PHIL 100 A: Introduction to Philosophy

Winter 2022
TTh 11:30am - 12:50pm / OTB 014
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL100)

Winter 2022


A TTh 11:30am-12:50pm OTB 014




Anthony Fisher <>

office hours on Zoom: Fri 1pm-3pm (and by appointment)



AA WF 8:30am-9:20am SAV 162

AB WF 9:30am-10:20pm MGH 284

AC WF 12:30pm-1:20pm SAV 130

AD WF 1:30pm-2:20pm SAV 162


Teaching Assistants:

Erica Bigelow <>

office hours on Zoom, Wed 3-4 and...

Kyle O’Dwyer <>



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. This course is a journey through the central problems of epistemology and its applications to ourselves, the sciences, and society. 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? Are certain kinds of truth relative such as truths about morality? Should we adopt a pluralist framework about values in society? What implications does implicit bias have for our knowledge claims? What is the real impact of epistemic objectification? 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: 1) to introduce you to a range of philosophical concepts and arguments; 2) to improve your analytical skills in reading, writing, and thinking. The second 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); 3) to master some of the major problems about knowledge in diverse traditions and its contemporary application to modern problems.


(1) Reading responses (5% of final grade): Reading responses must be posted on Canvas before each lecture on Tuesdays and Thursdays; 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.

Your reading responses are a mechanism to incentivize you to do the reading before lecture and with plenty of time before section on the following day. You should read the reading closely at least once and then at least skim the relevant parts again for section. Your reading responses are for BOTH the lecture and the section on that reading.

(2) Section participation (5% of final grade): participation and therefore attendance for section is compulsory. Each student begins with 20 participation points. Your TA will check and monitor your attendance and participation. If you are sick, then inform the TA beforehand and do NOT attend section. Section participation is graded by the TA according to the following criteria:

  • The extent to which your contributions to discussion are helpful and constructive.
    • Did your comment or question generate interesting discussion?
    • Did it direct people’s attention to a particularly tricky part of the text that might otherwise have been overlooked, so that everyone got the chance to understand it better?
    • Did you just throw a question out and then sit back and wait for other people to try to answer it, or did you engage with the ensuing discussion?
  • The quantity of your contributions.
    • Did you only make one contribution, or several?
    • Did you say too much, dominating the discussion and not giving other students the opportunity to participate?
  • The philosophical quality of your contributions.
    • To what extent did your contributions demonstrate understanding of the relevant text/position/argument?
    • Did you raise a good or interesting objection? Etc.

Obviously, points are also lost for not being ready to discuss the material. Points are lost for being absent. The TA will conduct an on-going assessment of your performance with respect to this piece of assessment. For instance, if you miss two or three sections because of some legitimate reason but when present you contribute with the right quantity and quality of comments, then you should do well.

(3) Philosophy skills worksheets (10% of final grade): there will be four philosophy skills worksheets that are designed to develop your analytical skills and prepare you for writing the 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 2.5% each, graded out of 3 points.

(4) 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.

You will write two 4-page papers double-spaced (max. length 4 pages and one paragraph 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, 28% 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 the philosophical skills that you learnt from the skills worksheets. The peer reviews are to help you revise your drafts.

(5) Final exam (20% of final grade): online comprehensive exam taken on Canvas, consisting of true/false questions, multiple choice questions, and short answer questions designed to test your knowledge of topics and philosophical skills. It is scheduled for Wed 16 March 4:30pm-6:20pm PST. It is only available at that time. 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 one absence in section only. You must give a 5mins presentation 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. 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 to earn a W credit.


Late work: Late work is not accepted. For any late paper it will be penalized at 25% of total possible points for each 12 hours after the deadline (rounding up). Exceptions are made only for personal and medical emergencies when documentation is provided (this includes events concerning mental health). For cases where the work cannot be submitted on time (e.g., due to participation in university sports), alternative arrangements can be made in advance only. 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.

Additional policies: Please see the department-wide policies for further policies and resources (attached below).

Course schedule: see the dynamic Course schedule

Week 1: Introduction to Philosophy and the Nature of Belief

Tue 4 Jan: lecture on Introduction to Philosophy

Wed 5 Jan: section (intro day); cover identifying arguments; work on skills worksheet 1

Thu 6 Jan: lecture on Peirce, ‘The Fixation of Belief’, no reading response

Fri 7 Jan: section; skills worksheet 1 due; follow up on skills worksheet 1; discuss Peirce  

Week 2: Doubt, Reason, and the Self

Tue 11 Jan: lecture on al-Ghazali, The Rescuer from Error, sec. 77-88 and Descartes, Meditations 1; reading response 2.1 due

Wed 12 Jan: section; work on skills worksheet 2; discuss al-Ghazali and Descartes

Thu 13 Jan: lecture on Descartes, Meditations 2; reading response 2.2 due

Fri 14 Jan: section; skills worksheet 2 due; follow up on skills worksheet 2; discuss Descartes

Week 3: Truth, Relativism, and the Self

Tue 18 Jan: lecture on Zhuangzi, ‘Equalizing Assessments of Things’; reading response 3.1 due

Wed 19 Jan: section; work on skills worksheet 3; discuss Zhuangzi

Thu 20 Jan: lecture on Nagarjuna, ‘Examination of Self and Entities’ with commentary; reading response 3.2 due

Fri 21 Jan: section; skills worksheet 3 due; follow up on skills worksheet 3; discuss Nagarjuna

Week 4: Truth, Objectivism, and the Self

Tue 25 Jan: lecture on Nyaya, ‘In Defense of the Real’; reading response 4.1 due

Wed 26 Jan: section; work on skills worksheet 4; discuss Nyaya

Thu 27 Jan: lecture on Nyaya, ‘Self’, reading response 4.2 due

Fri 28 Jan: section; skills worksheet 4 due; follow up on skills worksheet 4; discuss Nyaya

Week 5: Science, Induction, and Hypothesis

Tue 1 Feb: lecture on Hume, Enquiry sec. 4-5; reading response 5.1 due

Wed 2 Feb: section; work on paper 1 topics; discuss Hume

Thu 3 Feb: lecture on Du Chatelet, ‘Of Hypotheses’; reading response 5.2 due

Fri 4 Feb: section; follow up on draft paper 1; discuss Du Chatelet

Sun 6 Feb: draft paper 1 due

Week 6: Moral Relativism versus Objectivism

Tue 8 Feb: lecture on Midgley, ‘Trying Out One’s New Sword’; reading response 6.1 due

Wed 9 Feb: section; work on peer review paper 1; peer review paper 1 due; discuss Midgley

Thu 10 Feb: lecture on Boghossian, ‘The Maze of Moral Relativism’; reading response 6.2 due

Fri 11 Feb: section; follow up on final paper 1; discuss Boghossian

Sun 13 Feb: final paper 1 due

Week 7: Values, Pluralism, and Society

Tue 15 Feb: lecture on Royce, ‘Philosophy of Loyalty’ and James, ‘A Pluralistic Universe’; reading response 7.1 due

Wed 16 Feb: section; discuss Royce and James

Thu 17 Feb: lecture on Alain LeRoy Locke, ‘Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy’; reading response 7.2 due

Fri 18 Feb: section; discuss Locke

Week 8: Scepticism, Implicit Bias, and Epistemic Objectification

Tue 22 Feb: lecture on Saul, ‘Scepticism and Implicit Bias’; reading response 8.1 due

Wed 23 Feb: section; work on paper 2 topics; discuss Saul

Thu 24 Feb: lecture on Haslanger, ‘Objectivity, Epistemic Objectification, and Oppression’; reading response 8.2 due

Fri 25 Feb: section; follow up on draft paper 2; discuss Haslanger

Sun 27 Feb: draft paper 2 due

Week 9: Meaning of Death

Tue 1 Mar: lecture on Epicurus, ‘Letter to Menoeceus’ and Lucretius, ‘Fear of Death’; reading response 9.1 due

Wed 2 Mar: section; work on peer review paper 2; peer review paper 2 due; discuss Epicurus and Lucretius

Thu 3 Mar: lecture on Kamm, ‘Why Death is Bad For Us’; reading response 9.2 due

Fri 4 Mar: section; follow up on final paper 2; discuss Kamm

Sun 6 Mar: final paper 2 due

Week 10: Meaning of Life

Tue 8 Mar: lecture on Behrendt, ‘Reasons to Live vs Reasons Not to Die’; no reading response

Wed 9 Mar: section; discuss Behrendt; extra credit presentations

Thu 10 Mar: review for final exam; course evaluations for Professor; no reading response

Fri 11 Mar: section; course evaluations for TAs; extra credit presentations; follow up on final exam

Final examination week: 12-18 March.

(online) Final exam: Wed 16 March 4:30pm-6:20pm

Grades due: Tue 22 March by 5pm.

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 – see 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 Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Writing (W)
Last updated:
April 9, 2024 - 4:06 am