Welcome to PHILOSOPHY 1 Online


Fall 2009


"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


Instructor: Barbara Upton

Campus email: barbara_upton@westvalley.edu (but all course email should be done through ANGEL).    I will NOT return calls or email for information that is available in this syllabus.

Office location: Art Lab 7, the "L" shaped building near the library and under the large oak tree.  The door outside of the building will say "English Offices" and my office is the first one on the left.

Office hours: MW 11:00 AM - 12:40 PM and TTH early afternoon by appointment.  No appointment is needed during regular office hours. If you want to meet at some other time, please contact me and we can try to make arrangements. 

Campus phone: 408-741-2458.  You can leave a voice message at this number.  Remember to give your name, phone number, and which of my classes you are enrolled.  I'll return your call as soon as possible.



When this class is finished, you should be able to:

  1. Identify and justify various traditional and contemporary philosophical views;

  2. Relate traditional philosophical views to some problems of contemporary life;

  3. 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.


  • 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.
  • Steven Cahn, Classics of Western Philosophy.  Seventh Edition (Hackett).  Any edition can be used.  If you use a different edition or translation of the Hackett text, you are responsible for finding the sections in your edition that correspond to the Hackett sections below. 

The works of Descartes, Hume, Mill, and Plato assigned for this class are classics and thus available in many editions and translations.  Cahn's book contains all of these writings so it is a good source to use for the course readings on these philosophers. There are also links within the syllabus and/or Lessons for most of the works in Cahn's text.  Required reading for this class also includes a number of hyperlinked materials written by the Philosophy Department instructor, Sandy LaFave. These include many pages listed in the online study guide and the Angel "Lessons" area. The URL for the online Study Guide is

  1. http://instruct.westvalley.edu/upton/phil01_online_studyguide.html

    All the files hyperlinked in the Schedule below are part of the online study guide and thus are required reading.


Dates (Week)





Preparing for Quiz 1

Philosophical Branches and Tools

DP Ch 1 to "The Philosophy of Socrates"

Aug 31

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"

Aug 31




Preparing for Quiz 3

Rationalist Epistemology

Epistemology and Metaphysics

Sept 7




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"

Sept 14



DP Ch 4 "Dualism" ( on Descartes only)


Notes on Descartes' Meditations


Meditations I, II, VI


Preparing for Quiz 5



Sept 14


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

Sept 21


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

Sept 21 


Metaphysical Views


Logical Behaviorism


Preparing for Quiz 8


DP Ch 6

Sept 28


Free Will and Determinism


Preparing for Quiz 9

The case for theism based on reason

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

Sept 28

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"

Oct 5

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"

Oct 5

pragmatism, mysticism, Christian existentialism

Pascal's Wager



Preparing for Quiz 12

Traditional ethical systems

Introduction to Ethics

Oct 12

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

Oct 12




Ethics and Gender


Oct 19 - 21





Online Students
You should log in to Angel everyday or at least every other day.  Regular semester courses usually have quizzes once a week, sometimes twice.  If you are enrolled in a late start class with a compressed schedule, the class has quizzes usually twice a week. Information about quiz dates is available ONLY within Angel.

I will use our class entry page (under "Announcements") in Angel to post general announcements and Angel's internal email system for personal communication. Make sure to check both of these sources when logging into the course so that you don't miss any important messages from the instructor.

I will ordinarily NOT email outside of Angel. 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 about philosophical content, unless there is some compelling reason your question needs to be handled privately.  This allows all students in the course to view both the question and answer, which then helps to clarify certain philosophical ideas for the rest of the class and also avoids having me to repeatedly respond to the same question.  You should not 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 someone 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 or required texts for this class; this material must  be cited along with any other sources being used!

Any student who violates the academic code (e.g., by cheating or plagiarism) will, at minimum, receive a  grade of F for that assignment or test. 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.” Since this is an online course, this criteria is difficult to apply.  However, if an online student does not log into the course for more than two weeks, this will be considered enough hours missed to justify dropping this student.  But the main responsibility lies with the student. 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 the following:

  1. Quizzes (80% of final grade) — 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 or two complete sentences. A few quizzes contain longer essays (at least 100 words). Although I give essay questions in advance, I do NOT give sample essay answers in advance.

Quizzes are not all worth the same number of points.

Online students take quizzes interactively within Angel. Students can begin quizzes any time in the period of 23 hours and 55 minutes on the appointed days, from midnight to 11:55 PM.  However, once the student begins taking a quiz there is a limit to the amount of continuous minutes available to finish it (The specific amount is listed with each particular quiz). In case you need the maximum amount of minutes offered for completing a quiz, be sure to set aside this amount of time to take it without interruptions.

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 quiz, 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 they are due to the error of the instructor or the Angel system, and all or most students are affected. I cannot troubleshoot your individual hardware or software issues.

IMPORTANT: Precise, careful writing is extremely important in philosophy, where we discuss complex subjects and draw fine distinctions. The student is expected to write his or her 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! Since you will receive most of the possible essay questions in advance, you are welcome to write your essay answers in advance. 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, other course materials, or from any other source, except materials you have written yourself. It is OK to include direct quotes in your essay answers in order to reinforce a point you are making, as long as every quote is properly cited, but your essay should consist primarily of your own words.

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.  Make sure to proofread your answers before submitting the quiz.

You can use whatever accessory materials you like while doing the quizzes; i.e., quizzes for this class are open-book, open-note. However, remember there is a time limit for each quiz.

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. ANGEL randomly selects your three essay question choices from the list of final exam questionsYou 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 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


97 or less 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).


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