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Philosophy 120F: Problems in Philosophy Contact Information Professor Brandon N. Towl btowl@artsci.wustl.edu (tovvl@sbcglobal.net for emergencies) (314)276-6500 Office hours: After class (MWF 2:00-3:00) or by appointment Office: Wilson hall 109 TA John Gabriel John.Gabriel@20.wustI.edu Office hours: Before class (MWE 12:00-1:00) nff^o- Wiknn hall 116 Overview Philosophy is about exposing, clarifying, analyzing, and (possibly) solving problems with the way we think about the world and ourselves. In this class, we will cover a broad spectrum of topics in philosophy, including problems with our concepts of morality, knowledge, reality, the self, freedom, and thought. The class will emphasize not only what famous philosophers have said about these topics, but also methods we can use to think about these issues critically, for ourselves. Basic Requirements All students must have an active email account, and check it regularly (at least every other day). Students should obtain a copy of the texts for this class: BonJour and Baker's Introduction to Philosophy and Weston's A Rulebook for Arguments. Handouts will be made available for some classes. Expectations for class conduct and performance are outlined in the Class Contract. If you decide to stay enrolled in this course, that decision will be taken as an endorsement of the contract, and you will be held to it.
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Philosophy 120F: Problems in Philosophy

Nov 07, 2021

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Contact Information Professor Brandon N. Towl btowl@artsci.wustl.edu (tovvl@sbcglobal.net for emergencies) (314)276-6500 Office hours: After class (MWF 2:00-3:00) or by appointment Office: Wilson hall 109
TA John Gabriel John.Gabriel@20.wustI.edu Office hours: Before class (MWE 12:00-1:00) nff^o- Wiknn hall 116
Overview
Philosophy is about exposing, clarifying, analyzing, and (possibly) solving problems with the way we think about the world and ourselves.
In this class, we will cover a broad spectrum of topics in philosophy, including problems with our concepts of morality, knowledge, reality, the self, freedom, and thought. The class will emphasize not only what famous philosophers have said about these topics, but also methods we can use to think about these issues critically, for ourselves.
Basic Requirements
All students must have an active email account, and check it regularly (at least every other day). Students should obtain a copy of the texts for this class: BonJour and Baker's Introduction to Philosophy and Weston's A Rulebook for Arguments. Handouts will be made available for some classes.
Expectations for class conduct and performance are outlined in the Class Contract. If you decide to stay enrolled in this course, that decision will be taken as an endorsement of the contract, and you will be held to it.
Evaluation There are four factors that I use to determine your grade in this class:
I. Participation: 10% You are expected to attend every class and participate in class discussions (when
they occur). There will be a sign-in sheet available for the first seven minutes of class; you must sign this sheet to get attendance credit. If anyone is found signing-in someone other than himself or herself, both parties will get an automatic four (4) absences.
I also reserve the right to issue pop-quizzes during a class. A pop-quiz is equivalent to one class attended. In order to get credit, one only need pass the quiz; pop- quizzes are not otherwise graded.
II. Short Papers: 60% (10% each)
During the course of the semester, there will be eight short (4 pages or so) papers assigned. (Of these papers, I drop the two lowest grades). These papers allow you to tackle some of the problems brought up in class and hone your writing skills. Requirements for these papers will be given in class.
III. Exams: 30% (15% each) There will be two exams during the semester. These exams are a way for you to
show that you have been keeping up with the reading and engaging with the authors. There will be a short review session before each exam.
Note: University policy allows that, if you have 3 or more exams scheduled for one day, or if you have an excused absence, you may arrange to take your exam at an earlier date.
In general, the following guidelines are used in all philosophy courses to determine one's grade:
• A paper (or test) will earn an "A" if it demonstrates outstanding understanding of the material, including the ability to explain, integrate, compare, contrast, and critique the material. The paper is structured and shows refinement.
A paper (or test) will earn a "B" if it demonstrates good understanding of the material, and at least some ability to explain, integrate, and critique the material. The paper is structured and shows some refinement.
• A paper (or test) will earn a "C" if it shows knowledge of the material, but with little ability to explain, integrate, or critique it.
A paper (or test) will earn a "D" if it shows little understanding of the material, and inadequate ability to explain, integrate, or critique it.
• A paper (or test) will earn an "F" if it shows no real understanding of the material outside of what a student might have known before taking this class.
Students are expected to adhere to University policies regarding academic integrity, including (and especially) issues of plagarism.
Note on late policy: Due to the volume of papers for this class, all papers must be printed out and handed in at the start of class. In addition, late papers will not be accepted. However, the two lowest papers grades will be dropped when calculating final grades.
Working Calendar
Note: Readings marked with an asterisk (*) will be made available on telesis. All others can be found in the Bonjour and Baker anthology.
Unit 1: An orientation to philosophy (Sept. 1,3, 8,10) The Shadow Problem If it's in the light, why can't we see it?
Concepts and Definitions We know what chairs are—don't we? Plato's Euthyphro Those Gods—where do they get off?!
Read: "How to Think about Stuff'* (Towl), "Euthyphro" (Plato) Due: First paper on The Shadow Problem (September 8)
Unit 2 (Sept. 13,15,17) The Problem of Evil Why do bad things happen to good people? Or at all?
Read: selection from Introduction* (Pojman), "Evil and Omnipotence"
(Mackie), "The Problem of Evil" (Hick), "The Problem of Evil...." (Hume)
Unit 3 (Sept. 20, 22, 24,27, 29) The Problem of Free Will Maybe you're already determined to believe in it!
Read: Stanford Encyclopedia entry on compatibilism*, "A Defense of Hard Determinism" (Blatchford), "A Compatibilist Account..." (Stace), "Freedom of the Will" (Frankfurt), "Free will" (Strawson) Due: Second paper on the Problem of Evil (September 24th)
Unit 4 (October 1, 4, 6, 8) Our Knowledge of the External World Are we dreaming? How could we tell?
Read: selection from Pyrronhism (Empiricus), selection from "Meditations" (Descartes), selection from Three Dialogues (Berkeley) Watch: The Matrix Due: Third paper on Free Will (October 8th)
Recap Week (October 11,13) Review for Midterm exam October 11* Midterm exam October 13th
Unit 5 (October 18,20,22) Personal Identity Are you the same person that got out of bed this morning? Brain Bisection Sci-fi meets plain old phi...
Read: "Personal Identity" (Locke), "Of Mr. Locke's..." (Reid), "Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness"* (Nagel)
Unit 6 (October 25,27,29) Mind and Brain Are you your mind? Your brain? What's the difference?
Read: "A Defense of Dualism" (Foster), "Sensations and Brain Processes" (Smart), "Where am I?"* (Dennett) Due: Fourth paper on Brain Bisection (October 29th)
Unit 7 (November 1,3,5) Can computers think? Did Star-Trek get it wrong?
Read: "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (Turing), "Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?" (Searle), "Searle on What Only Brains Can Do" (Fodor), "Author's Response" (Searle) Due: Fifth paper on Mind/Brain Identity Theory (November 5th)
Unit 8 (November 8,10,12) Government and the Social Contract Who put them in charge, anyway?
Read: selection from Leviathan (Hobbes), selection from the Second Treatise on Government (Locke) Due: Sixth paper on Computer Thought (November 121 )
Unit 9 (November 15,17,19)—Topic TBA Due: Seventh paper on the Social Contract (November 19th)
Unit 10 (November 22) Cultural Relativism Who gets to say what is right and what is wrong?
Read: "Challenges to Morality" (Rachels)
Unit 11 (November 29, December 1,3) Science and Religion Rivals, Partners, or not on speaking terms? And where are
the philosophers in all this? Read: Chapter 13, "Science and Religion"* (Boersema)
Unit 12 (December 6, 8,10)
Philosophy and "The Good Life" Would you step into an experience machine? The Meaning of Life In the end, we have to imagine Sisyphus happy Review for Final Exam
Read: "The Experience Machine" (Nozick), selection from The Myth of
Sysiphus* (Camus), selection from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy* (Adams) Due: Eighth paper on Science and Religion (December 10th)
Final Exam is scheduled for December 22nd, 1-3 PM