunities.