Course Requirements Grades will be assigned on the basis of students’ performance on written assignments and on the basis of their participation in class and online discussions (as well as during office hours and any informal review sessions; more on that below).
Writing Assignments Philosophy is about understanding, evaluating, and developing clear and persuasive arguments. Put another way, it’s about articulating and defending a position on an issue with relevant compelling evidence. Writing is therefore an essential exercise and plays a big role in the course.
There are five writing assignments: two reflection pieces (1 page), one short paper (3-4 pages) and two medium-length papers (5-6 pages).
The reflection pieces are graded on a pass/fail basis and will require you to assess course material in light of your own personal experience.
The first (short) paper will be entirely expository and will be handed back with written comments. The two medium-length papers will be partly expository, partly critical (you will present the arguments of others that we encountered in assigned material and class discussion and then proceed to defend a position of your own on the question at issue). The second paper will be handed back with written comments. The third and final paper will not be unless you state that you want written comments prior to the date on which the assignment is distributed.
Participation Your participation grade primarily reflects your contribution to class and online discussions.
In a fundamental way, good philosophy is a certain kind of conversation. The challenging texts we’re dealing with and the complex issues they raise really do require real, sustained discussion to be understood. I may sometimes temporarily hold off questions during lecture, but please feel free to assume that the floor is otherwise always open to questions, comments, frustrated outbursts, etc.
Participation counts for a large portion of your final grade (see below), so it’s important for you to come to class with something to say about the day’s reading—even if it is just an explanation of why it didn’t make any sense at all to you (this is often a perfectly reasonable reaction). Remember that this is not the type of class in which you can expect to do well merely by absorbing the material in a passive manner. To achieve the mastery necessary for a grade in the ‘A’ range, you must actively engage with and think through the course material both in and out of class.