PH101 Intro to Philosophical Thinking

for SP 2012

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Mission Statement: Park University provides access to a quality higher education experience that prepares a diverse community of learners to think critically, communicate effectively, demonstrate a global perspective and engage in lifelong learning and service to others.

Vision Statement: Park University, a pioneering institution of higher learning since 1875, will provide leadership in quality, innovative education for a diversity of learners who will excel in their professional and personal service to the global community.


PH 101 Introduction to Philosophical Thinking


SP 2012 HO


Adam Potthast


Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Liberal Studies


PhD, University of Connecticut
MA, University of Connecticut

Office Location

Copley 229

Office Hours

3-5 Tuesday and !:30-3:30 Wednesday

Daytime Phone



Semester Dates

18 January - 5 May

Class Days


Class Time

12:00 - 1:15 PM


Curiosity, Humility, Dedication

Credit Hours


Philosophy: The Classics, 3rd Edition by Nigel Warburton

Additional Resources:
We may be referring to the following sites with some frequency. Consider them as texts for the course. 

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
Career Counseling - The Career Development Center (CDC) provides services for all stages of career development.  The mission of the CDC is to provide the career planning tools to ensure a lifetime of career success.
Park Helpdesk - If you have forgotten your OPEN ID or Password, or need assistance with your PirateMail account, please email or call 800-927-3024
Resources for Current Students - A great place to look for all kinds of information

Course Description:

It is almost impossible to actually have an introduction to philosophy in a single semester’s course. But we're going to try! This course will be a survey of the ideas (and some of the works) of the greatest Western philosophers. We will spend a brief time on many philosophers, absorbing their ideas and, more importantly, the arguments for those ideas.

This course can help you in two main ways: first, it can introduce you to new and different ways of seeing the world -- and perhaps seeing parts of it you didn't know were there. But more importantly, it can help you learn to form the best understanding of the world that Western civilization has to offer. A philosopher doesn't just adopt a worldview he or she likes; he or she prefers to choose the one for which there is the best reason.

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.

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 midterm and final exams will assess your knowledge of the positions of the philosophers we've studied, as well as your ability to apply their ideas to novel situations. 

In the application essay, you'll have to apply one of the philosopher's theories to the real world, saying how well it fits and how it helps or does not help us understand some phenomenon in the real world. 

In the argument essay, you'll have to defend a philosophical thesis by constructing an argument for it and dealing with counter-examples. More information about both papers will be provided later in the course. 

Finally, instead of participation points, I am awarding "preparation" points in the class. There are many ways to demonstrate preparation. The most common will be informed participation in the class discussions. But if you have an alternate way of demonstrating your preparedness, you may also let me know about it. (Possibilities include extra writing, conversations in office hours, etc, etc.) I also may assign brief quizzes at the beginning of class to help you gain preparation points.

Midterm Exam: 100 points

Final Exam: 100 points

Pre-Writing for Application Essay: 25 points
Application Essay: 100 points

Pre-Writing for Argument Essay: 25 points
Argument Essay: 100 points

Preparation: 100 points

Total: 550 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 grade book. Quizzes cannot be made up. 

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:



Assignments Due

18 January

Syllabus and Introductions

23 January

The Apology (online)

25 January

The Apology Continued

30 January

(Protagoras or Meno, online)

1 February


6 February


8 February

I will be at a conference this day, so we will not be meeting for class.

13 February


Application Essay
Pre-Writing Due

 15 February

(Meditations, online)

20 February


22 February


Application Essay Due

27 February


29 February


5 March


7 March

Midterm Exam

12 March

Spring Break - No Classes

14 March

Spring Break - No Classes

19 March


21 March


26 March


Argument Essay
Pre-Writing Due

28 March


2 April


4 April


9 April


11 April


16 April

(Fear and Trembling, online)

Argument Essay Due

18 April


23 April


25 April

(Existentialism, online)

31 April


2 May



Monday, 7 May, 1pm

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 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 93
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 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 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 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog Page 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:


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:1/18/2012 11:03:58 AM