This course's goal is to fine-tune our ability to deliberate over philosophical issues, concentrating on questions concerning human knowledge, the relationship between the body and the mind, free will, morality, life after death, the meaning of life, and the nature of an authentic life. In the end, however, all of these questions will be pursued in an effort to understand the nature of wisdom and philosophy, examining the nature of philosophical deliberations and questioning their role in our everyday lives.
Participation: Participating in our daily class discussions is an important means of understanding the semester's topics. You will be expected to come to each class prepared to participate in our discussions. Any student missing at least four class meetings may be dropped from the course. In addition, you will be expected to behave in a way that is consistent with the college’s Academic Integrity policies, Discrimination policies, Sexual Harassment policies, and Student Conduct policies. In our class, “disruptive behavior” is understood as any behavior that distracts the instructor or any student from the course’s stated educational tasks. This includes, but is not limited to, 1- tardiness, 2- leaving the room during class, 3- any use of a cell phone, 4- eating, 5- “side talking” (i.e., talking to the class or an assigned group about something other than the assigned topic or limiting one’s conversation to an individual or individuals during a class or group discussion), and 6- passing notes or text messaging. Any student violating these policies may be asked to resolve the issue in a mandatory office visit. Any student failing to attend a mandatory office visit or unable to resolve an issue during an office visit, will be suspended from class as defined in the college’s Rules and Regulations.
Special note- Our classroom is for the purpose of learning to think critically. The moment you enter the room you are expected to refrain from any and all distracting behavior. The moment class begins you also are expected to stop using any and all electronic devices unless you have prior approval. Approval is acquired by signing an agreement during an office visit. Any student using an electronic device in the classroom without prior approval will be asked to leave and to resolve the issue in a mandatory office visit. Any student failing to attend a mandatory office visit or unable to resolve an issue during an office visit, will be suspended from class as defined in the college’s Rules and Regulations.
Reading Quizzes: Most weeks will begin with a multiple-choice quiz designed to assess your understanding of the previous week's required reading(s). Each quiz's questions will be based on the previous week's "Recommended Reading Questions," which can be found on our course's online schedule. Successful students should be able to use these concepts, names, themes, and arguments in our class discussions.
Exams: There will be two (2) mid-term exams. Each exam's multiple-choice questions will be based on our previous weeks' "Recommended Reading Questions," which can be found on our course's online schedule. Each exam's essay question will be based on our previous weeks' "Recommended Discussion Questions."
Final Exam: There will be a final exam. The exam's multiple-choice questions will be based on our entire semester's "Recommended Reading Questions," which can be found on our course's online schedule. The exam's essay questions will be based on our entire semester's "Recommended Discussion Questions."
NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED
YOU MUST HAVE PRIOR INSTRUCTOR APPROVAL TO RE-SCHEDULE ANY ASSIGNMENT.
Please begin by buying our course textbook, reviewing our course website, and completing all of the tasks listed under Week #1 on our course schedule.
Each week's required and recommended tasks are listed in our course schedule. Please remember that, in the end, you are responsible for knowing each assignment's due date and completing each assignment promptly.
In addition, click on the following link to review important SRJC dates:
All of our textbooks are at the SRJC bookstore. If you wish to purchase a book online, you are responsible to having the book by the week it is a required reading. No exceptions! You may review our course schedule to confirm when each book will be assigned.
Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?, Oxford University Press
Plato, Last Days of Socrates, Penguin USA
Participation: Any student missing 10% of our semester classes or more may be dropped from the course. However, it is your responsibility to drop the class if you decide not to continue. Any student who fails to do this will earn an ‘F’ or ‘NC’ for the class.
Reading Quizzes: You will earn one point for each correctly answered reading quiz question. Combined, your reading quizzes are worth over 50 points
Mid-Term Exams: The first mid-term exam will be worth 150 points. The second mid-term exam will be worth 300 points. Taken together, the exams will be worth 450 points.
Final Exam: The final exam will be worth 500 points.
YOUR SEMESTER PERCENTAGE SCORE WILL BE DETERMINED BY ADDING UP YOUR POINTS AND DIVIDING THAT NUMBER BY THE NUMBER OF POSSIBLE POINTS. YOUR SEMESTER GRADE WILL BE BASED ON THE FOLLOWING PERCENTAGE SCALE:
Texting during class is an example of disruptive behavior as defined in our course's "Participation Expectations." Any student who is texting during class will be asked to resolve the issue in a mandatory office visit. Any student failing to attend a mandatory office visit or unable to resolve an issue during an office visit, will be suspended from class as defined in the college’s Rules and Regulations.
Reading Quizzes: You reading quizzes officially are worth 50 points toward your semester grade. However, since there will be more than 50 reading quiz questions throughout the semester, and each correctly answered question is worth 1 point, there is an opportunity to earn extra-credit. However, missed reading quizzes may not be taken at a later date.
Replacing All Reading Quiz Scores: If you are not satisfied with your semester reading quiz scores, you may write a short essay due at the end of the semester. In order to complete this assignment you should arrange an office visit with the instructor no later than the end of Week #11. During this 30 minute office visit, we will review your online reading quizzes and identify your essay's subject. No exceptions!
Replacing an Individual Exam Score: There will be an opportunity to replace one mid-term exam grade by completing an essay exam on the same material. In order to complete this assignment you should arrange a meeting with the instructor no later than one week after Mid-Term Exam #2 is graded and returned. During this 30 minute office visit, we will review your exam, identify the essay exam's subject, and designate a time and place to take the essay exam.
Final Exam: Interested students may select to complete a project instead of completing our final exam. While the project must demonstrate your ability to critically analyze a philosophical issue, it is an opportunity to use our course's concepts and skills imaginatively. To complete a Final Exam project, you must arrange multiple office visits with the instructor. The first meeting, during which we will define your project's guidelines, must be completed no later than Week #13. No exceptions!
The course's grading policy is designed to consider improvement and minimize the impact of occasional failure. No other considerations will be used to determine your semester grade. Remember the single most important factor in your grade is your own work. Ultimately only you can change this for the better.
NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED
YOU MUST HAVE PRIOR INSTRUCTOR APPROVAL TO RE-SCHEDULE ANY ASSIGNMENT.
Philosophical discussions, activities, and assignments frequently involve questioning one’s assumptions. The goal of this self-examination is not to persuade you to change your beliefs. Rather, the goal is for each of us to fine-tune our ability to identify, analyze, and assess arguments, no matter how controversial the topic. To promote an environment in which each of us feels comfortable doing this, it will be important to understand, appreciate, and value each other’s academic freedom. Toward this end, both the instructor and students are expected to honor the following policies:
Student Academic Freedom Policy Every student has a right to pursue instruction objectively. This includes, but is not limited to, having instruction which distinguishes between general knowledge and the instructor’s personal opinion, having instruction which acknowledges the existence of plausible opposing opinions, and being evaluated using only the standards noted in this syllabus. In addition, every student has a right to instructional methods which are conducive to his/her academic freedom. While a student’s presuppositions may be questioned by the instructor or other students, and the student may be expected to question his/her presuppositions, this shall be pursued in a manner that is consistent with each student’s freedom: 1. To inquire; 2. To explore difficult and controversial material within official course descriptions; 3. To access any available information relevant to the official course descriptions; 4. To express differing opinions with students, faculty, staff, and administration; 5. To demonstrate, learn, and defend critical thinking skills; 6. To demonstrate, learn, and defend intellectual honesty; 7. To learn in an environment free of intimidation and censorship; and 8. To be graded solely on considerations that are intellectually relevant to the subject matter as articulated in the course’s official course description and described in the course’s syllabus.
Faculty Academic Freedom Policy The instructor has a right to pursue instruction objectively. This includes, but is not limited to, having the freedom to state personal opinion, having the freedom to ignore or identify implausible opposing opinions, and having the freedom to evaluate using solely the standards noted in this syllabus. In addition, the instructor has a right to use instructional methods which are conducive to academic freedom. As such, the instructor not only has a right to question a student’s presuppositions, allow other students to question a student’s presuppositions, or expect the student to question his/her presuppositions; but, so long as instruction is pursued in a manner that is consistent with each student’s academic freedom, the instructor shall be free:
1. To inquire;
2. To present and explore difficult and controversial material that is relevant to the official course descriptions;
3. To present and explore any information that is relevant to the official course descriptions;
4. To express differences of opinion with students, faculty, staff, and administration;
5. To demonstrate, teach, and defend critical thinking skills;
6. To demonstrate, teach, and defend intellectual honesty; and
7. To teach and interact in an environment free of intimidation and censorship.
Frankly, there is no simple formula to a successful completion in this course. In fact, there is no simple account of what it means for this course's learning experience to be successful. "Success" can be measured by your course grade, by how well a student can critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes at the semester's completion, by how well a student still can critically analyze such themes years after the semester's completion, by how much the student's ability to critically analyze such themes has improved during the semester, and by other means.
What all of these reasonable measures have in common is the goal to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes. For this reason, if you want to complete this course successfully, I recommend you devote time reflecting on the question, "What does it mean to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes?" We are devoting our first two week’s classroom time to this question.
The better you understand our course’s goal (i.e., to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes) the better you will be able to develop study habits that are likely to be successful. Since your understanding of our course’s goal (i.e.,to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes) is likely to mature as the semester unfolds, I recommend you review and modify your study habits throughout the semester.
How should you study?
Another reason there is no simple formula to a successful completion in this course is that are no easily identifiable “study rules” that will guarantee successful completion. For example, successful completion is not as simple as: 1) Read two hours each week, 2) Dedicate two hours to each week’s “Reading Questions,” and 3) Devote one hour to each week’s “Discussion Questions,” . Though successful completion will depend, in part, on devoting “enough time” to perform the above tasks, the amount of time can vary from student to student. How much time you will need to complete this course successfully will depend upon multiple factors, including 1) your language skills, 2) your ability to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes when the semester begins, 3) how clearly I explain our course’s concepts, 4) your ability to take clear and accurate notes, 5) whether or not you study in a place and time that is conducive to study, and other factors. For this reason, I recommend you proceed cautiously and set aside “a lot of time” to study.
How much time should you set aside to read and prepare for our reading quizzes? It is better to set aside too much time than not enough. To begin, each time you read a text I recommend you set aside at least 10 minutes for each page you are required to read. As the semester proceeds, you will be able to decide for yourself if you need less or more time than this; but I recommend you always set aside more time than expect to need and I recommend you read each required reading at least twice. Furthermore, I recommend you attempt to answer the week's Reading Questions as you read. Remember that our quiz questions and exam questions will be based on these recommended Reading Questions. Finally, if you are confused by any of these Reading Questions, I recommend you ask about it during class or an office visit. This is a vital process that many students neglect.
Once you have accurately completed a week's recommended Reading Questions, how much time should you set aside to learn this material? Again, it is better to set aside too much time than not enough. Since the goal is to master the questions, I recommend you review this material until you can answer at least 90% of the questions without looking up the answers.
How much time should you set aside to complete the recommended "Discussion Questions”? Again, it is better to set aside too much time than not enough. In addition, the amount of time needed to complete different weeks’ tasks is likely to vary. I recommend the following approach:
1) Each week there is a recommended “Discussion Questions” set aside at least an hour to review the questions. At minimum, note the page(s) where you will find the answer to each question. But it will be good if you attempt to answer each Discussion Question before coming to class.
2) Note the Discussion Questions that are highlighted during our classroom meetings. Make sure you take notes on each of these questions. You will have ample opportunity to do so during our classroom meetings; but you may also need to complete outside of class.
3) Once you have taken notes on the Discussion Questions covered in class, devote as much as time as you will need to be able to write a clear, concise, and comprehensive answer to that question. Remember, our exam essay questions will be based on the Discussion Questions we cover in class.
How does one successfully participate in our classroom meetings?
First, attend class!
Second, do not be tardy! In fact show up at least five minutes early. This gives you time to prepare for our class discussion.
Third, when preparing before class, review the textbook, review your notes, and review any questions you have. Furthermore, give others the opportunity to do this by speaking quietly or not at all. In fact, if you are talking before class and I judge that it is distracting or disrupting another student’s study or my own preparation, I will ask you stop talking. Our classroom is for learning!
Fourth, once class begins do not participate in any distracting or disruptive behavior. If I judge that your behavior is distracting or disrupting the facilitation class discussion, I will instruct you stop talking or I will instruct you to leave the classroom. If you are instructed to leave the classroom, you will be expected to review the college’s student conduct code and arrange an office visit to discuss why you were asked to leave the classroom. If the problem is not addressed to my satisfaction, I will file a formal grievance with the college. Please remember, our classroom is for learning!
Fifth, most classroom meetings will begin with a 5-10 minute opportunity for students to ask any questions about our course, including clarification questions about our course expectations, course concepts, and course skills. If you have a question and forget to ask it when the class begins, I recommend you write it down and ask after class ends. Do not raise such matters in the middle of class after we already have begun our lesson. At that point such questions are a distraction from our facilitated classroom discussion and you will be asked to write down the question and ask me after our class ends. Furthermore, some classroom sessions we will have a lot of material to cover and I will not begin class by soliciting any questions. If you wish to ask a question but that classroom meeting does not begin with an opportunity to ask it, please write it down and ask it after class ends.
Finally, your odds of successfully completing the course will be improved if you take good classroom notes. There are different note-taking strategies and tactics. If you have not already developed an approach to note-taking that works for you, I recommend you begin by documenting our readings’ key concepts and themes, as well as any observations that help you understand what it means to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes. Such notes will be especially helpful when answering any essay question.
Will you successfully complete this course?
The above recommendations help us understand why it’s important not to oversimplify what it means to complete our course successfully. I recommend you think of our course, in part, as an opportunity to fine-tune your study habits and classroom habits. You likely will succeed with some details to some degree, improve with some details to some degree, and discover ways you still need to improve even as the semester comes to an end.
While the above recommendations will not guarantee"success" – whether that’s measured by your course grade, how well you can critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes at the semester's completion, how well you can critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes after the semester's completion, how much your ability to critically analyze an argument’s philosophical themes has improved during the semester, or by any other means – they will improve your odds of successfully completing the course in each of these ways.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Hopefully this syllabus has provided a good introduction to our course's resources, expectations, and policies. A key to successfully completing the course will be understanding each. If, at any time during our semester, you have any questions about our course, including questions about our resources, expectations, and policies, don't hesitate to ask before class, after class, or during one of my office hours. My office is close to our classroom in Emeritus 1513A. My semester schedule is found on my Instructor Page.
Before you can participate in this class you must register with Admissions & Records. When the class actually begins, you must check in online as soon as possible. By checking in, you'll notify your instructor of your email address and you'll create your personal username and password. You'll need that username and password to access some Web-based components of your class and/or to fully participate in certain online activities. After you check in, your username and password will not be activated until your instructor accepts you into the class; acceptance might sometimes take a day or two, so don't delay! Check in as soon as class begins.
This class is configured so that you MUST go through the CATE check-in process. No username or password will be functional until you successfully complete the check-in process and your instructor accepts you into class.
Use the following link to reach the online check-in page for this class:
The check-in link is no longer available because check-in has closed. The check-in link for this section was open in this location from 14 January 2013 through 24 January 2013.
Your CATE username and password are case-sensitive. Username is not the same as username which is not the same as USERNAME. Password is not the same as password
which is not the same as PASSWORD. You must enter your username and password correctly in order for them to work.
Still have questions? Consult with your instructor!
This is the homepage for one section of PHIL 6 at Santa Rosa Junior College.
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