Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 20101 11, T/R 11:00)

PHIL 20101 11

Tuesdays & Thursdays 11:00-12:15

115 O’Shaughnessy Hall

Professor Margaret Schmitt // // Office Hours in 205 Malloy Hall


Teal-Square crop

Philosophy engages a capacity we all have to wonder—about ourselves, the world, and our place in the world. This course enables you to systematically examine these topics, reflecting on your own views as well as the relationships between your views and alternative views espoused by great thinkers throughout history. We explore questions falling under five main headings:

(1) Epistemology: What is knowledge? What justifies us in believing what we do?

(2) Metaphysics: What are we like as human beings? How are our minds and bodies related? Are we free? Are we morally responsible?

(3) Philosophy of Religion: Does God exist? If God exists, why is there evil in the world? Should we practice a religion?

(4) Ethics: How should we live? Are there objective moral truths? What does morality require?

(5) Existentialism: Is death bad? What makes our lives meaningful?


All required reading will be accessible via links on the schedule below.


  • Participation and attendance: 10%
    • You are expected to read the assigned material before coming to class. Your questions, comments, and critical responses are encouraged in class discussion. Every unexcused absence will negatively affect your participation grade. The only excused absences are those excused due to university activities that the university takes to be sufficient reason to miss class or documented illness.
  • Reading Responses: 10%
    • Over the course of the semester, submit 12 short write-ups (~250 words) on readings (viz. the primary philosophical texts that get assigned as opposed to supplementary popular media pieces that are sometimes included) you find particularly interesting, challenging, or objectionable. Explain what you think is interesting, challenging, or objectionable about the reading. (Note: you need not and should not summarize the entire article.) Write-ups are due by the start of the class for which the reading is assigned. Submit both an electronic version via email and a hard copy at the start of class.
  • Argument Reconstruction: 5%
    • Together with one of your classmates reconstruct and analyze assigned arguments from course texts
  • Co-Authored Paper: 25%
    • Together with one of your classmates write an analytical essay engaging a philosophical issue discussed in class
  • Podcast: 25%
    • Together with two of your classmates produce a 10 minute podcast engaging a philosophical issue discussed in class
  • Philosophy in Action Campaign: 25%
    • Together with four of your classmates identify an issue (with a philosophical dimension) in your community that your group would like to address. Develop a campaign to address that issue, and put your campaign into action during the semester. Present your campaign and outputs to the class during the time of the final exam.

Academic Honesty

In all assignments, students are responsible for compliance with the University’s honor code, which can be found at

The philosophy department has prepared a document explaining what the honor code requires of students when writing a philosophy paper. I strongly recommend that you read this document, which is available at:


[Click on tiles for each day’s readings and assignments]

Tu 8/22
2_Cartesian Skept, pt1
Th 8/24








3_Cartesian Skepticismpt2
Tu 8/29   **Argument Reconstruction Due**
4_Common Sense
Th 8/31








Th 9/7
5_What is common sense
Tu 9/5








Tu 9/12
Th 9/14








Tu 9/19
10_Event Causal Libertarianism
Th 9/21








Tu 9/26
12_Agent Causal Libertarianism
Th 9/28








13_Hard Determinism
Tu 10/3
Th 10/5








15_God is First Cause
Tu 10/10
16_God doesn't exist
Th 10/12                            **MAJOR ASSIGNMENT #1 DUE: GROUP ESSAY**











17_God Allows Freedom
Tu 10/24
18_Faith is Immoral
Th 10/26








19_Faith is Inherently Valuable
Tu 10/31
20_Moral Nihilism and Relativism
Th 11/02








21_Moral Absolutism
Tu 11/07
Th 11/09








Tu 11/14
24_Give to the Poor
Th 11/16








25_Work Alongside Poor
Tu 11/21
Th 11/23








Tu 11/28
27_Life is Meaningless
Th 11/30                            **MAJOR ASSIGNMENT #2 DUE: GROUP PODCAST**








Tu 12/05
Th 12/7








**FINAL EXAM/CAMPAIGN PRESENTATIONS: Wednesday, December 13 10:30-12:30**