Course Information

Foundations of Philosophy

PL201, -13, -14 | Fall, 2022

MWF (13) 10:00am-10:50am / (14) 11:00am-11:50am

Room: (13) College Center W056 / (14) College Center W056

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

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 12-3pm

Course Description

A one semester introduction to philosophy. Three focal points are covered: the emergence and development of rational theories on the nature of reality (metaphysics); questions concerning the grounds for distinguishing between knowledge and opinion (epistemology); and the nature and status of values (ethical, aesthetic, religious, etc.). Special attention is paid to the origins of philosophy and its historical beginnings in the ancient world.

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 (epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics). 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 (LTBC) (San Francisco: 2009)

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

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

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

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

Moodle Readings (Moodle)

Course Requirements

Participation (20%)

In-Class Participation (2%): 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 in-class participation grade. Missing more than 6 classes will be grounds for failing the course. 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. (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.)

A critical part of this course is learning how to read and absorb difficult philosophical material. Learning this skill requires that you learn to read in a participatory and active way. First and foremost, you cannot acquire this skill without actually reading. But secondly, you need to read in a different way than you might read a novel. You need to read actively. This means annotating your text with pencil as you go and then responding to what you've read, so that you can internalize it, rather than allowing it to pass through you. Our participation grade is designed to push you towards this kind of reading. With nearly every reading assignment (preceding our class discussion) there is an opportunity to respond, either through a reading quiz, a class discussion, or worksheet. These assignments are intended to be completed BEFORE our class meeting on the assigned day.

Reading Quizzes (7%): there will be 10 quiz opportunities through the semester. I know that you will sometimes have busy weeks or unexpected life events will arise, thus you do not need to do all 10 quizzes. You are expected to complete 8 quizzes throughout the course of the semester. If you do more than 8, I will count your highest 8 and drop your lowest 2. Quizzes will only be open from 12pm the day before the assigned class and close when the class begins.

Guided Reading Questions Discussions (10%): For almost every class, there will be a set of guided reading questions. These should be read before you begin your reading. Then after your reading, using the class annotation tool you are invited to respond to the questions and to the responses of your peers. As the goal of this assignment is to help you digest and actively respond to our readings, you are encouraged to participate in the class discussion prior to each reading. But again I know you have busy days and busy weeks, so I'll be looking to see that you participated in at least 15 discussions throughout the semester. Again you are encouraged to participate in all discussions to help process the reading. And if you participate in more than 15, your top 15 marks will constitute your grade.

What does a full credit in the Guided Reading Questions Discussion look like? First of all, you should feel free to make as many posts you want of any size. The class annotation tools excels at allowing this kind of interactivity. So you are encouraged to add a link, give a +1 to another post, drop in a meme, or mark something as confusing and in need of more class discussion. Generally active participation will reflect positively on your overall participation grade. But to get full credit you need to participate at least two times in any given discussion. You should provide a response to one of the "reading reflection questions" (red questions) and you should reply to one of the responses by one of your peers. (You are also highly encouraged to share answers and dialogue in any form with your peers about the reading content questions (blue questions)). A general guideline for a good post is that it should be "substantive" "interesting", and "relevant". Make sure to clearly explain the substance of the issue ("substantive"). As rule of thumb it should be somewhere between 150 and 200 words. Show us its significance ("interesting"). (That is, add something to discussion. Just responding to a peer by saying "I agree" or parroting what they've already said does not add "significance". Finally, it should be on topic ("relevant"), and it should show evidence of having read the text and the post of your peer. Weak participation (e.g. only 1 post, or posts lacking in "substance, interest, and relevance") will receive a "check minus" or an "8", strong participation will receive a "check" or a "10".

Other Participation Activities (1%): Beyond quizzes and discussion boards, we will have a few worksheets that I will ask you to turn in. These will count toward your participation grade.

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 via Moodle on the assigned due date. Late responses will not be accepted.

Exams (65%)

Mid-Term Exam 1 (20%): This exam will focus on the central problems 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 pre-socratic thinkers and can generally explain how Plato and Aristotle responded to these problems.

Final Exam (25%): 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

93% A, 90% A-, 88% B+, 83% B, 80 B-, 78% C+, 73% C, 70% C-, 68% D+, 60% D

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 contact DSS so they can approve the exception). Students using cell phones during class 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.

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.

University Info

The Counseling Center supports the emotional well-being of the student body and is committed to a respectful understanding and honoring of the social, emotional, and cultural contexts represented by each individual student. The Counseling Center provides brief individual and group counseling, emergency and crisis intervention, and comprehensive referral services for those in need of longer-term therapy. We are currently providing both in -person and virtual services and this is subject to change in accordance with best health practices and state laws. Relevant updates and more information can be found on our webpage: or by calling (410) 617-CARE (2273). To make an appointment, please call (410) 617-CARE (2273). For after-hours emergencies, please call our after-hours counselor at (410) 617-5530 or Campus Police at (410)617-5911. Let’s Talk!

If you are a student registered with Disability Support Services (DSS) who needs accommodations for this course, please make sure you ask DSS to send a Faculty Notification Email (FNE) to your professor. If DSS has already sent the FNE to your professor, please schedule a brief meeting to discuss your accommodations during office hours. If you are not registered with DSS, but you have a physical or mental condition and experiencing difficulties caused by your medical condition in this or another course, please go to the Disability Support Services' website to learn more about accommodations at Loyola. Also, you can contact DSS at to schedule a meeting.

Title IX: Loyola University Maryland is committed to a learning and working environment free from sexual and gender-based misconduct including sexual harassment, sexual assault, fondling, incest, statutory rape, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation. Reports of such offenses are taken seriously, and Loyola encourages students experiencing sexual misconduct to report the incident in accordance with the University’s policy on Reporting Sexual Misconduct. Because of the University’s obligation to respond to reports of sexual misconduct, mandated reporters including faculty members, are required to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX coordinator even if the reporting party requests confidentiality. Information about confidential resources that are not required to report sexual misconduct to the Title IX coordinator may be found on the Title IX reporting resources page. For more information about policies and resources or reporting options, please review the Title IX web page. Loyola is also committed to an environment free of other forms of harassment and discrimination. For information about policies and reporting resources, please review the Bias Related Behaviors Process and Policy in the Community Standards for policies related to students and the harassment and discrimination policy for policies related to employees.

The Loyola Writing Center is open seven days a week for both face-to-face and Zoom appointments. The complete schedule of hours is posted on the website: For questions, or help making an appointment, students can email

The Study is located on the third floor of Jenkins Hall and serves as Loyola University Maryland’s academic support center. Our mission is to help Loyola students become successful, independent learners. We do this through a variety of free academic support services, such as peer and professional tutoring, academic success workshops, academic coaching, and time management and organization coaching. These services are available in person and online, and students can register for them through The Study’s website at

Food/Housing Insecurity and Textbook Needs: Any student who has difficulty securing their food, housing or textbooks is urged to contact Dr. Deborah Melzer, Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students at Loyola may have resources to help.

Course Schedule

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

I. Philosophy and Leisure

Week 1

Wed Sept 07 - Introduction.

Fri Sep 09 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture (LTBC), pp. 19-52.

Week 2

Mon Sep 12 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture (LTBC), pp. 53-74.

Wed Sep 14 - Russell, In Praise of Idleness (Moodle).

II. The Task of Knowing

Fri Sep 16 - Plato, Meno (FD), pp. 58-92.

Week 3

Mon Sept 19 - Aristotle, Posterior Analytics (S), Book I, cc. 1-6, pp. 37-52; Book II, c. 19, pp. 66-68.

Wed Sept 21 - "Introduction to Logic - Categorical Propositions" (Moodle); "Introduction to Logic - Venn Diagrams" (Moodle).

Fri Sept 23 - "Introduction to Logic - The Syllogism" (Moodle), "Venn Diagrams for Categorical Syllogisms" (Moodle).

Week 4

Mon Sept 26 - "Introduction to Logic - The Formal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Wed Sept 28 - "Informal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Fri Sept 30 - "What is Justification (section 3)" and "The Structure of Knowledge and Justification (section 4)" in "Epistemology", Sections 3, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Moodle) (Theme: Epistemology Today)

Week 5

Mon Oct 3 - Review Session.

Wed Oct 5 - Mid-Term Exam I.

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


Fri Oct 7 - Introduction, Pre-Socratics Reader (PR), pp. 1-7; Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes (PR), pp. 13-22.

Week 6

Mon Oct 10 - Heraclitus (PR), pp. 39-53.

Wed Oct 12 - Parmenides (PR), pp. 55-65; Zeno, pp. 66-72.

Fri Oct 14 - No Class - Fall Break.

Week 7

Mon Oct 17 - Anaxagoras (PR), pp. 101-108; Atomists (PR), pp. 109-125.

Wed Oct 19 - Skepticism and the Sophists (PR), pp. 144-161.

Plato and His Forms

Fri Oct 21 - Plato, Phaedo (FD), 93-107.

Week 8

Mon Oct 24 - Plato, Phaedo (FD), 107-130.

Wed Oct 26 - Plato, Phaedo (FD), 131-154 (Analysis 1 Due).

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

Fri Oct 29 - Aristotle, Physics (S), Book I, pp. 83-95 and Book II cc. 1-3, pp. 95-105.

Week 9

Mon Oct 31 - Aristotle, Metaphysics (S), Book I, pp. 221-240; Aristotle, Metaphysics (S), Book XII, pp. 332-344; Copleston, "Metaphysics of Aristotle," pp. 287-319 (Moodle).

Wed Nov 2 - "Personal Identity", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Moodle) (Theme: Metaphysics Today).

Fri Nov 4 - Review Day.

Week 10

Mon Nov 7 - Mid-Term Exam II.

IV. Ethics of Pursuing Knowledge

Wed Nov 9 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book I, cc. 1-10, pp. 347-363.

Fri Nov 11 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book I, c. 13, pp. 363-365 and Book II, cc. 1-7, pp. 366-376.

Week 11

Mon Nov 14 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book III, cc. 1-5, pp. 376-388.

Wed Nov 16 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book III c. 7, pp. 389-391; Irwin, "Homer" in Classical Thought, pp. 6-19 (Moodle).

Fri Nov 18 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book VIII, cc. 1-3, 9, pp. 417-422 and Book IX, cc. 4, 7-9, 12, pp. 423-432.

Week 12

Mon Nov 21 - Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book X, cc. 4-5, pp. 433-438; Aristotle, N. Ethics (S), Book X, cc. 6-9, pp. 438-439.

Wed Nov 23 - No Class - Thanksgiving Break

Fri Nov 25 - No Class - Thanksgiving Break

Week 13

Mon Nov 28 - Plato, Gorgias (G), 461b-472c, pp. 27-45.

Wed Nov 30 - Plato, Gorgias (G), 472d-481b, 46-62 (Analysis 2 Due).

Fri Dec 02 - Plato, Gorgias (G), 481b-491d, pp. 62-78.

Week 14

Mon Dec 05 - Plato, Gorgias (G) 491d-505b, pp. 78-102.

Wed Dec 07 - Plato, Gorgias (G), 505c-527e, pp. 102-135.

Fri Dec 9 - "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Martin Luther King Jr. (Moodle) (Theme: Socrates Today).

Week 15

Mon Dec 12 - Exam Review

Final Exam

PL201-14 (11:00am Class): Friday, December 16, 1:00pm.

PL201-13 (10:00pm Class): Monday, December 19, 1:00pm.