Syllabus: Philosophy 190A


Spring 2008


●Instructor: Gale Justin

●Campus Phone: 278-6547

●Office: Mendocino 3024


●Office Hours: TTh 1:30 – 2:30 and by appointment



Catalog Description


Seminar: Major Philosophers. Intensive study of a single philosopher.


Course Goal


Aristotle can fairly be said to be the first systematic philosopher.  This means that although he was not the first philosopher to concern himself with metaphysics, theory of knowledge, and ethics, Aristotle was the first to lay out the fundamental principles of these separate subject areas and to inquire into how the separate areas might be related. The primary goal of this course is to acquaint the student with the way in which Aristotle treats these three principal subject areas of philosophy: metaphysics, theory of knowledge, and ethics.  We shall examine, among other topics, Aristotle’s essentialism which forms the basis of his account of the fundamental things that are, Aristotle’s theory of first principles which informs his view of scientific inquiry, and Aristotle’s conception of rational activity, which is at the core of his account of a good or happy human life.


 Course Requirements


Your grade in this course will be based on your performance on class report, a roughly 7-10 page paper that will go through two drafts, and three – five in class quizzes on the reading.  For the class report, I will send around a sign up sheet and you can choose some section of the reading to present to the class. I would like to have you email me a copy of your report one day prior to your presentation date. Points will be deducted from your report grade, if you do not do this. Further information on the class report will be given in class. For the paper, you may choose to write on any topic that we have covered in class but I must approve your topic and also approve the way in which you intend to approach your topic.  So you must submit a statement of your topic/problem and indicate roughly the manner in which you propose to address the topic/problem. In addition, on both your prospectus and your first draft, I will make suggestions regarding outside reading you may want to consult, areas that you should develop or objections that you should address. I will keep a copy of these recommendations and papers that do not revise in accord with my recommendations will receive a D on the final draft of the paper.


Class Report

15% of your grade

5 in Class Unannounced Quizzes on readings

15% of your grade

Paper (First Draft)

30% of your grade

Paper (Final Draft)

40% of your grade


Both the first draft and the final draft of your paper are initially each worth 30% of your grade.  However, at the end of the semester the two drafts will be re-weighted in a way that is maximally beneficial to you.  This means that if your final draft substantially improves on your first draft, then the final draft will be weighted 40% and the first draft 30% of your final grade.

Grading Criteria for Individual Assignments


Your written work will be evaluated for both the accuracy of your understanding of the reading and lecture material and for how well it represents your own attempt to give Aristotle the very best possible argument for his position.  Please note that in ancient philosophy, it is not the norm to criticize (i.e. “critically” discuss) the philosopher’s position. Rather scholars who work in ancient philosophy strive to make the ancient philosopher’s position as strong as possible.  They try to bring out the significance of what the philosopher is saying and also quite often the interpreter works to relate the philosopher’s position to a philosophical problem that was under discussion at the time. Of course, it is absolutely essential that the paper display a college-level comprehension of English.  Papers must be typed.  In philosophy, we practice a writing method that some of you will be unfamiliar with:  our ideal is to express ourselves concisely but completely.  In philosophy, it is also ok to use the word “I” when you present both a philosopher’s theory, as you understand it, and your own attempts to strengthen or support that theory.  For additional advice on how to write philosophy papers, please access this link to Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers.  Also see Citing Sources.




Attendance is not required.  But a student who has taken less than 3 in class quizzes will receive a 0 for that portion of the grade.  So consider carefully before you decide to cut many classes. 




Letter grades are assigned on all of your written work.  The letter grades are keyed to the following scale: 93 and above = A, 89 – 92 = A-, 85 – 88 = B+, 80 – 84 = B, 78 – 79 = B-, 75 – 77 = C+, 70 – 74 = C, 65 – 69 – C-, 60 – 64 = D+, 55 – 59 = D, 50 -54 = D-, below 50% = F.


Collaboration and Secondary Source Policy (including use of material from the internet):


You are free to exchange ideas, to consult secondary source material, including internet sources.  If papers exhibit striking similarities in sentence structure or lines of thought, then they will receive an F. The use of source material must be footnoted.  Instructions for citing books, articles, and electronic resources is provided at Citing Sources.  Papers that fail to footnote the information that is gained from outside sources or papers that employ actual sentences from such source material without proper footnoting will be failed.  But in my view you can imitate an author’s style, adapt someone’s turn of phrase, or use a person’s manner of organizing an argument.  In fact, I believe that reading good contemporary works on Plato and Aristotle and carefully studying how the author argues for his/her position is one of the best ways of learning how to do ancient philosophy.  In any case, where you are not sure it is best to acknowledge the source either in a footnote or by saying something in the text like: “In Cooper’s apt phrase, “goods of fortune” are for Aristotle mere instruments, not components, of happiness.


Late Paper and Paper Submission Policies


There will be no make-up assignments for missing an in-class quiz.  No exceptions will be made.  Failure to attend on the day that you are scheduled to do a class report will result in a Zero.  Failure to email me your report by 10:30 am one day prior to your presentation will result in a substantially lower grade. No late papers will be accepted. Except for the class report, you may not submit written work via email.  All written work must be submitted as hard copy.


Textbook and Reading Schedule


Our core text will be the paperback A New Aristotle Reader, ed. By J.L. Ackrill.  Publisher: Princeton University Press: 1988. ISBN13: 978-0-691-02043-3. The sections of Aristotle’s work that are assigned and are not in the Ackrill book must be downloaded from the library’s electronic reserve.  I list those sections below:

                Topics Bk. IV ch. 1, Bk IV ch. 6, Bk VI  ch. 3, Bk VII ch. 3

                Posterior Analytics Bk I ch. 4-7, Bk II ch. 11, Bk. II ch. 13, Bk II ch. 16-18

                Physics Bk 1 ch. 3-9

                On the Soul(= De Anima) Bk. III ch. 12-13

                On Generation and Corruption Bk. 1 ch. 2, Bk. I, ch. 5, Bk. I ch. 10

                Metaphysics Bk. I



Topic Area



1/ 29-31

Logic and Metaphysics

The Basic Theory of Predication

Categories 1-5; De Interpretatione 1-7



The Problem of Differentiae

Categories 3,5; Topics IV/1 (esp. 121a 10 – b1), IV/6




Topics VI/3, VII/3; De Interpretatione 11; Metaphysics VII/12


Theory of Knowledge

The Theory of Scientific Explanation

Posterior Analytics I/1-18, II/1-2 (theory) II/8,11-13,16,17 (examples)



The Nature of Scientific Premisses

Topics I/5, V/I; Posterior Analytics I/4-6, 17, II/13; Prior Analytics




The Acquisition of First Principles

Posterior Analytics, II/19


Change and Metaphysics

The Analysis of Change and the “Discovery” of Matter

Physics I/6-9



Formal vs. Materialistic Explanation

Physics II



Potentiality and Actuality

Physics I, III/1; Metaphysics IX; De Anima III



Matter, Form and Method

De Anima I/1; De Generatione et Corruptione I/2



Primary Substance Reconsidered

Metaphysics VII, VIII


Methods of Inquiry

The Nature of Dialectic

Topics I/10-14; Metaphysics I



Growth and Mixture

De Generatione et Corruptione I/5,10; De Anima II/4




De Anima II/5




Nicomachean Ethics I/1-8,13, X




Nicomachean Ethics II/1-7, VI

(If time permits)



Nicomachean Ethics VII


Schedule of Written Work


In class report: A sign up sheet will be circulated in class. In giving the in-class report students should focus on summarizing roughly what Aristotle is saying in their section of text. Then the student can call attention to something in the text that he/she finds interesting, problematic or difficult to understand.

Statement of Paper Topic: Due April 10th.

First Draft of Paper: Due May 1 (as indicated on Suggested Papers Topics, which was handed out in class on 3-18-2008.

Final Draft of the Paper: Due May 15 (as indicated on Suggested Paper Topics handed out in class on 3-18-2008). No late papers will be accepted.

    • Final draft of your paper is due in Phil. 20-drop box no later than May 15th 1:30 PM.  This due date was announced in class on March 18, 2008.  The drop box is located outside of my office, Mendocino 3024.  No late papers will be accepted.
    • Please submit your first draft and my comments on your first draft along with your final draft.  If you do not do this, you will receive a D on your final draft.  Also, if you do not revise your paper in the way that I have indicated in my comments, your grade on the final draft will be substantively lowered. (This point applies only to those people who handed in a first draft on time.) No late first drafts are accepted.
    • If you wish to have the final draft returned with comments, then you must submit a self-addressed manila envelope with adequate postage on it.  I will not comment on papers that are not accompanied by a self-addressed manila envelope with adequate postage on it.  If you also want your first draft and my comments on that returned to you, you will need to put sufficient postage on the envelope to cover the cost of the extra weight.


    Students with Special Needs


    Students who have special learning or writing needs must provide the instructor with the appropriate documentation by the end of the second week of the semester.



    Due dates and the schedule of readings are subject to minor revisions at the discretion of the instructor.