Philosophy 101: Introduction to Western Philosophy        
Fall 2010
Theodore Gracyk

MW  1:30 pm -  2:45 pm in Hagen Hall 208
Office: Bridges 359B       Phone: 477-4089      
Office Hours: MWF 9 am to 1 pm & by appointment

Description: An introduction to Western philosophical thinking and methods through an examination of selected figures and movements from the history of the discipline.
3 Credits -- Dragon core 6M

Course Goals Relevant to Dragon Core Status: 

1. 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.

2. Explain how those works are expressions of individual and human values within historical and social contexts.

3. Analyze and/or critically evaluate works of human imagination and thought in discussion and/or writing.

4. Articulate an informed personal reaction to works in the arts and/or humanities.

Required Texts:

Plato, Republic  (G.N.A. Grube/C.D.C. Reeve translation) (ISBN 978-0872201361)
Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Simon & Schuster)
Machiavelli, The Prince (David Wooton translation)
Course Pack for Phil 101 (contains Descartes and Locke readings)

Grading Policies:

All grading, including final grade, is subject to the +/- system.

You will be graded on these things:

  • Two reaction essays

  • Group-submitted class notes. First set due Wednesday, Sept. 8, and then each MONDAY we meet.

  •  Frequent in-class writing.

  • Midterm exam

  • The final exam at 3:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 13

Each of these six elements of the course will be graded equally.

Late work that does not receive prior authorization to be late cannot receive a grade above C+. The best way to receive prior authorization by speaking to me or by telephoning me and leaving a message on my voice mail, or contacting me by email.

To count for credit, in-class writing must be submitted during the class period in which it is written. In-class writing will often draw upon the assigned readings in the text. This is done to encourage you to do the readings before coming to class.

Reaction Essays

These essays are short, focused analyses of a philosophical thesis. It must be typed or word-processed, doubled-spaced, and about 400 words in length.  Your essay must have a cover page with a title, your name, and the word count. Do not put your name anywhere else on your essay. Reaction essays that are grammatically horrid cannot receive a grade above C.


  • ONE of the two reaction essays must be on Plato. 
    It is due no later than Oct. 13. 

  • The other may be on any assigned reading topic except Plato.
    It is due no later than Nov. 22.

The content is simple:

  • Clearly state a major philosophical thesis that we found in the assigned reading within the past week. These will be clearly and explicitly indicated to you during class meetings.

  • Identify where the thesis occurs in the reading.

  • State and explain the thesis. Use your own words as much as possible. Your target audience is someone who has never taken a philosophy course. Explain the thesis so that such a person will understand it. 

  • Use appropriate examples to illustrate what your are saying, particularly to display its complexity.

  • Evaluate it. Discuss arguments for and against the thesis. (State the best arguments for it, and the best objections to it.) Based on these, end with your own conclusion about its truth.


First Reaction Essay is due no later than Wednesday, Oct. 13.
It must be on a Plato reading.

Second Reaction Essay is due no later than Monday, Nov. 22.

Reading Assignments:

Read the assignment in advance of class on the date indicated.

Ancient Philosophy: Socrates and Plato 
Monday, Aug. 23 First day of class
Wednesday, Aug. 25 Plato, Book 1
Monday, Aug. 30 Plato, Book 2  
Wednesday, Sept. 1 Plato, Book 3 
Monday, Sept. 6  LABOR DAY HOLIDAY -- No Class
Wednesday, Sept. 8 Plato, Book 4 
Monday, Sept. 13 Continue to discuss Book 4 
Wednesday, Sept. 15 Plato, Book 5
Monday, Sept. 20 Sacks, Chapters 1 and 18
Wednesday, Sept. 22 Plato, Book 6
Monday, Sept. 27 Sacks, Chapter 23
Wednesday, Sept. 29 Plato, Book 7
Monday, Oct. 4 Plato, Book 8
Wednesday, Oct. 6 MIDTERM EXAM
Monday, Oct. 11 NO CLASS
Wednesday, Oct. 13 Plato, Book 9
Renaissance Philosophy  
Monday, Oct. 18  Machiavelli, Chapters 1 - 10
Wednesday, Oct. 20 Machiavelli, Chapters 15 - 25  
Modern Philosophy  
Monday, Oct. 25 Descartes, Meditation 1 and Sacks, Chapter 4
Wednesday, Oct. 27 NO CLASS
Monday, Nov. 1 Descartes, Continue Meditation 1
Wednesday, Nov. 3 Descartes, Meditation 2 and Sacks, Chapter 2
Monday, Nov. 8 Descartes, Continue Meditation 2
Wednesday, Nov. 10 Descartes, Meditations 3 & 6
Monday, Nov. 15 Descartes, Continue Meditations 3 & 6
Wednesday, Nov. 17 John Locke, chapters I & II
Monday, Nov. 22 John Locke,  chapter III
Wednesday, Nov. 24 NO CLASS
Monday, Nov. 29 John Locke, chapter V
Wednesday, Dec. 1  John Locke, chapters IV & VI
Monday, Dec. 6 John Locke, chapters IX, X, XI & XII
Wednesday, Dec. 8 Study Day -- NO CLASS

       Final exam: 3:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 13 --YOU MUST BRING  A BLUE BOOK 

The final exam will be an in-class written exam. You must bring a "blue book" (an exam booklet available in the MSUM bookstore). You will have access to your books and notes.

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 and he will contact me.


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!) Any time you consult and draw on ideas from any source, you should cite your source. 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 MORE 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