Introduction to Philosophy

Phil A201, section 002 - Spring 2005

William Jamison

THEME: Introduces works of influential thinkers, both ancient and modern, in the Western philosophical tradition. Emphasizes central problems of knowledge, reality, and good and evil.

Special Note:  This page links to other pages on my web site that are an important part of the syllabus. Students should select those links to become familiar with the other elements of the syllabus. On following a link a page will state that it is part of the syllabus if it is. Other links are supplied as resources for students that are interested in taking advantage of them, but if they are not specifically noted as part of the syllabus it is up to the student to pursue them or not. The purpose of this is to simplify the main page of the syllabus while supplying supplementary information as necessary or to enrich the experience of taking the course.

Student Outcomes

Students completing this course should be able to identify, comprehend, analyze, and evaluate complex philosophical arguments in oral and written discourse. They should also be able to understand, analayze, interpret, and apply major works in the areas of the History of Philosophy, Ethics, and contemporary topics.


Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida (4th Edition)
by Forrest E. Baird, Forrest Baird (Paperback - July 24, 2002)


Course grades are based on:

 Exams - 50% - nine essays showing an understanding of the materials covered in class and the assigned readings in response to questions, each with a minimum of 300 words,

 25% of the grade will be based on a term project. 

 Response to quiz questions posed in each lecture -25%.

CLASS: Hours: MW 2:30P – 3:45P Room Admin 142 

OFFICE: See my Current Schedule.

Phone: 786-4458 (office) or 694-1023 (home- please no calls after 8P), Philosophy Department Secretary 786-4455. The best way to get a message to me is via e-mail. My web page is located at and my e-mail address is wsjamison@UAA.ALASKA.EDU. All tests and the term paper should be turned in using e-mail. This syllabus on my web site has links to other sources for many of the texts for the philosophers we will discuss. Some of the links include wonderful web pages on the various philosophers.


January 10: This lecture includes an introduction to the course and description of course requirements. We will discuss: the purpose of doing philosophy, the course readings as an "all you can eat buffet", and what the tests and quizzes will be like. Society in prehistory, mythology, water and civilization. The first philosophers, Thales and water. 

January 12: Be prepared to discuss the Apology pages 21-37. Try comparing the text with my version: what was Socrates' message to us? A major part of this topic will be Socrates, his life and mission. To read about Alcibiades check Plutarch. His relationship with Socrates is very interesting.

January 17: Alaska Civil Rights Day - No classes

January 19: The Meno pages 58 - 82. Plato's Republic -- highlights from pages 82 - 142. The topic of this lecture will be Plato and Idealism.

January 24: Focus will be Plato and his theories of knowledge and justice.

January 26: Aristotle, his life and work. Be prepared to discuss Realism. Read over pages 143 - 184 for general familiarity.

January 31: The topic will be Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. Be prepared to discuss Ethics - moderation and the good life. Read pages 185 - 243.

February 2: This lecture topic is Greek thought after Aristotle. Be prepared to discuss Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plotinus. Read pages 245 - 280.

February 7: The topic of this lecture will be Jesus, Paul and Christianity - and pages 281 - 285.

February 9: Augustine: Relation of Philosophy and Faith. Read over 287 - 315. First exam given. Take this link to exam one.

February 14: First Exam due. Anselm pages 322 - 330 as one example of the early Medievalists. Proof that God exists. Hildegaard von Bingen as another example pages 331 - 337.

February 16: This lecture focuses on later Medieval Philosophy, the rise and problems of Aristotelianism. Thomas Aquinas and the dogmatic solution. Be prepared to discuss pages 345 - 378.

February 21: Descartes "I think..." Be prepared to discuss pages 393 - 446. This is the start of Rationalism.

February 23: Hobbes "Dog eat dog world" Be prepared to discuss pages 447 - 488. British Empiricism versus European Rationalism.

February 28: Spinoza - This lecture looks at the arguments that lead to Pantheism. Be prepared to discuss pages 498 - 551.

March 2: Locke, Democracy - Jefferson. Be prepared to discuss pages 552 - 608.  Tabula Raza, primary and secondary qualities will be the first focus for this lecture. Second exam given Second exam. Take this link to exam two.

March 7: Second exam due This lecture will focus on Leibniz - Monadology "Best of all possible worlds." Be prepared to discuss pages 609 – 648. You may also be interested in Anne Conway and the ideas she gave to Leibniz. Leibniz and Stephen Hawking - What's a Quark?

March 9: Berkeley - Idealism This lecture topic is Bishop Berkeley's arguments against the concept of material substance. To be is to be perceived - if a tree falls... All in the mind of God. Be prepared to discuss pages 649 - 710.

March 14: Hume - Skeptic of skeptics. This lecture covers David Hume's empirical argument against metaphysics. Who am I? Communitarian Ethics. Be prepared to discuss pages 711 - 790.

March 16: Kant - This lecture looks at Kant's answer to Hume concerning the a priori. Can Rationalism and Empiricism be partners? Duty and the categorical imperative. Be prepared to discuss pages 803 - 921.

March 21-26: Spring Break No classes

March 28: Hegel - This lecture discusses Hegel's view of the World Spirit and Self-consciousness - We are as we see others see us. The dialectic and spirit - Absolute Spirit. Be prepared to discuss pages 929 - 942.

March 30: Mill - This lecture discusses Utilitarianism. Be prepared to discuss pages 943 - 984 and follow up with a lecture on Russell A Liberal Decalogue and The Problems of Philosophy.

April 4: Kierkegaard - This lecture discusses an individual spirit in crises. Be prepared to discuss pages 985 - 1007. Sartre and "No Exit."  Be prepared to discuss pages 1150 - 1175.

April 6: Marx - This lecture discusses the arguments for Dialectical Materialism and Communism. Reactions to Hegel. Be prepared to discuss pages 1008 - 1030.

April 11: Nietzsche and the Superman. This lecture looks at Nietzsche's claim that God is dead. Be prepared to discuss pages 1031 - 1062.

April 13: American Pragmatism, Peirce. An American Outburst. James and the psychology of pragmatism.

April 18: Dewey, and the Activity School. This lecture looks at the new teaching methods and the religion of Democracy, followed up with Wittgenstein and Language Games pages 1121 - 1149.

April 20: Quine and Neopragmatism. Be prepared to discuss pages 1176 – 1193.

April 25: Derrida and Deconstruction. Be prepared to discuss pages 1194 - 1217. Third exam. Take this link to exam three. Term Papers due.

April 29 (Friday): Third exam due. Class meets at 01:00P and ends at the regular time. We will discuss the postmodern dilemma.

This syllabus may be adjusted at any time to meet the class or instructor’s requirements upon one week’s notice to students. 


This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated August 14, 2012. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.