Sonoma State University

Philosophy 101: Critical Thinking

Syllabus for Spring 2010

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting or rejecting it." (Attributed to Aristotle)

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science." (Einstein)

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties." (Erich Fromm)



Section 101-1 (#1952), MWF 8:00-8:50am, Nichols 304
Section 101-2 (#1953), MWF 9:00-9:50am, Stevenson 3076
Section 101-3 (#1954), MWF 10:00-10:50am, Stevenson 3076
Section 101-4 (#1955), MWF 11:00-11:50am, Stevenson 3076
Section 101-5 (#1956), MWF 1:00-1:50pm, Stevenson 2083


This course satisfies a GE C1 requirement. For the Statement on the Mission, Goals & Objectives of General Education at SSU see here.

Instructor: Dr Zeno Swijtink
Office: Nichols 316
Contact options: In office on Mondays, 2:15 - 3:15 pm, Wednesdays, 2 - 2:45 pm, and TBA, by email, by chat, and by special appointment (f2f, or telephone)

Click here to see office hour schedule

Phone: (707) 664-2270 (only during office hours; do not leave a voice message, instead send an email)
email: (always put your section # in the subject header!!)
chat: AIM screen name:

Class email list addresses of my five sections this semester: phil-101-001-10-sp, phil-101-002-10-sp, phil-101-003-10-sp, phil-101-004-10-sp, or phil-101-005-10-sp.

NB: Students are automatically subscribed to their class's email list under their SSU email account. To communicate with the instructor only use that account!

Student are also enrolled in their WebCT section. To go to WebCT click on the link "Interactive" in the navigation bar of this page, and sign in using your LDAP username & password. If you are unfamiliar with WebCT go to and study the Help documentation linked there.

Students need to call the Web office at 664-2339 when having difficulties with WebCT. The Web Office is available to help you from 9 am-6pm, Monday through Thursday, and 9am - 4:30pm on Fridays.

Get Connected! This website is designed to help you prepare for a successful computing experience at Sonoma State University, familiarize you with SSU's telephone and data network services, and get you situated and comfortable with Information Technology in the Residential Community.


Required Texts

Robert A. Harris. 2002. Creative Problem Solving. A Step-by-Step Approach. Los Angeles, CA : Pyrczak Publishing (1-884585-43-4) [CPS].

Linda Elder and Richard Paul. 2002. The Art of Asking Essential Questions. Dillon Beach, CA: The Foundation of Critical Thinking. (ISBN 0-944583-16-4 Item #580m) [Art]

Richard Brynteson. 2006. Once Upon A Complex Time: Using Stories to Understand Systems. Farmington, MN: Sparrow Media Group (ISBN 0-9719304-8-1) [Stories]

Christopher Phillips. 2001. Socrates Café. A Fresh Taste of Philosophy. New York: Norton (ISBN 039332298X) [Café]

It is the student's responsibility to read the course outline and to request any clarification of course policies. If the student adds the course after the first full week of class, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain information about the course by making an office hour appointment.


Course Goals

Your goal in this class is to improve your critical and creative thinking skills, as these are involved in making thoughtful decisions, both personal and in collaboration with others, and in communicating these decisions, and the information they are based on, to other people so that they can understand why you -- or your group -- came to that decision. Making thoughtful decisions is answering the question: "What to do?" and needs to be based on reasons, evidence, information, and imagination.

Making thoughtful decisions requires becoming a pro-active learner, someone who is able to identify essential questions, to generate a range of possible answers using creative imagination, and to collect information to evaluate these answers and to generate further questions that keep inquiry and learning alive. Making thoughtful decisions also requires that you come to know your own strengths and weaknesses, so you can take advantage of your strengths and keep your weak points under guard.

Your ultimate goal is a philosophical one: to live a reasoned life, to do things you can feel proud of since they agree with you basic values, to develop a character you can stand for since it is conducive to living a good, that is, moral, life.

The underlying skills include problem/question identification, emotional awareness and value identification (both of yourself and of others), language analysis and clarification, asking good questions and being able actively to listen, independent study skills, incl. information literacy -- individually and in collaborating groups -- such as recognizing the need for information, gathering and assessing information, creatively generating alternative possible answers and solutions, evaluating arguments, communication of reasons and plans to others, and being able to understand and evaluate different points of view.

You will work on these skills by completing the assigned readings and exercises (before the class meets), by talking about what you have read and thought about, with the class as a whole or in small discussion groups, by completing projects that will be regularly assigned (projects include: group discussion on specified questions, journal writing and short presentations), and by fulfilling all the other requirements mentioned below. Because class-interaction is so important for developing critical thinking skills, attendance is part of the grade.

If you must miss a class explain your absence in an e-mail to the instructor, before the session you are absent.


Course Requirements

Assignments (Journal , some small assignments and on WebCT)


Socrates Cafe Contributions (webCT)



20% [NB To pass the class you may not miss* more then 10 sessions]

3-minutes presentation


Paper #1 draft


Paper #1


Paper #2 Binder + Draft

1 + 4 %

Paper #2 Completed


Group presentation


Paper #3§





Your Journal will be collected in the middle of the semester and graded pass/fail. Each journal assignment (J) has equal weight (total of 30 points). In the second part of the semester journal assignments will be done on WebCT. At the end of the semester the overall quality of your journal work is assessed (5 points). Make sure your journal is always complete so that you do not lose point when it is collected. The total number of journal assignments will depend on where the class is going. Some small written assignments (SA) are also included here. Small assignments include stakeholder statements for group presentations at the end of the semester. To get credit for these brief one-page papers you need to be in class and use the paper as a basis for your class participation. A bonus point is 0.5%.

There will be a number of Socrates Café discussion forums on WebCT, a weekly forum based on Christopher Phillips' s book Socrates Café. A Fresh Taste of Philosophy. Students need to post at least twice a week with a discussion contribution around the Socrates Café question of the week. Each student is assigned a café group with about seven other classmates. For some more details see here. Your contributions to these (BB) are graded pass/fail.

You'll get a point for every time you are present in class and participate in discussion or small group activity.
* At the beginning of class an attendance sheet will be passed around for students to sign in. Students who are late cannot sign in after the attendance sheet has been passed around.
Analogy: Think about taking this course as trying to get a pilot license: you need to have a minimum number of flying hours before you are allowed to pilot a plane. In this class the face-to-face interaction with class mates and instructor is essential to develop critical thinking skills. If you missed a class explain your absence to the instructor as soon as possible, preferably through email so you can get information about what went on, assignments and hand-outs, and changes to the syllabus. Note that attendance at the group presentations during the last three class sessions of the semester counts double.

3-minute oral presentation (4 points): After you sign up you get assigned a section of the book Stories. Explain it briefly using a visual aid and a personal touch. Use the FFFR method: Focus: focus on the concept or idea and expand on it; Face: give your presentation a personal touch by relating it to your own life, knowledge, or interests; and Fun: use as a prop an object or piece of music to make your presentation memorable; Response: draw your fellow students out for a response by asking them questions, by being controversial, or in any other way that works. (Grading: one point for each of the elements in the FFFR method).

The draft of paper #1 is graded on a pass/no pass basis. To get credit for your draft you come to class, discuss your draft with a classmate in class, and take these comments into account when you rewrite your draft. Always attach all drafts to final work when you hand it in.

If you want to discuss your draft with the instructor it has to be ready earlier than the regular due date, as will be announced. I am also allowing rewrites, in case a student has ideas to improve a paper that got an unsatistfactory grade (see me during office hours) but foremost I encourage everyone to discuss a draft with me. It helps you to improve your paper, and your grade: both by improving your paper, and by receiving one bonus points (this is in addition to the standard points for a draft). To receive the bonus point I have to see evidence that you took my comments into account when you rewrote your paper, so attach your marked up draft to your final paper when you hand it in.

@ Paper #2 is a collaborative group project that requires independent study. Some of it is group work, in groups of four or two, for which all members of the group receive the same grade, at least in principle: when you hand in your work for this project everybody in the group also includes a personal evaluation of her/his contribution and the contribution made by the other members of the group. O the basis of these reports the Instructor may add bonus points for very active members or take points away from slackers and couch potatoes.

§ Paper #3 involves reflecting on your growth as a critical and creative thinker.


Additional Notes

Late Work To make sure that the instructor can dedicate all his time to the current concerns of the class he cannot accept late work except in highly unusual circumstances to his discretion. Such arrangements always have to be made in advance of deadlines except in highly unusual circumstances to his discretion. Contact the instructor if you are falling behind.

Cell phones, cameras, tape recorders, and laptops, and other recording and communication devices are not permitted in class without the explicit permission of the instructor. Since deep conversations depend on making free and easy eye contact wearing sunglasses and caps with visors are not permitted in class either without permission of the instructor.

Disabilities If you are a student with a disability and you think you may require accommodations you must register with the campus office of Disabled Student Services, located in Salazar Hall, room 1049, phone 664-2677. DSS will provide you with written confirmation of your verified disability and authorize recommended accommodations. This authorization must be presented to the instructor before any accommodations can be made.

There are a number of important University Policies that you should be aware of, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement. Go here to find them. Accomodations cannot be made retroactively!




At any time during the semester you can calculate your percentage standing: divide the total number of points you have received by the maximum number of points you could have received and multiple by 100%. Then consult the following table for conversion to a letter grade.
































 Last Updated 5/10/10 ZGS