Dr. Christine A. James


PHIL 2010 E Fundamentals of Philosophy   CRN 80566

MWF 10:00am-10:50am in WH 104


This syllabus is available online, and may be updated, at


Office: 1203 Ashley Hall

Office Hours: MW 3:30pm-4:45pm, TR 2:00-3:15pm, and after classes and by appointment as needed or requested.

Telephone:  259-7609 

Mailbox:  Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, Ashley Hall North Side First Floor

Fax:  259-5011

E-mail address:


Course content: This course provides an introduction to philosophy and its various areas and specializations and sub-fields.  Our readings are arranged topically and historically (theories of knowledge, social and political philosophy, ethics, feminist theory) including the history of philosophy (with classical philosophers like Socrates to contemporary philosophers who are still living, like Daniel Dennett and Rita Manning).  This is a reading intensive course, so it will require you to read, think about, and write about a considerable amount of material.

Requirements:  Class participation and attendance, two written examinations, two papers, various Blazeview assignments and discussions.  Pop Reading Quizzes may also be given during the semester.


In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication." 

The Learning Outcomes for PHIL 2010 are:

1. To understand the distinctions among the various sub-fields of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics as comprising basic branches of the discipline.

2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to individual reflection on the meaning of life.

3. To become conversant with the history of philosophy.  The course emphasizes Western philosophy in particular, including such significant developments as empiricism, materialism, idealism, rationalism, pragmatism, and existentialism.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5.  To demonstrate the ability to discuss, in both oral and written discourse, the philosophical issues explored in the course.

6.  To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.


Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.


These course-specific learning outcomes also contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major:

1. Explain and analyze central issues, topics, and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.
2. Write and speak critically and logically, applying various theories to specific cases and examples.
3. Explain their own value system, evaluating their values in the context of a diverse range of ideas that inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.
4. Create independent philosophical research, synthesizing a variety of sources, including traditional primary philosophical texts and secondary source
5. Demonstrate a working familiarity with current research methods, citation styles, and presentation techniques.

All learning outcomes will be evaluated via formative and summative assessments, including research papers, formal presentations in class including verbal expression and Powerpoint presentations, and written work in Blazeview including Discussion postings, Assignment attachments of Word .doc or .docx format, and Assessment quizzes.


Required Texts:


Fifty Readings in Philosophy, Donald C. Abel, ed., Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 4 edition (June 17, 2011) ISBN-10: 007353580X    ISBN-13: 978-0073535807   Approximately $30 to rent, $70 to buy on Amazon.


For the first two weeks of class, I provided links in Blazeview and your syllabus schedule below for the readings that are available online, just in case you might be waiting for a financial aid overage check deposit to be able to buy your books. Be sure to buy or rent the book as soon as you can.


Please do the reading before the class for which it is assigned. Please bring the book(s) and/or article(s) with you to class, along with a designated notebook and some pens.


(In addition, Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty encourage you to use the St. Martin’s Handbook, a style guide with a custom VSU edition, which is required in ENGL 1101 and 1102 courses. These books are available for purchase at the VSU Bookstore. The St. Martin’s Handbook is usually shelved in the bookstore near the books for ENGL 1101 and 1102.)


How grades will be calculated:

A          = 100 - 90%                              Class participation, attendance = 15%

B          = 89 - 80%                                First Discussion, Quiz, and Dropbox = 5%

C          = 79 - 70%                                2 Exams at 20% each = 40%

D          = 69 - 60%                                2 Papers at 20% each = 40%

F          = 59 - 0%                                  Total = 100%


Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow “make up” work after the date an assignment or exam or paper is completed by the other members of the class. When you have extenuating circumstances, you should talk with me about it ahead of time.

I also make no promises about extra credit items, although I will routinely announce events on campus that can result in some extra credit points for you.


Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams.  Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences.  These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook.  Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades.  The papers involve more creative and independent thinking.  The papers should be no less than five pages long, double spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times/ Times New Roman.  Expect to use the text and cite it with a consistent citation scheme (refer to the St. Martin’s Handbook you use in your English classes).  “Use direct quotes!” with full citation information, at least from our class textbook.  Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine.  The ability to write and edit well-constructed academic essays is an important skill that will come in handy throughout your college career and beyond. Again, these papers must be typed, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times) with one-inch margins at the top and bottom of each page and 1.25-inch margins on either side (the default settings in Microsoft Word). More specific topics are given out as we do the readings, and I always mention things that would make a good paper topic during our class meetings and discussions.

Here are some extra links, if you would like to use outside sources and secondary source material:

In completing your research papers, you may find that the databases of peer-reviewed journal articles will be especially helpful. The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete) is   (Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box.)

If you are accessing the library website from an off-campus computer, please use the Anywhere Access to log in to our library’s resources:

Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly.   VSU policy states that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”.  Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences.  You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty.  10% of our 30 class meetings is 3.  On absence number 4, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 6, you will automatically fail the course.  Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on.  Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence.  Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.

Access Statement: Students with disabilities who are experiencing barriers in this course may contact the Access Office for assistance in determining and implementing reasonable accommodations. The Access Office is located in Farbar Hall. The phone numbers are 229-245-2498 (V), 229-375-5871 (VP) and 229-219-1348 (TTY). For more information, please visit VSU’s Access Office or email:

Title IX Statement: Valdosta State University (VSU) is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive work and learning environment free from discrimination and harassment.  VSU is dedicated to creating an environment where all campus community members feel valued, respected, and included. Valdosta State University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including pregnancy status, sexual harassment and sexual violence), sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national origin, disability, genetic information, or veteran status, in the University's programs and activities as required by applicable laws and regulations such as Title IX. The individual designated with responsibility for coordination of compliance efforts and receipt of inquiries concerning nondiscrimination policies is the University's Title IX Coordinator: Maggie Viverette, Director of the Office of Social Equity,, 1208 N. Patterson St., Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia 31608, 229-333-5463. 

Participate! Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.

Pop Reading Quizzes: If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make-up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero.  These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.

Online Discussions: During certain weeks of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using Blazeview. Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.

To use Blazeview, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications, like allowing pop-ups and updating Java. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Blazeview, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. Sometimes if you have a lot of work to do, your wireless internet connection can be cut off if your computer or iPad goes into sleep mode – the library computers will have more reliable “wired” connection. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at

To log in to Blazeview and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on My VSU. Your username and password are probably the same as for your e-mail account.

When posting in an online Discussion board, like those in the Discussion area of Blazeview, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.) Normally, in Blazeview, you should respond to my topic first, and then come back and reply to at least two other students. Try not to simply repeat what others have said already, and remember that citing the text is important.

When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the “Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” people will be seeing what you posted!

Blazeview allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted, like a set of statistics on a scoreboard. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.

Academic Honesty: Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based.  In addition, VSU has a new Academic Honesty Policy.  Here is a link to the Academic Honesty Policies and Procedures:


VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the Blazeview Mail tool.  Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.

Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.




8/15 M

Introduction to the class.


First reading together: Academic Integrity



For the next class, read the textbook’s Preface, Intro, and reading #1 in Ch. 1.


(Each date in the class after this one assumes that you will have read that day’s assigned discussion reading before class.)

Be sure to look in the new Blazeview for your first Discussion, Quiz and Dropbox!

Blazeview appears under MyVSU and


What is Philosophy?  Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major?  Here is some interesting information:

8/17 W

Discussion of Philosophy and Plato's Apology and Euthyphro, which is Reading #1 or #11 depending on your edition of the textbook.     

(Some reading numbers are different, but the reading can usually be found by scanning the Table of Contents.)

8/19 F

Discussion of Plato, and Russell, Problems of Philosophy: The Value of Philosophy which is reading #2 in both editions.       

Please note that by Saturday, 8/20 at 11:59pm, you should have completed your first Discussion, Dropbox, and Introductory Quiz in Blazeview. These are all short items that simply show you are able to use Blazeview.

8/22 M

Discussion of Plato’s Republic, King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, and Russell’s “Value of Philosophy”, these are readings #2, #13, and #47 or #48 depending on edition.

8/24 W

Review day, Plato’s Republic, #13

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to these readings (Russell, Plato, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 8/27. (You should do the discussions before taking the exam)

8/26 F

Review for FIRST EXAM which is due in Blazeview Quizzes by 11:59pm on Sunday 8/28

Faculty complete Proof Rolls on this date. This is how the administration records that you are attending class, and it begins the process for you to receive financial aid overage.

8/29 M

Going over the first exam, Discussion tool assignments in Blazeview

Remember to post in the online Blazeview Discussion board for our class.  Topics will be listed in the class, under the Discussion link.

Begin Theories of Knowledge (Epistemology), introducing Descartes and Locke.

8/31 W

Discussion of Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, #14

9/2 F

Discussion of Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, #15 and Berkeley Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous,

9/5 M

No Class, Labor Day Holiday

9/7 W

Video presentation and discussion on Williams syndrome (social knowledge)

How Philosophers Do Research/Academic Journals

By this date, your excess financial aid should be either direct deposited or mailed to you.

9/9 F

Discussion of Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, #16

9/12 M

How Philosophers Do Research/Academic Journals Odum Library Guest Speaker Reference Librarian

9/14 W

Discussion of Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, #17

9/16 F

Discussion of Kant, Hume, the problem of induction and philosophy of science

9/19 M

Discussion of Jaggar, Love and Knowledge, #18 (old editions may have Peirce, Fixation of Belief, #18, also linked here)

9/21 W

Review of Epistemology (old editions may also have Kaisa Puhakka, Invitation to Authentic Knowing, #19)

9/23 F

REMINDER: Advising for Spring and Summer 2017 takes place throughout the month of October, and Registration for Spring and Summer 2017 classes will begin on Monday October 31. Be sure to see your advisors in your major departments, and sign up for appointment times if your advisor has a lot of students to see.

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Epistemology readings (Descartes, Locke, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 9/24.

9/26 M

Writing Practicum Day: The sections of a good philosophy paper reviewed. 

On this date, bring in copies of your draft paper for everyone to critique and give feedback!

9/28 W


Be ready to discuss your papers in front of the class in three minutes or less. Papers will be turned in to the Blazeview Dropbox area by 11:59pm.

On this date, In Progress grades are being entered in Banner. These grades give you a sense of where your performance is in the class.

9/30 F

Begin Ethics, Chapter 6;

Discussion of Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, #32

10/3 M

Discussion of Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, #34

10/5 W

Discussion of Mill, Utilitarianism, #35

October 6 is the official “Midterm Date” of Fall 2016. Some classes will have a “midterm exam” but our class is graded by activities spread out over units, so we do not have a “midterm exam.”

10/7 F

Discussion of Kierkegaard, Is There a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical? #36

10/10 M

No Class, Fall Break (Days off for Fall Break include Monday 10/10 and Tuesday 10/11)


10/12 W



Discussion of Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, #37

The last date to withdraw from a VSU full fall semester class with a grade of W, instead of WF, is Thursday 10/13. Remember that VSU students are limited to 5 W grades in their entire Bachelor’s degree.

10/14 F

Discussion of Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, #38

10/17 M

Discussion of Rachels, The Challenge of Cultural Relativism, #39

10/19 W

Discussion of Manning, Just Caring, #40  

10/21 F

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Ethics readings (Ethics Case 1, 2, 3, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 10/22.

10/24 M

Begin Social and Political Philosophy 

Discuss the Crito, #41

10/26 W

Discuss Hobbes, Leviathan #42

10/28 F

Locke's Second Treatise, #43

VSU Registration for Spring 2016 classes begins Monday 10/31.

10/31 M

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, #46

11/2 W

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, #44

11/4 F

Discussion of Rawls, A Theory of Justice, #48

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Social and Political Philosophy readings (The Ethics of Debtors Prisons) are due by 11:59pm on 11/5.

11/7 M

Second Paper Writing Practicum Day! The second papers will be longer research papers than the first paper, use the second list of topics within the paper handout.

11/9 W

SECOND PAPER DUE Be ready to discuss your paper in front of the class in less than 3 minutes. Papers will be turned in through the Blazeview Dropbox.

11/11 F

No Class, Dr. James has to go to a meeting in Atlanta

11/14 M

Begin Free Will and Determinism

Discuss d’Holbach #26

11/16 W

Discuss Hospers, information from our class notes in Blazeview

Discuss Stace #28

Are you anticipating having a job interview?  Here’s some articles that might help!

11/18 F

Discuss James #27

11/21 M

Discuss Taylor #29

11/23 W – 11/25 F

No Class Meetings, Thanksgiving Break

11/28 M

Discussion of Holmstrom #30 and Discussion of Strawson #31


Discussion of Joseph Keim Campbell’s Compatibilist Alternatives:

12/2 F

Review for final exam, final exam open

12/5 M

No Class, Dr. James has a conference trip to Belgium


The last official class meeting day for all Fall Semester classes is Monday, December 5.


For classes that normally meet MWF at 10am, the Registrar has set the official exam time for Tuesday, December 6 at 10:15am. For our course, we will have an online exam in the Quizzes area of Blazeview covering the last section of our class (Free Will and Determinism) that will be due by the time this final would begin. If you are not sure about how the final exam times are assigned for your other courses, check this link to the Final Exam Schedule here:

Fundamentals of Philosophy    Short Summary of Graded Items


Grade Item

Percentage of Final Grade

In Class or Online

If Online, Location in Blazeview

By Saturday 8/20 at 11:59pm

First Introduction Discussion, Dropbox and Practice Quiz in Blazeview







Opening readings starts 8/17


Epistemology (Theories of Knowledge) starts 8/29

Ethics starts 9/30



Social and Political starts 10/24

Discussions on various topics for each Unit, due on the date the Unit ends:

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to the opening readings (Russell, Plato, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 8/25.

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Epistemology readings (Descartes, Locke, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 9/24.

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Ethics readings (Ethics Case 1, 2, 3, etc.) are due by 11:59pm on 10/22.

All Blazeview Discussions pertaining to Social and Political Philosophy readings (The Ethics of Debtors Prisons) are due by 11:59pm on 11/5.




By Saturday
8/27 by

First Exam on opening readings (Blazeview will go down for maintenance on Friday nights, so try to do it before 9pm Friday if you can)




By Wednesday 9/28 at 11:59pm

First Paper

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


By Wednesday 11/9 at 11:59pm

Second Paper

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


By Tuesday 12/6 at 10:15am

Final Exam





Online Course Evaluations

Student evaluations are extremely important in helping faculty members plan and revise their courses.  Rather than completing these evaluations during class time, students will need to access evaluation forms via BANNER and complete them in a period during the last few weeks of class.  Please take the time to complete this important evaluation (or opt out of providing an evaluation) during the designated period.  If you do not do so, you will not be able to access the grade for this class, scheduled to be posted on the Monday after the final examination days. They will be in Banner under Answer a Survey. Students will receive an email notification through their VSU ( email address when the SOI is available (generally at least one week before the end of term.) SOI responses are anonymous to instructors/administrators. Instructors will be able to view only a summary of all responses two weeks after they have submitted final grades. While instructors will not be able to view individual responses or access any of the responses until after final grade submission, they will be able to see which students have or have not completed their SOIs, and student compliance may be considered in the determination of the final course grade. Some professors give extra credit for completing the SOI and some do not, please do not pressure any faculty member about giving extra credit - it's an individual instructor choice. These compliance and non-compliance reports will not be available once instructors are able to access the survey.


Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott:


1. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.


2. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.


3. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.


4. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.


5. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?


6. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!


7. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.


8. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.


9. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.


10. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.


11. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.


12. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.


13. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!


14. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.


Tips about writing in Philosophy and Religious Studies courses:


1. A really great website for students about how to write academic papers is maintained by the Dartmouth Writing Program:

In addition to lots of helpful general information, it has special pages on "Writing the Religion Paper" and "Writing the Philosophy Paper."


2. A great website that explains the importance of critically evaluating web resources -- always a problem area for students – is maintained by Robert Harris:


3. I strongly encourage everyone in our class buy a copy of the St. Martin's Handbook, VSU Edition. This is the writing manual used in ENGL 1101 and 1102, which all VSU students are required to take. In other words, you should all already own a copy. It explains all the basics -- e.g., how to cite sources, etc. By recommending students own a copy, I'm hoping to emphasize the continuity between your writing courses and the rest of your education, in the hope that you don't just sell the book back and forget the basics.