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Personal Identity Mind and Body Epistemology Ethics Readings

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Welcome to the home page for Dr. Mark Hébert's Introduction to Philosophy course (Phil 12) for Spring 2004.  Scroll down to find out about the basic elements of the course -- i.e. the objectives, the format, requirements, etc.  Use the buttons above to jump directly to specific units in the course -- Personal Identity, Mind and Body, Epistemology, and Ethics.  "Readings" takes you to the list of readings and assignments.

Instructor: Dr. Mark R. Hébert (AY-bear)
Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30 - 5:00pm, and by appt.
Texts: Bowie/Michaels/Solomon -- Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (5th edition)


By the end of this course, you will possess a basic understanding of:

(1) How philosophers approach problems,
(2) How to write and assess arguments, and
(2) The fundamental issues within four different topics in philosophy: personal identity, mind and body, epistemology, and ethics.


You won't be a philosopher by the end of this course, because in an important sense you already are one. By that I mean (a) you possess a set of beliefs which guide your daily conduct, and (b) you believe you have good reasons for accepting these beliefs. For instance, you probably believe that murder (i.e. the unjustified taking of another life) is wrong, that humans have a rich mental life, etc.

But suppose someone were to press you on why you believe these things: what would you say? For example, can you explain precisely what a "mind" is? Most people take the term to refer to a non-physical entity that interacts (in some as yet unspecified way) with a person's brain. But how can a non-physical entity interact with a physical one? And how can we have knowledge of that which is non-physical?

Or again, take your knowledge of the world...why trust your senses? Everyone has had a dream that seemed absolutely real while they were dreaming can you be certain you're not dreaming NOW?

Hence what we'll try to do this semester is to make you a better philosopher than you already are, by subjecting your beliefs to rational reflection and scrutiny. Doing philosophy is as fascinating as it is frustrating, and I hope that during the term you will experience more of the former than the latter. If not, remember the easier it is to obtain something, the less valuable it is; so think of the challenges this course will present as further indications of its worth.


If you are viewing this page online, to access the course lectures notes simply return to the top of this page and click on the button for the corresponding unit.  If you are reading  a hard (paper) copy of this syllabus, the URL for this page is:

YOU ARE  REQUIRED to read the online notes prior to class on the day that a reading is to be discussed.  The notes will often ask you to prepare a given question for discussion, or to print out and answer a set of questions, etc. and bring them to class. Failure to do so will harm your course grade.


In general, classes will be a combination of lecture and small group discussion, the proper mix being determined by the material being covered that class period.


-- Four group projects -- 70% of final grade.

Group Project #1 -- Personal Identity -- 10% of final grade
Group Project #2 -- Minds and Body -- 15% of final grade
Group Project #3 -- What Can I Know? -- 20% of final grade
Group Project #4 -- Ethics -- 25% of final grade

By the end of the first week  of class, you will be divided into groups of four, and will work together to complete the project.    Each project contains a scenario or problem that will require each group member to focus on a particular aspect of that problem.   You will prepare, discuss, and analyze the given project together, but you will not submit a single paper for the group.  Each group member will write a paper that explains (a) the group's answer to the project, and (b) how their specific area of expertise figured in the group answer.  To see what the first project looks like, click here.

-- Weekly writing assignments -- 30% of final grade. Ten (10) times during the term a brief (10 minute) in-class essay will be assigned, requiring approximately a one paragraph answer. These assignments will begin at the start of class. (Be warned -- if you arrive 5 minutes late, you will only have 5 minutes to complete the assignment). You may be asked to explain a portion of that day's reading, or analyze a passage from an earlier reading, etc. The dates for these assignments appear on the syllabus. Any missed writing assignment CANNOT be made up. (Each particular assignment is worth 3% of your grade).


Your work in this course will be assessed according to the grading regulations listed in the Austin College Bulletin:

A -- Unusual and superior achievement;
B -- Intelligent, articulate achievement, above-average in fulfilling course requirements;
C -- Passing work, representing graduation average;
D -- Passing work below the standard required for graduation;
F -- Failure without privilege of re-examination.

S/U -- An "S" will be awarded only if EACH course requirement is completed, and if one's course average is at the "C" level or above. Failure to meet EITHER of these conditions will result in a grade of "U".

MAKE-UPS -- Excluding weekly writing assignments, "make-ups" will be granted only if the instructor accepts a promptly presented excuse which explains those conditions beyond the student's control which made timely completion of work impossible. It is the student's responsibility to inform the instructor of these absences.

ATTENDANCE -- Attendance is essential. You get three absences for "free" -- i.e. they will not directly harm your course grade.  Your fourth absence (WHETHER ALL OF THEM ARE EXCUSED OR UNEXCUSED) will lower your final course grade by 1/3 of a grade.  Each additional absence past the fourth lowers your final course grade an additional 1/3 of a grade.  (Hence if your coursework average is a B-, four absences lowers it to a C+, five lowers it to a C, etc.).

(Of course, any absences may indirectly harm your grade.  Insights that are generated by class discussion may be extremely beneficial to your understanding of the material; unfortunately, these often cannot be recreated outside the class).

All work done in and for this class is expected to conform to the Austin College academic integrity policies as stated in the 2001-2 Austin College Environment. If you are uncertain about the meaning of these policies, or if you have any questions about what is considered acceptable within the framework of these policies, see me immediately.