Welcome to PHILOSOPHY 


Anthony Hanson

Winter Session 2007

This syllabus was written by Dr. Sandy LaFave

"Well, something much more painful than a snake has bitten me in my most sensitive part — I mean my heart, or my soul, or whatever you want to call it. It has been struck and bitten by philosophy, whose grip on young and eager souls is much more vicious than a viper's and makes them do the most amazing things."

Plato, Symposium 218A

How to log in to Angel (online students)


When this class is finished, you should be able to:
  • Identify and justify various traditional and contemporary philosophical views;
  • Relate traditional philosophical views to some problems of contemporary life;
  • Think more clearly and critically (improve your “BS detector”').


  • Disabled students: West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. College materials will be available in alternate formats (Braille, audio, electronic format, or large print) upon request. Please contact the Disability and Educational Support Program at (408) 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY) for assistance.

  • All Students: FREE TUTORING for this class is available on campus.

  1. Rene Descartes, Meditations (Hackett, Cress translation)

    Descartes wrote the Meditations in Latin and supervised the original translation into French. Most of us will read the work in translation. Any translation is okay. The Hackett version is available for purchase in WVC bookstore, and online from vendors such as Amazon or ABE books. Public libraries commonly carry several editions and translations of Descartes' Meditations. A reasonably good version of the text (the Veitch translation) is also available free online here or here or here.

  2. David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Hackett)

    Hume originally wrote the Enquiry in English, so the online and hardcopy versions are the same. The Hackett version is available for purchase in WVC bookstore, and online from vendors such as Amazon or ABE books. Public libraries commonly have this book. It is also available free online here, or here, or here, and other sites as well.

  3. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Hackett)

    Mill originally wrote Utilitarianism in English, so the online and hardcopy versions are the same. The Hackett version is available for purchase in WVC bookstore, and online from vendors such as Amazon or ABE books. Public libraries commonly have this book. It's also available free online here or here or here, and other sites also.

  4. Donald Palmer, Does the Center Hold? Second Edition (Mayfield), or Third Edition (McGraw-Hill), or Fourth Edition (McGraw-Hill) abbreviated DP below.

    The Palmer book is available in hardcopy only; it is NOT an online text. The WVC bookstore will stock only the latest edition. Earlier editions (new or used) might be available from online vendors such as Amazon or ABE books. Note that it is OK to use earlier editions; you do not need the most recent (most expensive) version.

  5. Plato, Meno (Hackett, Grube translation)

    Plato wrote in ancient Greek, so most of us will read this work in translation. Any translation is okay. The Hackett edition (Grube translation) is available for purchase in WVC bookstore, and online from vendors such as Amazon or ABE books. Public libraries commonly carry several editions and translations of Plato's Dialogues. Good versions of the Meno are also available free online: check out here, or here, or here, and other sites also (use a search engine such as Google).

  6. Required reading for this class also includes the  online study guide. 

    If you are taking the class online, the study guide files will be presented to you automatically as you work through Angel.

    The files hyperlinked in the Schedule below are part of the online study guide.

    If you wish, you may purchase a hard copy of the online Study Guide in the WVC bookstore. It is called Study Guide for Philosophy 1, Fourth Edition. It's about $5.

The works of Descartes, Hume, Mill, and Plato assigned for this class are classics and thus available in many editions and translations. For example, three of the four Hackett texts are included in Robert Paul Wolff, ed., Ten Great Works of Philosophy published by Penguin Mentor Books (ISBN 0-451-52830-1) for about $9; all four are included in Steven Cahn, ed., Classics of Western Philosophy, published by Hackett (ISBN 0-87220-105-8) for around $25 (but you get every other classic too; Cahn’s book is a real bargain). It generally does not matter for beginning students which translation you read; all the translations are similar enough for the issues we will address in this class.

If you use a different edition or translation of the Hackett texts, you are responsible for finding the sections in your edition that correspond to the Hackett sections listed below.

On reserve (optional):

  • Woodhouse, “Reading Philosophy”
  • B. F. Skinner, “Hard Determinism”, from Walden Two

  • J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence”
  • Flew, Hare, and Mitchell, “Theology and Falsification”


Dates (Week of)



Preparing for Quiz 1

Philosophical Branches and Tools

DP Ch 1 to "The Philosophy of Socrates"

Jan 4

What is philosophy?

What Is Philosophy?

Mythos and Logos World Views

The Pre-Socratics

Some PreSocratic Philosophers

Branches of philosophy

Necessary and Sufficient Conditions

Closed and open concepts

Open and Closed Concepts and the Continuum Fallacy

DP Ch 10 "Wittgenstein" section only

Preparing for
Quiz 2


DP Ch 1 "The Philosophy of Socrates"

Jan 5


Preparing for Quiz 3

Rationalist Epistemology

Epistemology and Metaphysics

Jan 8



DP Ch 2 "Rationalist Epistemology" and "The Philosophy of Plato"


Notes on Plato's Meno

DP Ch 7 "Ancient Greek Moral Philosophers"
(on Plato's ethics only)

DP Ch 9 "Political Philosophy" ( on Plato's political philosophy only)

DP Ch 10 "Plato and Freud"

Plato's Philosophy as a Reply to Glaucon's Challenge

Preparing for Quiz 4


DP Ch 2 "Rene Descartes' Rationalism"

Jan 9

DP Ch 4 "Dualism" ( on Descartes only)

Notes on Descartes' Meditations

Meditations I, II, VI

Preparing for Quiz 5



Jan 10


Introduction to Aristotle

DP Ch 3 "Empiricism," "Aristotle as a Precursor to Empiricism"

DP (4th and higher eds.)
Ch 7 "Ancient Greek Moral Philosophers";
or, if you are using an earlier edition of DP, this alternative reading on Aristotle'e ethics

Locke and Berkeley

DP Ch 3 sections on Locke and Berkeley

The Empiricism of Locke and Berkeley

Preparing for Quiz 6

Hume, Logical Positivism, and Kant

DP Ch 3 sections on Hume and Kant

Jan 11

Enquiry II - V (Part I only)

Enquiry VII (Part II only)

Notes on Hume

Kant: The "Copernican Revolution" in Philosophy


Preparing for Quiz 7

Ontology/Mind and Body

DP Ch 4

Jan 12

Metaphysical Views

Logical Behaviorism

Preparing for Quiz 8


DP Ch 6

Jan 16

Free Will and Determinism

Preparing for Quiz 9

The case for theism based on reason

DP Ch 5 "Philosophy of Religion," "Theism"

Jan 17

The ontological argument and criticisms

Meditation V

The Ontological Argument

Cosmological, teleological arguments and criticisms

Cosmological and Teleological Arguments

Preparing for Quiz 10

Arguments against theism

DP Ch 5 "Atheism"

Jan 18

The problem of evil

The Problem of Evil

Religious language and verification

Is Religious Language Nonsense?

Preparing for Quiz 11

Other justifications for faith

DP Ch 5 "Volitional Justifications of Religious Belief,"
"Religious Mysticism,"
"Religious Existentialism"

Jan 19

pragmatism, mysticism, Christian existentialism

Pascal's Wager

Preparing for Quiz 12

Traditional ethical systems

Introduction to Ethics

Jan 22

Utilitarianism and Kant

DP Ch 7 "Utilitarianism,"
"Duty-Oriented Morality"


(Chapters II and III)

Notes on Utilitarianism

Kant's Ethics

Preparing for Quiz 13

Critiques of traditional ethics

DP Ch 8

Jan 23


Ethics and Gender

Jan 24




  • My message phone number is 408-741-2045 x3480. You can leave a voice message at this number. If you want me to get back to you, be sure to indicate how and when I can contact you. My e-mail address is anthony_hanson@wvmccd.cc.ca.us

  • I will NOT return calls or email for information that is available in this syllabus.


On-campus Students

  • Attendance is required. If you are late and miss roll, you are counted absent. If you are counted absent for more than five class meetings, the maximum grade you can receive is D, regardless of your grades on assignments. Exceptions to this policy require documentation of extreme emergency.

  • I make important announcements and give handouts at the beginning of the class session. Announcements are not repeated — either in or out of class — for the benefit of latecomers.

  • Persistent lateness, talking in class, sleeping in class, leaving early, etc., show disrespect for me and also for your classmates. Your grade is also likely to be affected. For example, I am far less inclined to award the higher grade on a “borderline” answer if the student has been frequently late, absent, or disruptive, on grounds that such a student is simply less likely to have produced the better answer.

Online Students

  • You must log in to Angel at least twice a week. This class has frequent quizzes. Information about quiz dates is available ONLY within Angel.

  • I will use our class homepage in Angel to post general announcements and Angel's internal email system for personal communication.

  • I will ordinarily NOT email you using the external email address that you sent to notify me of your enrollment. Students often change their external email names and addresses in the course of the semester. As long as you are enrolled in the class, however, your Angel email address will be stable and I will use that.

  • I will expect you to read all Discussion postings within Angel, and use Discussions to ask me questions, unless there is some compelling reason your question needs to be handled privately.

  • I will be grumpy if you do not read homepage announcements or Discussions, and then ask me about issues already handled within a general announcement or Angel Discussion.

  • Naturally, you are welcome to chat and exchange private emails with one another.

  • Most students use computers to write their essay assignments. For an online class, you are, of course, expected to access course materials using the Internet. You need reliable computer access. If your ISP suddenly goes out of business, or your disk crashes, or your puppy pees on your modem, or you experience some other personal hardware issue, you are responsible for having an emergency alternative computer access plan. Know in advance where you can go (library, Internet cafe, friend's house, workplace) if your primary system fails!


All Students 

  • All students are expected to know the rules regarding plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious violation of the academic code. It is cause for expulsion in many schools. Ignorance is not an excuse. Other teachers may not enforce the rules; that is also NOT an excuse. If you are unclear about what constitutes plagiarism, educate yourself! Look closely at all the eye-opening examples here. Students are often surprised to learn that what they consider standard practice is actually plagiarism. Any direct quote or close paraphrase without proper citation — any use of anybody else’s words without giving proper credit — is plagiarism. In addition to the usual kinds of plagiarism (stealing sentences, paragraphs, papers, etc. from books or journals or web sites), it is also plagiarism to “answer” an essay question by cutting and pasting sentences from the study guide for this class. Remember I wrote the study guide. If you cut and paste from the study guide, you are plagiarizing my own sentences back to me. I will notice.Any student who violates the academic code (e.g., by cheating or plagiarism) will, at minimum, receive a final course grade of F. This rule is rigidly enforced.

  • According to the catalog, instructors may drop students “... when accumulated hours of absences exceed ten percent of the total number of hours the class meets during the semester.” I may exercise this option. But the main responsibility lies with you. If you want to drop the class, it is YOUR responsibility to do so. The last day to drop with a W is usually about one month before the end of the semester. Check the Schedule of Classes for the exact date.


  • Please notify me immediately if you have a documented learning disability and require extra time on quizzes or exams. I am happy to give you extra time if (1) a DSPS counselor can verify your disability; AND (2) you notify me IN ADVANCE.

  • Grades will be based on

  1. Quizzes (80% of final grade) — approximately weekly, thirteen quizzes in all.

  2. Final Exam (20% of final grade) — comprehensive, combination objective and essay.


  • Each quiz covers all reading listed in the "Preparing for Quiz N" section of this Syllabus. For example, the reading for Quiz 3 includes all ten items mentioned in the section "Readings for Quiz 3" in the file Quiz 3 Material.

  • In addition to true/false, fill-in, and definition questions, quizzes also will contain at least one short essay question. Possible essay questions are included in each "Preparing for Quiz" file, under the heading "Objectives for Quiz". For this class, “short essay” means at least one clear, well-developed paragraph

  • Quizzes are not all worth the same number of points.

  • Online students take quizzes interactively within Angel. You can take quizzes any time in the period of 23 hours and 55 minutes on the appointed days, from midnight to 11:55 PM. You get maximum thirty continuous minutes for each quiz. Be sure you have thirty minutes available when you call up the quiz. Angel cuts off answers after thirty minutes.

  • Online students: Be sure to SAVE your answers! You can change an answer as much as you like before saving it, so you can correct typos or wrong answers. But you must SAVE your final answer to each question, and you must, as a separate step, SUBMIT the quiz for grading. I will give extra time on the first couple of quizzes, so you can get used to the quiz interface.

  • The Angel quiz interface is quite straightforward, and it generally works reliably. I will make allowances for technical problems only if the problems are Angel's fault and all students are affected. I cannot troubleshoot your individual hardware or software issues.

  • Since you will receive most of the possible essay questions in advance, you are welcome to write your essay answers in advance. On-campus students may hand them in with the quiz. Online students may cut and paste them into your quiz.

  • IMPORTANT: Precise, careful writing is extremely important in philosophy, where we discuss complex subjects and draw fine distinctions. I expect you to write your essays in complete sentences using standard English. Sloppy writing (careless spelling, grammar, punctuation) detracts from content. If your essays contain more than three obvious errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation per essay, I will subtract points.

  • Remember the rules regarding plagiarism, please! You will have no more than twenty minutes total to spend on each quiz. So if it's hard for you to write good essays "on the fly," you are welcome to compose your essay answers in advance and cut and paste essays you have written into your quiz. DO NOT cut and paste essay answers from the study guide or other course materials (which I wrote), or from any other source, except materials you have written yourself. It is OK to include direct quotes in your essay answers, as long as every quote is properly cited, and your essay consists primarily of your own words. Ignorance about plagiarism is not an excuse. If you are at all uncertain about what plagiarism is, I advise you to educate yourself immediately. Each student must write his or her own essay answers; philosophy is not done in groups, so the "group work" model is not allowed. You may, of course, work with other students in the composition of your essay answers, and online students are welcome to post possible essay answers in the Discussions area for other students to critique.

  • On fill-in answers, misspellings of philosophers' names or vocabulary words count as errors.

  • You can use whatever accessory materials you like while doing the quizzes; i.e., quizzes for this class are open-book, open-note. However, you get no more than twenty minutes.

  • Because of the flexibility built in to the quiz system (see below), quizzes must be taken on the appointed day; in other words, there are no make-ups. Furthermore, I give no extra-credit assignments.

Final Exam

  • The final exam is comprehensive, 50% objective and 50% essay. Note the heavy weighting of essay questions in the Final Exam!

  • Online students take the final exam entirely within Angel. You access the Final Exam exactly the same way you access quizzes. All students get maximum continuous two hours for the final exam.

  • The essay portion will consist of three questions. If you are taking the class online, Angel randomly selects your three essay question choices from the list of final exam questions. If you are taking the class on-campus, I will select three questions from that list. You must answer TWO of the three questions. You cannot answer more than two questions. If you answer more than two essay questions on the final exam, your third answer will be ignored. It's a good idea to read the final exam questions early in the semester, and even to write outlines of answers in advance, while you are working on the relevant questions.

  • Since the essay portion will comprise 50% of the total points on the final, you should plan to write much longer essays than you have been writing for the quizzes. Your essay answers should be as complete as possible. Adequate final exam essay answers can easily run five or more small blue-book pages (single spaced).

Calculation of Final Grade

  • There are 150 quiz points total. The quizzes constitute 80% of the final grade. The final constitutes 20% of the final grade, and is thus worth the equivalent of 38 quiz points. The maximum number of possible points for the class is thus 188.

  • Although the maximum "raw" grade on the final exam is 100, the maximum number of points you can receive is 38 (20% of the total number of points). That is, if you get 100 on the final exam, you get 38 points; if you get 90, you get 32 points, etc. You can figure out your points once you get your raw final score by the following formula:

[(your raw score)*38]/100

I use the following formula to compute your final grade:


80% or more of possible quiz points + 90% or above on final exam (or any equivalent combination of points)


70-80% of possible quiz points + 80-89% on final exam (or any equivalent combination of points)


60-70% of possible quiz points + 70-79% on final exam (or any equivalent combination of points)


50-60% of possible quiz points + 60-69% on final exam (or any equivalent combination of points)


less than 50% of possible quiz points + less than 60% on final exam (or any equivalent combination of points)

Therefore, in terms of points:


154 or more total points


135 - 153 total points


117 - 134 total points


98 - 116 total points


less than 98 total points

  • Note that in the calculation of your final grade, you have about 30 points of “play”: that is, you need only 80% (not 90%) of quiz points to receive an A, 70% (not 80%) for a B, etc. In other words, the grading formula in effect allows you to drop at least two of your lowest quizzes. It is to your advantage, however, to take ALL quizzes, because the more quizzes you take, the more points you accumulate. No quizzes are dropped automatically.

Credit/No Credit Option

  • This class can be taken for credit/no credit. This means that if you get an A, B, or C, you get a final grade of CR and 3 units; otherwise, you get NCR and no units. You must declare your intention to take the class with the CR/NCR option during the first two weeks of class. Please let me know in writing (email is OK) no later than March 15, 2007.

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Questions or comments about the WVC Philosophy Department? sandy_lafave@wvmccd.cc.ca.us