Invitation to Philosophical Thinking

P & R 101 section 12 PHONE: Cape Fear: 251-5633
Fall 1996 OFFICE HRS:7:00 pm &
E-Mail: by appointment following class
or, MAIL BOX: Bear Hall 269
Home Page:

COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introduction to various philosophers and philosophical problems from historical, critical, and other perspectives.


  1. The Last Days of Socrates, Plato.
  2. Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes
  3. Xeroxed handouts of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Locke, Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Luther King, and Richard Rorty.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1995.

The order and pace of assigned readings will depend upon the demands of the class and will be assigned at the discretion of the instructor. You will read at least three out of the four selections in Socrates and three or four of the Meditations.

REQUIREMENTS: Reading, analyzing, interpreting, writing, and arguing about texts are the basic activities of most college courses and of most managerial and professional careers. This is especially true of philosophy. As a discipline, one of its key characteristics, in my opinion, is that it is a public activity of entering into and continuing discussion on variously entertaining and, sometimes, important matters. To enter into this conversation, one must be able to read and discuss texts. To that end, you will be asked to write papers to accomplish certain tasks (see "Task Driven Writing Assignments"), since writing in everyday life is always done to fulfill some task.

The Papers: There will be 3 "Expository Essays" of 2 pages in length. These will be on (1) Socrates' Euthyphro, (2) his Phaedo, and (3) Descartes' Meditations (These three papers combined will be 20% of your total grade).

In addition, there will be 3 "task-driven" papers of 4 pages in length. The 1st is an argumentative paper on Socrates' Crito and Martin Luther King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." The second paper is an analytical paper presenting the ideas of Rene Descartes and John Locke. The third and last task-driven paper will be an interpretative paper on Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre. (Each paper will be 20% of your total grade)

Due dates for these papers are found in the course outline. The "Expository Essays" must be a minimum of 2 typed, double spaced pages and the "Task-driven Papers" a minimum of 4 pages. All papers must conform to the MLA Handbook rules for writing papers. Your grade will be determined in accordance with the guidelines in "Grading Standards." In the unlikely event of having to hand in a late paper, please consult with me before the due date.

One tool required for your continued academic success is an ability to do research. Thus, in addition to the three graded papers, all students will hand in a quarter long project detailing the hard and electronic research resources in the area of philosophy of personal importance. Again, the citations of references must conform to the MLA Handbook. Detailed instructions will be given you on how to find and store sources from the World Wide Web. A draft will be due on Thursday, September 26th. Again, the citations of references must conform to the MLA Handbook. (Counts as 20% of your total grade)

Class format is lecture discussion: All assigned readings must be completed prior to class. Students are expected to critically participate in class. Remember, attendance is a precondition for participation and is expected.

The Syllabus: There are various ways to look at the first-day handout that have a profound relationship on how you view a course. Often, students think of the syllabus as blueprint, analogous to an architect's drawing of a house. Such a conception leads to the conclusion that a course simply follows steps until one arrives at the end where one can measure the outcomes in relationship to the plans. I would urge you to think of the handout as a map. Like a blueprint, the map provides us with information necessary to arrive at our destination. But, the analogy of the map alerts us to the fact that a journey, like a course and all good education, is to be enjoyed and meaningful from the moment one begins the adventure, not simply when one arrives.

I take academic dishonesty seriously, as I am sure you do. I shall abide by the "Academic Honor Code" as described in the University Bulletin, as so will you.


Course Guide