Schedules Textbooks Course Description Course Rationale
Student Objectives Grades-How & Why Course Values Assignments


Introduction to Philosophy
Spring, 2000
With Assoc. Professor Colby Glass, MLIS

[Please note that this is a tentative syllabus. Additional materials will be added within a week, so please check back. -CG]


Course Meetings:
This course meets Thursday evenings from 6:30 until 9:30. We normally meet in computer room OZU 119.

Office Hours:
My office is located in the new Ozuna LRC building, room 201b. My office phone number is 210/921-5069. My office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 1:00 to 5:00. If you need to see me at another time, please call for an appointment.

Assignments & Deadlines:
Your assignments and deadlines are listed by week at the top of our class' homepage. If you are not sure of the dates related to the week number, refer to the Dates for Week Numbers link at the very top of the page.


The required textbook is Roots of Wisdom, by Helen Buss Mitchell.

In addition to the textbook (Mitchell), we shall also read a variety of book excerpts, articles, and materials on the Internet. All readings not in the textbook or on the Internet will be available in the library, on reserve at the circulation desk. Feel free to use them in the library, or make copies and take home.

Course Description

Catalog Description of This Course:

"A study of fundamental questions of human existence from theoretically diverse perspectives. Topics may include the nature of reality, truth, morality, freedom, God, and social and political theory."

Course Rationale

Catalog Description of This Course:

The purpose of this course is "to teach students how to think well, to introduce them to the significance and pervasiveness of values, and to give them the opportunity to study some of the great texts created by the human mind. The development of critical and analytical thinking skills will prepare students for success in almost any field, but especially in industry, business, government, or entrance into graduate programs in law, business, computer science, theology, and philosophy" (UTSA Application to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for BA in Philosophy).

Student Objectives

At the end of the semester, you (the student) will...
1. understand what makes something a philosophical question, issue, or conversation;
2. be familiar with the history of philosophy, the great philosophers and the issues with which they were concerned;
3. be able to question, analyze and evaluate philosophical ideas and positions in an educated manner;
4. be able to differentiate between deductive and inductive reasoning;
5. know those factors which differentiate critical thinking;
6. be able to identify the common fallacies in others' arguments and lines of reasoning.

Student Grades--How Your Work is Evaluated

Your work will be evaluated, and a grade assigned for the semester, based on the following elements:

(Click on each item for explanation of the work expected)
Weekly quizzes on reading assignments & lectures 35%
Service learning (24 hours) & report 20%
Two oral group debates 15%
Class participation (speaking up, group work) 25%
Final comprehensive exam 5%

Course Values

Progress--success--in this course will require a grasp--and practice--of the basic values of the field of philosophy. They are:

COURAGE-- Do you dare to question ideas you have always believed? Do you dare to venture into ways of thinking you have never done before?

CLARITY -- Can you express ideas, whether your own or someone else's, in a clear and simple way? Do you choose words, construct sentences and paragraphs in ways that convey your meaning easily?

ACCURACY -- Are you willing to work at correctly understanding what someone else is saying and their reasons for saying it? Are you willing to demand of others that they give viable reasons for their statements?

CONSISTENCY -- Do your ideas hang together? Do you realize when you are contradicting yourself? Are you able to find your way out of such a contradiction?

CREATIVITY -- Do you express the ideas of others in your own words? Do you go beyond the ideas of others to those of your own? Do you make a connection you have never made before?

DEPTH -- Do you dive beneath the surface of initial questions and ideas to find the assumptions and further questions underneath? Do you refuse to settle for the first answer that comes along? Do you ask why?

INTEGRITY--The writing and speaking you do in this class must be your own. Do not copy what you write directly from the textbook, another book, or another person unless you give them proper credit. If caught plagiarizing, you will receive an F for the course. In this and every class you take, you are being asked to learn to WRITE AND SPEAK YOUR OWN MIND. The most worthwhile thing you gain from this class should be a deeper understanding of yourself--who you are, and the values you consider important--and a greater appreciation of your own significance as an individual. Do not cheat yourself of this experience by taking shortcuts.

Course Assignments

Course assignments are detailed by week in the Web- enhanced Course section of the homepage. Please go there to track what needs to be done. Be sure to look at the questions; they will give you good guidance in preparing for the weekly quizzes.

Weekly quizzes

Worth 35% of your grade because the readings are critical to even a basic grasp of what the course is about. You should read each assigned chapter in the textbook well ahead of class. Ask any questions you have before the quiz. In reading, look for the key ideas. One clue will be the questions listed in class and then posted online. If you know the answers to the week's questions you should do very well on the quizzes.

The quizzes will have two parts:

      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Short essay from notes

We shall prepare for each quiz in the following manner:

Before Class "A"

Class "A" is the class in which the chapter is assigned. Your assignment is, BEFORE class, read the chapter thoroughly. Then go back and make a list of the six most important points or terms in the chapter. You will be asked to contribute these points or definitions of terms in class. Don't embarrass yourself by not being ready.

Next, review the chapter and decide what is the single most important question to YOU about the chapter. This can be a question brought up in the chapter, like "Can we really know reality?" or "What is our purpose for existing?" or "Can we prove that God exists?" Or, it can be a question about the ramifications of what is discussed in the chapter, like "Is abortion ethical?" or "Should President Clinton have been impeached?"

Bring this question to class; you will be asked to tell what you decided it was.

During Class "A"

The list of key points and terms will be collected in class and "boiled down" to the most important through discussion. They will be posted to the Internet the following day for you to review. The multiple choice quiz the following week will be based on the key points and terms chosen by the class.

A second list will be collected for the single most important question related to the chapter. The class will discuss the possibilities and settle on a single question to address. You will take this question home and write a SHORT, succinct, clear answer.

Before Class "B"

You, of course, will be reading the next chapter (which is before class "A" for that chapter), but you will also be preparing for the quizzes on the previous chapter (you are before class "B" for that chapter). So, here is how you prepare.

You have a list of key points or questions posted on the Internet. The class created this list last week. You need to go over this list until you are sure you can pick out the correct answer for each item. Remember, this is multiple choice, so all you have to do is recognize the correct answer. There will be no "tricky" questions.

Next, you need to spend some time creating an answer to the single most important question related to the chapter. Since you have a week to work on this answer, and you will be allowed to work from notes during the quiz, this answer will have to be PERFECT. No spelling mistakes. No grammar mistakes. This should be a short paragraph. Very concise, very clear. You should state your answer and then say WHY that answer is the one you chose.

Pretend this is a memo to your boss at work. It HAS to be short. It HAS to be clear. It HAS to give the best possible answer. And it certainly can't contain any embarrassing booboos.

In Class "B"

You should now be ready for the two quizzes.

However, you will be given several minutes to ask me questions.

Then you will be given several minutes to discuss possible questions with your group.

Then you will take the multiple choice quiz. It will be timed, and no notes are allowed.

Then you will be given several minutes to review your written answer to the big question with your group. You should check each others' spelling, grammar, etc.

Finally, using your notes, you will take the short essay quiz, which will also be timed.


Service Learning

Worth 20% of your grade, service learning requires you to volunteer in one of the community services listed in the program. I will give you more information in the second week when the program details are issued.

To gain credit for this service, you must put in 24 hours -- or 2 hours per week -- at the location you choose. You will be expected to learn as much as you can about the people working there, the program, why it deserves help and funding, impressions you have about the situation being addressed. Near the end of the semester you will be asked to tell the class about your experiences.

Philosophy is about the questions real people ask in real life. Service learning will add a new perspective hopefully to your life and your questions.


Group debates

Worth 15% of your final grade, this project is the application of a major component of philosophical and critical thinking, viz., to explore both sides of an issue--particularly the less popular side. You are expected to work actively with your group to prepare for the debate and participate in the debate in class.

The second debate will be formatting quite differently than the first. And a report will be required afterwards.

Class participation

Worth 25% of your final grade, participation means showing up for class, speaking up and getting involved in the philosophical issues discussed, and actively working with your groups (in-class, debates, etc.).

More notes will be forthcoming soon on the significance of group work to philosophy and thinking.


Final Exam

The PAC Faculty Handbook requires that a final exam be given, regardless of the pedagogical style or methodology used by the professor. This is an abrogation of academic freedom and disagrees with much research in the field of education.

The final exam will be comprehensive. It will contain selected questions from the quizzes which have been given throughout the semester.

Any student achieving a semester average of 93% or better will receive an exemption from the final.

Grade summaries will be repeatedly issued in the last few weeks of the semester.

by Colby Glass, MLIS.

If you have comments, please send me a note. Thanks!

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