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24.01 Classics in Western Philosophy

Spring 2006

Rene Descartes.René Descartes, 1596-1650. Engraving by W. Holl after painting by Franz Hals. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number: LC-USZ62-61365 (b&w film copy neg.)].)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete set of lecture notes and a detailed description of assignments. A sample exam is also available.

Course Description

This course will introduce you to the Western philosophical tradition, through the study of major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. You will get to grips with questions that have been significant to philosophy from its beginnings: questions about the nature of the mind or soul, the existence of God, the foundations of knowledge, ethics and the good life. In the process of evaluating the arguments of these philosophers, you will develop your own philosophical and analytical skills. You will also observe changes of intellectual outlook over time, and the effect of scientific, religious and political concerns on the development of philosophical ideas.

Lecture handouts will be supplied for Lec #1-8, and #16-25. For the section on Descartes' Meditations, Lec #9-15, my separate Study Guide to Descartes' Meditations is available in the study materials section.





Syllabus

Course Requirements

Reading, discussing, and writing about the assigned material are the central activities of this class. There is a reading assignment for each lecture. Some are quite difficult and demand careful study. You should complete the assigned readings before each lecture as the lecture will often presuppose familiarity with the material in the texts. Attendance at all lecture and all recitation sections is required. Lectures will introduce important material not in the readings. Participation in section is an important component of the course, helping students develop their critical and communicative skills.



Summary of Assignments and Deadlines

First Short Exercise: Four days after Lec #4 (2 pages)

First Essay: Two days after Lec #12 (8 pages)

Second Short Exercise: Two days after Lec #17 (2 pages)

Second Essay: Two days after Lec #23 (8 pages)



Overall Assessment

24.01 is a HASS CI Subject. Such subjects require at least 20 pages of writing (5000 words) divided among the different assignments. One assignment must be revised and resubmitted. HASS CI subjects also offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression, through presentations, student-led discussion, or class participation. In 24.01, Classics in Western Philosophy, these criteria are satisfied as follows:


ACTIVITIESPERCENTAGES
Recitation Grade20%
Two Essays60%
Final Exam20%



Recitation Grade: Based on attendance, preparation, contributions to discussion, and any written or oral assignments, including the 2 short exercises. Each exercise should be 2 pages long.

Two Essays: Essay topics will be distributed in advance and will ask students to analyze and discuss material covered in class. Each essay should be 8 pages long. The first essay must be rewritten and resubmitted. Due dates for revisions will be set by your TA. Your grade for the revised paper will be the average of the grades for the two versions. (Revised papers are held to a higher standard.)

Final Exam: A 3-hour final exam on material covered throughout the term. The exam will be closed-notes and closed-books. The time and date will be set by the Schedules Office Final Examination Schedule. Be sure to check this schedule early and notify the Schedules Office of any conflicts. There is no midterm exam.

Note: Students must take the final exam at the scheduled time unless permission has been granted by the Schedules Office to take the exam at an alternative time. Permission to take the exam early will not be given to students who simply want to leave town early, even if this is your only exam. Don't book flights home before you know the exam schedule.

All written assignments (except any completed in class) must be typed or word-processed. Assignments are to be handed to your TA in section. Please keep a copy of all work you turn in, and in addition please submit an electronic copy of your work to your TA. Late work will be accepted only under exceptional circumstances, and will be penalized unless an extension is granted in advance. Failure in any of the three grading areas listed above will result in failure of the course.



How to Cite a Source

If your assignment quotes or discusses a work from the prescribed text, you may cite it by giving, in the body of your writing, the page number where it appears in the prescribed text. Supply your assignment with a bibliography, which includes a full reference for all sources cited and consulted. If you cite material in the bibliography other than the prescribed text, you may use either 'Scientific Style' (which cites the work in the body of your writing); or 'Humanities Style' (which uses a footnote to cite the work), e.g. as described by the Chicago Manual of Style:

Humanities Style

Bibliography:
Blackfoot, Emery. Chance encounters. Boston: Serendipity Press, 1987.

First Footnote:
Blackfoot, Emery. Chance Encounters. Boston: Serendipity Press, 1987.

Next Footnotes:
Blackfoot, 102.

Scientific Style

Bibliography:
Blinksworth, Roger. 1980. Converging on the evanescent. San Francisco: Threshold Publications.

In Text:
(Blinksworth 1987, 23)

See the Chicago Manual of Style for more details about how to create and cite your bibliography.



Plagiarism

Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in this or any other course. If in doubt about what counts as plagiarism, or about how to properly cite a source, consult the instructor or your TA. Other forms of academic dishonesty include: cheating on exams, double submission of papers, aiding dishonesty, and falsification of records. If academic dishonesty is proven, at the very least you will fail the course and a letter will be sent to the Committee on Discipline documenting your dishonesty. If you are tempted to plagiarize because you are in crisis, don't succumb: it is always better to get advice from your TA, professor, advisor, academic deans, or the counseling center.



Statement Regarding Academic Misconduct*

To put it bluntly, plagiarism is theft and fraud -- it is the theft of someone else's ideas, words, approach, and phrasing; it's fraud because the writer is trying to profit (a grade) by claiming as his/her own someone else's work. Because plagiarism can have severe disciplinary consequences, it is crucial to understand the concept. Just as scientists demand complete and accurate information about experiments so that they duplicate and check those experiments, so scholars and readers demand complete information so they can check your use of sources and accuracy in reporting what others said. In all academic writing, then, you must give complete citations (e.g., author, title, source, page) each time you use someone else's ideas, words, phrasing, or unusual information. An insidious form of plagiarism is the 'patchwork paper' - some words and ideas taken from source A are stitched together with words and ideas from source B and source C and so on. Your essays should be your own work, although you are encouraged to seek writing advice from the Writing and Communication Center. If there is any question about whether the student's paper is his or her own work, TAs have been directed to bring the paper directly to the professor. Every effort will be made to determine whether the paper is plagiarized. This is an attempt to be fair to the teachers and the other students in the course. There are 4 guidelines for using sources in your essays:

Additional Information: Citing and Using Sources

*This statement has been issued by the HASS Committee on Discipline.



Calendar


LEC #TOPICSKEY DATES
1-4PlatoFirst short exercise due 4 days after Lec #4
5-8Aristotle
9-14DescartesFirst essay due 2 days after Lec #12
15-17HumeSecond short exercise due 2 days after Lec #17
18-20Kant
21-22Russell
23-24SartreSecond essay due 2 days after Lec #23




Readings

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This section includes the texts used in the course and a list of readings by session.



Prescribed Text

Amazon logo Pojman, Louis P., ed. Classics of Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN: 0195148932. This anthology contains all the works cited below.

Langton, Rae. Study Guide to Descartes' Meditations (in progress). Available in study materials.



Readings by Session


LEC #READINGS
Plato
1Plato. "The Apology." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 33-47.
2Plato. "Phaedo." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 54-85.
3Plato. "Phaedo." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
4Plato. "Phaedo." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
Aristotle
5Aristotle. "On the Soul." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 262-7.
6Aristotle. "On the Soul." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
7Aristotle. "Nichomachean Ethics." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 290-323.
8Aristotle. "Nichomachean Ethics." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
Descartes
9Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: First Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 497-99.
10Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: Second Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 499-503.
11Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: Third Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 503-10.
12Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: Fourth Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 510-13.
13Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: Fifth Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 513-17.
14Descartes, René. "Meditations on First Philosophy: Sixth Meditation." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 517-24.
Hume
15Hume, David. "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 728-89.
16Hume, David. "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
17Hume, David. "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
Kant
18Kant, Immanuel. "Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 873-913.
19Kant, Immanuel. "Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
20Kant, Immanuel. "Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
Russell
21Russell, Bertrand. "The Problems of Philosophy." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 1101-36.
22Russell, Bertrand. "The Problems of Philosophy." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)
Sartre
23Sartre, Jean-Paul. "Existentialism is a Humanism." In Classics of Philosophy. pp. 1220-24.
24Sartre, Jean-Paul. "Existentialism is a Humanism." In Classics of Philosophy. (cont.)




Lecture Notes

This section features lecture notes on the philosophers covered in the course. For Descartes, the lecture notes are excerpts from the professor's Study Guide to Descartes' Meditations, which can be found in its entirety in study materials. Below, the study guide is divided according to lecture session.


LEC #LECTURE NOTES
Plato
1The Apology (PDF)
2-4Phaedo (PDF 1) (PDF 2) (PDF 3)
Aristotle
5-6On the Soul (PDF 1) (PDF 2)
7-8Nichomachean Ethics (PDF 1) (PDF 2)
Descartes
9First Meditation (PDF)
10Second Meditation (PDF)
11Third Meditation (PDF)
12Fourth Meditation (PDF)
13Fifth Meditation (PDF)
14Sixth Meditation (PDF)
Hume
15-17An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (PDF 1) (PDF 2) (PDF 3)
Kant
18-20Foundation for the Metaphysic of Morals (PDF 1) (PDF 2) (PDF 3)
Russell
21-22The Problems of Philosophy (PDF 1) (PDF 2)
Sartre
23-24Existentialism is a Humanism (PDF 1) (PDF 2)




Assignments

This section includes two short exercises and topics for both of the required papers.



Short Exercises

First Short Exercise (PDF)

Second Short Exercise (PDF)



Papers

First Paper Topics (PDF)

Second Paper Topics (PDF)





Exams

Sample Exam

This final exam is closed notes and closed books (you may not use any books, course notes, or other materials during the exam period in answering your questions). Complete both parts of the exam. Read the instructions carefully. Write clearly and legibly. Use bluebooks. You have three hours to complete the exam. Return this exam with your answers.



Part I (30%)

For each quotation below provide (i) the author's name, (ii) an explanation of the quotation's meaning in your own words , and (iii) a brief description of the debate to which it contributes.

  1. is, ever admit of any change whatever?



Part II (70%)

Write short essays on two of the following four questions.

  1. Problems of Philosophy.





Study Materials

Professor Langton provided students with a study guide she authored herself, available below. The guide aims to elucidate key ideas in Descartes' Meditations in a discursive manner, and is therefore more easily accessible for the student.

Study Guide to Descartes' Meditations (PDF)





Related Resources

Philosophical Terms and Methods (Advice from Jim Pryor on writing philosophy essays)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy




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