PHILOS0PHY 100 SPRING 2009
) X67288 Office hours: by appointment
Student Learning Objectives/Course Objectives
By the end of the course students should:
***have acquired a foundational understanding of the formative history of the Western and Chinese philosophical narratives
***have developed an ability to make sound cultural comparisons
***have improved their critical reasoning skills and developed the ability to formulate philosophical arguments
***improved their research and writing skills
This Introduction to Philosophy course is divided into three sections.
Over the first month of the course, we will do a close reading of some of the early dialogues of Plato. Although Plato lived almost 2500 years ago on the other side of the world, his way of organizing the human experience has exerted real influence on the Euro-American cultural narrative. As contemporary Americans, in Plato we will discover much that resonates with our own commonsense, our own cultural assumptions, our own worldview. We will, in degree, discover ourselves.
On the first day of class students will be give a list of questions on Plato that can be used to structure the reading assignments, to guide the acquisition of an understanding of Plato, and to prepare for Examination One. Examination One will be an in-class essay exam comprised of 4 questions selected from the list. In additional class sessions we will go over the list of questions and learn how to develop cogent answers. Be prepared to answer each question in paragraph form in about 15 minutes. Examination One will constitute 30% of the final grade.
During the second month of the course, we will journey to China and become acquainted with Plato’s Chinese cousin, Confucius. It can be argued that Confucius has influenced the lives of more people than any other historical human being. In our own times, as China rises on the economic, political, and cultural horizon, young America needs to know more about this antique culture.
As Examination Two, students will be asked to write a 6-8 page (1500-2000 word) paper comparing some aspect of the philosophy of Confucius with that of Plato. Although this paper will be due at the end of this Section, students will have the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit their essays to improve upon their grades as many times as they want until the last day of class on May 6th. Again, this paper is worth 30% of the course grade.
The final month of the course will be given over to an internal critique within the Western philosophical narrative of the metaphysical realism we derive from Plato. We will read some essays in Existentialism and American Pragmatism that challenge entrenched ways of thinking and living, and that at the same time in degree de-exoticizies Chinese philosophical assumptions. Again, in additional sessions we will go over the list of questions and learn how to develop cogent answers. Students will again be given a list of questions on the first day of this portion of the course, and the final Examination Three will consist of 4 essay questions selected from that list. Again 30% of the grade.
Because philosophy as a discipline requires sustained engagement on the part of the student, class attendance is taken very seriously. Repeated absences will not be condoned. To this end, the remaining 10% of the grade—the difference usually between an A and a B—will be given for two surprise quizzes during the semester on readings assigned for a particular class period. If you snooze, you lose.
Only permission received from the instructor prior to the class meeting or a note from a doctor will allow a student to makeup a missed examination or spot quiz. Absences for athletic and academic reasons will usually be accommodated, but require advanced permission.
All papers must be paginated, and while students may send in their papers as an attachment in order to meet the deadline, they must also turn in a hardcopy for grading. Quotations and sources are to be clearly referenced. Web sources consulted must be noted. Standard writing conventions must be observed. For example, book titles and foreign words must be italicized. Learn how to avoid sexist language. For bibliography and footnotes, use The Analects of Confucius as your model stylesheet.
Plagiarism includes by is not limited to submitting, in fulfillment of an academic requirement, any work that has been copied in whole or in part from another individual’s work without attributing that borrowed portion to the original author; neglecting to identify as a quotation another’s idea and particular phrasing that was not assimilated into the student’s language and style or paraphrasing a passage so that the reader is misled as to the source; submitting the same written or oral or artistic material in more than one course without obtaining authorization from the instructors involved. (The University of Hawai’i Student Conduct Code)
Any student who plagiarizes in this course will receive a failing grade and will be referred to the Dean of Students.
If you feel you need reasonable accommodation because of the impact of a disability, please 1) contact the KOKUA Program housed in Room 013 of QLCSS, 956-7511 or 956-7612; 2) speak with the instructor privately to discuss your specific needs. I will be glad to work with you and the KOKUA Program to meet your access needs related to your disability.
Plato, The Last Days of Socrates trans. H. Tarrant/H. Trednnick
Plato, Symposium trans. A. Nehamas/P. Woodruff
The Analects of Confucius, R. Ames/H. Rosemont
The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence, H. Rosemont/R. Ames
Questions on the Platonic dialogues for Examination I
Use these questions to structure your reading and be prepared to respond to them in the examination. You can anticipate about 20 minutes per question.
1. Outline the Socratic method of argument pointing out its strengths as well as its limitations or inadequacies.
2. What arguments would Socrates offer against democracy? Do you think that the American (rather than the Athenian) democracy would be more acceptable to him, and if so, why?
3. How does Socrates support his claim in the Phaedo that the philosopher’s life is simply ‘training to die’?
4. Although the Euthyphro would seem to end in failure, Plato does succeed in communicating some very positive insights into the nature of piety. What are these insights?
5. Socrates seems committed to doing what is right. Why did Socrates refuse to escape from jail after having been condemned for an offense that he did not commit by a court that he did not regard as competent when he believed himself to be an innocent person?
6. What are Plato’s Forms? How does he develop an ethical theory out of the existence of these Forms?
7. Socrates claims that a good person cannot be harmed by an evil person. In fact, he goes so far as to assert that ‘nothing can harm a good person in either life or death.’ Give his reasons for such a claim.
8. In what ways does Socrates demonstrate his contempt for the jury assembled before him and a lack of confidence in their ability to judge him fairly? How does he antagonize and provoke them?
9. In these dialogues, does Socrates give preferred status to law or to conscience?
10. What was the real meaning and significance of Socrates’ death?
11. How would you distinguish Socrates from the sophists with whom he was identified?
12. What relationship did Socrates see between knowledge and virtue?
13. Socrates defines the wisest of people as those who "knows that their wisdom is in truth worth nothing." Given this definition, does Socrates as portrayed in these dialogues really qualify as a "wise person"?
14. A.N. Whitehead suggested that "Western philosophy is for the most part a footnote to Plato." Enumerate and discuss several aspects of Plato’s philosophy that have strongly influenced the development of Western culture, and that are alive and well in the contemporary world.
15. Use Plato’s image of the divided line to explicate his theory of knowledge.
16. How would you distinguish Socrates’ "divine voice’ (daemon) from our notion of "conscience"?
17. How would you argue for "mysticism" as a marked feature in the character of Socrates?
18. Crito is decidedly unpersuasive. If you were Crito, what arguments would you use to convince Socrates that he should escape from jail?
19. It is said that Socrates discovers the soul. Discuss Plato’s conception of “self.” What does Socrates mean by his signature injunction, "know thyself." What would you articulate as the strengths and weaknesses of such a conception?
20. What is Socratic irony. What is the function of irony philosophically. Give some examples from your readings.
21. Socrates characterizes his relationship to the State as that of a child to its parent. What would support this analogy? Do you agree with it? Discuss.
22. Lewis F. Powell, Jr. said something to the effect that an ordered society cannot exist if every man may determine which laws he will obey—that he will only obey “just” laws where he is free to determine for himself the question of ”justness.” To what extent would Socrates agree with this? Would he accept it without qualification?