Philosophy 101: Introduction to Western Philosophy

Noon to 2:30 pm -- Maclean 173  

Class will meet: Aug 28, Sept 11, Sept 25, Oct 16, Nov 13, Dec 4 

Theodore Gracyk 
Office: Bridges 359B     Phone: (218) 477-4089     

Office hours: MWF 9 am to 1 pm and by appointment.
My office phone has voice mail.

Course Objectives

In this course you will be exposed to some basic issues, theories, and methodologies of the discipline of philosophy. The course presupposes no prior exposure to philosophy. We will address problems that have, in one form or another, puzzled people since the earliest times of Western civilization.

The course is organized into multiple topics:

  • Section One: Socrates and the Origins of Philosophy
  • Section Two: The Existence of God
  • Section Three: Free Will
  • Section Four: What is Truth?
  • Section Five: Ethical Relativism
  • Section Six: Religious Tolerance
  • Section Seven: Why Study Philosophy? 

Because of the Saturday schedule, we will eliminate one section.

While we may not achieve definitive answers to these problems in an introductory philosophy course, our goal is to grapple with the issues and to clarify your thinking on these topics. To facilitate your thinking about these topics, we will be reading, discussing, and writing about the works of several historically crucial philosophers.

Dragon Core Goals for this course -- Middle Cluster: The Humanities

  • Students will demonstrate, in writing and/or discussion, awareness of the scope and variety of works in an area (or areas) of the arts and/or humanities.
  • Students will explain how those works are expressions of individual and human values within historical and social contexts.
  • Students will analyze and/or critically evaluate works of human imagination and thought in discussion and/or writing.  
  • Students will articulate an informed personal reaction to works in the arts and/or humanities.

Text needed:   

  • Introduction to Western Philosophy, by Theodore Gracyk (3rd edition)

    This bound set of readings is available in the MSUM bookstore 

Course Requirements and Assignment Due Dates

If the class meetings are to be of any value, you must be an active participant, letting me know what I can help you to better understand in what you have read. Whenever you don't understand something, please ask about it!  


  • 5 Sets of Reading Questions (covering sections 1 - 5)
    At the first class meeting you will receive five sets of basic questions about the assigned readings. The questions can be easily answered by doing the reading. You must submit your completed answers by the due dates indicated on each set of questions.

    Completed reading questions are due on Sept 11, Sept 25, Oct 16, Nov 13, Dec 4.
    Only weather cancellations will delay these due dates.

  • Short essay  -- DUE DATE OF ESSAY:  Dec 4, 2009

    The assignment is to write an essay addressing one of the initial four topics covered in the course.

    The textbook contains information about my expectations for the essay.

    Approved topics are provided in your text, on page 128.

    These essays will be typed/word-processed, and will be double-spaced with standard margins. Each essay must be at least 500 words in length (but a good essay will probably be more than 500 words).

    If you are not able to attend class on Dec. 4, or class is cancelled for some reason, the essay is still due on that day! Email it to me.

    At our last scheduled meeting (Dec. 4), we will discuss the final exam essay. This essay will focus on the readings for Sections Five, Six, and Seven. (Either Section Five or Six will be eliminated by our decision on the first day of class.)  The exam essay must be emailed or hand-delivered to me by 5:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 13.
Your final course grade will be calculated using the +/- system.
Reading Questions 50% of final grade
Essay 25% of final grade
Final Exam 25% of final grade

Notice of disability services 

The Minnesota State University of Moorhead is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in education and employment and welcomes students with disabilities. We are prepared to to offer you a range of services to accommodate your needs.

However, students must accept responsibility for initiating the request for services. 

Students with disabilities who believe they may need an accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact Greg Toutges, Coordinator of Disability Services at 477-2131 (Voice) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY), CMU 114 as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.

Do not discuss your needs with me, your instructor. Talk to Greg Toutges and he will contact me.
For more information, click here



Plagiarism is passing off somebody else's writing or ideas as your own. There is nothing wrong in consulting any number of sources to help you understand what we are studying (whether an article in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy or a web site or Cliffs Notes) but it is stealing to take material without first paraphrasing it completely into your own words, or without placing it in quotation marks. 

Rule of thumb: if you take more than two consecutive words from a source, put them in quotation marks, and if the idea behind a sentence comes from an outside source, acknowledge that source! I recently FAILED a student paper because it did not put the following short phrase into quotation marks and it failed to provide a page reference: "premature death is by no means a great harm."

Taking ideas from another person and pretending that they are your own, original thoughts, is also plagiarism. The fact that your source was an assigned text for the course does not mitigate or lessen the seriousness of plagiarism.

Students sometimes claim unintentional or accidental plagiarism. It is difficult for an instructor to judge whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. Basically, the latter occurs when a student reads a secondary source or takes notes, writes a paper without looking at the source or the notes, and accidentally uses phrasing and ideas from that source. Or a student may attempt to paraphrase an author's ideas, but fails to put it completely into his or her own words. (If you paraphrase and don't cite your source, that's evidence of intentional plagiarism.)

If evidence demonstrates that you have plagiarized any part of any written assignment for the course, the offense will be reported to the Vice President for Student Affairs and you will receive a failing grade for the course.

In short, if you use an outside source, simply provide footnotes or citations in parentheses where appropriate.

For further information, click here


Grade of "A": An excellent essay in all respects. Clear, grammatical, well organized, and progresses logically, with all elements relevant to the topic. Exhibits both original thought and an accurate grasp of the material. Grammatical errors kept to a minimum.

Grade of "B": A good essay, but not outstanding. Overall organization is clear and coherent, although minor weaknesses may be present. Accurate presentation of material, but generally presents the minimum needed. Limited original thought. A few minor or subtle errors in punctuation and/or spelling.

Grade of "C": A satisfactory paper. Shows basic understanding, with some deficiencies. Organization not always clear and transitions abrupt or lacking. May contain irrelevant material. Weak support of ideas. Occasional grammatical mistakes, or sloppiness which could have been avoided.

Grade of "D": Minimally acceptable work. Marginal grasp of material, ineffective or confusing presentation. Summarizes the most obvious aspects of the material, but otherwise tends to be irrelevant. Little or no organization. Contains major grammatical problems.

Grade of "F": Unsatisfactory. Superficial, incoherent, and/or irrelevant. Writing ability verges on illiteracy. Plagiarism.

                             Last updated Aug. 25, 2010 

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