Schedule 1 - South Dakota State University

PHIL 100: Introduction to Philosophy
South Dakota State University – Online
Summer, 2010
Professor James Haag
Course Description
Within the title of this course you will find themes that have played a crucial part in human
history. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find topics or ideas that are more important than
these. While the terms are likely familiar to you, actually defining them may pose a greater
challenge than you might think. This course will expose you to numerous philosophical attempts
to make sense of these very difficult topics. Is there a God? How ought I to live? Who am I?
These types of questions fall into a category that might call “ultimate questions.” They are
central to all of our efforts to find meaning and value in our lives and the world. One of the
greatest challenges of this class will be to avoid simple answers merely because they are
comfortable. As an unofficial motto: This class is a place to have your answers questioned. You
will have the opportunity to develop your own answers to some of the ultimate questions of
human life, and discuss with others their similar or different answers. You will not be graded on
how you answer these difficult questions; rather, grades will be based on how well you analyze,
explain, and justify your ideas. You will also have opportunities to develop your skills in critical
thinking, analyzing an argument, and writing.
Technology Requirements
Summary of Course Objectives
You will learn various answers, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, to the
ultimate questions concerning human life and its meaning. You will be facilitated in developing
those skills that are useful in many areas of philosophical reflection, especially critical thinking.
Class Requirements
1. Course Participation and Expectations – Two Parts (10% each of grade)
PART I – Weekly Small Group Discussions:
I have split the class into small discussion groups. The listing of groups is linked under the
“SDSU Getting Started” box on the course’s homepage. Once you have identified your group,
you should click on the “Discuss” link on the homepage. Here you will see the group numbers
listed. To get started, click on your group and introduce yourself to the other members of your
At the beginning of each week, the week’s assigned student—see the group lists for your
weeks—will post a topic related to the reading on the discussion board. This can be a question
for open discussion. It can be a statement regarding a topic in the reading that drew your interest.
It can be a critical response to something that was problematic for you. Others members of the
group will then post responses. I will interject comments as necessary to help facilitate
conversation or clarify misunderstandings. This is an opportunity for you to engage your
classmates on a weekly basis. I recognize that we all fall on a spectrum between being shy and
being social, but I expect you to be engaged in these small group discussions. This includes
offering your perspective, but also being respectful of other’s opinions.
These groups will remain the same throughout the course in order for you to develop a
comfort level with several of your classmates. In order for these groups to be effective, you will
need to take the reading seriously.
At the end of the course, I will randomly select a percentage of your discussion
contributions. This selection will be the grounds upon which your grade will be evaluated. This
process will allow me to note your consistency throughout the semester as opposed to your
involvement during single weeks or days. I encourage you to read through my grading evaluation
procedure for the type of involvement I am expecting (see the boxed grading rubric below).
PART II – Weekly Quiz:
Every Tuesday and Thursday there will be an online quiz for you to complete. This quiz will be
related to the week’s readings. You will need to find a 15-minute period each day to take this
quiz. If you have completed the week’s readings, these quizzes will not be a problem. There will
be 8 quizzes throughout the semester; I will drop your 2 worst quiz grades and calculate your
final grade according to your 6 best.
2. Midterm Exam on lectures, readings, and discussions (20% of Grade)
This exam will be a mixture of true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions.
3. 2 Short Papers (15% each of Grade)
What is philosophy? Compare and contrast with other positions you might know. Use the first
chapter of the text if necessary to get started, but this should be a personal reflection paper.
Focus. Be precise. Be succinct. By what criteria do you evaluate the ideas? Who or what is left
out of your view? Your paper should be 2-3 double-spaced pages in length. Submit the paper on
the due date. Late papers will not be accepted, unless arrangements have been made with the
You will choose one of the following movies: The Matrix, Memento, or A Clockwork Orange.
Watch and assess the film from a “course theme” perspective. Choose one of the areas of study
we have assessed in this semester. Identify how you would relate this movie to your selected
position. DO NOT SUMMARIZE THE FILM! I have watched all of these movies and do not
need an explanation of the plot. Take this time to analyze and reflect. Your paper should be 3-4
double-spaced pages in length, with 1-inch margins, and 12-point Times New Roman font. More
details will be offered in class.
4. Final Exam on lectures, readings, and class discussions (30% of Grade)
Like the midterm, this exam will include true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and essay
questions. This exam is not cumulative for the whole semester. That is, the material covered
AFTER the midterm is what you will be tested on.
*Academic Integrity: There will be zero tolerance for plagiarism. Do not ever represent someone
else’s work as your own, whether that work is by a scholar or by another student. This includes
materials on the internet. If you write a paper, and part or all of it is plagiarized, you will
receive a zero for that paper and I will report your plagiarism to the Dean. (If you are unsure
what “plagiarism” is, research it now so that you know. No excuses will be tolerated, including
that of ignorance.) For the school’s official policy, see:
Evaluation / Assessment
I fear popular culture has exaggerated the importance of individual opinions. We are bombarded
by 24-hour “news” shows and blogs ranging from environmental concerns to the best place for
pizza. In light of this, my grading criterion is not based on expression of opinion. Instead, those
that are able to articulate their opinions through reasons and justifications will receive the highest
grades. One’s perspective is important, but I view undergraduate education as a means for
learning how to think critically. This is the measure I utilize when grading. Generally, the
following table offers some specifications:
Paper A
Paper B
Paper C
Paper D
a) Student takes possession of the question and makes it his or her own
b) Demonstrates mastery of key concepts and materials
c) Supports an original interpretation or thesis or offers powerful insights
d) Analyzes relevant texts or other materials with insight and depth
e) Uses secondary literature, if called for, but is not overwhelmed by it
f) Writing is vigorous, clear and generally free of error; a pleasure to read
g) Organization is thorough, coherent and well balanced
a) Shows a good sense of what is at stake in a question
b) Demonstrates a clear understanding of key concepts and materials
c) Produces a plausible thesis or interpretation
d) Offers a competent analysis of relevant texts or other materials
e) Uses relevant secondary literature properly
f) Writing is clear, with no distracting errors
g) Organization is adequate
a) Addresses a question but shows little initiative or engagement
b) Demonstrates some understanding of key concepts but makes errors
c) Has trouble offering a clear thesis or interpretation
d) Analysis of relevant texts or other materials is underdeveloped
e) Mentions but does not properly employ secondary literature
f) Writing is unclear or marked by significant errors
g) Organization is identifiable but confused or inconsistent
a) Barely grasps the question and does the minimum to complete the assignment
b) Poor understanding of key concepts
c) The thesis or interpretation is either very weak or lacking
d) Shows little or no ability to analyze relevant texts or other materials
Paper F
e) Fails to employ secondary literature or uses it as a substitute for original work
f) Writing is careless and filled with errors
g) Organization is deficient: incoherent or contradictory
Fails to address the assignment or has overwhelming problems in the above areas
Required Texts
 The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy, 8th edition. Robert C. Solomon and
Kathleen M. Higgins. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2010
• Online Posts
Recommended Texts
• Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on-line at:
• A dictionary, such as Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary; also:
Statement on Learning Environment and Respect in the Classroom
A healthy learning environment involves a compact between the instructors and students. By
consenting to teach a course, an instructor is agreeing to impart knowledge relevant to the
course, to use his or her own background and experience to interpret and transmit a given body
of knowledge to the student, and to grade students according to their performance. In signing up
for the course, students consent to behave appropriately, to be part of the learning community,
and to perform the assigned tasks to the best of the student’s ability.
According to Board of Regents, Policy 1:11 “Academic Freedom and Responsibility,”
Section 2. c., “Students are responsible for maintaining standards of academic performance
established for each course in which they are enrolled.” The South Dakota Board of Regents
also reminds students that:
Freedom in learning. Students are responsible for learning the content of any course of study
in which they are enrolled. Under Board of Regents and University policy, student academic
performance shall be evaluated solely on an academic basis and students should be free to
take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study. Students who
believe that an academic evaluation is unrelated to academic standards but is related instead
to judgment of their personal opinion or conduct should first contact the instructor of the
course. If the student remains unsatisfied, the student may contact the department head and/or
dean of the college which offers the class to initiate a review of the evaluation.
The freedom to learn is an important and precious right, one that is not enjoyed equally
around the world. Freedom to learn also involves taking responsibility. A good learner
always critically examines the information that is presented by the instructor or in
assigned materials. A good learner seeks to master the materials, for without mastery no
proper assessment can take place. A good learner grants respect where respect is due—to
the instructors, the fellow learners, and all others who support and make possible the
learning community. A good learner practices self-reflection, and is willing to examine
and if need be reject old views when appropriate. The freedom to learn requires the free
exchange of ideas, not only among students, but also among professors. When this
freedom is curtailed, society as a whole suffers.
Physical and Learning Disabilities
This course acknowledges the importance of ADA requirements. Any student who feels s/he
may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Coordinator
of Disability Services privately to discuss your specific needs. Please contact the Office of
Disability Services at 605/688-4504 (Voice) or 605/688-4394 (TTD), or at the office in
Wintrode, Room 123 to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented
disabilities. For more information please see SDSU's Office of Disability Services.
Week 1 – The Meaning of Life and God
Week 2 – Reality and Truth
Week 3 – Self, and Freedom
Week 4 – Morality and Beauty
Subject to slight changes.