Course Information

Foundations of Philosophy

PL201, -16, -20, -22 | Fall, 2019

MWF (20) 12:00pm-12:50pm / (22) 1:00pm-1:50pm / (16) 2:00pm-2:50pm

Room: Beatty Hall Rm. 11

Dr. Jeffrey C. Witt | jcwitt [at] loyola [dot] edu | ext. 2947

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: Mon and Wed 3pm-5pm, Tues 12pm-2pm, and by appointment

Course Description

Foundations of Philosophy is a general introduction to the basic problems of philosophy and the classical sources that first recognized and then formulated these problems. The objectives of the course are two-fold. The first is to introduce students to the early history of philosophy. Second, within this general historical context, the course will focus on the development of the three problem areas that have come to define the field of philosophy today: epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Students will be asked to absorb philosophy’s long preoccupation with these issues, recognize the perennial difficulties that arise, and actively reflect on the consequences of positions taken.

Course Learning Aims and Expected Outcomes

1) Aims: Exposure to and increased facility in comprehension of the foundational texts of philosophy. Outcomes: Be able to identify (chronologically) the major foundational philosophers and their distinctive positions in the core problem areas. Be able to compare and contrast the positions of philosophers studied.

2) Aims: Increase students' ability to recognize and appreciate the complexity of core philosophical problems. Develop a mind that can articulate that complexity to oneself and others. Outcomes: Be able to see a problem from diverse vantage points. Be able to articulate both the pros and cons of perennial philosophical issues discussed in class.

3) Aims: Help students to question the values they take for granted and to think through the nature of knowledge, existence, justice, happiness, and ultimately the life they want to live. Help students cultivate a taste for philosophical speculation, i.e. develop an appetite for "contemplation with friends" and a palate that can recognize the difference between this kind of enjoyment and alternatives. Outcomes: Be able to describe the consequences and impact of a given philosophical stance for one's own life and decisions: especially, the impact on what one values and how one conceives of the good life.

Course Readings

Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (San Francisco: 2009)

A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia, ed. Patricia Curd (Indianapolis: 2011)

Plato, Five Dialogues, trans. G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: 2002)

Plato, Gorgias, trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford: 2008)

Aristotle, Selections, transl. Terence Irwin and Gail Fine (Indianapolis: 1995)

Moodle Readings (Moodle)

Course Requirements

Participation (15%)

In-Class Participation (5%): Class involvement is a small part of your grade that typically makes a big difference. Class involvement means, first of all, coming to class. Missing three or more classes will result in an automatic zero for your participation grade. Secondly, it means coming to class prepared. However, preparation needs to bear fruit in the classroom. In other words, you need to strive to be an asset to the class. At times we will have opportunities for discussion; someone who is involved in class will be a thoughtful and engaged participant in that discussion. At other times, lectures will solicit your input and/or questions; an engaged student will bring up helpful and appropriate questions and be able to make a positive contribution when class input is called upon. Finally, we will occasionally have low-stakes writing and worksheet assignments, which you will be expected to give your best effort and hand in. (Use of cell phones in class for texting or any other reason will result in an automatic 0 for this portion of your grade. Do yourself a favor and put your cell phones away and out sight for the duration of our class.)

Reading Response Participation (10%): For each class reading, I will post a set of guided reading questions on moodle to help guide you through our sometimes very difficult reading. Included at the bottom of these reading questions will be one or two reflection questions. While you ARE expected to look over the guided reading and reflection questions for each reading as you prepare for class, you are NOT required to submit a written answer for every reflection question. Rather, I ask that you respond to 8 different reflection prompts for readings in 8 different weeks throughout the semester. Responses should be submitted via the Moodle reading discussion board prior to the class meeting for which the reading is assigned. Only one response per week will be counted.

Argument Analyses (15%)

Twice during the semester you will be asked to write an argument analysis based on our class reading. This assignment will ask you to digest a difficult reading, identify the central claim of the passage, and trace the key steps of the argument leading to its conclusion.

Argument analyses should not exceed 400 words. It should be extremely difficult to fit everything within this word limit. Responses will be graded out of 20. A score of 18-20 indicates that the response exceeds expectations, a 16-17 meets expectations, and 15 or below does not meet expectations. Analyses are due in class on the assigned due date. Late responses will not be accepted.

Exams (70%)

Mid-Term Exam 1 (20%): This exam will focus on the central problem of epistemology, basic logic, and common logical fallacies.

Mid-Term Exam 2 (20%): This exam will focus on the central problems of metaphysics. It will expect that you can articulate the basic metaphysical problems posed by the early presocratic thinkers and can generally explain how Plato and Aristotle responded to these problems.

Final Exam (30%): The cumulative final exam will include short fact based questions, quotation identification, and essay responses on core concepts and problems discussed during the course of the semester.

Final Grade Distribution

92% A, 90% A-, 88% B+, 83% B, 80 B-, 78% C+, 73% C, 70% C-, 68% D+, 60% D

Honor Code and Plagiarism

Students are expected to follow the university's honor code:

"The Honor Code states that all students of the Loyola Community have been equally entrusted by their peers to conduct themselves honestly on all academic assignments. The Students of this University understand that having collective and individual responsibility for the ethical welfare of their peers exemplifies a commitment to the community. Students who submit materials that are the products of their own minds demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. All outside resources or information should be clearly acknowledged. If there is any doubt or question regarding the use and documentation of outside sources for academic assignments, your instructor should be consulted. Any violations of the Honor Code will be handled by the Honor Council."

See the honor code for further information.

Computer, Cell Phones and Email Policy

I ask you not to use your computers or cell phones in this class. They are almost always a distraction. (If there is a special reason that you need a computer, please let me know, and we can most likely work something out.) Students using cell phones in any capacity will find their participation grade negatively affected. If you find this policy frustrating, then I encourage you to watch the Frontline documentary: Digital Nation

Email is useful for setting up appointments or informing me about emergencies, but about most other things, I prefer to meet with you face to face. This is what office hours are for. Do not be scared; I am nice! If my office hours conflict with your schedule, I will be glad to work with you to find a time that does fit.

Course Schedule

**This is a tentative schedule, subject to revision depending on our progress and extenuating circumstances**

I. Philosophy and Leisure

Week 1

Wed Sep 04 - Introduction.

Fri Sep 06 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, pp. 19-52.

Week 2

Mon Sep 9 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, pp. 53-74.

Wed Sep 11 - Russell, In Praise of Idleness (Moodle).

II. The Task of Knowing

Fri Sept 13 - Plato, Meno, pp. 58-92.

Week 3

Mon Sept 16 - [Moodle Lecture] Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Book I, cc. 1-6, pp. 37-52; Book II, c. 19, pp. 66-68. (Reading Worksheet Due by 5pm).

Wed Sept 18 - [Moodle Lecture] "Introduction to Logic - Categorical Propositions" (Moodle); "Introduction to Logic - Venn Diagrams" (Moodle); (Logic Worksheet Due by 5pm).

Fri Sept 20 - [Moodle Lecture] "Introduction to Logic - The Syllogism" (Moodle), "Venn Diagrams for Categorical Syllogisms" (Moodle); (Syllogism Worksheet Due by 5pm).

Week 4

Mon Sept 23 - "Introduction to Logic - The Formal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Wed Sept 25 - "Informal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Fri Sept 27 - Review Session.

Week 5

Mon Sept 30 - Mid-Term Exam I.

III. The Birth of Philosophy: A theory of everything, from physics to metaphysics


Wed Oct 2 - Introduction, pp. 1-7; Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, pp. 13-22;

Fri Oct 4 - Heraclitus, pp. 39-53

Week 6

Mon Oct 07 - Parmenides, pp. 55-65; Zeno, pp. 66-72

Wed Oct 09 - Anaxagoras, pp. 101-108.

Fri Oct 11 - Skepticism and the Sophists, pp. 144-161. (Analysis 1 Due).

Plato and His Forms

Week 7

Mon Oct 14 - Plato, Phaedo, 93-107.

Wed Oct 16 - Plato, Phaedo, 107-130.

Fri Oct 18 - Mid Semester Holiday.

Week 8

Mon Oct 21 - Plato, Phaedo, 131-154.

Aristotle's Search for First Principles: from Matter to God

Wed Oct 23 - Aristotle, Physics, Book I, pp. 83-95 and Book II cc. 1-3, pp. 95-105.

Fri Oct 25 - Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book I, pp. 221-240; Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book XII, pp. 332-344; Copleston, "Metaphysics of Aristotle," pp. 287-319 (Moodle).

Week 9

Mon Oct 28 - Review Day.

Wed Oct 30 - Mid-Term Exam II.

IV. Ethics of Pursuing Knowledge

Fri Nov 01 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book I, cc. 1-10, pp. 347-363.

Week 10

Mon Nov 4 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book I, c. 13, pp. 363-365 and Book II, cc. 1-7, pp. 366-376.

Wed Nov 6 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book III, cc. 1-5, pp. 376-388.

Fri Nov 8 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book III c. 7, pp. 389-391; Irwin, "Homer" in Classical Thought, pp. 6-19 (Moodle).

Week 11

Mon Nov 11 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book VIII, cc. 1-3, 9, pp. 417-422 and Book IX, cc. 4, 7-9, 12, pp. 423-432.

Wed Nov 13 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book X, cc. 4-5, pp. 433-438.

Fri Nov 15 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book X, cc. 6-9, pp. 438-439.

Week 12

Mon Nov 18 - Plato, Gorgias, 461b-472c, pp. 27-45.

Wed Nov 20 - Plato, Gorgias, 472d-481b, 46-62. (Analysis 2 Due).

Fri Nov 22 - [No Class].

Week 13

Mon Nov 25 - Plato, Gorgias, 481b-491d, pp. 62-78.

Wed Nov 27 - [Thanksgiving Break]

Fri Nov 29 - [Thanksgiving Break]

Week 14

Mon Dec 02 - Plato, Gorgias 491d-505b, pp. 78-102.

Wed Dec 04 - Plato, Gorgias, 505c-527e, pp. 102-135.

Fri Dec 06 - Augustine, Confessions, "Theft of the Pears" (Moodle).

Week 15

Mon Dec 09 - Exam Review.

Final Exam

(Section 20 12:00pm Class) Fri Dec 13, 1:00pm

(Section 22 1:00pm Class) Wed Dec 11, 9:00am

(Section 16 2:00pm Class) Wed Dec 11, 1:00pm