Course: PHI 203
Instructor: Gideon Rosen
S 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course is an introduction to metaphysics and epistemology and is designed for people who would like to get a feel for philosophy in general, and specific philosophical problems such as: the existence of God, how we know what we know, identity over time, and free will. Each such topic is regarded as a unit, and each week/week-and-a-half of the course is dedicated to a different unit. The course consists of two 50-minute lectures a week, one 50-minute precept a week (approx. 8-12 students), and weekly readings.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lectures The semester I took the course it was taught by Professor Gideon Rosen. Lectures were very engaging, well-structured, and mostly consisted of a break-down and analysis of the assigned readings for the lecture. The readings varied from fairly straight-forward to very complex, and the in-class analysis was always extremely helpful and insightful. While the lecture slides were posted on Blackboard, I would definitely recommend attending lectures, especially if you do not have time to do the readings. Assigned readings The quality of the assigned reading was excellent, and the quantity was very manageable. The readings are assigned from the course book (The Norton Introduction to Philosophy), which is a selection of some of the best philosophy papers, and therefore definitely worth reading if you want to get the most out of lectures, precepts, and papers. Given that the weekly reading content is both analyzed in lecture and discussed in precept, one could probably get by without doing them, but would definitely be missing out on some of what this course has to give. Precepts I can only talk of the experience of my own preceptor. Having spoken to friends in other precepts, it seems that they do obviously vary somewhat depending on the preceptor, but not to the extent that you should worry about which preceptor you get. Precepts and definitely worth attending. The small-group discussions are a wonderful way to really engage with the philosophy you are learning, to develop argumentative skills, and to develop ideas for your papers.

Learning For and From Assignments

The course assessment consists of four paper: two 500-word papers, one 1000-word paper, and one Dean’s Date 2500-word paper. Apart from a small percentage of the grade that comes from participation in precept, the main percentage of your grade comes from your papers (no exams). The papers are evenly spread-out throughout the semester, and gradually increase in length and percentage of your grade, making them very manageable and leaving plenty of room for a learning curve. Furthermore, the papers do not actually have a specific prompt, but rather allow you to choose any point from any of the readings, and simply engage with the argument in a way of your choosing. This means that you get to write about something that you are truly passionate about and interested in – papers never feel like a drag. Furthermore, it means that if you miss a lecture or some of the readings you can still produce a good paper as long as you engaged with some topic in the course. While the preceptors will not go over your actual draft with you, they are always willing to discuss your ideas with you, offer suggestions, possible objections etc. Also, perhaps worth noting, do not let the relatively short length of the papers mislead you. The papers are graded quite rigorously and require original and thorough arguments in order to get an A-range grade.

External Resources

This course is mostly bound to readings, precept discussion, lecture, and does not require any external resources. Papers also really don’t require anything other than content from readings, lecture, and precept. However, although not quite an external resource, discussing the course’s content with friends who are also taking the course can be very enjoyable and add to what you get out of the course.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Really great introduction course. Seems like a good course to take to get a feel for Philosophy if you are considering it as a major, or even just for the experience of taking a philosophy course. Definitely manageable even if you have not taken a Philosophy course before. Also probably quite manageable as a fifth course if the other four and not extremely time-consuming.
Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology

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