David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy

Fall 2011 Phl 1012 Introduction to Philosophy

Introduction to Philosophy: Relationship of the Individual to the World 

Jump to: Schedule of Readings

PHIL 1012-004/31723
(Dr. David Hildebrand, CU Denver, Fall 2011)
MW 11:00 a.m. - 12: 15 p.m. Room: North Classroom 1321

Does life have meaning? This deceptively simple question will provide our entry point  into philosophy. We will read and discuss a number of writers, from Plato to the present, who, in considering the relationship of the individual to the world also raise the question of the meaning of life. This fundamental philosophical question will lead us into discussions regarding character and the good life, death and suicide, advertising and consumerism, and the impact religion and science can have on meaningfulness.  The course will have four main sections: (a) Living Meaningfully without God(s), (b)  Suffering, Absurdity, and God, (c) Pleasure vs. Happiness, and (d) The Meaningful life as the Examined Life: Socrates as Exemplar. 

Course Objectives: Ideally, by the end of this course students should gain the following skills:

Familiarization. Gain a good sense of what is at stake in issues of course.
Comprehension. Be able to comprehend the arguments offered by various philosophers.
Critical analysis. Be able to criticize those arguments by pointing out where they lack evidence, make an unreasonable leap, hold a false assumption, etc.
Demonstration of the above through exams, verbal responses, and writing.
Verbalization. Be able to summarize a philosophical position, without notes, using your own words. Be able to criticize a position this way.
Conversation and Debate. Be able to discuss issues in a focused and informed way with others in the class. This will involve listening closely to their points, then responding in a way that moves the discussion ahead.

Required Texts:
The textbook is available at Auraria and Big Dog Textbooks (1331 15th Street). Also, if you desire, online (see, for example, http://used.addall.com). If you buy your book online, make sure (1) that it is the correct edition, and (2) that you have it in time for class. See also http://www.bigdogtextbooks.com here in Denver. 

  1. The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato, GMA Grube, translator (Hackett )
  2. Course blackboard site: additional readings are posted here, too: http://blackboard.cuonline.edu/
  3. Life and MEaning: A Reader by Hanfling (Blackwell)

YOU MUST PRINT OUT ANY ONLINE READING THAT IS ASSIGNED AND BRING IT TO CLASS.

Blackboard/Website: There are two online sites related to this course. Familiarize yourself with them right away. Both will offer you access to information about the course such as study questions, announcements, grades, extra credit assignments.

  1. The first and most important one is our course Blackboard site: https://blackboard.cuonline.edu. On this page are INSTRUCTIONS TO ENROLL. Please make sure you enroll right at the beginning of the class.
  2. The second site is my home page at http://www.davidhildebrand.org. Here there are a variety of general study tips and resources in philosophy.

 Time Management and Expectations about Reading/Understanding Material

Time Per Week: Many of us have responsibilities that compete with this class. Though I am sympathetic, these will not excuse poor attendance or late work. If short term, non-emergency illnesses or other contingencies create problems with attending class or completing assignments in a timely manner, students must notify me before class time by leaving a message on my office telephone. I will discuss the matter with students during the next class meeting or schedule an appointment at that time if needed. I will only consider an extension if I receive notification prior to the class or deadline except in cases of documented emergency.

 Readings: It is expected that you have done the readings before we discuss them. As you read, copy out important points and questions you have onto a separate sheet of paper. (These will help you with your short reflection papers.) You may also want to note problem passages (e.g., with a "?" or "Q.") in your text as you read. These are good points for class discussion. You should come to each class able to discuss the main issues of the reading and you could be asked during class to present the main points to the class. Your well-prepared participation is crucial for a successful class. Please see the Tips for Understanding Philosophy and for Writing Philosophy Papers on my home page. See also this page for tips on participating and reading.

Very important: please set aside about 10 minutes shortly before class to look back over (skim-review) the readings and whatever you have written for that day.

Philosophy needs to be re-read. Unlike some fiction, philosophy needs to be read slowly and deliberately. Don't rush through it -- think about issues as they are raised, going back and forth if necessary. And if you're burning out, take a break. You will find that a text can seem quite different the second time through. Thomas Kuhn, a noted philosopher, wrote:

When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them. When you find an answer, ...when these passages make sense, then you may find that more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning. (from The Essential Tension, p. xii.)

Nietzsche wrote,

In the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book: -this art [philosophy] does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers. (Dawn, Preface)

Course Requirements/Evaluation: 1000 total points can be accumulated for this course:

  • Attendance                        200 points or 20 %.
  • Exam 1                                     250 points or 25 % (covering material up to first exam)
  • Exam 2                                     250 points or 25 % (covering material after first exam)
  • Exam 3                                    300 points or 30% (covering material after second exam)

Time per week you will need to spend  outside of class in order to do well (A or B):       5  hours, minimum (not including exam study)     

Time Per Week: Many of us have responsibilities that compete with this class.  Though I am sympathetic, these will not excuse poor attendance or late work.  If short term, non-emergency illnesses or other contingencies create problems with attending class or completing assignments in a timely manner, students must notify me before class time by leaving a message on my office telephone.  I will discuss the matter with students during the next class meeting or schedule an appointment at that time if needed.  I will only consider an extension if I receive notification prior to the class or deadline except in cases of documented emergency.

Readings: It is expected that you have done the readings before we discuss them. As you read, copy out important points and questions you have onto a separate sheet of paper. (These will help you with your short reflection papers.) You may also want to note problem passages (e.g., with a "?" or "Q.") in your text as you read. These are good points for class discussion. You should come to each class able to discuss the main issues of the reading and you could be asked during class to present the main points to the class. Your well-prepared participation is crucial for a successful class. Please see the Tips for Understanding Philosophy and for Writing Philosophy Papers on my home page. See also this page for tips on participating and reading. Very important: please set aside about 10 minutes shortly before class to look back over (skim-review) the readings and whatever you have written for that day.

Attendance Attendance in class is required; part of attending a class includes participation in it, both verbally and on any assignments happening in class. This class includes SEMINAR Days where attendance is optional. This means that for the remaining class days attendance is absolutely required (and will be taken) except in cases of illness, emergency, or special circumstances. An absence may be excused, exams may be made up, or homework may be turned in late only if (1) the absence has been approved in advance by the professor or (2) the absent student can document illness or emergency. Documents about absence must be brought to professor within one week of returning to class. PLEASE NOTE: Each unexcused absence from required class days will lower your final attendance average by 20 points. [E.g. If you miss 5 classes your attendance grade would be 200 – 100 (20 x 5) = 100.]  

Comprehension quizzes. Occasionally, in class or online, there will be comprehension quizzes. These will be graded on a done/not done basis only. The point of them is to help give you a "reality check" on how well you're understanding significant issues in the class. Missing a quiz, online or in class, will be counted as 1 absence (but if you miss a class with a quiz that day, it won't count as 2.)

Participation Course participation grades are not automatic. They are based on oral contributions to the collective learning experience of the class as a whole in terms of asking pertinent questions, answering questions correctly or, at least, provocatively, making insightful observations, and offering other meaningful expressions of interest in the material that help encourage learning. Shyness is not an excuse—oral participation is part of your evaluation. There will be ample opportunity for active and well prepared participation, which I value and which will affect the final grade. This can take place in seminar days. "Participation" must include the following: class attendance, ability and willingness to contribute to class discussion and group activities; these activities will also influence "participation" : e-mail dialogue, extra-credit (when assigned) etc.

Seminar Days: On your schedule of classes (below) you will see days marked as “SEMINAR Days.” These are not "regular" class meetings and will cover no new readings or information needed for exams. Each SEMINAR DAY will focus on the material of the time since the last SEMINAR DAY, usually about three class meetings. Their purpose is to facilitate more intense discussions with those who have informed themselves by carefully doing the readings. SEMINAR DAY attendance is optional, though recommended; those who are not interested in attending can be assured that there will be no penalties: no attendance taken, no quizzes, no new material covered. You have the day off. However, attending will be highly beneficial to learning the material. Students who attend SEMINAR DAY have, in the past, done better on exams than those who do not attend.

Every student attending seminar day must:

  1. WRITE: One comment (a paragraph) about material since last seminar day or test. This might be something you enjoyed, disagreed with, found puzzling, or just found interesting enough to discuss. These will be jump-off points for discussion.
  2. have read the material fairly closely
  3. be ready to participate in a conversation about the material.

Exams: Likely a mixture of short answers, multiple choice, and essay. no make-up exams will be given without extenuating circumstances and arrangements made prior to the exam. A zero will be given for any missed exam not arranged for in advance. "Extenuating circumstances" include severe medical problems; talk to me about which other circumstances would count as "excusable."

Grades: I use the plus/minus system. There are 1000 possible points for this class. An "A" will be a body of work achieving at or above 930 points; an "A-" will be 900-929 points; a "B+" is 870-899 points, etc. Values for those letters, as well as the policies regarding other grades such as Incomplete, are available in the CU Academic Policies and Regulations section of the handbook. I have set out my standards of what a grade means on my FAQ section of my website.

Course Policies

Plagiarism/ Academic Dishonesty Plagiarism is a form of stealing. It occurs when an author uses the words or ideas of others as if they were the author’s own original thought. (It may include word-for-word copying, interspersing one’s own words with another’s, paraphrasing, inventing or counterfeiting sources, submitting another’s work as one’s own, neglecting quotation marks on material that is otherwise acknowledged.) Plagiarism is often unintentional. It can be avoided by always acknowledging one’s debt to others by citing the exact source of a quotation or paraphrase. Since plagiarism is such a serious violation of academic honesty, the penalty for it will be an automatic “F” for this course.

Academic dishonesty is the intentional disregard of course or university rules. This may include (but is not limited to) collaborating with others when rules forbid (such as on exams) or using sources/experts not permitted by an assignment. The CU handbook has a more complete description of plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Anyone caught violating the rules of an exam or an assignment can expect a failing grade for the assignment and possibly the course as well.

Access, Disability, Communication: The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center is committed to providing reasonable accommodation and access to programs and services to persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities who want academic accommodations must register with Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 177 Arts Building, 303-556-3450, TTY 303-556-4766, FAX 303-556-2074. I will be happy to provide approved accommodations, once you provide me with a copy of DRS’s letter. [DRS requires students to provide current and adequate documentation of their disabilities. Once a student has registered with DRS, DRS will review the documentation and assess the student’s request for academic accommodations in light of the documentation. DRS will then provide the student with a letter indicating which academic accommodations have been approved.]

Students called for military duty: If you are a student in the military with the potential of being called to military service and /or training during the course of the semester, you are encouraged to contact your school/college Associate Dean or Advising Office immediately.

Course Communication: In addition to announcements made and written handouts distributed in class, I may need to contact you between classes, which I'll do through individual and group email messages. One of the requirements for this course is that you maintain an email address, check it regularly for messages, be sure it is working, and let me know if you change your email address. You are responsible for any messages, including assignments and schedule changes, I send you via email. You also may contact me via email, in addition to seeing me during office hours or calling me.

Civility and Technology: Laptops are not permitted. Turn off beepers and cell phones during class. Text messaging, web surfing, and other electronic distractions may result in expulsion from class and will be counted as an "unexcused absence" from class. Students who are speaking deserve your attention and respect as much as I do. Listen to one another. Adherence to the Student Conduct Code is expected.

Contact Information and Office Hours

Phone : 303-556-8558
E-mail: hilde@yahoo.com;                        
Website: http://davidhildebrand.org
Office and Hours: Plaza M108            
Hours or by appointment.

Purpose: I strongly encourage you to participate by dropping by during office hours. We can talk about the class readings and lectures, exams and papers, your progress, or just philosophy in general. Note: If you are a student with a disability, I will make myself available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations. Before accommodations will be made, you may be required to provide documentation. Students with disabilities will be accommodated. Students with disabilities are required to register disabilities with the UCD Disability Services Office, and are responsible for requesting reasonable accommodations at the beginning of the term. 

Please note: All course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

Remember, course help is available at my web address: http://DavidHildebrand.org

Schedule of Readings : Course Readings, Assignments, and Exam Schedule

Where should I look for the readings?  (1) If the schedule says "Trial and Death" then it's from the little Plato book; if it says "ONLINE" then it's on Blackboard. Otherwise, the reading will be in our text, Life and Meaning by Hanfling.

Note: This is a rough schedule. Subject to revision. I will let you know in each class what is coming up.

Below please find:

  • Date/Readings (to read before class)
  • Class Theme
  • Key issues & focal questions

August

The Meaningful life as the Examined Life: Socrates as Exemplar

22 Introduction to class—NO READINGS COVERED FOR THIS FIRST DAY OF CLASS. In class: Philosophy, arguments, and sophistry. How does one make an "argument"?

Mapping the course: what is involved in asking and answering the question, What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to raise the question, “What is the meaning of life?” How does philosophy raise such questions? From where does it get the questions and what can philosophy do with such questions? Is a meaningful life a pleasurable one? A self interested one? What is the relation between self interest and fulfillment or meaningfulness in life?

24 Wednesday Terry Eagleton, Chapter 1 of Meaning of Life, A Short Introduction. ONLINE

Exploring the question, "What is the meaning of life?" What kind of question is this? What is it asking? What approaches may be used in answering it?

What are some reasons that we ask the meaning of life question? What does the question tell us about who we are, right at the moment of history? To whom or what do people turn for answers to this question? Are people finding answers in religion, art, entertainment, or sensual pleasures? If the meaning of life needs to be constructed—rather than "found"—then what tools are needed to construct it? Or perhaps it's the process of building meaning—if so, what is that process like?

29 Monday Trial and Death---Euthyphro  

Philosophy-in-action. Meaning about key concepts (such as "piety") requires the work of dialogue: question, answer, analysis, further questions and answers. Life's potential as a series of cumulatively meaningful conversations.

Plato's dialogue seeks to show an attempt to define a virtue (the virtue of piety). How does this attempt at definition lead to larger questions about ethics? What does it reveal about Euthyphro's character? Notice that a dialogue can terminate with no "answers" and yet change participants by making them more prepared for further dialogue.

31 Wednesday Trial and Death---Apology

Socrates' mission and society. How philosophy is different from rhetoric.

Philosophy as tool for criticizing concepts. The search for knowledge is different than persuasion.

September

5 Monday LABOR DAY NO CLASS

7 Wednesday Trial and Death---Apology

Socrates' project for philosophy: search for truth and meaning in life through critical dialogue.

Philosophy as tool for changing society; the anger provoked by asking deep questions.

12 Monday SEMINAR DAY—NO NEW READINGS

Material from previous classes. Be ready: bring (1) written comment about material since last seminar day/test, (2) review the material from recent sessions, and (3) be ready to present your thoughts in class.

14 Wednesday Trial and Death---Crito; Phaedo

Character depends on ethical consistency. How do choices regarding life and death shape who we are? How we die, and how we react to others death, can reveal the kind of meaning we have been ascribing to life.

Crito appeals to Socrates to escape, but Socrates refuses on moral grounds. Why is escape the wrong choice, according to Socrates? What does he reveal to be just as important (in this choice) beyond his single, individual life? Why is Socrates willing to obey the laws of the state? At the end of his life, does Socrates fear death? Why do his followers react to his impending death the way they do? QUESTION: What would be positive or negative about living a life more like Socrates?

19 Monday Exam review & Exam: Review the readings and bring questions to class, which takes place after the review (length: 45 minutes)

21 Wednesday 185-189 (Pleasure and Desire, an excerpt from Plato's Gorgias)

Suggested: reading White on Callicles and Plato ONLINE

What is pleasure? Is it the same as happiness? Socrates' warning that the goal of pleasure cannot lead to true fulfillment.

In our excerpt from Plato's Gorgias dialogue, we see Callicles claiming that there's no more to happiness than pleasure. What is Socrates' response to this vision of happiness? How does Socrates argue that pleasure is not equivalent to good?

Pleasure vs. Happiness

26 Monday Aristotle, "How Should a Man Live?"

The highest life is not one of pleasure. It is one of contemplation. What is Aristotle's argument for this? What does he mean by "contemplation"? (Is it something like Socrates' "examined life"?

28 Wednesday SEMINAR DAY—NO NEW READINGS

Material from previous classes. Be ready: bring (1) written comment about material since last seminar day/test, (2) review the material from recent sessions, and (3) be ready to present your thoughts in class.

October

3 Monday Pirsig, excerpt from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. ONLINE

What's involved in seeking "quality" in one's work and one's life?

Pirsig says definitions are the foundation of reason and yet he refuses to define "Quality", the central term in his argument. Despite the fact that you can't say exactly what it is, "Quality" is the goal of every creative person and without it life would hardly be worth living, he says. What is Pirsig saying about the relationship between creative intelligence and getting an "A" in life? What does he say about following the rules and seeing for yourself?"

5 Wednesday PART 1/2 FILM: Advertising and the End of the World (in class)

What is pleasure? Is it the same as happiness? How are these concepts constructed?

Advertising's construction of our values.

Socrates and Plato thought that dialogue was THE primary way to criticize and refine a society's views about values, in other words what makes living ethical and meaningful. How does communication about values happen today? Which values?

10 Monday PART 2/2 FILM: Advertising and the End of the World (in class)

The impact of advertising messages on happiness, society, and the environment.

Often, we hear stories told by advertising. How do the patterns of advertising communicate what happiness is? How are those things we take to be beyond our individual pleasure (society, morality) affected by the construction of reality that advertising creates? Is this reality-portrait of advertising ethical?

Suffering, Absurdity, and God

12 Wednesday 97-109 "The Vanity and Suffering of Life" by Schopenhauer

Our destiny is suffering, either through boredom or pleasure. We should come to terms with this as the meaning of life.

Whether one's goal is pleasure or happiness, the result is always the same—suffering, according to Schopenhauer. There might be ways to escape suffering, but they're difficult, Schopenhauer says. What are they?

17 Monday Epictetus, The Enchiridion. ONLINE

An ancient Stoic approach to suffering and the role of divine worship which was the basis for Schopenhauer's suggestions.

Is escaping from suffering possible? Maybe not, but detachment from what cannot be controlled can lessen suffering. We can at least control our reactions to whatever is out of our control, good or bad. Have you tried this?

19 Wednesday "The Absurd" by Nagel (Life and Meaning book)

Is life "absurd"? Nagel argues that absurdity is a peculiar kind of suffering created by two a clash of two "perspectives" both natural to human beings. Can knowing this help us in our darker moments?

Much suffering arises from two different perspectives: we're both engaged agents (striving after purposes or evading pains) and yet we also can "pull back" as reflective critics of our lives, seeing it from a distance.

24 Monday SEMINAR DAY—NO NEW READINGS

Material from previous classes. Be ready: bring (1) written comment about material since last seminar day/test, (2) review the material from recent sessions, and (3) be ready to present your thoughts in class.

26 Wednesday  7-19 Ecclesiastes passage; "My Confession" by Tolstoy

How an existential crisis can invade even a successful, purposeful life. The rationale behind turning to religion for purpose.

Sometimes a happy life is not as happy as one thinks; one can be fulfilling one's purposes and out of nowhere an existential crisis can arise. Has you ever experienced this or known anyone who has? What do you think of Tolstoy's reasons for rejecting science and philosophy for answers?

31 Monday "Pensées" by Pascal

Why God is the best gamble to escape the problem of insignificance in life. The solution of Pascal's wager, which claims to present the rational case for trying religious life.

When one considers how great the universe is, our significance seems small, puny, meaningless. How to cope? For Pascal, we can face our smallness with at least a wager on the existence of God. What are the benefits and costs of believing in God for these reasons?

November

2 Wednesday Exam review & Exam 

Review the readings and bring questions to class, which takes place after the review (length: 45 minutes)

Living Meaningfully without God(s)

7 Monday Nietzsche from Gay Science ONLINE

Suggested: online lecture (mp3) from noted Nietzsche scholars Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins ONLINE

"God is dead," Nietzsche's character says. He's arguing that society no longer lives as if God existed but has not been honest with themselves about it. He evokes this spiritual/societal crisis in order to present it as an opportunity.

Why is the death of God an opportunity, according to Nietzsche? From what perspective should we look at life to imbue it with meaning? From close up, in light of present purposes? From further away, in the grand scheme? If we draw too far back don't we become threatened by insignificance?

Can one be happy or have a meaningful life without God? What role does religion play in giving people an overarching sense of meaning in life? What would happen if this was taken away? Would something similar just replace it or would a new, different way of making meaning evolve in its place?

9 Wednesday "Man Against Darkness" by Stace

When God is not believable for people anymore; the challenge to culture when religious belief becomes "hollow" and the role science plays in this phenomenon.

The crisis in human culture when scientific and technological ways of thinking undermine the magic and mystery of the religious vision. What fills the void left by religion? How successfully?

14 Monday SEMINAR DAY—NO NEW READINGS

Material from previous classes. Be ready: bring (1) written comment about material since last seminar day/test, (2) review the material from recent sessions, and (3) be ready to present your thoughts in class.

16 Wednesday "The Purpose of Man's Existence" by Baier

Does life need one single purpose to be meaningful? Baier argues that we need no grand purpose to live meaningfully but religion has confused many people about this. Religion leads to a lack of morality.

Does religion make people more or less moral? Baier, like Stace, questions the need for a grand, religious backdrop to give meaning to our lives. He says that the problem of living meaningfully without God is just based on a confusion of two different senses of "purpose." We may have no ultimate purposes but we still have purposes. Besides confusing us, he goes on, religion also induces people to live in a way too child-like to be truly moral.

21/23 Mo/Wednesday Thanksgiving

28 Monday "On the Meaning of Life" by Schlick

Why purposes and goals can't make life meaningful. Only play can give meaning to life.

Is play the key to meaning in life? Schlick argues that meaning in life is thought to come from our goals and purposes; but these don't lead to meaning. We should embrace the enthusiasm, creativity, and play we see in youth.

30 Wednesday Terry Eagleton, chapter 4 of Meaning of Life, A Short Introduction. ONLINE

Life as aesthetic, creative. Several meanings of "life" considered, Eagleton argues for the view that the meaning of life is best sought in a way of living—again, one that is ethical and aesthetic/imaginative in nature.

Living creatively, imaginatively, beautifully as a process answer to what meaning of life is.

December

5 Monday McDermott, "Why Bother?" ONLINE

Life as aesthetic, creative, again. A personal story of a journey from despair to meaning; living a life that is aesthetic in a day to day way.

Responding to the temptation/threat of suicide, McDermott analyzes "life" and "living." He articulates two keys to significant living: amelioration of others' suffering and living in a way that is aesthetically fulfilling.

7 Wednesday wrap up, review, take home out (comprehensive) Take home exam given out. Questions reviewed.

12 Monday TAKE HOME EXAM DUE


Last updated Aug 11, 2011 04:59:PM