Introduction to Philosophy

Phil A201, section 491

Summer 2015

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.

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.

TEXTS: Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida, Forrest Baird.

See this image

Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida (6th Edition) (Philosophic Classics (Pearson)) Paperback – January 13, 2010

by Forrest E. Baird (Author)


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 questions posed in each lecture are 25% of the grade.

CLASS: Hours: Wednesday 6:00 P - 10:00 P Location Eagle River Center 228.

OFFICE: See News. UAA Eagle River Center 238C.

Phone: 786-4458 or 786-7649 (office) 694-1023 (home). The best way to get a message to me is via e-mail. Please feel free to call my home phone. My web page is located at and my e-mail address is wsjamison@UAA.ALASKA.EDU. All tests are essays that can 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.

May 20:

1: 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.

2: The Postmodern Condition.

3. Society in prehistory, mythology, water and civilization.

4. The first philosophers, Thales and water.

May 27:

1. Be prepared to discuss the Apology pages 21-38. 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.

2. The Meno pages 60 - 84.

3. Plato's Republic -- highlights from pages 84 - 141. The topic of this lecture will be Plato and Idealism.

4. Focus will be Plato and his theories of knowledge and justice.

June 3:

1 and 2. Aristotle, his life and work. Be prepared to discuss Realism. Read over pages 151 - 183 for general familiarity.

3 and 4. The topic will be Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. Be prepared to discuss Ethics - moderation and the good life. Read pages 184 - 242.

June 10:

1. This lecture topic is Greek thought after Aristotle. Be prepared to discuss Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plotinus. Read pages 243 - 276.

2 and 3. The topic of this lecture will be Jesus, Paul and Christianity - and pages 277 - 281.

4. Augustine: Relation of Philosophy and Faith. Read over 283 - 310.

June 17:  First exam is due.

1. Augustine and Church dogma.

2. Anselm pages 317 - 325 as an example of the early Medievalists.

3. This lecture focuses on later Medieval Philosophy, the rise and problems of Aristotelianism

4. Thomas Aquinas and the dogmatic solution. Be prepared to discuss pages 333 - 366.

June 24:

1. Descartes "I think..." Be prepared to discuss pages 381 - 430. This is the start of Rationalism.

2. Hobbes "Dog eat dog world" Be prepared to discuss pages 431 - 472. British Empiricism versus European Rationalism.

3. Spinoza - This lecture looks at the arguments that lead to Pantheism. Be prepared to discuss pages 483 - 508.

4. Locke, Democracy - Jefferson . Be prepared to discuss pages 537 - 554.  Tabula Raza, primary and secondary qualities will be the first focus for this lecture.

July 1:

1. This lecture will focus on Leibniz - Monadology "Best of all possible worlds." Be prepared to discuss pages 591 – 593 and 622 - 631. You may also be interested in Anne Conway and the ideas she gave to Leibniz.

2. Leibniz and Stephen Hawking - What's a Quark?

3. 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 632 - 659.

4. Hume - Skeptic of skeptics. This lecture covers David Hume's empirical argument against metaphysics. Who am I? Communitarian Ethics. Be prepared to discuss pages 694 - 730. Second exam is due.

July 8: No class

July 15:

1 and 2. 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 774 - 817.

3 and 4. 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.

July 22:

1. Mill - This lecture discusses Utilitarianism. Be prepared to discuss pages 907 - 948.

2. Kierkegaard - This lecture discusses an individual spirit in crises. Be prepared to discuss pages 949 - 961.

3. Sartre and "No Exit."  Be prepared to discuss pages 1131 - 1134.

4. Marx - This lecture discusses the arguments for Dialectical Materialism and Communism. Reactions to Hegel. Be prepared to discuss pages 972 - 994.

July 29:

1. Nietzsche and the Superman. This lecture looks at Nietzsche's claim that God is dead. Be prepared to discuss pages 995 - 1027.

2. American Pragmatism, Peirce.

3. James and the psychology of pragmatism.

4. Dewey, and the Activity School. This lecture looks at the new teaching methods and the religion of Democracy.  Third exam is due. Term Papers due.

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 November 5, 2014. 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.