PHIL101: Introduction to Philosophy

Course Syllabus for "PHIL101: Introduction to Philosophy"

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This course will introduce you to the major topics, problems, and methods of philosophy and surveys the writings of a number of major historical figures in the field. Philosophy can be - and has been - defined in many different ways by many different thinkers. In a scholarly sense, philosophy is the study of the history of human thought. It requires familiarity with great ideas understood through the various major thinkers in world history. In its most general sense, philosophy is simply the investigation of life’s “big questions.” We will explore such fundamental questions in several of the core areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. With the help of commentaries and discussions from a number of contemporary philosophers, we will read and reflect on texts by major Western and non-Western thinkers including Lao Tzu, Buddha, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Saint Anselm, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Bertrand Russell. This course aims to not only familiarize  you with philosophers and problems but to also improve your ability to think critically about the issues, develop your own ideas about them, and express these ideas clearly and persuasively in writing. Unit 1 introduces philosophy as a discipline and provides a sense of its subject matter and methodology. Unit 2 addresses topics in metaphysics and epistemology - traditionally the “core” areas of philosophy. Units 2, 3, and 4 cover moral, political, and religious philosophy, respectively. Each unit presents selections from a set of philosophers whose works are traditionally compared on the same themes in order to set up contrasting approaches and opinions.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the major areas of philosophical inquiry, explain how those areas differ from and relate to one another, and place the views and arguments of major philosophical figures within those thematic categories;
  • Use philosophical terminology correctly and consistently;
  • Identify and describe the views of a number of major philosophers and articulate how these views are created in response to general philosophical problems or to the views of other philosophers;
  • Explain the broad outlines of the history of philosophy as a framework that can be applied in more advanced courses;
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the arguments philosophers have put forward for their views and formulate objections and counterarguments of your own invention; and
  • Apply critical thinking and reasoning skills in a wide range of career paths and courses of study.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed ENGL001 and ENGL002.

Course Information

Welcome to Philosophy 101.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements.
Course Designers: Nikolaus Fogle, Ph.D., Renmin University of China and Chad Redwing, Ph.D., University of Chicago

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a wide range of free online materials. However, the following course content relies heavily on the following sources:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all its assigned materials. This includes assessments within each unit as well as at the end of this course. You will also need to complete:

  • The Final Exam 

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all the course readings, lectures, web media, and assessments in each unit.
In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 141 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “Time Advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 11.25 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete Subunit 1.1.1 and Subunit 1.1.2 (a total of 4.75 hours) on Monday night; Subunit 1.1.3 and Subunit 1.1.4 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday night; Subunit 1.2 and the Assessment (a total of 4.5 hours) on Wednesday night; and so forth.
Tips/Suggestions: Try to take comprehensive notes as you work through the resources in this course. These notes will serve as a useful review as you study and prepare for your Final Exam. Finally, you will find it useful to use the following “Philosophy: Glossary of Technical Terms” throughout this course.

Reading: Garth Kemerling's The Philosophy Pages: "A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names" (HTML)
Instructions: You may choose to peruse this glossary, but you do not need to read this entire glossary straight through.  Instead, save it as a bookmark in your web browser for consultation throughout this course.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.