This course surveys, thematically and systematically, the greatest ideas in the history of philosophy. After a review of the definitions of philosophy and its traditional branches, we will compare and contrast the concepts of “Spirit,” “Soul,” “Mind,” and “Brain.” This preliminary inspection will prepare the ground for a close reading of Descartes’ Meditations (I, II, VI) concluding at the famous “Mind-Body Dichotomy.” This, in turn, will lead to a month-long examination of Idealism and Materialism. The greatest thinkers covered in this part will include Plato, Berkeley, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Democritus, Locke, and Marx. We will, then, explore several branches of Determinism in contradiction to the Free Will theories, focusing, in particular, on the views of Kant and William James. Since, thus far, none of the aforementioned issues have been settled definitively, and given the perennial scope of philosophy, a discussion of Skepticism will seem most appropriate at this juncture in the course. The lectures will conclude with an exploration of the meaning and value of life, and summarize the findings with Russell’s position about the value of philosophy. Since your class-notes will be a vital source for the examinations, attending all the class meetings, participating actively in the discussions (including critical questions and comments), and diligently and skillfully note-taking are indispensable for the successful completion of this course. During the lectures the instructor, if asked, will be happy to repeat his words and sentences so that nobody will be left behind. [Satisfies GE category C 3: Philosophy and Values.]


First Exam 10%, Second Exam 15%, Third Exam 20%, Final Exam 25%, Oral Exam 15%, Participation and Relevant Contributions to in-class Activities 15%, from a total of 400 pts.

Required Text

Classic Philosophical Questions by James A. GOULD and Robert J. MULVANEY, Prentice Hall 2003.

Optional Text

Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy by Thomas MAUTNER, Penguin 2004 .

Suggested Reading

What is Philosophy by Martin HEIDEGGER.

The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand RUSSELL.

Course Requirements

The final semester grade will be based on the five performance aspects listed above under “key.”

Oral Exam

Individual exam periods are 15 minutes for three questions (5 minutes each). You will select topics from pre-arranged themes. Re-scheduling the exam date after the posted date will result in a loss of either 5 points (timely communication prior to or during the scheduled period) or a loss of 10 points (no prior communication). The topics are chosen from three categories: one chapter from our textbook, your personal views on a selected theme from the optional texts, and lecture material presented in class at the time of your focus group. Primary target is the comprehension of major philosophical ideas.

In-class Exams

For the most part there will be a short essay from a selection of topics, plus a section of picky multiple choice questions over readings; questions will relate to historical events, ethical concepts, and to key terminology. The questions are derived from the assigned readings and from the lecture. Make sure that you have complete notes from the lecture, since the final exam is cumulative..


There are no make-ups for any of the exams, except in very severe cases of emergency. In such a case, a message must be left in my office or by voice mail within 48 hours after the exam. If I approve of it, the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd exam has to be taken by Thursday of the same week. No message - no make-up. There are no extra credit assignments.


It is helpful to schedule approximately 4 hours of active studying per week outside the classroom to receive a CR or a C grade. For every grade step add two additional hours.

Grade requirements and description of grades

F failure 199 pts. and below, or with proven plagiarism.

D barely passing 200 pts.

C average 250 pts. Indicates adequate fulfillment of requirements, and average, but not notable work.

B very good 310 pts. Is earned by fulfilling the course requirement with more than adequate scholarship.

A- outstanding 350 pts.

A outstanding 375 pts., To earn an A or A-, the student must demonstrate outstanding scholarship above and beyond fulfilling all the course requirements.

CR same as grade C- (230 pts.) or better.

W Withdrawal prior to the posted deadline.

I Incomplete. Only in exceptional cases. Has to be removed within one calendar year.

For academic deadlines please consult

Phil 120 is consistent with G.E. goals and objectives (read the G.E. mission statement). At the conclusion of this course, the student will have:

(1) conducted an overview of the major philosophical ideas from the Presocratics to the latest trends, and become acquainted with the great figures of the Western traditions,

(2) learned the basic concepts of the philosophical lexicon and demonstrated familiarity with the main topics of this field,

(3) improved communication skills and research ability in philosophy,

(4) gone beyond the obvious, achieved a higher appreciation for the complexity of philosophical issues, and developed the necessary intellectual honesty and modesty when dealing with these issues,

(5) become acquainted with some of the most effective strategies of communication,

(6)reflected upon the greatness of the universe, experienced the freedom of philosophic contemplation, re-evaluated his or her own values, and re-examined everyday personal questions about life, love, happiness, success, and death,

Please understand that I will test these skills in various exams, activities, and by means of observation. This is a real-life situation starting from the first day of class until the semester grade is submitted.

Be patient with acquiring your new skills. Continuous practice will improve both your ability to focus your thoughts and your performance. In the beginning it may take you a long time to understand the scope and purpose of discussions and exercises. Present all your work in a neat format and within the assigned guidelines.


(1) Students with disabilities must communicate all requests for special accommodations during the first three days of class. (2) All exams can be reviewed throughout one calendar year and will be recycled thereafter. (3) Preferred contact is office visit, then phone message, lastly by e-mail <>. (4) Please visit the following hyperlinks for SSU policy information: Grade Appeal Procedures Policy, Cheating and Plagiarism Policy, Campus Diversity Vision Statement.