Introduction to Philosophy Syllabus (Spring 2017)


Introduction to Philosophy- Philosophy 100-02, Spring 2017

Instructor: Rochelle DuFord Email:

Office: Delancey House, Room 8 (2nd Floor) Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 8:30-9:30am, Thursday, 12:00-1:00 pm (and by appointment)

Phone: 315-781-3169 Class Times: MWF 10:10-11:05am Stern Hall 304

Course Description

This course serves as a topics-based introduction to philosophy. We will cover issues of immortality, knowledge, race, gender, 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.
  • Encourage reflective thinking and discussion.


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.

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 Exam (15%)

The midterm exam will be held the final day of class prior to spring break. It will be composed of ten short answer questions. The exam will be closed book and note.

Papers (peer review workshops are required to be completed for papers two and three, papers that have *not* been workshopped will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero) (35% total):

You will have one 2 page paper (worth 5% of your final grade) and two 4 page papers (worth 15% of your final grade each) due for this class. I will provide you with at least two 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 paper.

Participation (15%)

Participation includes two 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.

Reading Journal (15%)

Lastly, participating includes a weekly reading journal. Instructions for your reading journal are available at the end of the syllabus. Please keep your reading journal in a single DOC file. I may request to have reading journals submitted at any time for partial grading. For this reason, be sure to stay up to date on your reading journal.

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 48 hours to complete the exam.

Date Topic Assignment/Reading
What is Philosophy? How Do We Do It?
1/18 How Should We Argue discussion of syllabus, introduction
1/20 Seeking the Truth Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Pages 1-8)
1/23 Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Pages 9-16)
1/25 Arguments Walter Sinnot-Armstrong and Fogelin, “Uses of Arguments”
1/27 Death Epicurious, Letter to Menoeceus (available at:
1/30 Immortality John Martin Fischer, “Why Immortality is Not so Bad” (Parts I and II)
2/1 Immortality John Martin Fischer, “Why Immortality is Not so Bad” (Part III)
Metaphysics: What Exists?
2/3 What’s Real Anyway? Sally Haslanger, “Gender and Race: (What) are they? (What) do we want them to be?” (Pages 1-13)
2/6 Mind/Body Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Book 2 selection)
2/18 Mind/Body Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Book 4 selection) Paper One Due
2/10 Racial Skepticism Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race” (Pages 21-29)
2/13 Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race” (Pages 29-37)
2/15 Social Facts Paul Taylor, “Appiah’s Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Reality of Race” (103-115)
2/17 Paul Taylor, “Appiah’s Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Reality of Race” (115-128)
2/20 Roundtable How can we understand the reality of race and gender?
Epistemology: What Can I Know and How Can I Know It?
2/22 Rationalism Plato, The Republic, (Book 7 Selections)
2/24 Paper Two Workshop
2/27 Empiricism John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, (Pages 27-38)
3/1 Experts and Lay People David Coady, “Experts and the Laity” (27-38)
3/3 Experts and Lay People David Coady, “Experts and the Laity” (46-55)

Paper Two DUE

3/6 Emotion and Knowledge Jaggar, “Love and Knowledge” (Sections 1-5, through page 154)
3/8 Science and Emotion Jaggar, “Love and Knowledge” (Page 154 through end)
Social and Political Philosophy: Sociality, Economics, and Equality
3/20 Inequality Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Pages 23-30)
3/22 Inequality in Housing Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations” (Parts 1-5)

3/24 Reparations Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations” (Parts 6-10)
3/27 Race and U.S. Law Naomi Zack, “Reparations and the Rectification of Race” (Pages 139-145)
3/29 Slavery and Race Naomi Zack, “Reparations and the Rectification of Race” (145-151)
3/31 What is Justice? Plato, The Republic, Book 1 (Selections)
4/3 Human Nature and Political Power Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Chapters 13 and 14)
4/5 Natural Rights and Authority John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (selections)
4/7 In Class Activity Justice and Representing the Needs of Others
4/10 What is Justice? John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, (39-50)
4/12 What is Justice? John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, (80-89)
4/14 Paper Three Peer Workshop
4/17 Structural Injustice Iris Marion Young, “Political Responsibility and Structural Injustice” (Pages 1-11)
4/19 Iris Marion Young, “Political Responsibility and Structural Injustice” (Pages 11-19)

Paper Three Due

Ethics: What Should I Do? Who Matters Morally?
4/21 Relativism James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”
4/24 Character Eric Schwitzgebel, “A Theory of Jerks”

4/26 Deontology Onora O’Neill, “A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics”
4/28 Consequentialism John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Selection)
5/1 Continue discussion of Deontology and Consequentialism


Reading Journal Instructions:

You are responsible for one journal entry each week. Journal entries must be a minimum of 250 words. Below you will find the steps for formatting your journals correctly. I advise that you do your journaling as you do your reading. You may find that you prefer to journal at the end of the week (after lectures and discussions), this is fine as well, however, it will then require that you re-read the texts.

You should keep your journal up to date in a single word document. Please date each entry and place the name of the author and title of the reading at the top of the entry as well. I may request that you submit your journals at any time for partial grading. Journals that are not kept up to date will not receive full credit.

  1.     Survey the Text

You should look at the text, and all subheadings (usually bolded or italicized). Describe in two sentences what you think the text will be about.

  1.     Ask Questions.

Write down two questions that are prompted by your survey. If the text is titled “The Subjection of Women” this may lead you to wonder about many questions. Some of these are “What does it mean to subject women?” (You may need to consult a dictionary to learn the definition of subjugation) or “Is the subjection of women good or bad?” You need not answer these questions at this point.

  1.     Read.

Read the text in its entirety. Make note of key concepts in the margins; also be sure to take note of the thesis of the text we are reading. What is the author arguing in favor of? What is the author arguing against? You do not need to write anything in your journal for step 3.

  1.     Recite

At this point you may do any of the following activities in a paragraph:

  •      Explain the thesis of the overall argument of a text, and summarize why the author argues that it is correct.
  •      Answer the questions that you posed before you read the text. In addition to this, explain at least 3 key concepts from the text. (This requires explaining them as the author uses them, not merely providing dictionary definitions.)
  •      Outline, in detail and in full sentences, one subsection of the text. Then, in a sentence or two, describe how this section relates to the text as a whole.
  •      Write two sentence summaries of each sub-section of the text.
  1.     Relate

In a few sentences, relate what you understand of the text to your life overall. What is the connection between the argument of the text and your own life, or other course material (either in this class or other courses you may have taken)? This is the time where you are welcome and encouraged to discuss your own life experiences and interests, so long as they are relevant to the text.

  1.     Review

Review what you’ve written. If there is anything else about the text you would like to make note of, you should do so in a short paragraph. Or, if you have any concluding thoughts (agreement or disagreement with the text, for example) you may write them out here. You need not write something in this section every week, however, you should at least occasionally write some concluding thoughts. Regardless, you are expected to review what you’ve written and the text itself.



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