Week 1

Introductions & Syllabus

  • Sign up with and bring your blog address to class on Thursday.
  • Follow me on the course website:
  • Read the syllabus carefully and explore the website.
  • Set up your e-portfolio at according to the guidelines on the assignments page.
  • See blog examples on the “assignments” page.
  • Complete your ‘about me’ page. Be sure to put your name on this page. If you want to use a pseudonym, let me know.

Philosophical Argumentation

Week 2


Think of an example of injustice that you have personally encountered or witnessed. It might be a profound injustice or just the first time you noticed something was unfair. (This is not a blog prompt. It is for an in-class activity).


Read: Arguments and Inference 

Blog Prompt 1: If, and only if, you did the in-class justice exercise you may write it up as a blog. Just put your argument in standard form, with your conclusion saying something about justice. Then tell your own story and explain how it connects to the argument.

Class canceled Thurs 8/31

Week 3 (Sept. 4-7)

Mon: no class (Labor Day)


Read: Philosophical Terms and Methods & Arguments

Blog Prompt 2: (This will not be 300 words)

Give your own, original example of a valid argument with a false conclusion.

  1. Give your own, original example of a valid argument with a true conclusion.
  2. Give your own, original example of a sound argument.
  3. Give your own, original example of an inductive argument

(M/W classes have the option of doing this for Wednesday, since Monday is labor day)


Read: “Fallacy Database

Blog Prompt 3: (This will probably not be 300 words)

Give your own, original examples for the following ten fallacies, plus two additional fallacies of your own choice (for a total of 12): 1) Begging the Question2) Ad Hominem 3) Equivocation 4) Slippery Slope 5) Straw Man 6) Tu Quoque 7) Non-sequitur 8) False Dichotomy 9) Argument from ignorance 10) Red Herring

Week 4 (Sept. 11-14)


REQUIRED Blog:William Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief, Section I: The Duty of Inquiry”

Blog Prompt 4:

Reconstruct one of his arguments (not the ship captain example) in standard form. Then evaluate that argument for soundness and validity. What practical significance does Clifford’s thesis have? Do you see any fallacies in Clifford’s reasoning?


James, “The Will To Believe” (Excerpts)

Blog Prompt 5: Explain the characteristics of a belief that is live, forced, and momentous. Does this belief avoid Clifford’s arguments for evidence?

Art and Reality

Week 5 (Sept. 18-21)


Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave”


Blog Prompt 6:

Is there a parallel between the status of the prisoners in Plato’s cave and the spectators in a cinema? In other words, how are we deceived by movies and other media? Do we mistake fiction for reality? Is it possible that this physical world isn’t reality?


Plato, The Republic: Book X(stop at the line: Yes, he said, I quite agree with you.)

Blog Prompt 7:

What is the difference between “beds in the world” and “the idea of a bed?” Where does “art” fit into his hierarchical scheme of reality? Plato criticizes art for being “deceptive.” How does art deceive us, according to Plato? Do you agree with this criticism?

Week 6 (Sept. 25-28)

Film Screening

Blog Prompt 8 (Due Sept. 30):

How does Existenz, the film, fit into Plato’s hierarchical scheme of reality? How does the game, Trancendenz fit?

Week 7 (Oct. 2-5)


Aristotle’s Poetics

Blog Prompt 9:

What kinds of imitation does Aristotle identify in poetry and tragedy? Does Aristotle convey a positive sense of the role of imitation in art? Do you think that his understanding of art in terms of imitation provide a useful way to understand what art is?


Aristotle’s Poetics (read through Part XV)

Aristotle and Death of a Salesman (optional as an example of a tragedy that fits Aristotle’s definition)

Blog Prompt 10:

Discuss an example of an artwork (movie, fiction, painting, poem, etc)  that you think fits Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. Explain the elements he requires and apply to specific aspects of your example. You may present your example in class to boost your participation grade.

Week 8 (Oct. 9-12)

Midterm Portfolio Review Week (No class)

Sign up for individual interview with Prof for midterm portfolio review.

  • At this point in the semester, you should have a minimum of three blogs and six comments to be considered passing. Ideally you would also have some glossary words defined and a total word count of at least 2000.

Week 9 


Tolstoy “What Is Art?”

Blog Prompt 11:

Tolstoy uses the test of infectiousness, not only as a descriptive measure for what should count as art, but also as a standard for good art (#28-32). What does he mean by this standard? How does he suggest we apply this test to evaluate art? Is this a useful proposal for evaluating the quality of art? If you disagree with this proposal, how would you challenge it?


Blog Prompt 12:

Show an example of something you consider to be art. It can be any kind of art. Provide links or images as needed. Explain whether or not your example matches Tolstoy’s definition and whether or not you agree. You will have the opportunity to present this blog in class.

Mind, Body, Identity

Week 10


Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

Read Meditation I. Of the things which may be brought into the sphere of the doubtful, pages 6-8

Blog Prompt 13:

Descartes finally arrives at something he takes to be known with absolute certainty. What is it? How does he claim to know it? Do you think he has proven anything?


Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

Read Meditation II. Of the Nature of the Human Mind; and that it is more easily known that the Body, pages 8-12

and: Correspondence between Descartes and Princess Elisabeth

  • read pp. 1-4, first para. on 5.

Blog Prompt 14:

  • What does Descartes demonstrate with the wax example? How does it fit into his main argument for dualism?
  • According to Descartes, how do we know the mind is separate from the body? Do you agree? Explain.

Week 11 (Oct. 30-Nov. 2)


Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

Read Meditation III. Of God: that He exists, pages 12-16

Blog Prompt 15:

  • What does Descartes identify as the possible sources of his ideas? Which category does his idea of perfection fit into? What source would you identify for your own idea of perfection?


Hume, Of Personal Identity

Blog Prompt 16:

Hume believes that the self is an illusion or a fiction. What is his argument? Do you find it convincing? Why or why not?

Week 12 (Nov. 6-9)

Film Screening: Memento 

Memento Study Guide

Blog Prompt 17: (choose one)

  • Leonard relies upon scribbled notes to connect him to his past. He says that eyewitness testimony is worthless: “Memory can change the shape of a room…” Is he right? Do you think our memories are more reliable than his notes? Hume says identity is just a habit we have. Do you think Hume would see Leonard’s condition as any different from our own?
  • Do you agree with Leonard’s statement that we all need mirrors to remind us who we are? In the movie the mirrors were his notes, the photographs, and tattoos. What has he become by relying upon them? What would you become without your own mirrors? How does a view of self that relies upon mirrors fit with Hume’s theory?

(These blogs are due next week)

Week 13 (Nov. 13-16)


Memento/Hume blog due (readings and prompts above)

  • At this point in the semester, you should have a minimum of seven blogs and ten comments to be considered passing. Ideally, you would also have fourteen glossary words defined and a total word count of at least 3200.


MacIntyre: The Storytelling Animal

Blog Prompt 18:

Choose a passage from the McIntyre reading that describes a particular aspect of persons as the subject of a narrative. Quote the passage, explain it, and tell a specific, personal, life experience that illustrates its significance with respect to identity (your identity).

Freedom and The Meaning of Life

Week 14 (Nov. 20-21)


Causal Determinism

Blog Prompt 19:

What is causal determinism? Would you feel any differently about your life in general—and your actions, thoughts, and feelings, in particular—if determinism were true? Why or why not?


Catch up day. (No class lecture, no assignment)

Week 15 (Nov. 27-30)


David Hume, “The Obviousness of the Truth of Determinism”

Blog Prompt 20:

Some philosophers assert that one of the consequences of the argument against free will is that we are not responsible for our actions. Would Hume agree?


Frankfurt, Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person

Blog Prompt 21:

What does it mean to be a person, according to Frankfurt? Explain the order of desires, and how they are related to freedom of will.

Week 16 (Dec. 4-7)


Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

Blog Prompt 22:

What are anguish and Despair in existentialism? How does an individual marriage commit humanity to monogamy?


No class: portfolio review 

Grading Rubric (PDF)

Submit your grade self-assessment statement via email by 12/15.