Introduction to philosophy

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


Instructor – Dr. Jason Chang Meetings – MW 9:15-10:35AM in RF141

Email – Units – 3

Web site – Transfer status – CSU/UC
Course Description:

Introductory course for philosophical history and disciplines of metaphysics and epistemology from Socrates to Wittgenstein. This course will cover a long progression of ideas about being, knowledge, justice, goodness, existence and language. The history of philosophy through ideas proposed by the most important philosophers will be presented in thematic development so that students can learn not only basic concepts and ideas, but cause of the development of philosophical history.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Explain the basic history, philosophers and ideas of western philosophy

  2. Compare and contrast between main currents of western philosophical traditions

  3. Assess the thinking patterns of major philosophers regarding the basic issues of western philosophy

  4. Articulate the differences between various basic philosophical conceptions and issues

  5. Identify the basic movements from ancient mode of thought to modern and contemporary western philosophy through the most representative philosophers

  6. Appreciate and critically evaluate the basic issues and ideas of western metaphysics and epistemology

Course Requirements:

Below are the course requirements in detail.

  1. Lecture reflections (15%): After each class, you will complete a half a page to one page (typed, double spaced) lecture reflection in which you personally reflect on some part of the lecture. Lecture reflections should demonstrate a conscientious effort at wrestling with content from the lecture. They should go beyond merely summaries of the lecture; I want to hear your OWN voice. Lecture reflections that merely summarize will not receive credit.

Typed, hard copies of the lecture reflection must to be brought to the next class period and will be collected periodically and at random. There is also the possibility that reflections will be collected in batches – so be sure to keep them. (Before I collect a batch of lecture reflections, I will make an announcement a class or two beforehand.)

Personal reactions might include but need not be limited to the following:

  • A question you have about an idea discussed in class

  • A question you wish to pose to one of the philosophers discussed in class

  • An idea you wish to think more about

  • Objections or disagreements you have with the views presented in class

  • Reflections about how the lecture content pertains to your own life

  • A personal story that relates to an idea covered in class

  1. Journal assignment (25%): At the end of the term, you will turn in an 8-10 page journal assignment that will ask you to discuss your progress in thinking about two issues from this course.

  1. Exams (50%): There will be two in-class exams. Each exam will be worth 25 percent.

  1. Participation (10%): The quality of student participation in class will be assessed.


The following scale will be used to assess student performance: A = 92.5-100%; A- = 90-92.4%; B+ = 87.5-89.9%; B = 82.5-87.4%; B- = 80-82.4%.... and so on. Scores of less than 60% and/or failure to take one or more exams will result in an F for the course.

Attendance & Tardiness Policies:

Attendance is mandatory. Students will be allowed three unexcused absences; each unexcused absence thereafter may result in 3 percent deduction from the student’s overall course grade. Also, please make every effort to arrive to class on time. Two “tardies” amount to one unexcused absence.

Note about excused absences: You may petition to have an absence “excused” by providing the following: (1) An email before class notifying me of your absence; (2) necessary documentation (doctor’s note, etc.). I will ultimately decide whether to excuse your absence.
Do I need to turn in a lecture reflection if absent?

Yes! If you are absent, please email me before 10:35am your lecture reflection for that day in case I collect it. Late lecture reflections will not be accepted.

Late Assignment and Make-Up Policy:

Late assignments will not be accepted and make-up exams will not be permitted. (An assignment is considered “late” after the point at which it is collected in class.) Exceptions to this rule will be made in the event of an excused absence.
Course Readings:

  1. James Rachels. Problems from Philosophy. 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill, 2005.

  2. Selected readings made available through

Course Schedule:
What is philosophy?



Mon 2/1

Course Introduction
What is Philosophy?

Rachels pp. 1-9

Wed 2/3

What is Philosophy? (cont…)
Basics of Arguments

Mon 2/8

Basics of Arguments (cont…)

Should I believe in God?



Wed 2/10

Arguments for God, Part 1: Teleological Argument

Rachels pp. 10-20

William Paley [web site]

Mon 2/15

President’s Day – No class

Wed 2/17

Arguments for God, Part 2: Cosmological Argument

Rachels pp. 21-26

St. Thomas Aquinas [web site]

Mon 2/22

Arguments for God, Part 3: Ontological Argument

St. Anselm [web site]

Wed 2/24

Problem of Evil, Part 1

Rachels. pp. 27-37

Mon 2/29

Problem of Evil, Part 2: Gratuitous Evil

Bruce Russell [web site]

Wed 3/2

Rationality of Religious Belief

Anthony Flew, R.M. Hare, Basil Mitchell [web site]

How should I live? / What is the right thing to do?



Mon 3/7

Moral Theories, Part 1: Divine Command Theory

Rachels pp. 154-157

Moral Theories, Part 2: Aristotle

Aristotle [web site]

Wed 3/9

Moral Theories: Aristotle (cont…)

Aristotle [web site]

Mon 3/14

Moral Theories, Part 3: Utilitarianism

Jeremy Bentham [web site]

Wed 3/16

Moral Theories, Part 4: Kantianism

Immanuel Kant [web site]

Mon 3/21

Spring Break – No class

Wed 3/23

Spring Break – No class

Mon 3/28

Moral Theories: Kantianism (cont…)

Shaw and Berry [web site]

Wed 3/30

Review Session

Mon 4/4


What can I know?



Wed 4/6

Locke’s Empiricism, Part 1

John Locke [web site]

Mon 4/11

Locke’s Empiricism, Part 2

Wed 4/13

Descartes, Part 1

Rene Descartes [web site]

Mon 4/18

Descartes, Part 2

Rachels. pp. 125-138

Wed 4/20

Ancient Skepticism

Sextus Empiricus [web site]

Mon 4/25


David Hume [web site]

What am I?



Wed 4/27

Mind & Body, Part 1

Rachels. pp. 67-82

Mon 5/2

Mind & Body, Part 2

Wed 5/4

Personal Identity

Rachels. pp. 52-66

David Hume [web site]

Am I free?



Mon 5/9

Free Will, Part 1: The Problem of Free Will

Rachels. pp. 94-108

Wed 5/11

Free Will, Part 2: Compatibilism

Rachels. pp. 109-124

Mon 5/16

Review session

Wed 5/18


Withdrawal from Class:

Per the 2015-16 college catalog: “Students are responsible for dropping their classes; classes are not dropped automatically for non-attendance. A student may drop a class by using, or in-person at the Office of Admissions and Records.”

Academic Integrity:

Academic integrity is necessary for an institution of student learning such as Evergreen Valley College to function properly. Academic dishonesty – whether in the form of plagiarism, cheating on exams, etc. – undermines the academic environment that EVC aims to foster and, therefore, will not be tolerated. Students who engage in academic dishonesty will receive a zero on the particular assignment or exam and possibly fail the course. It is at the instructor’s discretion whether the case will be forward to the Dean.

Student Disciplinary Procedures and Grievance Policy:

Details about student disciplinary procedures and grievance policy can be found on p. 167 of the 2015-2016 college catalog.

Special Accommodations:

Students in this course who have a documented disability that may impact work in this class and require special accommodations should make an appointment with the Disabilities Support Program (room SC-120) and notify me during the first week of class. The DSP can be reached at (408) 270-6447. Both the DSP and I will implement whatever accommodations needed to provide equal opportunity to learning and other academic outcomes.

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