St. Louis Community College
Florissant Valley

Ana Coelho

St Louis Community College Florissant Valley

Introduction to Philosophy

3 credits
Section 502 and 505 MWF

Instructor: Ana P. Coelho

Office: Humanities Building 133, (314)595-2292,

Office Hours:

  • M W 8:30 - 9:00 / 12:00 noon - 2:00
  • F 12:00 noon - 3:00
  • TH 2:00 - 4:00

Text: Classic Philosophical Questions, edited by James Gould, 10th Edition

Course Description:
An introduction to philosophical inquiry through a study of such perennial problems as the nature of truth and the possibility of knowledge; the various conceptions of the mind-body relation; the nature and basis of morality; the problem of free will; and an analysis of the main arguments for the nature and existence of God.

Introduction to Philosophy is an invitation to join the dialogue philosophers have been carrying on for many centuries. We will interrupt this centuries-old dialogue at some of the moments when the discussion became energized by new ways of looking at the nature of knowledge, freedom, reality, and morality. We will interrupt to understand in depth the positions being proposed as well as to critically assess these positions.

Course Goals:
When you have mastered the material in this class, you should be able to

  • State orally or in written form the reasons the different philosophers we studied give for defending the positions that they defend.
  • Identify and describe the traditions to which the different philosophers we studied belong.
  • Join the philosophers' dialogue by saying or writing down what you think of the positions studied.
  • Discuss the intellectual context out of which modern philosophy emerged.
  • Tell the difference between giving reasons for holding a position and merely describing a position.

Grading Procedure:
You will demonstrate your mastery of the material in the course by completing eight assignments, four tests and four essays.

  • The four tests are in-class tests and will consist of true or false questions, multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions. I let students do an alternative assignment to test II. If you are interested please speak to me as soon as you get your first test back.
  • The essays are also written in class but you may bring outlines in index cards. The essays will be graded based on thoroughness (did you answer all the questions and cover all the relevant material?), accuracy (did your answers show mastery of the material or did they include errors?), clarity (did you present the material in a way that made sense? Did you move smoothly from one point to the next point?), and thoughtfulness (did you raise points in your discussion that show you spent time considering the material at hand?).
  • Your final grade in the course is based on the percentage of earned points from the highest three tests and the highest three essays. A borderline grade will be helped by contributions to class discussions. Also, please note that there are no make-up tests in this class.

The following grading scale will be used:

90% or above A Superior
80 - 89% B Good
70 - 79% C Average
60 - 69% D Below Average
59% or below F  

Attendance Policy: I expect each student to attend all scheduled class meetings. However, merely attending class will result in neither a passing grade nor extra- credit.
Accommodations can be arranged for any student registered with the access office. Please see me as soon as possible so that we can make appropriate arrangements.
Honors contracts are strongly encouraged in this class.

Mastering the material in this class requires sustained reading and writing. Philosophers write and talk to each other like very old friends do. Over the course of their shared histories they have developed technical ways of talking about the subjects that interest them. So, in order to join in on their dialogue, sometimes we have to spend time just getting used to their way of talking and to their areas of interest.

We will be spending a considerable portion of class time discussing major sections of the assigned readings. I expect each student to read the assigned reading prior to the day it is to be discussed in class. I also expect each student to finish on his/her own all sections of the assigned readings not discussed in class. At the end of some classes, you will be asked to spend a few minutes writing down the most important point you have learned during that class discussion or what you found confusing about the class discussion.

The following is a tentative schedule of readings. To accommodate to our needs as the semester progresses, we might be on occasion, a few readings behind or a few readings ahead, or we might add a new article to our class discussion. It is the responsibility of each member of the class to keep informed of any changes in the course. We will, however, keep to the sequence of readings and to the schedule of tests.

January 13-February 7

Orientation to the course. Expected goals.
Galileo-The Intellectual Climate that Ushered in Modern Philosophy
Descartes, Knowledge is Not Ultimately Sense Knowledge (p.271)
Locke, Knowledge is Ultimately Sense Knowledge (p. 284)
Kant, Knowledge is Both Rational and Empirical (p. 300)
Berkeley, Reality Consists of Ideas (p. 393)
Taylor, Reality consists of Matter (p. 378)

February 10-March 7

d'Holbach, Humans are Determined (p. 133)
C.A. Campbell, A Defence of Free Will (handout)
Mill, Consciousness and Free Will (handout)
James, Humans Are Free (p. 143)

March 17-May 19

Aristotle, Happiness Is Living Virtuously (p. 193)
I. Kant, Duty Is Prior to Happiness (p.214)
Epicurus (handout)
Bentham, Happiness Is Doing Good for All People (204)
J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism (handout)
Nietzsche, Happiness Is Having Power (p. 230)
Sartre, Existentialist Ethics (p.238)
Tong, Feminist Ethics Are Different (p.249)


TEST I _________
TEST II _________
TEST III _________
TEST IV _________
Essay I _________
Essay II _________
Essay III _________
Essay IV _________

a. Sum of three highest tests ______
b. Sum of three highest essays ______

Your grade is the average of the number in lines a and b

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Revised January 3, 2003