PH316 Philosophy & Skepticism

for S1J 2007

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PH 316 Philosophy and Skepticism


S1J 2007 PV


Vlahos, Clare


Senior Adjunct Professor


Ph.D.  University of Kansas
M.Ph University of Kansas
M.A. University of Iowa

Office Hours


Daytime Phone

(816) 478-9019


Semester Dates

January 15, 2007 - March 11, 2007

Class Days


Class Time

5:30 - 9:50 PM

Credit Hours


Richard H. Popkin, Skeptical Philosophy for Everyone.  Prometheus Books, 2002

Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore

Additional Resources:

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Course Description:
An approach to Western philosophical thought by examining the use, meaning and tradition of skepticism within the philosophical tradition.  Beginning with the Greeks and then focusing on the radical skepticism of the Hellenistic period, attention will be paid to how skepticism has shaped Western philosophical thought through figures such as Sextus Empiricus, Montaigne, Descartes, Hume, and selected contemporary thinkers.  Particular attention will be paid to skepticism in ethics, politics, religion, literature, and scientific inquiry.  3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:
*-Small group discussions for student analysis and preparation for general class discussions. *-Videos detailing specific historical issues. *-In-class written examinations. *-Oral student in-class presentations summarizing and evaluating the focal essay discussed in research papers. *Discussion of research being undertaken in student research papers. *-Review of material for examinations. *-One guest lecture on a pertinent issue.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Explain the method of philosophy.
  2. Develop philosophical arguments.
  3. Identify and characterize several major philosophers.
  4. Clarify Major approaches and traditions in philosophy.
  5. Demonstrate facility in evaluating effective argument support and fallacies in developing arguments.
  6. Critique a number of philosophical positions.
  7. Explain his or her understanding of philosophical skepticism.
  8. To learn to employ familiar with the discipline, methods, and tradition of philosophy.
  9. To evaluate methododological skepticism: the questioning of tradition or community accepted values and beliefs.
  10. To evaluate dogmatic skepticism: the belief that external objective knowledge is unknowable through reason or the senses.
  11. To evaluate the tradition of skepticism in epistemology, ethics, religion, and political philosophy.
  12. Critical Literacy.  To develop skill in evaluating and construing arguments which claim to support or deny positions in ethics, religion, and political philosphy.
  13. Civil Literacy.  To evaluate traditional political assumptions and skeptical criticisms of those assumptions.
  14. Values Literacy:  To evaluate mainstream moral values and skeptical criticisms of those values.
Class Assessment:
Two in class examinations containing short answer questions and an essay.  Each examination will cover the material on one-half of the course. Class attendance. A research project of 10 pages involving research of a philosopher's analysis of skepticism approved in advance by the instructor. A presentation inclass based on the above research. Regular class discussion based on the reading assignments. Research Paper: Topic:  Examination of a single philosopher's treatment of skepticism. Length:  10 pages. Content: The paper should examine and evaluate a single philosopher's work in supporting or in denying a skeptical attack in one of the following areas: - Epistemology (our ability to know reality outside   our minds). - Ethics (traditional, mainstream, societal or religious   moral values) - Religion (claims of religion about God,morality, truth   or death. - Political Philosophy (claims about the value of certain   political or societal assumptions based on values, such   as democracy, equality, or individual freedom.

Grades will be based on the accumulation of points.  Each of the two examinations containing short answer questions and an essay will be worth 100 points.  Each examination will cover the material on one-half of the course.  Class attendance and participation will be worth 25 points.  The research paper and oral presentation will be worth 75 points for a total of 300 points. A = 270-300 points B = 240-269 points C = 210-239 points D = 180-209 points F = 179 or below.

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Late assignments will receive a reduced grade.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
Assignments are due the date listed on the syllabus.  Students should contact the instructor in advance if unable to attend class. Pagers and/or cell phone:  Pagers and cell phones are banned during the class period.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Week & Date






1 -

Skepticism,Philosophy & Knowledge

Popkin, Chapter 1

Skepticism & Epistemology

Greek Philosophy, Buddhist Thought

Discuss requirements & syllabus

2 -

Skepticism and Ethics
Part I

Popkin, Chapter 2

Skepticism &
Free Will

In the Blood

Research topics

3 -

Skepticism & Ethics
Part II

Popkin, Chapter 6

Skepticism &

A Poor Man Shames Us All

Student research
topics due

4 -

Political Skepticism

Popkin, Chapter 7

Skepticism and Politics


Review & Examination
Research Bibliography and
Prospectus Due

5 -

Skepticism and

Popkin, Chapter 5

Skepticism and Religion

Rabbi Kushner

Student Reports:  Outline

6 -

Skepticism and Metaphysics

Popkin, Chapter 5

Skepticism and Death

Living with Death

Student Reports:  Rough Draft

7 -


Popkin, Chapter 4

Empiricism & Idealism


Student reports: Oral

8 -

Evaluating Skepticism


The Role of Skepticism in Western Culture


Research papers due

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87-89

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "W".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 89-90

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: .

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Last Updated:12/19/2006 9:43:03 AM