Syllabus Philosophy 006

Introduction to Philosophy

Spring 2013

  • Instructor: G. Randolph Mayes
  • Office: Mendocino Hall 3028
  • E-mail:
  • Office Hours: T,Th 10:30 - 11:45 or by appointment

Course Catalog Description

A representative selection of philosophical problems will be explored in areas such as knowledge, reality, religion, science, politics, art and morals. 3 units.

General Education

This course satisfies GE Area C3:  Introduction to the Humanities.  This category and it's objectives is defined here.

Course Objectives

Our principle objectives in this course are (1) to become acquainted with some of the basic questions of philosophy, (2) to understand the various ways in which these questions have been addressed, and (3) to learn to engage in philosophical inquiry.  We will study and attempt to learn the views of published philosophers reflecting diverse cultural and historical perspectives. Your grade in the class will be based largely on how well you have mastered the views of these philosophers.  However, we will approach these readings critically, and you will be encouraged to develop your own ideas concerning the issues they raise.


Your grade in this course will be based on your answers to daily in-class quizzes, regular journal assignments, a midterm, and a final. 


Beginning the 1st week of classes you will be given a 3 point multiple-choice quiz on almost a daily basis.  Approximately 26 total quizzes will be given. The quizzes will concern the reading and online material.  Questions are administered at the beginning of the class and throughout the class period.  You will answer the question using a CPS RF response pad (clicker).  All of the quizzes count, but the maximum number of quiz points that will count toward your final grade is 70.  This means that students who miss some classes will still have the opportunity to accrue the maximum point total. You can not retake quizzes for any reason.


The midterm and final will be based on the readings, lectures and supplemental materials.  Both exams will consist of multiple choice and essay questions.  Both exams will be administered in class.  The final exam is comprehensive.  If your final exam score is better than your midterm score, the final exam score will be substituted for your midterm score. This, however, does not work in the opposite direction; a good midterm score will not be substituted for a lower score on the final.


At the beginning of the semester you will establish a Google account if you do not already have one.  You will then create an online document using Google Docs and share that document with me.  For every class period you will receive a list of questions relating to the reading, lecture, and/or online materials.  These questions are designed to help you prepare for the in class quizzes.You should make notes containing your answers to these questions and have them with you in class.  A subset of these questions, usually 2 or 3, you will answer in your Google Docs journal.  This journal will be graded at the end of the semester.  It is worth 30 of the total 200 points.  The journals are graded primarily on the basis of the care with which they are done.  This entails consistent entries, college-level writing without typos or grammatical mistakes, and evidence that you are doing the reading and engaging with the online materials prior to class.  It is ok to make late entries but you will get less credit for them and you must identify them as late by typing them in a blue font.  Entries are late if they are done after the beginning of the class meeting for which they are due.

  • Note 1:  It is extremely important to make regular and timely entries in your journal.  Google Docs tracks and dates all revisions to your document,and I will review your document by examining its revision history.  Also, it is very important that you do not answer journal questions by simply copying from the book or filling it with direct quotes from internet media. Students who do this will receive no credit for their journal.
  • Note 2: It is possible to pass the class without doing a journal.  This is a very poor plan, however, because the journal  prepares you for quizzes and tests. Students who elect not do journals almost always perform poorly in the class.

Extra Credit

The Philosophy Department sponsors several lectures each semester.  Students who attend these lectures may submit a roughly one-page summary by e-mail.  Thoughtful, well-composed, summaries free of typos will be awarded 3 points, and this grade will be substituted for a low quiz score (though not a missing quiz score.)  Students can get credit for a maximum of 4 extra credit assignments.

Student evaluations of this course are conducted online. As an incentive to participation, all students will receive 2 extra points if 85% of students participate in the survey, 3 points if 90% participate and 4 points if 95% or more participate.  (These are mutually exclusive options, only one applies.)


You are strongly encouraged to ask questions during class. However, you should also write down questions from the readings, videos or journal assignments that you would like to have answered.  At various points in the class we will do an activity called "ask a question."  I will call names from the roll sheet and students will be asked to pose a question relevant to the day's material.  (Your question must be one that has not already been asked, so be sure to have several.) If you are not prepared with a question, or if your question demonstrates no real engagement with the material, then you will lose a point.  If your question is exceptionally good, you will get one extra credit point.  If your name is called and you have already asked a question during class that day, you may take a pass.  If your name is called and you are absent you will lose a point.  Occasionally the instructor will offer points to people who can answer questions posed by students during this activity. (Note: You will not get credit simply for repeating a journal question. But you may ask a question related to it or explain something you don't understand about it.)


  Value Max. Possible
 26 quizzes 3 pts. 70 pts.
 1 Midterm 50 pts. 50 pts.
 1 Final Exam 50 pts. 50 pts.
 Journal 30 pts. 30 pts.
 Total Possible  200 pts.

Final letter grades are assigned on a standard scale. 92% and above = A, 90-91% = A-, 88-89% = B+, 82- 87% = B, 80-81% = B-, etc. Fractional point totals are rounded up from .5.

This course does not use SacCT. Grades for quizzes and test are all kept on the e-instruction website where you register your clicker.  There is a link to the clicker website in the sidebar of this page.

Due Dates and Late Policy

The dates of the midterm and final are posted on the reading schedule.  You may, for compelling reasons, arrange to take an exam early.  Late exams will be administered only for extremely compelling reasons, and a late penalty will be assessed at instructor's discretion.  There are no make-up quizzes under any circumstances.

Laptops and other electronics.

If you use a laptop  you will have to sit in the back of the room to avoid distracting others.  Tablets are ok anywhere, but do not tilt them up.  Cell phones must of course be silenced.  If you want your cell phone on your desk for whatever reason you must also sit in the back of the room.  (Note: this final accommodation is to make allowances for the fact that some people may uses their cellphones to keep or gain access to their notes.  However, be aware that generally speaking people who have their cell phones out during class are texting and typically do very poorly in class.)


Every missed class is a missed quiz.  Hence, failure to attend any class will have an immediate negative impact on your opportunity to succeed in this course.  Quizzes begin at the beginning of the period and typically last until the end.


Keep up with the reading. Philosophy is very demanding of your time and attention.  Most students find they need to read philosophical writing several times before they have understood it.   At least a day before class you should check the calendar for terms and concepts that will be emphasized on the quiz.


Academic Honesty

You are free to study together outside of class.  However, all work done in this course is subject to the  CSUS academic honesty policy, which you may read at: Academic Honesty Policy & Procedures.   

In this course you will be using a hand held device called a CPS RF response pad or "clicker" to answer quiz questions.  Your clicker is only capable of answering questions under your name and can not be shared with or transferred to anyone else until this course is over.  Never handle another student's clicker or allow anyone else to handle your clicker while in class.  Students who do will be expelled from class and referred to Student Affairs for disciplinary action.

Course Materials

Reading and Exam Schedule

The reading and exam schedule is located here.

Students with Special Needs

Students with disabilities that require accommodation must provide disability documentation to SSWD, Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-9655.  Please discuss your needs during the first week of the semester.

Communicating with Instructor 

By far the most effective means of communicating with the instructor is by e-mail. Unless you send an email late at night, you will normally receive an answer the same day. Re-send your e-mail if you do not. When communicating with instructor by e-mail, observe the guidelines at this link.


Minor changes to this syllabus may be made at the instructor's discretion.