PH101 Intro to Philosophical Thinking

for SP 2011

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PH 101 Intro to Philosophical Thinking


SP 2011 HO


Potthast, Adam


Assistant Professor of Philosophy


PhD, University of Connecticut
MA, University of Connecticut

Office Location

Library, 416E

Office Hours

3-5, Monday, 2:30-4:30, Tuesday

Daytime Phone



Semester Dates

9 January - 6 May 2011

Class Days


Class Time

1:30 - 2:45 PM


Curiosity, Humility, Dedication

Credit Hours


Learning to Philosophize, by Del Kiernan-Lewis

The Elements of Philosophy: Readings from Past and Present, edited by Gendler, Siegel, and Cahn

Additional Resources:
There may be some articles posted on eCompanion, but probably not.

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Course Description:

It is almost impossible to actually have an introduction to philosophy in a single semester’s course. What I’ve decided to focus on in this course is the part of philosophy that will be the most useful to your life: the skill of philosophizing. We will be touching briefly on the history of philosophy, but it will not be the focus of this course. Instead, we will approach philosophy from the perspective of trying to solve philosophical problems such as the freedom of the will, the relationship between the mind and body, the existence of God, and the nature of right and wrong. We might throw in the nature of reality too.

If you use this course well, it should help you in any endeavor you decide to pursue. Philosophy is not just for philosophers or liberal arts majors. It can help you be a better engineer, a better banker, a better comedian, and a better citizen. But philosophical skill is not just about learning to defend yourself and your thoughts verbally and in writing. It is about learning to pursue and defend the truth.

Catalog Copy: 
PH 101 Introduction to Philosophical Thinking (GE) An entry into philosophy by two routes an exploration of philosophical problems through reading and discussing selections from the great thinkers or a lecture-discussion survey of philosophy conceived in the broadestfashion. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:

I believe that philosophy can be a practical and liberating skill for people in their everyday lives, and I teach it with a mind to that end. Of course, it’s also good for investigating the deepest issues that humanity has contemplated for thousands of years.    I also teach it with that end in mind. I also believe that education is a team sport. I can’t teach you anything you don’t already want to learn at some level and you’ll learn it best if you try to become interested in philosophy for its own sake rather than the grade. 

Finally, I believe in prior planning and limiting surprises and bias. You’ll always know what’s required of you on an exam or a paper ahead of time. Education shouldn’t be like the lottery. (Which you shouldn’t play, because it’s a waste of money.)

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Construct and defend a philosophical argument.
  2. Apply philosophical skills and techniques to everyday questions.
  3. Sketch the outlines of an argument from a philosophical article or text.
  4. Helpfully criticize a philosophical argument.
  5. Construct the beginnings of a responsible intellectual worldview.
  6. Describe philosophy's place in the humanities, science, and other forms of human knowledge
  7. Ask the questions necessary to understand any legitimate area of human knowledge.
  8. Engage knowledgeably in debates about the existence of God, ethics, the nature of the self, and the nature of consciousness.
Class Assessment:
The first part of this course is what I call "Basic Training" in philosophy. It is a rigorous four-week examination of our first text, Learning to Philosophize. After this unit, there will be a brief exam over this book and an in-office tutorial we will schedule outside of class.

Another big part of the course will be writing your first philosophy paper. Before you write this, you will outline the paper, and I'll give you feedback on your outline.

Finally, after each of the "topic" units in the class (God, free will and personal identity, ethics, and consciousness), we will have an in-class dialogue or debate about the topic. You'll take up one side in these activities. There will also be the option to take a test or do a more unique assignment after each unit.


Basic training exam: 60 points

Basic training tutorial: 40 points

Philosophy paper outline: 50 points

Philosophy paper: 100 points

Participation: 50 points

Issue Exams/Assignments: 100 points

Debate/Dialogues: 100 points

Late Submission of Course Materials:
The charge is a pretty much non-negotiable 1/3 of a letter grade per day late. You don't need to inform me that the assignment is going to be late in order to take advantage of this policy. After two weeks, the grade will become a zero in my gradebook.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
Let's treat each other like adults. Your texts, tweets, and Facebook posts can wait until the end of class. No, really, they can. Unless you're expecting a call from a sick child's doctor or something, it's best to turn your phone off before class.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:
Schedule: To be announced...

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 students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty ( or Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92
Because I teach ethics, I have a zero-tolerance policy for cheating, plagiarism, and disruptive behavior. If you're disrupting class, we'll have a talk. But if you're cheating on a quiz or exam or plagiarizing a paper, you fail the course. Not the exam, not the quiz or the paper. The course. You've been warned.

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. from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92-93
If you are at all in doubt about whether something in an assignment constitutes plagiarism, email me or call the office. You will often have an answer in the next few hours. I am not at all picky about the form of reference you use, but I do expect some form of reference.

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 "F".
  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 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96

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: .
If you have a documented disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, you are strongly encouraged to meet with me early in the semester. You will need to request that the Academic Support Center's staff send a letter to me verifying your disability and specifying the accommodation you will need before I can arrange your accommodation

Additional Information:

Quality: We all make little mistakes while writing (there may be a few in this document) but assignments must be written on a college-level as a whole. I expect them to be almost immune to grammar AND usage mistakes. It is your responsibility, and it will be to your benefit, to learn to write such papers. You should also make sure that proper names are spelled correctly. There is a difference between speaking and writing, and I require papers that respect the rules of writing. See me if these rules are unclear. Assignments that do not meet this standard will be graded down accordingly or handed back for rewrite before the next class.

If you haven't shown your assignment to anyone, it is a draft, not a completed work, and will be graded accordingly. Grammar mistakes are a clear sign that you have not shown your paper to anyone. Spelling mistakes are intolerable in the age of word processing spell checkers and show sloppy work.  In short, if Microsoft Word underlines it in red and it's not a technical term or a proper name, there really are no good excuses.

Sources in Papers: Wikipedia or random websites that agree with you are not valid sources for college papers. We all use Wikipedia to learn valuable information, but it is a starting place for research, not an endpoint for research. 

In papers for this course, you should also resist using the dictionary as a source. Most dictionaries record the the many ways in which words are used. This means that the dictionary is an authority on usage, but not on the definitions of concepts. The type of defining that takes place in philosophy is a very different activity. Unless you really understand the how and why dictionaries are constructed the way they are, you should avoid using them as sources or evidence in papers.


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Last Updated:1/7/2011 3:23:16 AM