Course description for
    Introduction to Philosophy
    2006-2007
    Taught by Karen Howes, BA Philosophy, College of William & Mary
         Karen@pharsalia.com


    This Introduction to Philosophy Course is presented in two high school semesters to provide similar
    information to that presented in a one semester college course. It considers three aspects to the
    study of philosophy:

    History:         The history of philosophical thinking and the great philosophers
    Thinking:      The art of questioning, thinking, reading, writing and speaking philosophically
    Skill:              Logic, proofs and argumentation

    I. Grasping the basics through a historical approach to the study of Philosophy

    In the area of  History, students will study how people throughout history have proposed and
    answered philosophical questions. The class will become familiar with some of the issues that
    concerned past societies and also learn how the nature of “thinking” has developed and changed
    throughout different time periods. We will study some of the greatest thinkers, logicians and
    philosophers with a focus on developing skills of analysis, inquiry and argumentation.
    Students will be introduced to several philosophers from Ancient Greek to Modern times -- these
    include Thales, Democritus, Plato (Socrates), Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke,
    Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and John Stuart Mill.
    Students will be introduced to the three basic areas of Philosophy: Ethics, Metaphysics, and
    Epistemology.
    In the study of Ethics, the class will explore the Philosopher’s Island and analyze ten different
    theories that have fashioned the way man has chosen to create governments and laws. A good deal
    of class time will be spent on the philosophy of law and the development of ethical frameworks upon
    which laws have been based.
    In the area of Metaphysics, the class will delve into some of the more esoteric issues of philosophy,
    including existence, space/time, infinity, causality, and what is possible. In this area, students will
    begin to understand how philosophers approached questions concerning the nature of things, like
    what makes a dog a dog? And if man didn’t exist, would there still be time?  In this area students will
    study the difference between the empiricists and the rationalists.
    Concerning Epistemology, students will consider what it means when we say that we know something.
    This area of philosophy examines the nature of knowledge, including what different philosophers
    have determined to be our source of knowledge, the limits of our knowledge and the scope of
    knowledge. We will examine aspects of the film The Matrix, and students will be expected to
    understand how different philosophers would differentiate a dream and reality.

    II.  Acquiring the skills of  analysis, synthesis and argumentation

    Students will learn how to think philosophically by knowing first how to ask the right questions – not
    necessarily with the intent of finding the right answer, but with the intent of embarking on a journey of
    inquiry, investigation and discussion. Philosophical thinking is an exploration of ideas and concepts.
    It is about the journey and not the destination.


    III. Developing analytical reasoning in the areas of symbolic and propositional logic

    Students will have a clear understanding of the difference between inductive and deductive
    arguments, and they will begin to analyze theories in terms of the logical progression of propositions
    and conclusions.

    The class will learn how to analyze arguments and determine whether an argument is sound,
    contradictory and/or invalid. Several weeks will be spent on understanding paradoxes and solving
    logic puzzles.


    Course requirements:
    Participation in class discussions is the most important aspect of the student’s involvement. There will
    be several projects throughout the course, including developing Power Point presentations, leading
    lectures, and presenting dialogues. There is also an end-of-year final paper.