PHIL 100 A: Introduction To Philosophy

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:00am - 11:20am
* *
photo of Anthony Fisher
Anthony Fisher

Syllabus Description:



TTh 10-11:20am PST (Zoom)

Tuesday is asynchronous lesson on Canvas

Thursday is synchronous



Anthony Fisher <>

office hours on Zoom: Fri 10:30am-12:30pm (and by appointment) 


WF (Zoom) (see Philosophy Department Time Schedule for section times PST)

Wednesday is synchronous

Friday is drop-in hours


Teaching Assistants:

Erica Bigelow <>

Daniel Galley <>

Kyle O’Dwyer <>

Lindsay Whittaker <>

Course description

Philosophy is about abstract topics that are interwoven with our lives and society. It tackles questions about things that we are intimately familiar with but asks them at a level too general for the sciences. In this course we will consider such questions as: how do we know the things we know? What kinds of things do we know? What is the ground of our beliefs? What are the best methods for acquiring and maintaining beliefs?  Is the scientific method a plausible method and if so how? Is truth relative or objective? What is truth anyway? Are certain kinds of truth relative such as truths about morality and beauty? Is death bad for us? What makes life meaningful? We will address these questions using the main tools and methods of philosophy: critical and constructive thinking, careful and charitable textual analysis, identification and evaluation of arguments, clear and concise writing. These are transferable skills that you will be able to use in all aspects of your life and future careers.

Required textbook

There is none. Readings are on the Canvas course site.

Course objectives

One aim of this course is to introduce you to a range of philosophical concepts and arguments. Another aim is to improve your analytical skills in reading, writing, and thinking. The latter aim is a transferable skill that applies to many other areas of life and disciplines and is highly marketable for several professions (journalism, law, event-planning, fund-raising) as well as standardized exams (GRE, LSAT, GMAT).


Because of the pandemic this course is entirely online. For a typical week the format is as follows. For Tuesday you will work through the lesson page, complete the lesson quiz, read the readings, submit the reading response before Wednesday section, participate actively in Wednesday section (which involves presentations and discussion), attend Thursday lecture, and contribution to the discussion thread post-lecture due the following Monday.


(1) Reading responses (5% of final grade): Reading responses must be posted on Canvas by the Wednesday section; they are graded credit/no credit. They must be no more than 1 page double-spaced. For each reading response you must answer the following three questions, with section headings for each question:

  1. What philosophical thesis or theses does the author argue for?
  2. What are the reasons that the author gives to support the thesis or theses?
  3. What substantial questions, queries, or criticisms do you have about the reading? (You must raise at least one question. Your questions should be something you would raise in section and you should be ready to ask your questions in section.)

You are not allowed to quote from the text or use outside sources.

Your reading responses are designed to accustom you to writing philosophy, lay a familiar foundation for writing the papers, and extract your concrete thoughts on the reading. See the sample reading response.

(2) Section attendance (5% of final grade): attendance for the Wednesday section is compulsory. Your TA will check and monitor your attendance. If you are absent for a particular section, you must make it up by writing a post on the reading for that week on this discussion board.

  • Prompt: present your own reflection and evaluation of an argument in the reading. Your post must be meaningful and insightful and clearly and concisely written.

(3) Philosophy skills worksheets (8% of final grade): there will be four philosophy skills worksheets that are designed to develop your analytical skills and prepare you for writing philosophical papers. There are four skills that will be developed and tested: a), argument identification, b) argument reconstruction, c) responding directly to an objection, d) evaluating a reply to an objection. Worth 2% each, graded credit/no credit.

(4) Lesson quizzes (5% of final grade): For each week there is a lesson page in lieu of the Tuesday lecture. This lesson introduces the topic, provides context, and explains the central issues for that week’s reading. It is recommended that you work through the lesson page on Tuesday. For almost every week there will be a short quiz associated with the lesson page for that week. The quizzes are due by end of Tuesday. It is best to complete the quiz immediately after working through the lesson page. It will aid you in preparing for Wednesday’s section and the relevant readings.

(5) Zoom presentations (5% of final grade): Throughout the term there will be presentations by students in groups on a certain reading prepared beforehand. Students should prepare a PowerPoint presentation and will be able to share their screen in section. The presentation must be insightful, relevant, and philosophically interesting as well as generate discussion. One purpose of the presentation is to lead discussion for that portion of the class. Presentations should follow the following format, which can be individually allocated to each group member:

  1. state and explain the author’s thesis,
  2. explain one of the author’s arguments in detail,
  3. critically evaluate the argument you have just explained, that is, raise a problem or worry for a premise or inference in the argument, and
  4. state some discussion questions for the class to answer.

You need to sign up for a presentation group in your section under the People menu; navigate to your section’s Zoom Presentations tab in the People menu. I recommend that you do this as soon as possible to get your desired slot. Once you are in a group you have a special group homepage in Canvas, where you and your group members can collaborate. To get in touch with your group members start by posting a message in the Discussions menu. This is graded credit/no credit.

(6) Discussion board posts (7% of final grade): Each week there will be a discussion thread on Canvas based on a certain reading or lecture presentation associated with the Thursday lecture. For each discussion board you must 1) post a relevant, philosophically interesting comment in response to a prompt and 2) respond meaningfully to at least one other person’s comment by the due date. This is graded credit/no credit. If you complete either 1) or 2) but not both, you will get no credit.

(7) Papers (60% of final grade): A philosophy paper has a distinctive argumentative structure that clearly articulates and argues for a specific thesis. These papers are not research papers. No external reading is required and no external resources are allowed to be used. These papers are to be submitted on Canvas and will be blind graded; therefore, you must not include your name or student ID in the document anywhere or in the filename. Only .doc and .docx file extensions are accepted.

Students will write three 2-page papers double-spaced (max. length 2½ pages double-spaced). This grade is broken into three elements:

  • Drafts of each paper, 1% ea, graded credit/no credit
  • Peer review of each paper, 1% ea, graded credit/no credit
  • Paper graded by TA, 18% ea, graded according to rubric.

Rubric is included in each assignment. Instructions on how to complete the peer review is in the assignment details of the draft paper and peer review assignment. The goal of the papers is for you to use your philosophical skills that you learnt from the skills worksheets. The peer reviews are to help you revise your drafts.

(8) Final exam (5% of final grade): A comprehensive exam taken on Canvas (true/false and multiple choice questions). It is scheduled for Monday 15 March at 10:30am-12:20pm PST. It is only available at that time. Please make a note of this date now! A study guide will be circulated beforehand.

Extra credit

Each student has the one-off option of acquiring extra credit for a missed reading response or discussion post only. You must give a 5mins presentation on Zoom to the entire class in section. Extra credit is awarded only if the TA judges that your presentation is insightful. No more than 2 presentations in any given section. You should prepare a PowerPoint presentation, as you would for a group presentation. If it makes sense to group students seeking extra credit together, then expect to deliver the presentation as a group. NB: this is the only opportunity to obtain extra credit.

  • Prompt for extra credit: How does one of the philosophical questions that we have covered have direct application to a contemporary issue?

Note on writing credit: Passing this course is enough for earning a W credit.



Zoom etiquette: classes will be conducted on Zoom. You will be expected to download Zoom, create an account through UW, and attend Zoom meetings as if we were in the classroom. Just like in the classroom, you will be expected to adhere to a decent level of respectfulness to each other and to the Instructor and TAs. Please have your video on, dress decently, pay attention, silence your phone. Just like in the classroom, we should create an inclusive and charitable discourse that is not dominated by a small group of students. Please inform me of any digital barriers you might face.

UW Privacy policy: This course uses Zoom class sessions that may be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:

  • Change their Zoom screen name to hide any personal identifying information such as their name or UW Net ID, and
  • Not share their computer audio or video during Zoom sessions.

If you do not wish to be recorded, please speak to me beforehand to arrange alternative participation assignments. For those who do not wish to have their presentations recorded the recording will be turned off for that segment, but please let me know ahead of time if you choose this option.

Late work: Late work is not accepted. Exceptions are made only for personal and medical emergencies when documentation is provided. Let me know in advance if you are having trouble!

Conversion: A conversion scale (to the 4.0 system) will be chosen at the end of the quarter, based on the usual grade distribution for classes like this. On any chosen 4.0 conversion scale, however, 96% and above will be sufficient for a 4.0, and 60% and above will be sufficient for passing the course, where ‘passing’ strictly means achieving a 0.7 or higher on the 4.0 system.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism on any assignment will be reported to CSSC and penalised. It is your responsibility to know what counts as plagiarism. It is easy to avoid plagiarism in this class. See the department-wide policies for more on plagiarism.

Please see the department-wide policies below for further policies and resources.

Information for Students

University of Washington, Department of Philosophy

Policies and Resources

Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct, including plagiarism, is prohibited by the Student Conduct Code for the University of Washington and is taken very seriously by the UW. According to the student conduct code, academic misconduct includes:

  1. "Cheating" which includes, but is not limited to:

    1. The use of unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes, tests, or examinations, or completing assignments;
    2. The acquisition, use, or distribution of unpublished materials created by another student without the express permission of the original author(s);
    3. Using online sources, such as solution manuals, without the permission of the instructor to complete assignments, exams, tests, or quizzes; or
    4. Requesting, hiring, or otherwise encouraging someone to take a course, exam, test, or complete assignments for a student.
  2. "Falsification," which is the intentional use or submission of falsified data, records, or other information including, but not limited to, records of internship or practicum experiences or attendance at any required event(s), or scholarly research.
  3. "Plagiarism," which is the submission or presentation of someone else's words, composition, research, or expressed ideas, whether published or unpublished, without attribution. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to:

    1. The use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment; or
    2. The unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or acquired from an entity engaging in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.
  4. Unauthorized collaboration.
  5. Engaging in behavior specifically prohibited by an instructor in the course of class instruction or in a course syllabus.
  6. Multiple submissions of the same work in separate courses without the express permission of the instructor(s).
  7. Taking deliberate action to destroy or damage another's academic work in order to gain an advantage for oneself or another.
  8. The recording of instructional content without the express permission of the instructor(s), unless approved as a disability accommodation, and/or the dissemination or use of such unauthorized records.

(Source: WAC 478-121 - Academic Misconduct)

Plagiarism may lead to disciplinary action by the University against the student who submitted the work. Any student who is uncertain whether his or her use of the work of others constitutes plagiarism should consult the course instructor for guidance before formally submitting the course work involved.


Incomplete grades may only be awarded if a student is doing satisfactory work up until the last two weeks of the quarter and has furnished proof satisfactory to the instructor that the work cannot be completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student’s control. (Sources: Office of the Registrar – Incomplete Grades), UW General Catalog, Student Guide – Grading System)

Grade Appeal Procedure

A student who believes that the instructor erred in the assignment of a grade, or who believes a grade recoding error or omission has occurred, shall first discuss the matter with the instructor before the end of the following academic quarter (not including Summer Quarter). If the student is not satisfied with the instructor’s explanation, the student, no later than ten days after their discussion with the instructor, may submit a written appeal to the chair of the Department of Philosophy with a copy of the appeal also sent to the instructor. The chair consults with the instructor to ensure that the evaluation of the student’s performance has not been arbitrary or capricious. Should the chair believe the instructor’s conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor declines to revise the grade, the chair, with the approval of the voting members of his or her faculty, shall appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of the Department of Philosophy to evaluate the performance of the student and assign a grade. The Dean and Provost should be informed of this action. Once a student submits a written appeal, this document and all subsequent actions on this appeal are recorded in written form for deposit in a School file. (Source: UW General Catalog, Student Guide – Grading System)

Concerns About a Course, an Instructor, or a Teaching Assistant

If you have any concerns about a philosophy course or your instructor, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the chair of the program offering the course (names available from the Department of Philosophy, 361 Savery Hall).

If you have any concerns about a teaching assistant, please see the teaching assistant about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the teaching assistant or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the instructor in charge of the course. If you are still not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the chair of the program offering the course (names available from the Department of Philosophy, 361 Savery Hall), or the Graduate School at G-1 Communications Building (543-5900).

Equal Opportunity

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran in accordance with University of Washington policy and applicable federal and state statutes and regulations.

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to the instructor. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to the instructor at your earliest convenience so you can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but are not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 (Voice & Relay) or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his or her refusal, or as the creation by a member of the University community of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

If you believe that you are being harassed, seek help—the earlier the better. You may speak with your instructor, your teaching assistant, the undergraduate advisor (363 Savery Hall), graduate program advisor (366 Savery Hall), or the chair of the philosophy department (364 Savery Hall). In addition, you should be aware that the University has designated special people to help you. For assistance you may contact: SafeCampus; Office of the Ombud (339 HUB, 206-543-6028); Title IX Investigation Office (for complaints that a University student has violated the sexual misconduct provisions of the Student Conduct Code); University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (for complaints concerning the behavior of University employees, including faculty, teaching assistants, and other student employees).


The Office of Research Misconduct Proceedings (ORMP) coordinates the University’s handling of allegations of research misconduct against members of the University community, in consultations and cooperation with the University’s schools, colleges, and campuses.

University rules define scientific and scholarly misconduct to include the following forms of inappropriate activity: intentional misrepresentation of credentials; falsification of data; plagiarism; abuse of confidentiality; deliberate violation of regulations applicable to research.

Students can report cases of scientific or scholarly misconduct either to the ORMP, to their faculty adviser, or the department chair. The student should report such problems to whomever he or she feels most comfortable.

(Sources: Executive Order No. 61 – Research Misconduct Policy; Office of Research Misconduct Proceedings; minutes of Grad School Executive Staff and Division Heads meeting, 7/23/98.)


Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. SafeCampus is the University of Washington’s Violence Prevention and Response Program. They support students, staff, faculty, and community members in preventing violence.

SafeCampus staff will listen to your concerns and provide support and safety plans tailored to your situation. Caring, trained professionals will talk you through options and connect you with additional resources if you want them.

If you're concerned, tell someone.

  • Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.
  • Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.
  • Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).
  • Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up for UW Alert
  • For more information visit the SafeCampus website.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (

Food Insecurity and Hardship

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the UW Any Hungry Husky Program. Any Hungry Husky provides hunger relief free of judgment or stigma. Go to for information about the food pantry and food security grants. In addition, UW offers emergency aid for students experiencing unexpected financial hardships that may disrupt their education or get in the way of completing their degree. Go to for more information about how to apply.

Guidance to Students Taking Courses Outside the U.S.

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.

Face Coverings and Social Distancing in the Classroom during COVID

The health and safety of the University of Washington community are the institution’s priorities. Until otherwise stated face coverings are required per UW COVID Face Covering Policy: indoors where other people are present and outdoors when keeping a 6-foot distance may not be possible. This includes all classrooms and buildings/public spaces on each of the UW campuses.

If you physically can’t wear a mask, you choose not to wear a mask, your mask isn’t appropriate/sufficient, or if you aren’t wearing a mask properly (covering both your nose and mouth-diagram below), you CANNOT be in the classroom and will be asked to leave.

If you have a medical condition or health risk as outlined in the UW COVID Face Covering Policy, you may request an accommodation. Please contact Disability Resources for Students office BEFORE GOING TO CLASS at (Seattle) (Tacoma) (Bothell).

A face covering must:

  • Fit snugly against the sides of the face
  • Completely cover the nose and mouth
  • Be secured with ties, ear loops, elastic bands, or other equally effective method
  • Include at least one layer of cloth, although multiple layers are strongly recommended
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be capable of being laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

CDC: How to Wear Masks

Catalog Description: 
Major philosophical questions relating to such matters as the existence of God, the foundations of knowledge, the nature of reality, and the nature of morality. Approach may be either historical or topical. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
October 27, 2020 - 12:37pm