Phil. 6


Introduction to Philosophy

Philosophy 6

Fall Semester 2001

TR 9:00-10:15

Prof. Dowden







Catalog description of the course: A representative selection of philosophical problems will be explored in areas such as knowledge, reality, religion, science, politics, art and morals.


Fuller description of the course: This is the best first course to take in philosophy. Our survey course will explore the major questions of philosophy. Here are some typical philosophical questions we will ask and try to answer:

  • Are there any absolute truths?
  • What is the relationship between our mind and our brain?
  • What is the meaning of life?

There are many other philosophical questions and issues. For example, to quote one contemporary philosopher: "Many of us were brought up to believe that God exists, that there is a real difference between right and wrong, that we can freely choose what sort of lives to lead, and that it is possible for us to gain [certain] knowledge of the world we inhabit. A major goal of philosophy is to discover whether these opinions can be rationally defended or are just comfortable illusions." Many excellent philosophers have disagreed with each other about how to answer these questions. During the course, you will be encouraged not only to find out what the famous philosophers from many cultures have said about all these questions, but also to form your own answers.


Grades: Your grade will be determined by a quiz (10%), a midterm exam (30%), an essay (25%), a final exam (30%), and occasional participation in class discussions and projects (5%). From time to time during the semester, sample questions will be handed out to help guide your studying.

quiz: Sept. 20, 2001

midterm: Oct. 23

essay due: Nov. 27

Regarding the class participation credit, you can get full credit by occasionally asking a question or responding to a question during the semester. Also, on some days our class will break into groups of four or five students. Group members will discuss a question on the day's topic and then produce an answer. You can get class participation credit by volunteering to present your group's answer to the full class and then responding to comments from me and from other students.


Textbook: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read," said Groucho Marx.

Buy The Experience of Philosophy, 4th ed., by Daniel Kolak and Raymond Martin, Wadsworth Publishing Company. It's available in our bookstore and at Don't buy the newer 5th edition. Several videotapes will be shown in class [the first on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001], and some short articles will be handed out; all these are assumed to be required viewing or reading unless indicated otherwise.


Objectives of the course: The purpose of this course is to introduce you to a variety of the major philosophical problems and to some of the solutions offered by our civilization's deepest thinkers. In addition, you will become better able to reason philosophically about these and other philosophical problems. You will be better able to examine your own deep-rooted presuppositions in a variety of areas.


Prerequisites: There are no CSUS courses that must be taken prior to taking this course. The course will fulfill three units of your General Education humanities requirement for Area C.


Add-Drop: To add the course, try to do so by telephone using Casper. If the course is full, then see me about signing up on the waiting list. When there is room, students on the waiting list will be added in this order: graduating seniors, then all others by random selection.

To drop the course during the first two weeks, use the Casper telephone system. No paperwork is required. After the first two weeks, it is harder to drop, and a departmental form is required, the "Petition to Add/Drop After Deadline." As with any university course, make sure you are dropped officially (by Casper or by the instructor or department secretary); don't simply walk away into the ozone or else you will get a "U" grade for the course, which is counted as an "F" by the Registrar in computing your GPA (grade point average).


Make-up assignments: There will be no make-up assignments. If you present a good reason for missing the assignment, then your missing grade will be considered to be the same as the grade you later get on the final exam. To be excused from an assignment for illness or whatever, contact me as soon as you are able.


Professor: My office is in Mendocino Hall room 3022, phone 278-7384. My weekly office hours will be announced at the first class meeting. Feel free to stop by or call at any of those times. If those times are inconvenient for you, then we can arrange an appointment for an alternative time. For rapid response, you are encouraged to send me e-mail at




1. WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? The subject of philosophy encompasses a wide variety of fundamental issues. Our course will focus on issues and answers, not on the famous people nor the history of the subject. Our first issue is how humans know for certain that there's a world external to their minds.

assignments for part 1:

1. Plato: The Trial of Socrates [article 1 in your textbook]

VIDEO: Obedience

2. Milgram: Obedience to Authority

4. Russell: The Value of Philosophy


2. PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION. What are the major reasons for believing in God? For example, is God needed to account for the beginning of the universe? Many non-Western peoples believe the universe may be eternal, that is, without beginning or end. We will also investigate the major argument against believing in God, the so-called Argument from Evil, an argument that has a prominent place in Western and African cultures, but that has received less attention in Chinese, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures. Finally, we will consider the proper relationship between faith and reason, and between science and religion. According to the philosopher John Locke [1632-1704], "Religion, which should most distinguish us from the beasts, and ought most particularly to elevate us, as rational creatures, above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves." Our goal will be to take a careful look at religion.

33. Thomas Aquinas: The Five Ways

Leibniz: Proving God (316)

VIDEO: God, Darwin and Dinosaurs

Pascal: The Wager

34. Hume: God and Evil

Hick: World Without Suffering & Misfortune (335)

Freud: Religion as Wish Fulfillment (319)

Rajneesh: On the Corpse of a Buddha, Religion Stands (327)

Maslow: The History of Mysticism (331)

40. Wiredu: Religion from an African Perspective


3. ETHICS. If individuals want to make decisions that are ethical, is the only thing they can do is to go with their gut feelings? Can the study of ethics transcend personal opinions and uncover objective truths? Our discussion of ethics will pick up from where it left off with Plato and the trial of Socrates.

68. Kant: The Categorical Imperative

69. Mill: Utilitarianism

73. Richard Garner, Amoralism


4. FREE WILL. Can someone believe they have free will but not really have it? Is your having free will inconsistent with an accurate science of psychology that gives the reasons for your decisions?

20. Holbach: The Illusion of Free Will

21 Hume: Liberty and Necessity

22. James: The Dilemma of Determinism

24. Richard Taylor: Freedom and Determinism


5. PERSONAL IDENTITY. What makes you you?

12. Descartes, On Self and Substance

15. Thomas Reid, Critique of Locke and Hume on Behalf of Common Sense


6. MIND. There is an old American Indian proverb that goes like this:

Just the other day, I was an Indian
Following a coyote's trail

If I had gotten a little closer to the Earth
I could have been the coyote
Making the trails.

If I had gotten even closer,
I could have been the Earth
Upon which they walked.

What is the relationship between your mind and your body? Could your mind enter another body? Are minds subject to the laws of physics? Did Descartes give the correct answer to the previous questions? How can you tell whether a squirrel has a mind? How can you tell whether a robot has a mind?

VIDEO: "Monkey in the Mirror"

VIDEO: "The Thinking Machine" on the pros and cons of artificial intelligence laboratories someday building a machine that thinks.

51. Hofstadter, A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Turing Test

52. Garret Thomson and Philip Turetzky, A Simple Guide to Contemporary Philosophy of Mind

53. Dawkins: The Selfish Gene

55. Nagel: What Is It Like to Be a Bat?



46. Parfitt: Why Does The Universe Exist?

6. Kolack and Goloff: The Incredible Shrinking Zeno


Study Tip:

Regarding the reading you will do, my role is to enrich what is said in the text, not simply to tell you what the text said. Because you will be reading some material that won't be discussed in class but that you may wish to use in answers on your exams, and because it is easy to forget what you've read, it is usually best to write a summary of the main argument or position taken by the article's author and to write out your answers to the related study questions immediately after reading the material rather than waiting until the night before the exam. That way, you will have fuller, deeper answers to offer at exam time.

This philosophy course is not like other courses that begin the first week to give you a foundation and then build from there. Philosophy is not taught as being a cumulative discipline. Instead, the course will introduce a number of difficult, foundational problems and will offer several of the historically important answers to them. Your goal is not to find the definitive answer so much as to appreciate the depth of the problems, to learn different approaches to solving them, and to learn how to philosophize for yourself.


Writing Tip:

Regarding any writing assignment in any philosophy course, please follow the recommendations at In addition, there are Department guidelines available at, and there are definitions of grades for written work at In your writing assignments, your work will be evaluated primarily for its insight into the philosophical issue but also will be evaluated for clarity and proper handling of terms, phrase, and concepts related to the course.



The web address of this file is

updated: 12/8/01