Introduction to Philosophy

Introduction to Philosophy


Spring 2011
01/18/2011 - 05/15/2011

Course Information

Section 049
TTh 13:20 - 14:40
SAC1 1315
Arthur Dechene

Office Hours

  • T Th
    1:20 - 2:40
    South Austin Campus
    Before or after class. Arrange time with professor in class or by email.

Course Requirements

Austin Community College

Austin, Texas, USA

Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 1301)

Professor Arthur C. Dechene, Jr., Ph.D.



Spring Session 2011

There are many clickable links to websites in the online version of this syllabus, which is linked on the course home page.


Synonym:             25286

Section:                049

Campus:                              South Austin

Room:                   1302     

Days:      Tuesday and Thursday

Time:     1:20-2:40pm (80 minutes)


For Your Immediate Attention on the First Day of Class

·        The following are required assignments to be completed before the next class

·        Read this syllabus. If there is anything in it or missing from it that you don’t understand, ask about it in the next class.

·        Read the course description(linked on the course home web page).

·        Go to Assignments and Announcementsfor PHIL 1301 on the course home web page and do whatever is assigned there. Check that page frequently.

Contact Information

·        Email the professor:

·        Home page of the course Web site:

·        If you are having a problem related to this course or related to me as your professor your first step generally should be to speak with me. If I cannot resolve the problem or satisfy your concern, or, if for some reason you would prefer not to address the issue with me, you can appeal to the Chair of the Department for help.

Office Hours/Consultations with the Professor

·        Before or after class most class days. Make appointment in class or by email.

Course Description

·        From the ACC catalogue: “Students will be introduced to various significant philosophical issues and thinkers and to the practice of philosophical analysis.”

·        Professor Dechene’ssections of Introduction to Philosophy will take an historical (history of philosophy) and comparative approach, and will focus on specific philosophers, philosophies, questions, and issues.

·        A more extensive description of the course is linked on the course homepage.


·        There are no course prerequisites, other than:

·        A passing score or the equivalent on the reading portion of the TASP is required.

·        Basic computer skills.

·        The ability to find textual materials for the course on the Internet and print them.

·        I will upload files to my course website in PDF format. You will need to have a PDF reader installed on your computer to read them.

·        PDF readers are available to download for free. I recommend Foxit Reader.

·        The ability to play and listen to audio materials. I recommend the free Media Player Classic for Windows (which is used at ACC), or the Google Chrome browser, which has a built-in media player.

·        The ability to email the professor if necessary.

·        The ability to look up your grade information on Blackboard.

·        Note: This course requires serious study and the ability to read well (it is a college level course).

·        As with most courses, you can expect you will need to study about two hours for every class hour.

·        If you need help improving your reading and studying methods:

·        Read Professor Dechene’s how to study guide, linked on the course home page.

·        Visit the Learning Lab on your campus and speak with one of the staff.

·        ACC offers courses on reading and study skills. See “Reading Skills” and “Study Skills” in the course schedule booklet.

·        You can also find help at several Websites, for example, Google “how to study effectively” to find many websites on improving study skills.

Required Readings

·        For the required textbook and other readings, go to “Required Readings” on the course home webpage.

Instructional Methodology

·        Lecture and discussion in class, and homework.

·        Audio and video presentations (some may be homework).

·        Required readings (textbook and other).

·        Tests.

Course Rationale

·        Philosophy is one of the principal forces that have shaped Western civilization and history, so a basic understanding of the methods and subject matter of philosophy affords a deeper understanding of ourselves and an informed grasp of the present. In addition, critical thinking skills are so central to the methods of philosophy that the study of philosophy provides an excellent opportunity to learn and practice those skills in a focused way.

Course Objectives

·        Departmental Objectives/Outcomes

·        Students will demonstrate improved critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.

·        Students will be able to reason philosophically about issues of both personal and universal significance.

·        Students will be able to identify major divisions and concepts in philosophy.

Course Evaluation/Grading System

·        The final gradefor this course will be based on four tests, one short essay, and on attendance.

·        Tests and the essay will account for 100% of your final numeric grade before deduction of days absent.

·        Each test/essay will account for 25% of your final grade.

·        Four tests/one essay will be administered/required, and your lowest grade of these five will be ignored in final grading.

·        Thus, students may skip one test or the essay without penalty (but not skipping one of these may increase your chance of receiving a higher final grade).

·        Absenteeism will lower your final grade.

·        One point will be deducted from your final numeric grade for:

·        Each class missed.

·        Arriving late (arriving after roll has been called).

·        Leaving class before the end of the class without the professor’s prior permission.

·        Students who first start attending the course after the first class will be marked absent for the classes they missed at the beginning of the course.

·        There will be no excused absences—you’re either present or absent. Thus, you need not bring excuses such as a physician’s note to justify your absence.

·        If you have to leave a class before it ends, please have the courtesy to inform the professor at the beginning of the class (if possible), and sit close to the door.

·        Coming in late disturbs the flow of the class, so please be on time. Students who come late four times (i.e., on four days) will be dropped from the course.

·        Tests.

·        Tests usually will be Scantron-type (true/false, multiple choice, and/or matching), but may be partly or entirely essay type.

·        Students must supply their own green Scantron cards and a #2 pencil for Scantron tests. These can be purchased in the ACC Bookstore.

·        Scantron cards cannot be filled out with other media, such as pen, because our Scantron grading machines do not recognize anything other than #2 pencil.

·        Scantron cards will not grade properly if they are creased, wrinkled, or dog-eared. Use only cards that are in their original condition. If a Scantron card will not grade properly, the student will not receive a grade.

·        Recommendation: marks on Scantron cards do not erase easily, so bring an eraser that you know works well for this purpose. Standard pencil-top erasers do not work well.

·        Each test, including the last test, will emphasize material covered since the previous test (for test 1, since the first day of class), with less emphasis on material from before that.

·        See the course calendar for dates of tests. Tests may be rescheduled to fit better with the coverage of topics in class, or for other appropriate reasons.

·        Tests will normally last 45 minutes, and will start at the beginning of the class. If you arrive late for class on the test day you will have less than 45 minutes to complete your test.

·        Students who have problems taking tests (e.g., severe test anxiety or dyslexia) should discuss this with the Office for Students with Disabilities.

·        Test grades will be published only on Blackboard. Incremental and final grades will not be given out verbally, in person, by email, or to anyone other than the student, due to ACC policy and federal law.

·        Students who miss two or more tests will receive an F final grade.

  • Make-up tests.

·        The make-up test must be completed no later than the day before the next regularly scheduled test is administered.

·        You must have the professor’s permission to take a make-up test.

·        Make-up tests will be administered in the Testing Center on the campus where your course section is taught.

·        The make-up test questions and format may be different from the original.

·        There will be no make-up test for the final test.

  • Extra credit assignments will not be allowed, as they give an unfair advantage to the person doing the extra assignment.

·        The professor reserves the right to change various features of the testing and grading system during the course and he will give clear notice (on the Assignments and Announcements Web page, linked on the course home page) if he does so.


Attendance and Courtesy

·        Students are expected to attend all classes, to be on time, and to show courtesy toward the Professor and fellow students.

·        Courtesy includes not talking with other students during class, not texting or otherwise using a cell phone, not doing things that distract or might distract other students, not eating or coming and going during class, not verbally (or physically) attacking students with whom you disagree, not repeatedly verbally advocating or representing an ideology (political, religious, other) during the class, and showing politeness toward the Professor and all students.

·        If you are carrying a cell phone, turn it off in class. Should you need to keep it on (e.g., you have a sick child at home), inform the professor at the start of class.

·        Eating is not appropriate in class. Neither is walking in and out during class time.

·        Students are expected to print (from the course Web site) and bring to class the material to be discussed in that class. Do not attend class if you do not have the appropriate written materials.

·        The professor has the right to order a student to leave the class. This could be for, but is not limited to, the following: discourtesy, disruptive behavior, or for not bringing required materials to class.

Active Participation is Encouraged

·        Students are encouraged to actively participate in class by asking questions and entering into discussions that relate to the material being studied.

·        Students are expected to ask questions in class about course materials and regulations they don’t fully understand.

·        Students may ask questions about computer problems related to the course in class (this will benefit all students).


·        The professor has the right to withdraw (drop) a student from the course for excessive tardiness, absenteeism, discourteous behavior, or for other appropriate reasons.

·        Students may be withdrawn from the course if they are registered but do not attend class in the first five class-hours, or if they exceed 25% absenteeism (for any reason).

·        Withdrawing from a course may affect financial aid, veterans’ benefits, international student status, or academic standing. Students are urged to consult with their instructor or an advisor before making schedule changes. Per state law, students enrolling for the first time in fall 2007 or later at any Texas college or university may not withdraw (receive a W) from more than six courses during their undergraduate college career. Some exemptions for good cause could allow a student to withdraw from a course without having it count toward this limit. Students are encouraged to carefully select courses; contact an advisor or counselor for assistance. See the Student Handbook, p. 22, for additional information.

Problem Resolution

·        If you should have any problem with the course or the instructor, please have the courtesy to discuss it first with the instructor.

Incomplete Grades

·        Incomplete grades normally will not be issued. The only reasons accepted for granting an incomplete will be unforeseen and unforeseeable serious reasons for not being able to complete the class on time. The student will have to document, in detail, the reasons why s/he is requesting the incomplete, and why s/he could not have foreseen or avoided the problem, and her/his exact plan for completing the course (with completion date, which will not be extended). Most requests for an incomplete grade will be rejected.

Scholastic Dishonesty

·        See the current edition of the Student Handbook, at

Academic Freedom

·        Students have the right to believe whatever they happen to believe and, within the appropriate constraints that follow from the organization of a course and its class meetings, to express those beliefs. Grades will never be based on thebeliefs that a student maintains, but only on the quality of the work performed by a student in conjunction with the course.

Office for Students with Disabilities

·        Be sure to read the section in the Student Handbook: Services for Students with Disabilities.

·        Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester.

·        For students authorized by the OSD to take tests in an other-than-classroom environment, tests will be available at the Office for Students with Disabilities on the day and time the test is scheduled for the rest of the class.

Course Outline, Calendar, and Announcements

·        The course calendar is hyperlinked to Professor Dechene’s course home webpage.

·        An announcements page is also hyperlinked there. Consult it frequently (at least once a week, more often during a condensed summer session), and always prior to tests.

The Student Handbook and Other ACC Information is Accessible Online

·        Go to, regarding the above items (policies, disabilities, acceptable behavior, student support services, etc.)

·        Also be aware there is a great deal of useful information for students that is accessible from the ACC home page at

Revised December 16, 2010.


AustinCommunity College

Austin, Texas, USA

Professor Arthur C. Dechene, Jr., Ph.D.


Required Readings, Audios, and Videos

For Professor Dechene’s Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 1301)

Spring 2011

Last updated: Thursday, December 16, 2010at 5:14 PM.


Purchase the textbook either new, used, or in ebook format. Be sure to purchase the correct edition. The other readings are to be printed out by the student and brought to class at the appropriate time. Listen to audios on your home computer. Videos will be shown in class and will not be available on the course website, since they are copyrighted materials.




Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, 5th edition (McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2010), ISBN 978-0-07-340748-7.

·       Be sure to purchase the fifth edition (blue cover).

·       This textbook may be available in ebook format (i.e., for Kindle, Nook, etc.)

Original Classic Readings and Audios:


The Story of the Prodigal Son. This myth is from the Bible (New Testament), and there is also a Buddhist version. It is about nondual philosophy and its implications for the lives of individuals. It will be the most important metaphor in the course, and we will refer to it often. It also illustrates how important myth can be in philosophy. 2 pages.


Tao Te Ching(Dao Der Jing) by Lao Tzu, Mitchell translation. I recommend that you print this in color as I have highlighted some of the most important passages to help you study the document. 17 pages plus Professor’s one page study guide.If you can read Chinese you may use a Chinese edition along with the standard class (English) edition.


Florence Scovel Shinn, chapter one of The Game of Life and How to Play It. This is highlighted to help you study it, so print it in color. The full book is here. It’s one of the best examples of the American New Thought philosophy, and how to understand and use the principle called “naming” in poem 1 of Tao Te Ching. I recommend you read the whole book, as its principles are of great usefulness in daily life, but only chapter one is required. This little book has been so popular with many of my students over the years that they purchased copies for their friends and family members. 4 pages, recommended readings list on New Thought topics added at end. The full book is about 30-40 pages, depending on the font size you use.


The Heart Sutra. Read it and listen to it on the Web. This Mahayana Buddhist document is an excellent short expression of the philosophy taught in our course. One page.


The first four chapters of Ashtavakra Gita, Byrom translation. A very clear and helpful statement of the Advaita (i.e., nondualistic) Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. 6 pages.


Story of Uddalaka and Svetaketufrom the Chandogya Upanishad, chapter 6. Being (Sanskrit: sat), or the essence of reality itself, is there, but we can’t see it and usually ignore it. “You are that” (Sanskrit: Tat twam asi.) 3 pages.


Bible, Psalm 82.Even the Bible understands that we are gods, and that the connection between reality and the illusory world is compassion, taking care of our brothers and sisters and nature. One page.


Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. One of the most famous stories ever told. It has many good and important ideas, but its ontology (philosophy of Being) is atrocious and irrational, and represents Western philosophy’s decisive movement away from wisdom and into speculation (also called “theorymongering”)—where it has largely remained for the last 2500 years. This degeneration of philosophy into mere speculation about the fundamental nature of reality (i.e., of “Being”) started with Anaxagoras and was greatly reinforced by Plato and Aristotle. 3 pages of Plato, plus 3 pages of Professor’s explanatory notes.


John Locke on personal identity(from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690). 8 pages.


Bishop Berkeley’s thesis that reality consists of ideas, not of things outside our minds. From A Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710. 5 pages.


David Hume’s proof that there is no such thing as a personal self (excerpted fromA Treatise of Human Nature, 1739).4 pages.


Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense(1873).8 pages.


Other Readings:


Map of the Mediterranean Sea. See where Greek philosophy originated in the 6th and 5th centuries: western Turkey, southern Italy, and Athens.


Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do you do it? What’s it got to do with philosophy?All wisdom teachings presuppose meditation, and stillness (meditation, incubation) is one of Parmenides’ three requirements for “realization” of what is eternally true (the other two are longing for the truth and logic). 4 pages with link to Open Heart Meditation instructions by Prof. Dechene (1 page).


Explanations of Some Terms and Concepts in Taoist (Daoist) Philosophy. This study guide will be used in the section on Tao Te Ching, and also when we discuss the Cynic philosophy when studying Hellenistic and Roman philosophies, and again when we discuss “the problem of dreams” when studying Descartes. 5 pages.


Professor’s lecture notes on Parmenides. You will need these to supplement our textbook sections on Parmenides and Zeno of Elia. 5 pages.




Professor Malcolm Eckel’s lecture on emptiness, nonduality, and the 2nd century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna’s doctrine of the Two Truths in Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. Professor Eckel, of Boston University, is the world expert on Mahayana nondualist philosophy, and this lecture explains both the theory and its implications for one’s life. 30 minute video.


Lecture on the main teachings and significance of Rene Descartes by Professor Alan Charles Kors of the University of Pennsylvania. 30 minutes.


Two lectures on the philosophy of John Locke and the implications and influence of Locke’s ideas by Professor Kors. 60 minutes.


Lecture on Nietzsche by Professor Lawrence Cahoone of the College of the Holy Cross. 30 minutes.


Recommended, but Not Required:


Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life. Professor Dechene’s article on the American New Thought philosophy. It arose in New England in the latter part of the 19th century, and is very much alive and used by thousands of people today. It is an expression of what Tao Te Ching 1 called “naming.” William James called it America’s “only decidedly original contribution to the systematic philosophy of life,” and approved of it for its “cash value,” i.e., that it wasn’t just a theoretical philosophy but one that actually worked to heal and prosper people and to harmonize troublesome situations. It also agrees with the fundamental understanding of Existentialism that individuals create themselves in this world through their beliefs. 9 pages.


Course Subjects


Professor Dechene’s Introduction to Philosophy course will use the history of philosophy approach with the purpose of acquainting students who are new to the study of philosophy with a representative range of philosophers, philosophies, and viewpoints.

The course is intended to make students conversant with the main names and ideas in the history of philosophy, and to provide a solid basis for further study of philosophy.

The motto of the course will be the famous aphorism, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” To discover what is true, throughout the course we will look at these closely related questions:

  1. What is real (and what isn’t).
  2. How does an individual discover what is true or real.
  3. What difference does knowing what is real make in a person’s life.
  4. How does a person live realistically (i.e., live his or her life in terms of what is truly real).

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives


Learning Outcomes

Professor Dechene’s course is divided into four sections (with a test at the end of each section). The learning outcomes for each section are these:

  1. Understand what the earliest Greek philosophers were looking for: that which is common to all things in the universe, i.e., that which makes the cosmos a unified cosmos rather than just a collection of separate things. We will especially look at the idea that maybe what is fundamentally real and that is common to all seemingly different things is formless, what Anaximander called the apeiron (the boundless).
  2. Understand the radical distinction between the reality seen by the intellect and what is seen by the senses, and Parmenides’ discovery of logic, and his distinction between necessary and contingent statements and, correspondingly, between certainty and opinion, on the one hand, and Being and appearances on the other.
  3. Understand how classical philosophy responded to the intellectual and spiritual crisis caused by Parmenidian rationalism and abandoned the idea that there could be a common truth underlying all that is, and based on direct experience and logic.
  4. Understand the modern European attempt to rebuild philosophy on a new foundation, and how that effort collapsed.