Introduction to Philosophy Syllabus


Introduction to Philosophy- Philosophy 100-02

Instructor: Rochelle DuFord                                                Email:

Office: Delancey House, Room 8 (2nd Floor)            Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 8:30-9:30am, 1:30-2:30pm (or by appt.)

Phone: 315-781-3169            Class Times: MWF 10:10-11:05 Demarest 117 B

Course Description

This course serves as a topics-based introduction to philosophy. We will cover issues of immortality, knowledge, god, causation, inequality, government, and the good life. Through readings and discussion, students will be introduced to major controversies, topics, and areas of study in philosophy. This course will help students develop an appreciation of the complexity of the natural world, social relations, and human existence. Such complexity requires critical thought and investigation, and this course provides students with an opportunity to exercise and hone those skills through reading, writing, and verbal discussion. In particular, we will cover 4 main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, social and political philosophy, and ethics.

Course Objectives

This course seeks to:

  • Familiarize students with major debates and figures in western philosophy (both historical and contemporary).
  • Enable students to analyze the natural world and social relations through philosophical thought.
  • Serve as an introduction to philosophical method.
  • Develop critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.
  • Develop presentation and public speaking skills.
  • Encourage reflective thinking and discussion.

HWS Goals 

This course addresses goals 1, 2, and 8.

“1. The essential skills that serve as a foundation for effective communication. These include the ability to read and listen critically and the ability to speak and write effectively.

2. The essential skills that serve as a foundation for critical thinking and argumentation. These include the ability to articulate a question, to identify and gain access to appropriate information, to organize evidence, and to construct a complex written argument

8. An intellectually grounded foundation for ethical judgment and action.”

Classroom Policies:

Class Discussion

This course will be largely discussion based. Each student is expected to participate in the discussion. One means of participation is active listening. However, I ask that each student work toward productive discussion. Much of the work of philosophy is completed via ‘thinking out loud.’ So, we will do the work of philosophy together—discussing the texts, ideas, and environmental situations together in order to better understand the world around us. Philosophy is not a practice of memorizing, but one that requires actively doing critical thinking. This is a practice that we will participate in together. Such a practice is difficult, and at times frustrating. However, I ask that you be patient with yourself and with others. We will work together at understanding, analyzing, and critiquing the thoughts of others and developing our own.

Academic Honesty

You are expected to act with integrity in all academic matters. Please consult the Academic Policies of the course catalogue for an in depth discussion of what constitutes academic integrity. Violations of the colleges’ academic integrity policy will be dealt with as harshly as is allowed by the Colleges, this will usually result in failure of the course.


Unless you have a documented need for accommodations, laptops are not to be used in class, except as a note-taking or reading device. You may also use e-reading devices or a tablet to read the texts. Any use of technological devices for other purposes will result in a loss of participation points for the week.


I am committed to maintaining a classroom and working environment in which every student is able to succeed. If you require accommodations for success, please consult with Disability Services in the Center for Learning and Teaching (you may email to set up an appointment). After this, please contact me as soon as possible so we can work together to implement any accommodations needed.


You are expected to attend class each meeting with the assigned reading. You are allowed THREE (3) absences with no penalty. After THREE (3) absences, you will be penalized 2% of your FINAL GRADE for the course for EACH absence. Absences due to illness, injury, religious observation, and emergency are ‘excusable.’ You must contact me prior to class in order to arrange an excused absence for illness, injury, and religious observance. Only the date of the religious holiday is excused, you will not be excused for any travel days related to the observance of religious holidays. If you have had an emergency and are unable to contact me prior to class, please contact me immediately so we can discuss your situation and make a plan for the future.

Submission of Late Work

All work is required to be submitted by the due date. Work submitted late will incur a 10% per day penalty. Make-up exams, quizzes, and writing assignments will be given only in the case of documented emergency or illness.

Center for Teaching and Learning

At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we encourage you to learn collaboratively and to seek the resources that will enable you to succeed.  The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is one of those resources:  CTL programs and staff help you engage with your learning, accomplish the tasks before you, enhance your thinking and skills, and empower you to do your best.  Resources at CTL are many:  Study Mentors help you find your time and manage your responsibilities, Writing Fellows help you think well on paper, and professional staff help you assess academic needs.

I encourage you to explore these and other CTL resources designed to encourage your very best work.  You can talk with me about these resources, visit the CTL office on the 2nd floor of the library to discuss options with the staff, or visit the CTL website.

The CTL resources most useful for this class include Teaching Fellows, Writing Fellows and Study Mentors. For more information on these resources, visit the CTL webpage at, or visit the CTL Canvas site.

Teaching Fellows

CTL works with the Philosophy Department to offer one resource that will be essential to your learning in this course, the Philosophy Teaching Fellows. The Teaching Fellows are accomplished Philosophy majors and minors who are now paid to assist other students.  They hold regular study hours Sunday—Thursday. To get the most out of this resource, I recommend that all students in this course begin attending the TF hours next week and attend once or twice weekly (to study, to ask questions) throughout the semester. The Fellows are usually available Sunday-Thursday 7-10pm in Delancey House.

Writing Fellows

One CTL resource that will be helpful in enhancing learning in this course is the Writing Fellows program. Writing Fellows help students develop their writing by providing feedback on essay drafts, offering strategies for the writing process, and enhancing students’ understanding of what good college writing means.  You may make an appointment via the TutorTrac ( appointment system (link on the CTL webpage, too).

Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to modification. If it is necessary to modify the syllabus, I will provide you with at least one week warning for any changes made to the syllabus.

Percentage Grade to Letter Grade


A: 93-96.99

A-: 90-92.99

B+: 87-89.99

B: 83-86.99

B-: 80-82.99

C+: 77-79.99

C: 73-76.99

C-: 70-72.99

D: 60-69.99

F: Below 60


Midterm Presentation (15%)

For your midterm, you will be required to give a 5-7 minute presentation to the class. You may use a single 3×5 index card for notes, but you are not to read your presentation to the class. You will each be assigned a question or topic at random one week before the date of your presentation. The class will be split into three groups for presentation days, and be assigned topics one week prior to that date. You should fully answer the question posed, explaining and discussing any necessary philosophical concepts or ideas. Active listening to the presentations of others will constitute a part of your grade, failing to attend the presentation days, being disruptive, or actively ignoring the presentations of others will negatively effect your grade.

Papers (15% each final draft and 5% for each draft and peer workshop completed)

You will have two 5-6 page papers due for this class. I will provide you with 3-4 prompts for your paper, and you will choose one to write about. Your paper should have a thesis, a section of interpretation and discussion of the text, and a section of critical thought on the question. We will do in-class peer workshops on your drafts one week prior to the paper’s due date. Failure to attend the peer workshop, or failure to bring a draft will result in a 0 for your draft/peer workshop.

Participation (25%)

Participation includes three distinct elements.

First, participating includes in-class discussion. You should participate in class at least twice per week (ideally, at least once per class). If you are a person for whom speaking in class is difficult, you should work to participate in full class discussion at least once per week. If you are a person for whom allowing others to speak and listening is difficult, you should work to listen and respond to your peers. In this sense, everyone has a facet of participation that they should work to improve within themselves. Participation in class is worth 8% of your final grade.

Second, participating includes in-class assignments. You will be expected to complete short assignments in class sometimes. There will be at least 10 of these assignments. Each assignment will be worth 1% of your final grade (up to 7 percentage points). These will include short writing assignments, group discussions and presentations, and pop-quizzes. Attending class is the best way to ensure that you complete enough of these assignments to earn your full 7 percentage points.

Lastly, participating includes a weekly participation journal. Every Friday you will have 10 minutes at the end of class to reflect on your participation for the week. You may keep your journal in a physical or digital format (if digital, please bring the technology to write in your journal to class every Friday). Each entry should at least 200 words. You should discuss how you participated in class that week, what you learned, how you improved, or how you plan to improve the following week. This is a space for informal reflection on your participation in the class and your own intellectual growth and development—but please, use complete sentences. Your participation journal is worth 10% of your final grade and is due on 5/2.

Final Exam (20%)

Your final exam will be a ten question take-home exam, each question will require a roughly 200 word response. You will have one week to complete the exam.

Date Topic Assignment/Reading
    What is Philosophy? How Do We Do It?
1/20 How Should We Argue discussion of syllabus, introduction
1/22 Philosophical Method Frankfurt, On Bullshit
1/25 Philosophical Method Descartes, Discourse on Method (Part II)


    Why Live? Immortality and Absurdity
1/27 Is Life Meaningless? Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”
1/29 Immortality Williams, “The Makropulos Case: reflections on the tedium of immortality”
2/1 Immortality Fischer, “Why Immortality is Not so Bad”
  Metaphysics: What Exists? How Do Things Change?
2/3 Allegory of the Cave Plato, The Republic, Book 7 (373-378)
2/5 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Book 2)
2/8 Mind/Body Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Book 2, cont. Book 4)
2/10 God Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Book 5)
2/12 Sex/Gender Butler, Gender Trouble (Chapter 1 Selection)
2/15 Causation Hume, Enquiry on Human Understanding (Section 7)
2/17 Identity and Persistence Hobbes, “On Sameness of Identity” and Ship of Theseus
  Epistemology: What Can I Know and How Can I Know It?
2/19 Skepticism Al-Ghazali, Rescuer from Error (Paragraphs 1-20)
2/22 Paper One Peer Workshop, Draft Due in Class
2/24 Origin of Knowledge Plato, Meno (Pages 14-21)
2/26 Origin of Knowledge Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Book 1: Chapter 1, Paragraphs 1-17, Book 2: Chapter 1, Paragraphs 1-9)
2/29 Kinds of Knowledge Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Section 2 and 3)
3/2 Subjective and Objective Knowledge Jaggar, “Love and Knowledge” (Sections 1-5, through page 154)

Paper One Due

3/4 Jaggar, “Love and Knowledge” (Page 154 through end)
3/7 Midterm Presentations
3/9 Midterm Presentations
3/11 Midterm Presentations
Social Philosophy: Sociality, Economics, and Equality
3/21 Inequality Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Pages 23-30)
3/23 Inequality and Incarceration Davis, “The Prison Industrial Complex”
3/25 Reparations Coates, “The Case for Reparations” (Parts 1-5)

3/28 Reparations Coates, “The Case for Reparations” (Parts 6-10)
3/30 Class and Consumption Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption” (Pages 33-39)
4/1 Class and Consumption Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption” (Pages 40-48)
Political Philosophy
4/4 Human Nature and Political Power Hobbes, Leviathan (Chapters 13 and 14)
4/6 Natural Rights and Authority Locke, Second Treatise on Government (selections)
4/8 What is Justice? Rawls, Theory of Justice Parts 1-4
4/11 Rawls, Theory of Justice Parts 24, 25
4/13 Is Justice for All? Okin, “Vulnerability by Marriage”
Ethics: What Should I Do? Who Matters Morally?
4/15 Relativism Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”
4/18 Paper Two Peer Workshop
4/20 Character Schwitzgebel, “A Theory of Jerks”

4/22 Deontology O’Neill, “A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics”
4/25 Consequentialism Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (Chapter 1 and 4)
4/27 Continue discussion of Deontology and Consequentialism Paper Two Due
4/29 Other Animals Diamond, “Eating Meat and Eating People” (465-471)
5/2 Other Animals Diamond, “Eating Meat and Eating People” (471-479)



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