Philosophy 1301
Introduction to Philosophy

Spring, 2012
Curtis Brown

This is a topical introduction to philosophy: we will discuss a number of the central issues in philosophy.  The course is intended to be a survey rather than an in-depth investigation of particular issues; the student who takes the course should acquire a broad understanding of a variety of issues which can be pursued in more depth in upper-division courses in the department. In studying the various branches of philosophy, we will read both great historical figures who have shaped the field and contemporary authors who attempt to develop the field further and relate it to contemporary concerns.

Online Information

Most course information will be on TLEARN. Some, but not all, course information will also be available on the course web site,


Andrew Bailey and Robert M. Martin, eds., First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, Second Edition (Broadview, 2011).

Office Hours

TR 8:30 - 10:30 AM; MW 4:00 - 5:00.

I am usually in my office during office hours, but occasionally a meeting or another commitment prevents this.  If you just drop by during office hours, you will probably find me in; if you want to see me at another time, or if you want to be certain I'll be in, we can set up an appointment.


1. There will be two in-class examinations, tentatively scheduled for Friday, February 17 and Wednesday, March 28. The exams will contain questions on the terminology and basic ideas of the readings, and longer essay questions asking you to evaluate and compare the arguments in the readings. The exams will count 20% each.

2. There will be a final exam on Friday, May 4, at 8:30 AM. The final will count 20% of the final grade. This will be a cumulative exam, including broad essay questions asking you to relate material discussed over the course of the semester.

3. One paper, of 6-8 pages, is due Wednesday, April 18. The paper should include discussion of some of the readings for the course; I will give you a longer handout about it soon. You will need to submit a proposal for the paper by Friday, March 23. More details will be available on the paper handout. The paper will count 20% of the final grade.

4. Shorter assignments and participation will count 20% of the final grade. This includes grades on quizzes, short papers on assigned topics, attendance, and participation in class discussions, either orally in class or in writing on the class discussion board on Blackboard. Short papers will be designed to develop specific skills, for example: identifying and explaining the argument presented in a philosophical passage; evaluating an argument for validity and soundness; criticizing a philosophical analysis; constructing a philosophical analysis. Important note: Although in general short assignments and participation count 20% of the grade, excessive absence is grounds for a failing grade in the course, not just on this portion of the final grade.

Note on Academic Integrity: Everyone should be familiar with the University’s Honor Code. Information about the honor code is available on the Honor Code web site. Note that violations of academic integrity include cheating, counterfeit work (i.e. turning in work that was done by someone else), unauthorized reuse of your own work ("turning in the same work to more than one class without consent of the instructors involved"), and plagiarism. The Student Handbook description of plagiarism is important enough to quote at length: "presenting as one's work the work of someone else without properly acknowledging the source. . . . Exact copying should be enclosed in quotation marks and be appropriately documented in footnotes or end notes that indicate the source of the quotation. Paraphrasing, when the basic sentence structure, phraseology, and unique language remain the same, is also plagiarism. When in doubt about these matters, it is the student's responsibility to seek guidance from the instructor of the course."

Like most faculty members, I take academic integrity very seriously. Remember that any use of material you did not write yourself, either word-for-word or in close paraphrase, is plagiarism. This is true even if the passage is only a sentence or two long, and no matter where the material came from, including web sites, discussion groups, or the papers of other students. I will strictly follow the Honor Code policy by reporting any suspected violation of the policy to the Honor Council. I have had some students suggest that their plagiarism is "not a big deal." You should be aware that I do regard it as a big deal. A violation of academic integrity involves failing to do required work, and then lying about it. It harms you both by diminishing the value you get from your coursework and by contributing to the development of character traits which are immoral and often counterproductive. Other students have told me they were not aware that what they were doing was a violation of academic integrity. If you have any uncertainty about the policy, or about whether the specific use of other sources you are considering is acceptable, come and talk with me. I’ll be happy to clarify what is acceptable and what is not. Finally, I have heard from some students that they resorted to plagiarism because they were overwhelmed by an assignment and saw no way of completing it successfully without resorting to cheating. Ironically, in many cases, if these students had worked as hard at writing a paper as they did at plagiarizing, they could certainly have written an acceptable paper. If you are having trouble getting started on a paper, please come and talk with me.

Readings: See the detailed schedule for more precise information about readings and dates.

Last update: January 9, 2012.
Curtis Brown  |  Introduction to Philosophy  |  Philosophy Department  |   Trinity University