Phil 111 Introduction to Philosophy (Ezio Vailati)  Spring 2013
Office: PH 2212.

Phone #: x. 3376

Homepage: (click on "Courses" and then on "Introduction to Philosophy")

email:  If you email me, identify yourselves as taking this class.

Office Hours: M 11-12; M 5-6; T 5-6, and by appointment if necessary


I. Course Description: An introduction to some of the main themes in philosophy.  We'll discuss God and atheism, freedom of the will, personal identity, and some theoretical and applied ethics.  Some of the primary sources will be available on-line at my homepage; you are responsible for downloading them.

II. Course objectives: (1) to assist students in acquiring an understanding and appreciation of some philosophical issues and perspectives; (2) to develop the ability of students to identify, evaluate and compare philosophical positions on the basis of arguments; (3) to develop the capacity of students to reason to their own views on philosophical issues; (4) to teach students to read philosophical texts.

III. Course-Format: Mostly lecture, with discussion as far as possible at the beginning of the course.  As students increase their philosophical proficiency, lecturing will diminish until it will almost disappear towards the end of the course.  As a courtesy towards the students in this class, I have put my lectures on-line; they are reachable by clicking on the appropriate items in the syllabus.  Please look at them before you come to class.  Note that the on-line lectures may contain less, or more, than is presented in class.  On-line lectures cannot substitute for the readings, class attendance, and class participation, which are essential for learning the course material.

IV. In class behavior: Students are required to display common courtesy.  Hence, while in class avoid activities like reading the newspaper or material unrelated to the course, playing games on some electronic or other device, texting, surfing the net even if in the back of the class, chatting, or behaving disrespectfully towards your fellow students. At my discretion, transgressors may be required to leave the class and lose 3% of the course grade for every offense.  Egregious cases will be reported to the Dean.  Keep in mind that class discussion is best conducted in a serene climate even when opposing views are strongly held by the participants.  Hence use your common sense: on the one hand we want to avoid ‘respect creep’ and on the other hand we want to avoid being offensive.

V. Texts:
1) Perry/Bratman (eds.), Introduction to Philosophy   Fourth edition (Rental Text) [I]
2) Handouts, and assorted on-line material

VI. Course outline, readings and quizzes.


Weeks 1-3 (Jan. 7-23): Atheism and God; two arguments for and against. Readings: Davies’ article handout.  Don’t we have to believe on faith anyway? Download Paley's argument

January 21: MLK day-- Holiday

End of third week: First quiz


Week 4 (Jan 28-30): Atheism, death, and the meaning of life.  Readings: Nagel handout; Download Epicurus’ argument. 


Week 5 (Feb. 4-6): Free Will and Determinism.  Readings: Download. End of fifth week: Second Quiz

Week 6 (Feb. 11-13): The Self and its Identity. Reading: I 368-382. Look at this Split brain video.  More split brain. 

Week 7 (Feb. 18-20): Student exchange of views on topics to be announced. Preliminary remarks on ethics. 


Week 8 (Feb 25-27): A bit of psychology: how do we reach moral judgments?  Come with questions on the material covered up to now as a preparation for the midterm.  End of eight week: Midterm

March 4-9: Spring Break

Week 9 (March 11-13): The relation between morality and religion.  Readings: handout on divine command theory; Listen to debate between Kagan and Craig.   End of ninth week: Third Quiz   

Week 10 (March 18-20): Utilitarianism. Reading: I 489-508.

Week 11 (March 25-27): Kant. Reading: I 536-552.  

Week 12 (April 1-3): Finish Kant; Value Pluralism. W.D. Ross’ Intuitionism  Reading: handout. End of twelfth week: Fourth Quiz.  


Week 13 (April 8-10): Abortion.  Readings: handouts. 

Week 14 (April 15-17): Suicide. Reading: Download Hume's "On Suicide " ; Download Aquinas on suicide (only article five is directly relevant); Kant on suicide handout.  Watch “Suicide Tourist”.  Paper due

Week 15 (April 22-24): Animals.  Watch Peter Singer lecture on the ethics of what we eat.   Last day of class: Fifth Quiz.

VII. Course requirements.

·         Regular attendance for the whole class period.  I’ll take attendance at different times; every missed class hour without justification will result in a loss of .02% of the course grade.

·         Reading the on-line lectures and primary readings before coming  to class

·         Participating in the exchange of views among the class participants.

·         Five multiple-choice quizzes (for dates, see the course outline), some take home and some in class, each worth 5 points (5% of the course grade). The quizzes may be based on class discussion of issues not in the syllabus. There may be some unannounced pop quizzes for extra points; only students in class at the time may take them; no exceptions.

·         A one-hour long midterm, worth 20% of the course grade.  For date, consult the syllabus

·         One paper, typed, double spaced, and 4 full pages long, worth 25% of the course grade.  For due date, consult the course outline. Do not e-mail your paper to me unless in extreme circumstances.

·         You will be paired with one or two other students and assigned an oral presentation lasting about 5 minutes per student.  You will choose an issue and discuss it in the light of that day’s reading, or discuss an argument or a view contained in that day’s reading.  In addition, you will identify a discussion point that will get your peers thinking about the topic of your presentation.  Make sure you coordinate what you are going to say with your co-presenters and come to see me before your presentation to discuss what you are going to do. The presentation is worth 10% of the course grade.  Failure to do the scheduled presentation at the proper time amounts to losing the presentation points.  

·         A one hour long comprehensive final exam, consisting of a multiple choice quiz and a short essay, which will be worth 20% of the course grade. The essay topic will be chosen by me out of the following Topics For Final. You do not get to choose the essay topic.

VIII. The correspondence between points and grades is as follows: above 90: A; 89-80: B; 79-70: C; 69-59: D; fewer than 59 points: F.

A indicates excellence; B indicates a competent command of skills and material; C indicates some competency in some areas and poor command in others or rather low competence overall; D indicates a poor competence overall; F indicates an unacceptably low level of competence.

To determine how you are doing at any time in the semester, multiply the number of points you have gained up to that time, including those from pop quizzes, by 100 and then divide by the number of possible points up to that time, excluding any extra points resulting from pop quizzes. A look at the correspondence between points and grades given above will tell you the letter grade you have earned. For example, suppose that by week 10 you have 35 points and you have already done your presentation. Since the maximum number of points obtainable by then (excluding possible extra points from pop quizzes) is 45 (15 from quizzes, 20 from the midterm, and 10 from the presentation), one gets 35x100=3500, which divided by 45 gives 78, a very high C.   

IX. Academic policies

1.      Cheating of any kind will be swiftly and severely punished according to the draconian guidelines of SIUE.

2.      Students are responsible for knowing what has been said in class.  Quizzes may be based on classroom discussions not derived from any written material. 


X. Paper

·         Students are strongly encouraged to give me electronic rough drafts of their paper.  Keep in mind that I can return them with significant comments only if: i) they are given to me at least one week before the papers are due; ii) they are written reasonably clearly.  Rough drafts consisting only of disjointed paragraphs or, worse, mere paragraph headings cannot be properly evaluated.  You may turn in your rough drafts as many times as you like, compatibly with the above requirements.  My reading a student's rough draft of a paper does not entail that the paper, even if my comments are considered, will get a B or an A.   Often a bad paper must be revised more than once to become good.

·         If you get stuck, talk about it to your colleagues or talk to me.

·         Grading criteria for papers are as follows.  A paper providing all the information adequately and accurately in clear prose substantially free of spelling and grammatical mistakes will be in the C to low B range.  A paper which in addition to meeting this requirement shows reasonably clear and cogent arguments will be in the B range.  A paper which shows significant clarity and cogency will be in the A range.

·         A half letter grade will be subtracted from a given paper for every solar day it is late.  If you cannot turn in the paper on time, talk to me before the due date.

·         Here is some useful advice on how to write a philosophy paper. If you're interested, here is a very good sample paper. If your writing is particularly bad, I strongly suggest you find professional help at the writing center.