Course Information

Foundations of Philosophy

PL201, -14, -15 | Fall, 2020

MWF (14) 10:00am-10:50am / (15) 11:00am-11:50am

Room: (14) Maryland Hall, 342 / (15) Maryland Hall, 342

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

Philosophy Department 050M

Office Hours: By Appointment Monday and Wednesday 12-3pm

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 (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 (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 (20%)

In-Class Participation (2.5%): 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. (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 forum, or worksheet. These assignments are intended to be completed BEFORE our class meeting on the assigned day.

Reading Quizzes (7.5%): 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.

Class Discussions (7.5%): There will be approximately 17 available class forum discussions. Again, because I know you will have busy weeks, you do not need to participate in each discussion. But throughout the course of the semester, you need to participate in 8 discussions. (But as the goal of this assignment is to help you digest and actively respond to our readings, you are encouraged to participate in any and all discussion forums).

What does a full credit discussion forum participation look like? To get credit you need to participate at least twice in any given discussion, either by introducing a new topic/thread posing a question for the class or responding to a peer's original post or another response. To encourage interaction, discussion boards will be limited to 3 topic threads; after 3 threads have been initiated, you can then only respond to another person's post. A general guideline for a good question or response is that it should be "substantive" "interesting" and "relevant". Make sure to clearly explain the substance of the issue ("substantive"), show us its significance ("interesting"), and show us how it connects to the reading or previous discussion ("relevant"). Again, discussion boards will close at the time that the associated class begins. So please do not wait until the last minute. To have a vibrant discussion, we will need topics and threads to be initiated before the discussion board deadline.

Other Participation Activities (2.5%): 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 in class 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

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. T hey 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.

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 08 - Introduction.

Fri Sep 10 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, pp. 19-52.

Week 2

Mon Sep 13 - Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, pp. 53-74.

Wed Sep 15 - Russell, In Praise of Idleness (Moodle).

II. The Task of Knowing

Fri Sep 17 - Plato, Meno, pp. 58-92.

Week 3

Mon Sept 20 - Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Book I, cc. 1-6, pp. 37-52; Book II, c. 19, pp. 66-68.

Wed Sept 22 - "Introduction to Logic - Categorical Propositions" (Moodle); "Introduction to Logic - Venn Diagrams" (Moodle).

Fri Sept 24 - "Introduction to Logic - The Syllogism" (Moodle), "Venn Diagrams for Categorical Syllogisms" (Moodle).

Week 4

Mon Sept 27 - "Introduction to Logic - The Formal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Wed Sept 29 - "Informal Fallacies" (Moodle).

Fri Oct 1 - "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 4 - Review Session.

Wed Oct 6 - Mid-Term Exam I.

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


Fri Oct 8 - Introduction, pp. 1-7; Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, pp. 13-22.

Week 6

Mon Oct 11 - Heraclitus, pp. 39-53.

Wed Oct 13 - Parmenides, pp. 55-65; Zeno, pp. 66-72.

Fri Oct 15 - No Class - Fall Break.

Week 7

Mon Oct 18 - Anaxagoras, pp. 101-108; Atomists, pp. 109-125.

Wed Oct 20 - Skepticism and the Sophists, pp. 144-161.

Plato and His Forms

Fri Oct 22 - Plato, Phaedo, 93-107.

Week 8

Mon Oct 25 - Plato, Phaedo, 107-130.

Wed Oct 27 - Plato, Phaedo, 131-154 (Analysis 1 Due).

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

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

Week 9

Mon Nov 1 - Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book I, pp. 221-240; Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book XII, pp. 332-344; Copleston, "Metaphysics of Aristotle," pp. 287-319 (Moodle).

Wed Nov 3 - "Personal Identity", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Moodle) (Theme: Metaphysics Today)

Fri Nov 5 - Review Day.

Week 10

Mon Nov 8 - Mid-Term Exam II.

IV. Ethics of Pursuing Knowledge

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

Fri Nov 12 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book I, c. 13, pp. 363-365 and Book II, cc. 1-7, pp. 366-376.

Week 11

Mon Nov 15 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book III, cc. 1-5, pp. 376-388.

Wed Nov 17 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book III c. 7, pp. 389-391; Irwin, "Homer" in Classical Thought, pp. 6-19 (Moodle).

Fri Nov 19 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book VIII, cc. 1-3, 9, pp. 417-422 and Book IX, cc. 4, 7-9, 12, pp. 423-432.

Week 12

Mon Nov 22 - Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book X, cc. 4-5, pp. 433-438; Aristotle, N. Ethics, Book X, cc. 6-9, pp. 438-439.

Wed Nov 24 - No Class - Thanksgiving Break

Fri Nov 26 - No Class - Thanksgiving Break

Week 13

Mon Nov 29 - Plato, Gorgias, 461b-472c, pp. 27-45.

Wed Dec 01 - Plato, Gorgias, 472d-481b, 46-62 (Analysis 2 Due).

Fri Dec 03 - Plato, Gorgias, 481b-491d, pp. 62-78.

Week 14

Mon Dec 06 - Plato, Gorgias 491d-505b, pp. 78-102.

Wed Dec 08 - Plato, Gorgias, 505c-527e, pp. 102-135.

Fri Dec 10 - "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Martin Luther King Jr. (Theme: Socrates Today) (Moodle); Exam Review

Final Exam

PL201-14 (10:00pm Class): Saturday, December 18, 9:00am

PL201-15 (11:00am Class): Monday, December 13, 1:00pm