PH316 Philosophy & Skepticism

for F2FF 2006

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PH 316 Philosophy and Skepticism


F2FF 2006 FA


Alexander, Kathleen M.


Adjunct Faculty

Office Location


Office Hours

Before Class and by Appointment

Daytime Phone

509 / 230-2041

Other Phone

509 / 244-2020


Class Days


Class Time

12:00 - 1:15 PM



Credit Hours



Sainsbury, R.M. Paradoxes. Cambridge University Press. 1995. ISBN # 0521483476.

DeRose, Keith and Ted Warfield. Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader. Oxford University Press. 1999. ISBN #0195118278.

Further Readings will be provided online and in class.

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:

In the class Philosophy and Skepticism, we will immerse ourselves in philosophic discussion. We will be covering a lot of material, which will require a lot of reading. The assignments are designed to help you delve more in depth into the material and to look at the ideas with a critical eye. Through short lectures, rousing discussion with other students, and dedicated effort on your part, we will come to understand and be able to respond to some of the theories of Western Philosophies' great thinkers. This will require a fair amount of writing. Yes—writing! You cannot learn philosophy through multiple-choice exams. If you can write well, you can think well.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be familiar with the history and tradition of Skepticism and how it has shaped Western Philosophical thought.
  2. Students will be able to recognize presuppositions and assumptions as they identify and discuss the arguments for, and the criticisms against, major Skeptical theories.
  3. Through critical responses to writing prompts, students will demonstrate an understanding of the implications of these concepts in today
  4. With personal philosophical journals, students will learn to relate the theories and concepts of Skepticism directly to their own lives and concerns.
  5. Students will be able to consider and interpret philosophical paradoxes, listing and explaining specific components and ramifications.
  6. Students will be able to thoughtfully and politely express their personal insights and relate them to other students in class discussion.
Class Assessment:
  • This is a discussion class, so participation is mandatory. It is hard to participate if you are not in class. I will award 10 points each for 7 of the 8 class days for a total of 70 points possible for attendance and participation.
    • Read the material assigned! I will try to make each class as interesting and challenging as possible.  I expect the student to be an active learner, to be a part of the class, and to take intellectual risks. 
    • If you will be gone an extended amount of time, please let me know so that we can work something out.
      • In the case of emergencies (hospitalization, death in the family, etc.) this attendance policy is waived.
  • For weeks 2-7, you will be responsible for 2 discussion questions to pose to the class and me. Each week is worth 5 points.
    • It may be one something that your are interested in, confused about, disagree with, etc.
      • Each question must be typed.
    • The purpose of this assignment is to ensure critical reading of the text and to require all participate.
  • A Reflective Essay is required discussing the ramifications of skeptical thought and the personal impact of this course worth 100 points.
  • Throughout the semester, you will keep a Skeptical Journal. I will grade 30 entries at 5 points a piece for a total of 150 points possible.
    • The purpose of this assignment is to get you to start thinking abstractly on a daily basis. Even if you currently realize that we, as humans, have “deep” thoughts all the time, I want you to start practicing elaboration of your thinking on these concepts.
    • This journal may take any physical format.
    • There needs to be at least five entries a week. The key is to get into the habit of writing every single day, preferably at the same time everyday.
      • Journal entries can be on any thoughtful subject, any time you doubt…  
      • Take your subject to an abstract level by addressing meaning or implication or ramifications, etc. Further, I want you to link your subject to the theories and ideas of Skepticism At the beginning of each week I will post possible prompts online that may offer inspiration.
      • The entries do not have to be very long. This is akin to a traditional diary. Each entry can be five sentences or it can be five pages.
    • I will look at the journals every Monday and collect them for final grading on the last day of class.
  • Every Thursday, we will have an online summation quiz of the week we have just discussed. These will be essay questions that are a decidedly reflective.


Grades are determined by the student's earned points divided by 500 points.


 70 ... Attendance & Participation

150 ... Skeptic's Journal

 30 ... Discussion Questions

150 ... Quizzes

100 ... Critical Reflective Essay

Late Submission of Course Materials:

I will not accept anything that is not typed (except your journal). I want you to do and understand the work. Therefore, late assignments will be accepted. However, they will receive a reduced grade.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
We are all learning. I expect you to treat others in this classroom with patience and respect. Assignments are due the date listed on the syllabus. Students should contact the instructor in advance if unable to attend class.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

In Class



Week #1

What is Skepticism?

Syllabus & Course Introduction

Introduction to Skepticism

Thursday Online Summation Quiz

No Readings Due

Week #2

Ancient Skepticism

5th – 4th Century BCE

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Zeno: Ch 1

Sorites: Ch. 2

Week #3

Early Skepticism

4th – 2nd Century BCE

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Diogenes Laertius

Sextus Empiricus


Week #4

The Modern Era

16th – 18th Century BCE

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Michel DeMontaigne

Raymond Sebond

Fransisco Sanches

Gerald Erion & Barry Smith

Rene Descartes

David Hume

Week #5

Contemporary Skepticism

20th Century BCE

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Ch. 1 - All

Ch. 10 – Robert Nozick

Ch. 7 – Christopher Hill


Rodrick Chisholm

GE Moore


Pages 73-91

Week #6

Contemporary Skepticism, cont.

20th Century BCE

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Ch. 2 – Hilary Putnam

Ch. 5 – Ted Warfield

Ch. 11 – Keithe DeRose

Week #7

Current Skeptic Theories

2 In-class Discussion Questions

5 Entries in your Skeptic's Journal

Thursday Online Summation Quiz


Ch 5 – Classes & Truth

Appendix I – Brain Twisters

Chapter 6 - Dialethism

Week #8

Course Recap


Skeptic Journals Due

(Minimum of 30 Entries)

Reflective Essay Due

Celebratory Potluck.

No Readings 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:10/5/2006 9:01:23 PM