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Phil 100-401

Introduction to Knowledge and Reality Spring 1998

TR 6.00 - 7.15 pm Classroom: CB 217

Dr Christian Perring

Office: 1601 POT Phone: 7-7171 Office Hours: TR 4.00 - 6.00 pm.


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Notes on Readings

The aim of this course is to help you assess our knowledge of reality. We will focus on arguments about God, but we will discuss a wide range of different forms of knowledge. Both scientific and ordinary everyday beliefs are thought to be the most certain knowledge we have, so when we are trying to understand knowledge, those are the areas we must examine most carefully. We will read many arguments by important philosophers and we will discuss them in class. You also have to do a presentation or debate with several other class members, on one of the four days that are marked in the syllabus.

Course Work

One 50 minute midterm exam (15%), one two page paper (10%), one four page paper (25%) and some in-class quizzes and homework exercises (10%). All class members will participate in a debate or give a presentation (15%) (you need to sign up for one by January 29). You will also be graded your peer evaluation of papers (5%) and class participation (5%).

A presentation should be done by 3 or 4 people; it should set out the information as clearly as possible in 15-25 minutes, so the class learns enough to answer a quiz on the topic. It would be a good idea to use an overhead projector, outlining three or four essential points that you want to explain. The idea of the presentation is to focus on the evidence and arguments involved, to show what kind of justification there is for the ideas being discussed.

A debate should be between two teams of 3 or 4 people each. Each side should set out several arguments for their view, and be able to defend those arguments. The point is to justify your side's point of view and show the flaws in the other side's arguments. The two sides should not collaborate ahead of time.

After your presentation or debate, you should hand in a page with your own personal assessment of how it went, what grades you would give to yourself and others, with an explanation of you each did in preparation.

Attendance in class is required (15%). If you miss more than 10 classes without excuse you get no credit. If you attend all but two classes, you get the full 15%, and for evey class missed after that you lose 1.5%. It is your responsibility to make sure you are signed in on the class list each time you come.

All writing assignments must be completed on time in order to pass the course. Your written work should be in grammatical English, with correct spelling. Persistent errors will reduce your grade. You are expected to read assignments before each class and be ready to discuss them. You may be called on in class to explain one of the readings. Out of class work should average about 10 hours per week. You will be told about homework exercises at least a week before they are due. It is a good idea to read ahead, so that you have read all the pieces in a particular section of the course when we start that section.

Book: Self, Cosmos, God composed and arranged by Daniel Kolak and Raymond Martin (HBJ, 1993)

Course Packet with my Notes on Readings: available from LaserGraphics, on South Limestone St., and on the class web page.

Note: if you withdraw from or drop this class, I would appreciate it if you would let me know that you have done so.

Classes (All Dates Tentative and Subject to Revision. Check the class web page for info.)

Thursday January 15 Introduction. I want a page of information, with the name you want to be called in class, last 4 digits of your SS#, your phone number, e-mail address, major, list of philosophy, religion, biology, and psychology classes taken,. I also would like a short description of yourself (e.g., your career, why you are at UK, your family) and your interest in philosophy.

Tuesday 20 Descartes, Meditation I

Thur 22 William Paley, "The Cosmic Watchmaker" (204)

Tues 27 David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Part II - IV (24-37)

Thur 29 Presentation on the Big Bang Theory, explaining the origin of the universe.

(Keith Hanni, Sarah Myers)

Presentation on Geology, explanation of the structure of local mountains.

(Christian Perring)

Tues February 3 William James, "The Significance of Mysticism" (338-358)

Thur 5 [Buffer]

Tues 10 J. L. Mackie, "Religious Experience" (359), Huston Smith, "Do Drugs Have Religious Import?" (371)

Thur 12 Presentation: Can Drugs Legitimately Lead to Religious Experience?

(Jamie Hoffman, Kaycee Puccini, John May)

Tues 15 Ernest Nagel, "A Defense of Atheism" (232)

Thur 19 H. J. McCloskey, "God and Evil" (248)

Tue 24 Robert Merrihew Adams, "Must God Create the Best?" (275)

Thur 26 Hume, "Of Miracles: Part II" (302-314); First paper topics given

Tues March 3 Richard Swinburne, "Miracles" (314)

Thur 5 J. L. Mackie, "Miracles and Testimony" (322)

Tues 10 Søren Kierkegaard, "Truth and Subjectivity" (396)

Thur 12 [Buffer]

Tues 24 Peer Evaluation of First Paper Drafts

Thur 26 Blaise Pascal, "The Wager" (404), William James, "The Will to Believe" (423);

Tues 31 W. K. Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (419), J. L. Mackie, "Belief Without Reason" (435),First Papers Due

Thur April 2 Creation Stories (484-490), Final paper topics given

Presentation on Hinduism

(Kim Collins, Mollie Dixon, Whitney Ray)

Presentation on Islam

(Barbara Brown, Justin Podnar, Susan Teang)

Presentation on Buddhism

(Sylvain Fasciotto, Jeremy Schmidt, Tonya Thomason, John Trumbo)

[These should explain how the religion started, what its believers believe, and how they live.]

Tues 7 Robert McKim, "Religious Belief and Religious Diversity" (675)

Thur 9 [Buffer]

Tues 14 William James, "Conclusions" (703)

Thur 16 Charles Darwin, "The Descent of Man" (517), and piece on creationism by Jack Hitt from Harper's magazine, on Reserve in M.L. King Library.

Presentation on the Theory of Evolution

(Becky Atkins, Kara Groth, Tiffany Vinson)

Tues 21 Philip Kitcher, "Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism" (523), Wallace Matson, "The Pious Gene" (543)

Thur 23 Debate: "Should Creationism Be Taught in High School Science Classes?"

(Travis Cocoran, NO; Cannon Combs, Eric Kelly, Nathan Richie, Wes Thompson, YES)

Tues 28 Peer Evaluation of Final Drafts

Thur 30 [Buffer]