Course Description and Objectives
Philosophywhat the heck is it and why might I want to read it? Philosophy
is the oldest discipline. Other disciplines in university originally were covered under
philosophy: sociology, psychology, mathematics, communications, literature, even physics!
One of the reasons I love philosophy is because it covers so many different areas of life.
Even though philosophy is sometimes difficult to read and sometimes seems removed from
everyday lifeI try in my writing and teaching to show how philosophy is relevant to
the most important parts of life. Philosophy includes questions such as: what does it mean
to lead an ethical life, how do my decisions affect others in the community, what role
should the government play in our personal lives, does God exist, what truths might I
learn from art, how is the mind related to the body, how do other cultures understand the
world? Philosophical questions are all around us even in unlikely places: popular movies
(one of my favorite places to look!), television (the Simpsons is actually a very
philosophical show), the media, our personal lives, our communal lives. In this class we
will do a lot of reading and writing
and THINKINGPhilosophy is an activity!!
One of the most valuable aspects of this course is the opportunity to learn how to better
express your own ideas, beliefs, viewpoints and to appreciate and articulate viewpoints
that differ from your own. I am not here to persuade you of any particular belief but
rather to help you better articulate your own ideas. This is a valuable life skill that
should help you in the workplace (its crucial to be able to express your views
clearly and to understand others views in a fair manner) and beyond. I love
philosophy and I love teachingnow all we need is your willingness to share your
ideas, questions, and thoughts and this should be a wonderful class!
I have tentatively arranged the course to cover 6 areas: The Value of Philosophy,
Morality, Philosophy of Religion, Political Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of
Art. Readings will be assigned for each of our class meetings. Please read the
assigned material prior to our class meeting, as you will get more out of classroom
discussions if you have already engaged with the issues addressed. There will be frequent
informal writing activities in class as well as group work, and advance preparation is
essential if we are to have enjoyable and productive classes together. Quality
participation is not the same as talking a lot in class. Active listening to your peers is
equally important to the learning process.
If you need an accommodation for any type of physical or learning disability,
please come see me so we make any arrangements necessary.
Texts (available in Rowan Bookstore)
1. Philosophy and Choice: Selected Readings from Around the World, 2nd
edition, edited by Kit R. Christensen (PC)
2. Anne Michaels Edwards, Writing to Learn: An Introduction to Writing Philosophical
Assignments and Grading
|Participation/In-class Writing/Group Work
|Weekly reading analysis and reflections (1-2 paragraphs
||(collected randomly during class)See Ch3 WL
|Quizzes (In-class) Lowest will be dropped
||These cannot be made up
||Gifts to be brought to class: newspaper clippings, notice
of films relevant to course, music that has philosophical content relevant to course.
These will help make the class more your own! Five per semester
|Short Paper #1
||**** See below
|Short Paper #2
|Presentation and Paper based on Presentation: Philosophy
TodayApplication of class reading to a real life issue, concern, movie, book
Details, Details, Details
A. Class Participation
You all have valuable and important insights to make to the courseThe more
you contribute to the class discussions, the more the course will become your own which is
one of my goals as an instructor. Participation is a central part of the course.
Participation is judged on 1). Students grasp of the assigned reading material; 2).
their ability to apply ideas developed in the readings to new situations, including their
own experience; and 3). their ability to listen to, and respond relevantly to, the
comments of other students in the course. Students are expected to complete reading
assignments prior to class and to make careful note of all class announcements. Students
are expected to bring questions to class concerning aspects of the readings that are
difficult (Questions are crucial for philosophy!!I welcome them always!). There will
be frequent in class writing assignments and group work. You will need to be in class in
order to benefit from these activities and receive credit for them. These class activities
cannot be made up. Respect for your classmates arguments and thoughts is required in
Specific instructions for papers will be given as the course progresses.
Criteria for evaluation are indicated in this syllabus. Please read these carefully.
There will be more discussion about suggestions for writing philosophy papers in class.
The most important criteria used for evaluating papers will be the quality of
argumentation, clarity, coherence, and creativity. Students are graded on their ability to
present established views in their own words and articulate their assessment of those
views. Those papers that display these attributes along with originality and creativity
will receive the highest marks. I am never judging what your particular stance is on a
given issue or whether your own views are the same as mine. I am concerned with how you
articulate your own views.
****Students have the option of re-writing one of the position papers for the
course. The re-write is due exactly one week after papers are returned. The grade for the
two papers will then be averaged. Please note, a students grade on the re-write may
go down as well as improve. For example, if a student receives a 60 on the paper and then
re-writes and gets a 75, the overall grade will be 68.
Reading and Writing (Please read carefully)
By Rowan standards, this course is reading and writing intensive. The course
fulfills a writing intensive requirement for graduation. Reading the required articles
should by your first priority. That is, it is better to read and reread the course texts
than to seek out lots of secondary literature. The first assumption in this regard is that
you are capable of reading and comprehending 30-40 pages per week. This requires that you
possess a college level vocabulary and that you exercise good thinking skills. You will
need to read and re-read material sometimes in order to understand the views/language
being presented. I will do all I can to adjust assignments according to class needs.
Although technical terms peculiar to moral philosophy and ethics will be explained by the
instructor, students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the meanings of new
terms and concepts encountered in the readings. In this connection, every student should
own a comprehensive collegiate dictionary (i.e.: Merriam Websters or The American
Heritage College Dictionary. In addition there is a Dictionary of Philosophy included in
our assigned course texts. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy has concise and
helpful summaries of major philosophical theories and figures. Weblinks will be provided
throughout the course to beneficial online resources. Please keep in mind that the
instructor is always available to assist you in clarifying any term, concept, idea or
argument that is initially confusing.
In this course, will not only learn about Philosophy, we will also learn
about the process of writing. Writing is difficult! In this class, we will practice
writing, discuss elements of good writing, receive feedback about our writing in order to
better express our opinions, beliefs, arguments, and ideas. Sometimes we will engage in
writing that will not be evaluated in order to practice and evaluate our own work. Please
feel free to ask questions about writing any time we are together in class.
In this course, we will discuss difficult and sometimes personal issues.
This involves a willingness to share your own views. I will do the same in class, though
part of my job is to present all sides of an issue and let students decide for themselves
what their views are. Philosophy is an amazing discipline where you can learn how to
appreciate opposing viewpoints and learn to better articulate your own views. This
requires courage though. I am never grading you on whether I agree with your position or
not. I have given poor grades to papers I completely agree with and great grades to papers
that express views I totally disagree with. This is important to keep in mind. Our classes
will be much better if we work towards creating an open environment where students feel
able to express their views. I will do my best as an instructor to create this
environment, but Ive learned that I cant do all of this! This is YOUR
CLASSLets make it great!!
Academic Honesty Policy
All forms of academic dishonesty, namely, cheating on exams, submitting
plagiarized or fabricated work from another persons book or website, submitting
another persons work without informing the instructor, or engaging in any kind of
deception that would bear on the evaluation of submitted work will be dealt with in a
strict manner (minimally failing the course). If you find yourself questioning whether you
have documented your sources properly, it is your responsibility to come see me about
these issues prior to submitting an assignment. If you find yourself thinking about
submitting work that is not your own due to pressure, frustration, or perfectionism,
please come talk to me. I am here to help you resolve these issues before they become a
problem for your academic career.
Attendance, Lateness, and Class Policies
This course will emphasize dialogue, exchange and debate with your peers and professor.
You need to be here in order to participate! Discussion focused classes can be a wonderful
learning experience, but only if all participants are diligent in attending class meetings
so we can have a good discussion each day. I would like to avoid the situation where only
1 or 2 people are the ones who speak each week (I think you would, too). If circumstances
beyond your control do prevent you from attending a class, pleas inform me IN WRITING or
by phone as soon as possible. There will be opportunity for students to practice writing
through informal writing activities in class.
- Please arrive for class on-time
- Please turn off cell-phones, pagers, beepers before class
- In order to enhance student learning, please do not engage in side conversations during
- In-Class writing assignments and quizzes cannot be made up
- More than 3 unexcused absences will result in grade depreciation due to missed classroom
Late Papers and Work
- Students are responsible for assignments and homework missed due to illness or
- If you have an emergency, please notify instructor as soon as possible (before an
assignment is due) to arrange an extension. Extensions will be granted at the discretion
of the instructor only for legitimate reasons. I understand that life involves lots of
unforeseen events, and I am more than willing to work with students who face such events.
However, having too much work/too many classes, printers that dont work the day
before assignments are due are not legitimate reasons for missed/late work. You will have
ample notice of assignment due dates, please adjust your schedule, computers, printers
- In order to be fair to all students, unexcused late work will receive a grade deduction.
Late work will receive a half letter grade deduction (5%) for each day late.
- Proposed Calendar (Subject to change in order to respond to class needsI am very
open to class suggestionsI will adjust reading assignments according to class
commentsI know the readings are difficult
keep working and bring your questions
to class so we can work through them together!!)
VII.Criteria for Evaluating Philosophy Essays
Appropriateness. Does your essay answer the assigned question? Does your essay
address the main topic stated in your thesis?
Clarity of exposition and argument. How clearly have you explained the arguments
and concepts from the course material that are relevant to the assignment? How clearly
have you expressed your critical evaluation of the arguments contained in the readings?
Have you clearly stated the reasons behind your evaluations?
Critical understanding of the material. Have you demonstrated a detailed, thorough
understanding of the relevant course readings? Is there any important part of an argument
that you have not considered? Do your accounts of the arguments make sense in light of
what you know about the larger context in which they are set?
Fairness to the authors' arguments. Are your interpretations of the authors
arguments charitable? Have you done your best to interpret them as good, strong arguments?
If you think a certain argument is badly flawed, can you identify any beliefs that the
author may have held which would make the argument stronger than you first thought? If you
have expressed doubts about whether a certain premise of the authors argument is
true, have you supplied an argument to show that that premise is probably or certainly
Coherence of your explanations and arguments. Does your essay make sense as a
whole? Is it well-organized? At each stage of the essay, is it easy to tell what you are
saying and how that fits in with what you have already said? Are there any conflicts
between things you say at different points in the essay? Do your arguments flow logically
from your premises to your conclusions?
Ability to anticipate objections to your point of view. Have you considered how the
authors of the articles you discuss (or someone else who read your essay and disagreed
with you) might respond to your arguments? Are your arguments open to any obvious
objections? Have you committed any glaring errors of reasoning? Are any of the assumptions
you make obviously false?
Creativity and Originality. Does your paper include analysis of parts of texts we
did not discuss in class? Does your paper offer your unique perspective and examples to
the questions at hand? Does your paper present arguments in a creative way? Do you create
your own examples and arguments to illustrate your points about the texts?
Documentation of works cited. Have you noted where you refer to the work of writers
other than yourself? Have you included page numbers in parentheses in the text of your
essay to mark where you refer to works on the course syllabus? Have you included full
endnotes/ footnotes to mark where you refer to works other than those on the course
syllabus? Have you included a bibliography listing all the bibliographical information
about books you refer to that are not on the course syllabus?