Introduction To Philosophy

January 29, 2001

“Know thyself,” the two thousand year old dictum of the Oracle of Delphi still challenges us today to examine and evaluate the beliefs, values, and thinking that guide what we do and define who we are. Rather than a purely introspective and solitary project, however, an examination of one’s belief system is perhaps best conducted in the company of ideas of classical philosophers who have similarly taken up the challenge. In this course, we take advantage of this and another consortium, the philosophical community of inquiry that we develop as a class.

This course is designed to provide the student with an introduction to the nature and scope of philosophical investigation. It examines representative problems, types, andmethods of philosophy from the ancient Greek, Indian, and Chinese to thecontemporary. A thematic emphasis will be placed upon the substanceontology, process ontology distinction, particularly as it relates to self-nature, ethical, and epistemological theories. In general, thinking skills aremore important than information in this course.

Upon successful completion of this course, the student should be able to: recognize the major world views that have dominated and sometimes polarized Westernphilosophy: demonstrate knowledge of major Western thinkers and of themajor concerns of Western philosophy; show awareness of contemporaryphilosophical trends and conflicts; better understand his, her own world viewand value system and express ideas and opinions clearly in writing. Inaddition, there is a need for the exercise of a flexibility in thinking whendealing with different models of thinking about the world and ourselves.Though flexibility this kind of empathetic understanding entails a temporarysuspension of personally held beliefs, it also implies a subsequently greaterneed for responsible personal judgment skills. This course is designed todevelop these thinking skills and competencies. In contrast to a religioncourse, this course’s activities and assignments target conceptual interrelationsand justification of claims.

A genuine quest is tested for its authenticity by challenges at every turn. In our philosophical quest, challenges to ordinary ways of thinking come from a variety of sources: Socrates, Taoism, Buddhism, and Nietzsche, for example. Accepting thesechallenges, we may find ourselves pitting our insights against theirs in a dialogthat has both personal and universal appeal. Through this dialog, challengemay give way to a sharing of discoveries and insights. In our search foralternative answers to perennial questions which our own answers may beunable to resolve the various philosophies often come to be seen as lifesaversthrown our way. Conversely, by critiquing different philosophies, we clarifyour own contributions to the conversation. In this way, we exercise ourmembership in the community of inquiry known as philosophers.

This course also sets philosophies against each other in order to highlight their challenges and answers. East challenges West, newer challenges earlier, and each challenges the generally unexamined assumptions we may have about the world, self, and meaningfulness. Though presented in adversarial fashion according to a western philosophical categorization of fundamental problems, the course includes non-western and non-problematic methodologies. Multicultural perspectives will be emphasized in the course.

Classroom activities and discussions will presuppose a thorough reading of the assigned materials. Collectively, the assigned materials will present the range of problems generally encompassed by philosophy. Classroom activities and discussions will aim at depth of engagement and exercise of thinking skills.

The unit sequence, approximate duration, andpartial listing of material are as follows:
Unit I: Philosophical Projects (1 week): Joseph Campbell, Chuang-Tzu.
Unit 11: Investigations in Ethics (4 weeks): Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche,Bhagavad Gita Confucius, Kant, Mill, the Buddha.
Unit III: Investigations in Metaphysics and Epistemology (10 weeks): Plato,Berkeley, Lao Tzu, Upanishads Descartes Hume, James, Digha Nikaya,Milindapanha.
Unit IV: Investigations in Aesthetics (I week): Unknown Craftsman, Zen and the Fine Arts.

All submitted papers must meet college standards: typed orcomputer-printed, punctual, and documented where necessary. Goodattendance (at least 75% of randomly tallied attendance) and timelysubmission of all required assignments are necessary conditions for passing the course. The first paper may be resubmitted (subject to certain conditions) for a possible grade improvement.

Required assignments:
Paper I DRAFT 30 points
Paper 1 95 points
Paper 11 150 points
Final Paper 175 points
Task Force Presentation 50 points
Total 500 points

450-500 points = A
400-449 points = B
350-399 points = C
300-349 points = D
0-299 points = F

Gary Kessler: Voices of Wisdom, latest edition.
Handout material from primary sources.
Students are also encouraged to rely on external resources for information.

Though at times the subject material may appear exotic and bewildering, return to your own fundamental questions about life and then look to the various philosophies as proposed answers to your questions. The exotic will then speak your language. Bewilderment is at times a good sign. It may signal an encounter with a way of thinking that we would not have otherwise developed on our own. One way to deal withbewilderment is to develop your knowledge base of facts about eachphilosophical tradition through independent research of library resources.Extensive reading can make the material easier to understand and mayoccasion your discovery of underlying meanings and personal insights. Thismay lead to discoveries that more than compensate for initial bewilderment.Don’t be surprised if your work becomes exhilarating and meaningful play.The instructor will frequently employ two “voices” in class. One voice is thatof the teacher who structures and presents instruction. The other voice is thatof a representative of a particular philosophy. Please do not confuse the twoand mistake representation as advocacy by the teacher. Accordingly, studentsare also invited to engage in discussions with a voice of academic objectivitythat does not necessarily express personally held beliefs. [Please keeppersonal copies of submitted papers, particularly, final projects, beforesubmitting work. Extra credit projects are welcome. For example, a fifteenpage extra credit project on a pre-approved topic, scale, and format will raisethe course grade by one letter grade if it is of “A” quality. A draft of this extracredit project is due a month before the end of the semester. Also, if anyonehas special circumstances that require adjustment of the way in whichrequirements of the course are to be met, please inform the instructor at leasttwo weeks in advance. Considering dropping the course? Please do notsimply disappear. At the very least, formally withdraw so that you do notreceive an “F” on your record. Sometimes talking with the Instructor can alleviate problems before you make up your mind to withdraw. Another note: on any given day, students may leave if the instructor has not arrived within 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time.]

Does learning by doing appeal to you? Wouldyou like to receive as much as 170 points through volunteer work? ThisService Learning option will replace the second paper requirement, Paper II.The total number of points allocated to this project is 170, which is 20 pointsmore than the 150 points allocated to the Paper II requirement. [If you chooseto do both Service Learning and Paper II, Service Learning will amount to amaximum of 30 extra credit points.] Here are some details: In partialfulfillment of course requirements and as a means of acquiring, processing,and demonstrating the learning objectives of the course, you may elect tosubmit a reflection paper, evaluation, and journal that are based on pro bonoservice activity in the community at large. Pro bono service activity isactivity that provides identifiable benefit to the community on a regular basisfor at least twenty hours without pay at an approved volunteer site such asProject Dana, a homebound handicapped and elderly care program. Thissemester, activities related to HIV/AIDS and Hawaii Hospice will be particularlyencouraged. The twenty-hour minimum includes up to five hours of time forrequired meetings and training sessions. Only service that is provided duringthe current semester that would not have been otherwise provided constitutesappropriate service activity. Through the Service Learning Project, as adesirable competency outcome for the course, the student should be able tounderstand, test, apply, and reflect upon the process of developing decision-making competency. The instructor will assist qualified students in placementand orientation needs. Thereafter, the student’s responsibilities to his/herservice agency should be addressed directly with that agency. Me success of astudent’s service activity is to be measured not by the amount of benefitafforded to the beneficiary, but by the quality and extent to which the studentlearns and demonstrates skills and concepts which are appropriate learningobjectives of this course.

The Service Learning student needs to:
Apply for this option and obtain approval by the end of the third week of the semester; * Have a schedule flexible enough to accommodate the required orientation meetings, training sessions, and instructor appointments in addition to the hours in which service is provided;
Perform service concurrently with the course;
Honor commitments to the service agency, service beneficiaries, instructor, and Service Learning Project;
Work with an agency contact person who will oversee and account for the provided service; a Be responsible for setting appointments with the instructor to discuss placement, appropriate reflection paper projects, and course-related matters; * Submit to the instructor: 1) a reflection paper (three-page minimum length) which is due one month before the semester ends, 2) an agency verified journal of service activities and hours, and 3) an evaluation paper (one-page minimum length) that is due on the last day of instruction.

School: Kapiolani Community College
Professor: Dr. Robin Fujikawa
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