PH101 Intro to Philosophical Thinking

for SP 2013

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PH 101 Intro to Philosophical Thinking


SP 2013 HO


Potthast, Adam


Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Chair of Liberal Studies


MA, University of Connecticut, 1999
PhD, University of Connecticut, 2005

Office Location

Copley 229

Office Hours

1-3 Wednesday, 10-11 Thursday

Daytime Phone



Web Page


Semester Dates

14 January - 9 May

Class Days


Class Time

2:25 - 3:40 PM


Curiosity, Humility, and Dedication.

Credit Hours


Readings from Doc Sharing in eCompanion

Problems in Philosophy, by James Rachels. McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 0073535893

Additional Resources:

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Course Description:
PH 101 Introduction to Philosophical Thinking 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 broadest fashion. 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. Define and apply elementary philosophical terms, such as ethics, logic, belief, etc.
  2. Understand a philosophical argument's structure and relationship to objections.
  3. Apply ethical and philosophical tools to contemporary economic, social, and political problems.
  4. Understand philosophy's relationship to other disciplines, how it uses scientific data, and what it gains and gives to those other disciplines.
  5. Construct an elementary philosophical argument and respond to objections.
  6. State and apply an analytic method to exploring philosophical problems and apply it to some traditional philosophical debates.
Class Assessment:
Basic Training Exam: This exam will assess your ability to define and apply elementary philosophical terms, as well as to state and apply the method for exploring philosophical problems that we will learn in the first part of the course.

Mini-midterm: A couple of multiple choice and short-answer questions, this exam will assess your knowledge of the ins and outs of some philosophical arguments from the Rachels text, and perhaps Socrates' Apology.

Final Exam: This exam will assess your knowledge of the ins and outs of several philosophical arguments that we study in the course as well as your ability to understand philosophical arguments' structures in general.

Paper 1: Your first philosophy paper will hone your ability to understand and write a philosophical arguments as well as to respond to objections. Its topic will be one of the chapters from the Rachels book.

Paper 2: Your second philosophy paper will require a little imagination, and will argue for a way to apply a philosophical problem to a contemporary economic, social, or political issue.

Preparation points: I expect you to come to class having familiarized yourself with the readings enough to contribute to a discussion about them. This will constitute the bulk of your points. We will also hold a structured philosophical debate over one of the issues in the book. Your preparation for this debate will also figure into the preparation points.

Argument Maps and Summaries: Occasionally throughout the course I will ask you to summarize a section of the reading in writing or write out an "argument map" (which I'll describe via handout). 

Basic Training Exam: 50 points

Mini-Midterm: 50 points
Final Exam: 100 points
Paper 1: 50 points
Paper 2: 50 points
Preparation points: 100 points
Argument Maps and Summaries (probably around 5): 20 points each

Total: 500 points

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Late assignments are penalized 1/3 of a letter grade per day late. You don't need to provide a reason or explanation to take advantage of this. After two weeks, the grade drops to 0.

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:
Weeks 1-3: Basic Training. Readings from eCompanion.

Weeks 4: Basic Training Exam and the start of readings from the Rachels book.
Weeks 5-6: Readings from the Rachels book and Your First Philosophy Paper assigned.
Week 7: Readings from the Rachels book and mini-midterm.
Week 8: Spring break!
Week 9: Readings from the Rachels book and Your First Philosophy Paper due.
Weeks 10-12: Readings from the Rachels book and Applying Philosophy Paper assigned.
Week 13: In-Class Debate. (You must be there this week!)
Week 14: Readings from the Rachels book. Applying Philosophy Paper due.
Week 15: Wrap up and Final Exam

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 95-96

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 95

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.

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 98

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:1/14/2013 12:27:31 PM