Introduction to Philosophy

Phil A201, section 603 - Fall 2014

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 (6th Edition)
by Forrest E. Baird


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: TR 4:00 P – 5:15 P Room ADM-142

OFFICE: TR 5:30 P - 7:00 P, in Administration and Humanities Building Room 277 or by appointment. Here is my Current Schedule.  

Phone: 786-4458 (office) or 694-1023 (home- please no calls after 8P). 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 quizzes, 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.

August 26: 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.

August 28: Be prepared to discuss the Apology. 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.

September 2: Labor Day Holiday (no classes)

September 4: The Meno. Plato's Republic -- highlights. The topic of this lecture will be Plato and Idealism.

September 9: Focus will be Plato and his theories of knowledge and justice.

September 11: Aristotle, his life and work. Be prepared to discuss Realism. Read for general familiarity.

September 16: The topic will be Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. Be prepared to discuss Ethics - moderation and the good life.

September 18: This lecture topic is Greek thought after Aristotle. Be prepared to discuss Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plotinus.

September 23: The topic of this lecture will be Jesus, Paul and Christianity

September 25: Augustine: Relation of Philosophy and Faith. First exam given. Take this link to exam one.

September 30: First Exam due. Anselm as one example of the early Medievalists. Proof that God exists. Hildegaard von Bingen as another example.

October 2: This lecture focuses on later Medieval Philosophy, the rise and problems of Aristotelianism. Thomas Aquinas and the dogmatic solution.

October 7: Descartes "I think..." This is the start of Rationalism.

October 9: Hobbes "Dog eat dog world". British Empiricism versus European Rationalism.

October 14: Spinoza - This lecture looks at the arguments that lead to Pantheism.

October 16: Locke, Democracy - Jefferson. Tabula Raza, primary and secondary qualities will be the first focus for this lecture. Second exam Take this link to exam two.

October 21: Second exam due. This lecture will focus on Leibniz - Monadology "Best of all possible worlds." You may also be interested in Anne Conway and the ideas she gave to Leibniz. Leibniz and Stephen Hawking - What's a Quark?

October 23: 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.

October 28: Hume - Skeptic of skeptics. This lecture covers David Hume's empirical argument against metaphysics. Who am I? Communitarian Ethics.

October 30: 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.

November 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.

November 6: Mill - This lecture discusses Utilitarianism and follow up with a lecture on Russell A Liberal Decalogue and The Problems of Philosophy.

November 11: Kierkegaard - This lecture discusses an individual spirit in crises. Sartre and "No Exit." 

November 13: Marx - This lecture discusses the arguments for Dialectical Materialism and Communism. Reactions to Hegel.

November 18: Nietzsche and the Superman. This lecture looks at Nietzsche's claim that God is dead.

November 20: American Pragmatism, Peirce. An American Outburst. James and the psychology of pragmatism.

November 25: 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

November 27: Thanksgiving Break (No Classes)

December 2: Quine and Neopragmatism.

December 4: Derrida and Deconstruction. Third exam. Take this link to exam three. Term Papers due.

December 9: (This is a corretion. I mistakenly had December 11th for the last meeting.)

Third exam due. Class meets at 4:00P. 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 December 9, 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.