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General Studies

PHIL 1402 Introduction to Philosophy

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Prerequisites: None.

Course Description:
This Course traces the origins of philosophical thinking from Socrates and Plato in Ancient Greece to great thinkers of modern times. The profound questions they posed about reality, ethics, and knowledge still challenge us today. The idea that philosophy is a manner of thinking about the most basic problems faced by ordinary people is stressed and students are encouraged to examine the ideas and answer the questions of the philosophers as they impact their own lives.

Required Textbook and Materials:

UoPeople courses use open educational resources (OER) and other materials specifically donated to the University with free permissions for educational use. Therefore, students are not required to purchase any textbooks or sign up for any websites that have a cost associated with them. The main required textbooks for this course are listed below and can be readily accessed using the provided links. There may be additional required/recommended readings, supplemental materials, or other resources and websites necessary for lessons; these will be provided for you in the course's General Information and Forums area, and throughout the term via the weekly course Unit areas and the Learning Guides.

  • There is no main textbook for this course. All readings are contained in the Unit Learning Guides.


Software Requirements/Installation

No special requirements.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes:

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast key questions, concerns, and methods of three main areas of Western philosophy: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology.
  2. Explain various theoretical and historical perspectives central to philosophical issues including Empiricism, Rationalism, Existentialism, Materialism, Idealism, Relativism, Utilitarianism, and Virtue Ethics.
  3. Analyze their own self-understanding, meaning, and orientation in life.

Course Schedule and Topics

This course will cover the following topics in eight learning sessions, with one Unit per week. The Final Exam will take place during Week/Unit 9 (UoPeople time).

Unit 1 Week 1 Welcome to Philosophy!
Unit 2 Week 2 Metaphysics
Unit 3 Week 3 Philosophy of Religion
Unit 4 Week 4 Social and Political Philosophy
Unit 5 Week 5 Ethics and Morality
Unit 6 Week 6 Epistemology
Unit 7 Week 7 Philosophers of the World, Part 1
Unit 8 Week 8 Philosophers of the World, Part 2
Unit 9 Week 9 Review and Final Exam

Learning Guide

Unit 1: Welcome to Philosophy!

  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Complete and submit the Written Assignment
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz

Reading Assignment

Readings for Pragmatism:

Reading for Positivism:

Mellone, S.H. (1897). Some of the Leading Ideas of Comte's Positivism. International Journal of Ethics, 8(1), 73-86.

Available via your JSTOR access on the UoPeople Homepage and:  https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2375350.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ad91b1a5ae987d106b92b482e0b272303 Read the entire passage from 73 – 86. Consider the author’s position on Comte’s Positivism regarding Man’s obligation to his community. This will be a Discussion topic this week and you may see some of these assertions in quizzes or tests. 

Reading for Realism:

Lebow, R. N. (June 9, 2008). The Ancient Greeks and Modern Realism: Ethics, Persuasion, and Power. In Bell, D. (Ed.), Political Thought and International Relations (26-40). Verlag: Oxford University Press.

The .pdf of this article is available through the JSTOR Library subscription via UoPeople’s homepage and https://www.dartmouth.edu/~nedlebow/anc_gree_mod_real.pdf

Unit 2: Metaphysics

  • Peer assess Unit 1 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Complete and submit the Written Assignment
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz

Reading Assignment

Read the magazine article in The Atlantic giving modern examples of metaphysics in American pop culture. The idea is not as unapproachable and foreign as you may think. After reading this article, consider metaphysical questions from your own life and culture and prepare to discuss them in the Discussion Forum. 
  • Watch the video about The Grandfather Paradox at https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/wi-phi/wiphi-metaphysics-epistemology/wiphi-metaphysics/v/the-grandfather-paradox
    • There are many such paradoxical ideas within the study of metaphysics. The conflict of time travel, the question of thinking of the mind as an entity (rather than a simple organ in your head), do we have Free Will, and what’s infinity are just a few of them.
    • Use The Khan Academy resource) to broaden your understanding of Metaphysical Challenges to reality. In the Discussion Group this week, you will be challenged to use what you’ve discovered in a way that brings meaning to those ideas.
  • Read part “b.” in Kant article “The Duality of the Human Situation” available at:http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/#SH8b and think about whether we act upon the world or it acts upon us. How does reason guide our actions and reaction to the world? 
  • Read: Harp, J. (2004). Simic's Surrealist Metaphysics: A Review of Charles Simic, "The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems"." The Iowa Review 34(2), 170-175. Available at: http://ir.uiowa.edu/iowareview/vol34/iss2/52
Metaphysics is everywhere. This is the stuff that makes life and love possible – or at least exciting. Having read about Charles Simic, I want you to think as a scholar for a minute:

First, “Reviews” in the scholastic sense are much more than “reviews” in pop-culture for movies and books. See how Harp (2004) teaches us not just what we’re going to read, but why it matters that we do

    As you grow as researcher, do not miss skip over these valuable resources to help you cage your experience around relevant key point and topics in the text(s).

The approach to philosophy, and particularly metaphysics, from artists and poets like Simic, are examples of the place where ancient life meets modern life. You’ll be asked about this in Discussion group this (and next) week.   

Unit 3: Philosophy of Religion

  • Peer assess Unit 2 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment and rate)
  • Complete and submit the Written Assignment
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz
  • Take the Graded Quiz 

Reading Assignment

Polytheism: Perhaps the oldest and most familiar form of religion. It is the belief system with multiple Gods with each God having a specific purpose or “job.”  The ancient world was basically fully polytheistic from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and through the Axial Age.  This lasted until the formation of the Abrahamic Religions – which are strictly monotheist.   

  • Fairbanks, A. (1898). Literary Influence in the Development of Greek Religion. The Biblical World,11(5), 294-305. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3137300
    • In Fairbanks (1898) read pages 294 to the end of the first paragraph on page 297.
    • Note how for the Greeks, the Gods also had strong Human characteristics.


  • Watch Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi’s 18-minute lecture on Humanism.:

Furedi, F. (2013). Alternative lectures: What is Humanism (Part 1). [Video File].  Available at 

    • Who does Dr. Furedi say is the author of our destiny?  
  • Watch his 19-minute follow-up as well. 

Furedi, F. (2013). What is humanism? Part 2. [Video File].  Available at 

The problem of Evil and Suffering to Religion:  Read the entire entry (all 11 sub-sections) from the IEP entry for the “Logical Problem of Evil” available at http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/

Unit 4: Social and Political Philosophy

  • Peer assess Unit 3 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Complete and submit the Written Assignment
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz

Reading Assignment

Plato’s Republic: Because it is so broadly written, The Republic can be read from many perspectives: as a thesis on political theory and practice, as a tutorial handbook, or as book defining and defending ethics. In this Unit, we are going to look at it from a Societal point of view. 

For Plato, the individual is more important than society. A good society is formed based on meeting the needs and values of the people living within it. For Plato, contrary to the title of his work, a Monarchy was the ideal form of government. He felt that a peerless leader (king) who could rule with perfect justice was the perfect form of government. That said, he also felt it wasn’t reasonable to expect, so writes that the republic is the most wholesome form and, basically, the next best thing. 

Burnyeat, M.F. (1997).  Culture and Society in Plato's Republic. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values.  Harvard University.  Available at https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/b/Burnyeat99.pdf

  • Read the entire section in Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic called “A Tale of Two Cities” starting on page 228 through page 236. 
  • Take notes about the interplay within the text between Socrates and Glaucon. In this writing, Aristotle is using Socrates and Glaucon as two opposing ideas about ethics and society to present his argument about which viewpoint is fair and just. 

Levin, M. (2012). Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America. NY: Simon and  Schuster, Inc. Available at  http://academic.udayton.edu/LawrenceUlrich/Leadership370/Plato%27s%20Republic%20and%20The%20Perfect%20Society.pdf

  • Now read the free online excerpt from Mark Levin’s Ameritopia, Chapter 2 page 23-36.
  • This opinion piece, by a sometimes controversial American radio personality, may give you an easier-to-understand perspective on Plato’s thoughts in The Republic. Mr. Levin gives a rather frank and pointed viewpoint of how Plato addresses the family unit as part of society. Think about this as you form your thoughts for your written assignment. A good philosopher knows that you do have to agree with someone to appreciate their approach to explaining a concept. 

Watch the TED-Ed talk on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Book VII in The Republic):  Gendler, A. (2015). Plato's Allegory of the Cave. [Video File]. Ted-Ed.  Available at  

  • Prepare to discuss the challenge of teaching to those resistant to conflicting information.
  • You will be asked to use your knowledge of research and the internet to find and paste another link explaining the Allegory of the Cave to your peers during the Discussion Forum.

Zarri, J. (1948). Aristotle's Theory of the Origin of State. Oxbridge Essays.  Available at  http://www.scholardarity.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Aristotles-Theory-of-the-Origin-of-the-State-DRAFT-2-PDF.pdf

Zarri (1948) feels that Aristotle’s view of The State is superior to Plato’s. In your written assignment, you will be asked to define your own view of social philosophy. Use your research skills to find other theories (for or against Aristotle and Plato) to be prepared to present them in your writing.  

Saint Thomas Aquinas: You are probably familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas for the teachings he espoused about education and reason. Thomism came from him; a belief that all reason comes from God. He was a quite the scholar of his time, and a whole class could be formed around his remarkable (and controversial) life. In this class, we are bracketed to talk about St. Thomas and his view of The State, however.  Go to the website for the Constitutional Rights Foundation and read about St. Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law and Common Good (it is also a good review for the Aristotle reading). Available at  http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-22-4-c-st-thomas-aquinas-natural-law-and-the-common-good

*For further optional reading about St. Thomas, try “The Condemnation of 1277” where he was condemned by a Bishop of The Church for having radical teachings, only to be canonized in 1323, 50 years after his death, and thus declared by Pope John XXII, to be perfect (and by extension his thoughts were). 

Be prepared to employ what you’ve read here in the Discussion Forum, your Written Assignment, and the appropriate tests and quizzes. 

Unit 5: Ethics and Morality

  • Peer assess Unit 4 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment and rate)
  • Complete and submit the Written Assignment
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz

Reading Assignment

Twain, M. (1994). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Dover Thrift Editions.). New York: Dover Publications. Available at http://contentserver.adobe.com/store/books/HuckFinn.pdf

Read Chapter 8 in Huckleberry Finn. You may have read this book years ago, but this time read it from the philosopher’s perspective you have matured within yourself in this class. 

Try to pick up on the ethical dilemma Twain writes into the story for Huck while he struggles with what is “right” to society and what is “right” to himself.  In the .pdf provided for class, this is most clear on page 45 (it may be on a different page if you are using another format of the book).   

There are a couple passages in this book worth discussion, be-prepared in the Discussion Forum this week to discuss what your perspective allows you to you see.

Now that you are done with Chapter 8 from Mark Twain, check out the Khan Academy Video about The Divine Command Theory.   Watch this video from Khan Academy:

Darwall, S.  Ethics" God and Morality, Part 1.  Khan Academy.  Available at https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/wi-phi/wiphi-value-theory/wiphi-ethics/v/god-morality-part-1

Is this what you found in the Huckleberry Finn pages? Were you able to see Huck’s reaction to not telling on Jim for being a run-away as an odd argument given that he, himself, was a runway? See how society, in Huck’s mind, would label him a “low-down Abolitionist” if he didn’t tell the truth (and therefore lie and break his promise to his friend Jim).   Note how Huck felt society was wrong so behaved unethically (breaking the law) to be more ethical (by breaking it).

Now read Chapter 12 of Huckleberry Finn, available at http://contentserver.adobe.com/store/books/HuckFinn.pdf

On page 68, Huck describes Moral Relativism when he justifies his stealing food:

“Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, sometime; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow them any more--then he reckoned it wouldn't be no harm to borrow the others.... [T]owards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to drop crabapples and p'simmons. We warn't feeling just right, before that, but it was all comfortable now.”  (p. 68)

While their rationalization for stealing appears entirely self-serving, the discussion is not moot for us. Huck is struggling between two moralities just as we all do every day. For him, it is the conventional family and society ethical and moral code versus the one he needed at the time (his own) for survival.

Hopefully, you noticed how this feeling of moral “rightness” for Huck and Jim is punctuated by his feeling good about himself for using a code of ethics (his own --- and even if it allows him to feel right about stealing).

Read about Kantian Ethics: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/g/gaskilld/ethics/kantian%20ethics.htm

Kant (1724-1804) argues that doing something because it feels right, doesn’t make it right. There is no moral imperative of something “feeling right”; Kant is emphatic that even otherwise praiseworthy activity cannot be considered truly moral if undertaken strictly because the individual takes pleasure in it.   Think about Kant’s description of a Categorical Imperative in your life and Huck’s life. 

Can you think of examples that fit into this definition in your culture?

Moral Absolutism tells us that there are some standards that have no need for interpretation. These, like traffic laws, are the ones that everyone has agreed are right and necessary for the good order and disciple of a healthy society. The shape and color of a Stop Sign, or that you have to drive on one side of the road not the other, are absolutes in that sense. 

Read about Moral Absolutism at http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_moral_absolutism.html and note the philosophers you have heard about who discuss it (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, to name a few). Do not skip over the criticismpart of this reading. As with everything, there are always other points of views which must be respected. 

Watch this video: https://fod.infobase.com/p_ViewPlaylist.aspx?AssignmentID=XCJTTC

  • This video approaches Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a strictly ancestral issue in Ethiopia. FGM is also forced upon infant and young girls throughout the world today as part of Sharia Law, as part of devote Islamic doctrine.
  • There are current and salient ethical and moral implications of this practice, one of your writing topics may address this. 

Warning:  This video deals with content that may be upsetting to some.  If you are not comfortable watching it, you can skip it. 

Unit 6: Epistemology

  • Peer assess Unit 5 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz
  • Take the Graded Quiz

Reading Assignment

Please start with the single page reading about Epistemology available at http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Epistemology_Main.html. Keep in mind that these three paragraphs are a starting point for your understanding of Epistemology. Do not be discouraged if this concept is not clear yet. 

Now let’s go deeper:

Morris, G. (1877). Spinoza -- A Summary Account of His Life and Teaching. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 11(3), p. 278-299.   Available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25666041.pdf

Read the selection starting on the last paragraph of page 282 (starting “Following the definitions,”) through the end of the paragraph on page 287 (which ends at the top that that page with “or preserve from logical inconsistency.”)

Spinoza’s axioms appear to align with the four types of knowledge outlined above. His axioms of knowledge, bridge the ages and continue to remain salient in philosophical discussions. You will be asked later which of those axioms lines up with which types we’ve covered.

Notice on page 287 (top) where Spinoza (a devotedly religious man) separates Divine intellect (authoritative knowledge) from human intellect (intuitive knowledge). For Spinoza, the human can only be known through the Divine. To him, truth can only be known through (his) God. Which brings us to our next lesson.

What is truth? How do we find it, and how do we know it when (if) we do? Spinoza, like Descartes, started his philosophical methodology with a preference for the mathematics. When they wrote about truth and deception, life and death, human reality and spiritual reality, etc, they both believed it was all rather mathematical. That is, rather clear and distinct with logical reasoning driving the truth of it all.

Whatever knowledge was to be borne of philosophy, Spinoza felt it would come from logic. Morris (1877) writes, “Were it not (principally) for the existence of a science of mathematics, which has to do, not with purposed ends, but only with the natures and properties of figures, Spinoza fears that the truth would have remained eternally concealed from the human race” (p. 290). But is math the answer? 

If you’ve read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll recognize that the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything” is mathematical… it’s “42” as calculated by the supercomputer “Deep Thought” after seven and a half million years of thought. (For more info, go here  )

But is this what Spinoza meant? It is not what Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Kant, or anyone besides Douglas Adams meant. The Truth, as it were, is up to you. Yes, you. Yet truth, like knowledge, is surprisingly difficult to define. Like Love, we think we know it when we see it, but cannot quite clearly (or mathematically) define it.  Yet 42 may not be so wrong either. If we do not know what it is, can we definitively say what it is not? 

Read “What is Truth?”   Pardi, P. (2015). What is Truth? Philosophynews.com. Available at  http://www.philosophynews.com/post/2015/01/29/What-is-Truth.aspx

Notice as you read “Perspective and Truth” from this blog you can see that Spinoza would strongly object to the author’s assertion that there is no absolute truth.  What would Spinoza say about this?

If Spinoza’s assertion about Divinity is correct, isn’t that an absolute truth? Which type of knowledge is that? Which to you, and which to Spinoza? Are they the same truth? Can there be two truths?

Re-watch (yes over again, now that you’re smarter on the topic) the TED-Ed talk on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Book VII in The Republic) from Unit 4.   Gendler, A. (2015). Plato's Allegory of the Cave. [Video File]. Ted-Ed.  Available at  

Do you see Truth differently now? Does the Allegory make more sense? As we grow as adults and philosophers, there is value in revisiting almost everything you’ve learned and held “as truth” to see if it is still true based on the new facts and perspective you have.

Now read the “Community Agreement” section from the “What is Truth?” blog. The author appears to imply that truth is a democratic process. Do you feel this is a logical reasoning to discovering truth? If everyone believes it, it is true? You later be given the opportunity to explore this concept further in your research paper.

Unit 7: Philosophers of the World, Part I

  • Peer assess Unit 6 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Take the Self-quiz

Reading Assignment

Asia: Wang Yangming (China)

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Wang Yangming, also known as Wang Shouren (Wang Shou-jen), is one of the most influential philosophers in the Confucian tradition. He is best known for his theory of the unity of knowledge and action. A capable and principled administrator and military official, he was exiled from 1507 to 1510 for his protest political corruption. Although he studied the thought of Zhu Xi [Chu His] (1130-1200 CE) seriously in his teenage years, it was during this period of exile that he developed his contribution to what has become known as Neo-Confucianism (Daoxue, [Tao-hsueh or “Learning of the Way”). With Neo-Confucianism in general, Wang Yangming’s thought can be best understood as an attempt to propose personal morality as the main way to social well-being. Wang’s legacy in Neo-Confucian tradition and Confucian philosophy as a whole is his claim that the fundamental root of social problems lies in the fact that one fails to gain a genuine understanding of one’s self and its relation to the world, and thus fails to live up to what one could be.

Start your reading on Yangming at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/wangyang/ and read, and take notes on, Yangming’s conception about Redefining the World. This is primarily in Section 3, but can only be understood as part of the whole, so you must read the entire entry to succeed here. Do you remember reading about Kant (Germany: 1724-1804) and Phenomology? In Kant’s theory of knowledge, while trying to fuse rationalist and empiricist thoughts, he said that whatever appears to the mind are phenomena defined as they appear (to you). For Yangming, several hundred years earlier and on the other side of the planet (China: 1472-1529), everything in the world was/is based upon experience – perhaps through the experience of it may be clearer. These two great minds never met but came to a remarkably similar conclusion. While I can find no evidence to support whether Kant read Yangming, it is extremely unlikely given the geography and complications of language, etc of his time. We have lessened those boundaries in the modern era thankfully.

Now read “Wang Yangming, A Chinese Idealist” available via your UoPeople library free access to JSTOR at  http://www.jstor.org/stable/27900473.  Pay special attention to the question on page 21 about Yangming’s view of nature. For Yangming, there was only one nature, but it was manifested in different forms. Think about these various forms of a single truth and how each person or entity can view the nature of virtue completely differently and still be correct. You will be tested on this material, asked about it in Discussion, and potentially expand on it in your Written Assignment.

Henke, F. (1914). Wan Yang Ming, A Chinese Idealist. The Monist, 24(1), p. 17-37

Africa: Kawasi Wiredu (Ghana)

Kwasi Wiredu is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida, where he has taught since 1987. He was born in Ghana and studied at the University of Ghana and Oxford. He was a Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ghana for many years. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), UCLA, Richmond, Carleton College, and Duke, and has held fellowships at the Wilson Center, Washington DC, and The National Humanities Center, North Carolina. He has published articles in Logic, Epistemology, and African Philosophy and has written entries in encyclopedias and anthologies. His book Philosophy and an African Culture was published by Cambridge University Press in 1980. Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies was jointly edited by him and Kwame Gyekye and published in 1992 by the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, New York. His Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective, (Bloomington : Indiana University Press) appeared in 1996. He also edited A Companion to African Philosophy, published by Blackwell in 2004 (which we will read in this Unit). It can be found at: https://zelalemkibret.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/blackwell-companion-to-african-philosophy.pdf

  • Read first the Preface (pg. xix-xx) 
  • Read also the Introduction to the Blackwell text (pg. 1-3)
  • Read the section: Contemporary African Philosophy as Comparative Philosophy (pg. 11-24). This section will introduce some fascinating concepts from a uniquely African point of view on The Concepts of a Person, Morality, Philosopher Kings, Violence, and Democracy. You will be tested on this material, asked about it in Discussion, and potentially expand on it in your Written Assignment. 

Please see more about this remarkable man at his USF Webpage: http://philosophy.usf.edu/faculty/kwiredu/

Wiredu, K. (Ed.) (2004). A Companion of African Philosophy. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.

Europe: Francis-Marie Arouet, aka. Voltaire (France)

From The Basics of Philosophy websiteVoltaire (real name François-Marie Arouet) (1694 - 1778) was a French philosopher and writer of the Age of Enlightenment. His intelligence, wit, and style made him one of France's greatest writers and philosophers, despite the controversy he attracted. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform (including the defense of civil liberties, freedom of religion and free trade), despite the strict censorship laws and harsh penalties of the period, and made use of his satirical works to criticize Catholic dogma and the French institutions of his day. Along with John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions. He was a prolific writer and produced works in almost every literary form (plays, poetry, novels, essays, historical and scientific works, over 21,000 letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets). See more at http://www.philosophybasics.com/philosophers_voltaire.html

While entire undergraduate- and graduate-level classes are presented on this man alone, in this class we will glance into his works and times in France during the century he occupied it then learn why people recognize the name Voltaire when they hear it.

Start by reading this news article in the New York Times “Financial Review” section about Voltaire. This article is a light-hearted approach to a heavy topic, but surely will help you understand Voltaire before we read more. Find “The Oxford Complete Works of Voltaire: fake news, Voltaire and an enlightenment hero” at http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/arts-and-entertainment/books/voltaire-fake-news-and-the-enlightenment-a-connection-20171121-gzpmue#ixzz50OzBkaBj

Now carefully watch the 12-minute video about Voltaire found at http://www.voltaire.ox.ac.uk/about-voltaire/about-voltaire which is the page of Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation.  You will be tested on this video’s material, asked about it in Discussion, and potentially expand on it in your Written Assignment.

Unit 8:  Philosophers of the World, Part 2

  • Peer assess Unit 7 Written Assignment
  • Read the Learning Guide and Reading Assignments
  • Participate in the Discussion Forum (post, comment, and rate)
  • Make entries to the Learning Journal
  • Read the Unit 9 Learning Guide carefully for instructions on the Final Exam
  • Take the Review Quiz

Australia/Oceana: Dr. Mary Rosalind Hursthouse (New Zealand)

 From Wikiwand: Born in Bristol, England, in 1943, Hursthouse spent her childhood in New Zealand. Her aunt Mary studied philosophy and when her father asked her what that was all about, he could not understand her answer. Rosalind Hursthouse, 17 at the time, knew immediately that she wanted to study philosophy, too, and enrolled the next year. She taught for many years at the Open University in England. She was head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Auckland from 2002 to 2005. She is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of Auckland. In 2016, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. See more at: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Rosalind_Hursthouse

Start your exploration of this remarkable woman at the Wikiwand site above. Now read an excerpt from her Virtue Ethics book, free from Plato Stanford at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/#toc . Read the short introduction by Dr. Hursthouse and then move down to Section 2.4 “Platonistic Virtue Ethics.” Of interest, pay attention to more modern scholars interpretation of Plato’s work. Hursthouse points out that the ego sometimes gets in the way of our ability to see the world around us. She writes of ego, it is “[c]onstantly attending to our needs, our desires, our passions, and our thoughts skews our perspective on what the world is actually like and blinds us to the goods around us.” Has this happened recently to you? Can you think of an example where you have gotten in your own way while trying to interpret what was going on around you? If you can’t think of an example, it’s happening right now.

She uses Adams (1999) to highlight that to Plato, all good came from God or being like God.

Now skip all the way near the bottom of Section 4. “Future Directions.” Here an argument is made by Dr. Hursthouse as to why we haven’t heard much about her topic, virtue ethics. “[W]hile Plato and Aristotle can be great inspirations as far as virtue ethics is concerned, neither, on the face of it, are attractive sources of insight where politics is concerned,” she writes in Section 4. Basically, virtue ethics is complex to understand outside the realm of application (doing something with it), but the study of virtue and vices necessarily take virtue ethics to a place many have not done before.

There are a couple takeaways from this writing. 1. As you can see, a core understanding of Plato and Aristotle appear to be at the base of all “western” philosophy. We did not find this to be the case with our Asian and African studies last unit, and neither of them had a “common base” at all, as it were. 2. Notice how Dr. Hursthouse writes. She sources all her data in place, at length, and gives comparative statements between the writers she is using. If you take nothing else away from this, remember that a college-level professional writer gives credit (cites and sources) and has enough knowledge and maturity within his or her subject to point of juxtaposed positions, conflicts, and contradictions while driving at a central theme throughout. It may have not all made sense to you, but the style and approach in presenting a professional article is a valuable lesson as you move forward in your college career.  

South America: Paulo Freire (Brazil)

From Wikiwand: Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (1921 - 1997) was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy. He is best known for his influential work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, considered to be one of the foundational texts of the critical pedagogy movement. Read this remarkable man’s biography on Wikiwand at https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Paulo_Freire

How do you think early childhood influences one’s philosophy of life? Using Paulo as an example of overcoming adversity to greatness, it certainly stands to reason that humans really can do amazing things given the personal drive to follow-through. You have started this yourself by working on a degree with UoPeople. Unlike Paulo, we hope, you will not start with poverty and famine, a Great Depression, no school, prison, and the rest of it. By definition, you have survived everything that has ever happened to you. Please read Paulo Freire of Brazil as another example of someone else who survived what came his way – and exceeded all expectations. By the time of his death he an accomplished Philosopher and the Secretary of Education for Sao Paulo.

Like the other thinkers in this unit, Freire leveraged knowledge of Plato in his writings, but he also used Marx and other anti-colonialist viewpoints appropriate to the society within which Paulo lived. One of his most famous works, 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, here: http://www.msu.ac.zw/elearning/material/1335344125freire_pedagogy_of_the_oppresed.pdf should be required reading for educators.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed is philosophical, political, and educational. In this book, Paulo explains his theory of oppression and what he says is the source of our liberation. In his view, the key is awakening critical awareness and the thinking process within the student or individual. He argues that this is only possible through a new type of education construct which produces a partnership between teacher and student. Like Socrates, Paulo believed that empowering the student to have a true dialogue was the best way to create learning.

Read Chapter One of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The concepts in this chapter will appear on the quiz and final.

 North America: Thomas Jefferson (U.S.A.)

Start your reading about Thomas Jefferson at the American Philosophical Society (the oldest such society in the U.S.). Find a brief description of it and Thomas Jefferson here: https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/american-philosophical-society

Now we’re going to try something different. I want you to go find The Thomas Jefferson Hour, a podcast presented by an actor named Clay Jenkinson. Find it here: http://jeffersonhour.com/ Generally Mr. Jenkinson assumes the role of President Thomas Jefferson and takes questions from a modern interviewer, on modern topics, and answers as if he were President Jefferson interpreting the issue from his times. 

The following is an excerpt from a letter between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, July 5th, 1814… Of note. Adams was the second President of the United States and Jefferson was the third. They were close friends and political rivals. Something we rarely see today. They also, in one of the greatest coincidences in American History, both died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (on July 4th, 1826). Read below and see if your views on Plato match Jefferson’s.

"I am just returned from one of my long absences, having been at my other home for five weeks past. Having more leisure there than here for reading, I amused myself with reading seriously Plato’s Republic. I am wrong however in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading thro’ the whimsies, the puerilities [childishness], and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? … bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him his sophisms [arguments used to deceive], futilities, and incomprehensibilities, and what remains? … Yet this which should have consigned him to early oblivion really procured him immortality of fame and reverence."

Now listen to “Episode #1181 Too Much Freedom” https://jeffersonhour.bandcamp.com/track/1181-too-much-freedom . In this podcast, President Thomas Jefferson (as portrayed by Clay Jenkinson) discusses Plato's “Republic,” his personal dislike for the writings, and the differences between true democracy and a republic. This will likely be the best explanation and discussion you’ve ever heard on Plato’s “Republic” as well as adapting philosophical principles to the world around you. It for this reason that we have chosen it to be last in your Introduction to Philosophy class.

It is by listening to this lecture series that you will understand not only the difference between democracy and republic (as presented by Plato), but also view into the mind of America’s third president and author of its Constitution. The depth of philosophical conversation cannot be understated whether learning about Jefferson or Plato, you will learn more than you thought possible during this listening assignment.

Take notes: questions on this unit’s quiz and the final are taken directly from this hour-long program. 

Unit 9: Course Review and Final Exam

  • Read the Learning Guide and take the Review Quiz, if you haven't already done so
  • Prepare for, take, and submit the Final Exam
  • The Final Exam will take place during the Thursday and Sunday of Week/Unit 9 (UoPeople time); exact dates, times, and other details will be provided accordingly by your instructor.

Course Requirements

Written Assignments & Assessment Forms
Some units in this course require that you complete a Written Assignment. You are required to submit your assignments by the indicated deadlines and, in addition, to peer assess three (3) of your classmates’ assignments according to the instructions found in the Assessment Form, which is provided to you during the following week. During this peer assessment period, you are expected to provide details in the feedback section of the Assessment Form, indicating why you awarded the grade that you did to your peer. Failure to submit Written Assignments and/or Assessment Forms may result in failure of the course.

Discussion Assignments & Response Posts/Ratings
Some units in this course require that you complete a Discussion Assignment. You are required to develop and post a substantive response to the Discussion Assignment in the Discussion Forum. A substantive response is one that fully answers the questions that have been posted by the instructor. In addition, you must extend the discussion by responding to at least three (3) of your peers’ postings in the Discussion Forum and by rating their posts. Instructions for proper posting and rating are provided inside the Discussion Forum for each week. Discussion Forums are only active for each current and relevant learning week, so it is not possible to contribute to the forum once the learning week has come to an end. Failure to participate in the Discussion Assignment by posting in the Discussion Forum and responding to peers as required may result in failure of the course.

Learning Journal
Your instructor may choose to assign specific topics and/or relevant questions as a weekly Learning Journal entry for you to complete, but you are still encouraged to also use it to document your activities, record questions/problems you may have encountered, reflect on the learning process, and draft answers for other course assignments. The Learning Journal must be updated on a weekly basis because its entries will be assessed by your instructor directly as a part of your final grade. The Learning Journal will only be seen by your instructor.

This course will contain three types of quizzes – the Self-Quiz, the Graded Quiz, and the Review Quiz. These quizzes may contain multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions. The results of the Self-Quiz will not count towards your final grade. However, it is highly recommended that you complete the Self-Quiz to ensure that you have adequately understood the course materials. Along with the Reading Assignments, the results of the Self-Quiz should be used as part of an iterative learning process, to thoroughly cover and test your understanding of course material. You should use the results of your Self-Quiz as a guide to go back and review relevant sections of the Reading Assignments. Likewise, the Review Quiz will not count towards your final grade, but should also be used to assist you in a comprehensive review and full understanding of all course material, in preparation for your Final Exam. Lastly, the results of the Graded Quiz will count towards your final grade. Specific instructions on the format and content of the Graded Quiz will be provided by your instructor.

Final Exam
The Final Exam will take place during the Thursday and Sunday of Week/Unit 9, following the completion of eight units of work. The format of the Final Exam is similar to that of the quizzes and may contain a combination of different question types. You will have one attempt to take the exam, and it will be graded electronically. Specific instructions on how to prepare for and take the Final Exam will be provided during Week 8 (located inside the Unit 9 Learning Guide). Final Exams must be taken without the use of course learning materials (both those inside and outside the course). If particular materials are allowed for use during the exam, these will be noted in the exam’s instructions.

Course Forum
The Course Forum is the place to raise issues and questions relating to the course. It is regularly monitored by the instructors and is a good place to meet fellow students taking the same course. While it is not required to participate in the Course Forum, it is highly recommended.

Course Policies:

Grading Components and Weights
Each graded component of the course will contribute some percentage to the final grading scale, as indicated here:

Discussion Assignments 15%
Written Assignments 25%
Learning Journals 10%
Two Graded Quizzes  (2 @ 10% each) 20%
Final Exam 30%
TOTAL 100%

Grading Scale
This course will follow the standard 100-point grading scale defined by the University of the People, as indicated here:

Letter Grade
Grade Scale Grade Points
A+ 98-100 4.00
A 93-97 4.00
A- 90-92 3.67
B+ 88-89 3.33
B 83-87 3.00
B- 80-82 2.67
C+ 78-79 2.33
C 73-77 2.00
C- 70-72 1.67
D+ 68-69 1.33
D 63-67 1.00
D- 60-62 0.67
F Under 60 0.00

Grade Appeal
If you believe that the final grade you received for a course is erroneous, unjust, or unfair, please contact your course instructor. This must be done within seven days of the posted final grade. For more information on this topic, please review the Grade Appeal Procedure in the University Catalog.

Non-participation is characterized by lack of any assignment submissions, inadequate contributions to the Discussion Forums, and/or lack of peer feedback to Discussion/Written Assignments. Also, please note the following important points about course participation:

  • Assignments must be submitted on or before the specified deadline. A course timeline is provided in the course schedule, and the instructor will specify deadlines for each assignment.
  • Any student showing non-participation for two weeks (consecutive or non-consecutive) is likely to automatically fail the course.
  • Occasionally there may be a legitimate reason for submitting an assignment late. Most of the time, late assignments will not be accepted and there will be no make-up assignments.
  • All students are obligated to inform their instructor in advance of any known absences which may result in their non-participation.

Academic Honesty and Integrity
When you submit any work that requires research and writing, it is essential to cite and reference all source material. Failure to properly acknowledge your sources is known as “plagiarism” – which is effectively passing off an individual’s words or ideas as your own. University of the People adheres to a strict policy of academic honesty and integrity. Failure to comply with these guidelines may result in sanctions by the University, including dismissal from the University or course failure. For more information on this topic, please review the Academic Integrity Policy in the University Catalog.

Unless otherwise stated, any materials cited in this course should be referenced using the style guidelines established by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA format is widely used in colleges and universities across the world and is one of several style and citation formats required for publication in professional and academic journals. Purdue University’s Online Writing LAB (OWL) is a free website that provides excellent information and resources for understanding and using the APA format and style. The OWL website can be accessed here: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html

Code of Conduct
University of the People expects that students conduct themselves in a respectful, collaborative, and honest manner at all times. Harassment, threatening behavior, or deliberate embarrassment of others will not be permitted. Any conduct that interferes with the quality of the educational experience is not allowed and may result in disciplinary action, such as course failure, probation, suspension, or dismissal. For more information on this topic, please review the Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog.