Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College



Introduction to Philosophy



This page outlines some of the things you will need to do if this course is to be a meaningful one for you:

Click here for a few words about your main teachers this quarter


1. Required readings (in order)

image of falling books

Euthyphro (entire)
Apology (entire)
Crito (entire)
Phaedo (only from Stephanus page 114D to the end)
Phaedrus (only from the beginning to Stephanus page 257C)
You read only the assigned portions of Schopenhauer, not the entire book
You read only the assigned portions of Swedenborg, not the entire book

Free and low-cost textbooks

Many of these books can be found in several different editions and translations. I've ordered particular editions and translations for your purchase at the online bookstore only because either these editions are the most readable and sensible translations (Plato, Swedenborg, Schopenhauer), or because these editions are the least expensive (bible, Schopenhauer, Buber). You are free to use other translations or editions of these books this quarter if you like, though some translations are just not quite as readable as others. The editions that I ordered for the bookstore can be viewed by clicking this link.

Free textbooks

Click here for detailed information about where to acquire free and low-cost editions of our required books.

2. Participation

It is expected that you will regularly and actively participate in the class discussions on a daily or almost daily basis. Online participation may require 2-3 hours of participation per day for at least five days out of the week. It is not possible to earn a passing grade in the course without regular and active participation in all class discussions. Other reading and writing assignments will be in addition to that. It is expected that everyone will read all messages posted to all classroom folders, including (and especially) all discussion messages posted by fellow students.

You should expect that coursework will probably require a minimum of 20+ hours per week, and perhaps more

Most students who fail, or do not complete, online courses do so because they do not form the habit early on of logging in to the class every day. If you miss more than a day or two you can get behind in the course and it then becomes very difficult to catch up.The American philosopher William James has a beautiful and famous chapter On Habit, and how the formation of useful habits can work for our benefit, in his book, Principles of Psychology. He also has a nice essay on the power of habit in a book titled Talks for Teachers. (These are not assigned readings, but you may well find them meaningful.)

3. Assigned writings

  • Take notes on the material presented (mini-lectures, discussion questions, etc.) and also note down your own reflections on the materials presented.
  • Underline and take marginal notes while you are reading the assigned texts. That is, the assignment is to do active reading rather than just passive reading.
  • Write out answers to the assigned Study Questions on each of our readings. These questions are to be written out and posted to the relevant study questions forum before we discuss that week's author in class. Study questions will be due the same day the book is due to be finished.
  • Write out and post answers to all the assigned Discussion Questions on each of our readings. These questions are to be written out and posted to the relevant discussion forum as early as possible in the discussion. For example, if a reading is assigned for Thursday through Tuesday, your answers to the first Discussion Questions should start to be posted by Friday or Saturday.
  • After posting answers to the Discussion Questions everyone is expected to contribute actively and regularly to class discussion. It isnot possible to pass the course without active participation in all class discussions.

4. Exams

We will have an online mid-term exam and an online final exam, each exam covering approximately half of the course. The exams will be primarily essay exams and will require that you understand and be conversant with both the factual and the conceptual material that we've covered. Make-ups on exams will not be allowed (except in special circumstances and only if you make arrangements with the instructor before the exam is given)
(Here is a copy of the final exam that all students will be required to pass before being granted their AA degree.)

5. Research Project

Hunt and discover a topic or thinker that sounds like it could be interesting to you, research that topic or thinker, then post a short written report to the whole class (in the class forum) on what you have learned about that topic. The report can be as short as you like, even one page if you can cover your material in that short space, but the maximum length you can have for the presentation is approximately five pages.You may choose to research an idea, research a classic text, compare two books, or whatever. Let yourself get creative, and find something that sounds like it might actually capture your interest. Your idea needs to be OK'd by me prior to your starting on it, though, so propose the idea to me early so I can say yea or nay.

You need to get it OK'd by me (via private email) before the end of week four, or earlier (week three if you're taking this course in the summer quarter), and then it needs to be posted to the online classroom before the end of week eight (week six in the summer). I've indicated this on the class schedule, but you may want to underline those dates and circle them in red to remind yourself.After your topic has been OK'd, email me a note with these four items in it: your name, your topic, some of the books you plan to use for your research, and the date on which you will post it to the class, so I can enter that information into my schedule.

After your research topic has been presented, you will then need to do a self-evaluation of your project and then email that self-evaluation to me. Click here to download the project SE Form.Click here for more details about the research project requirement

6. Memorizing

In the interests of exercising your mind to remember worthwhile things, you will be required to commit to memory one quotation of your choosing from each book we read. It must be memorized by the date the book is due to be finished. You will be required to recite each of your quotes aloud to some real person in your life, and then post to the class what your chosen quote was and to whom you recited it. (Some people even add a few words saying what that person's reaction was to hearing the quote.)

7. Grading

Grading, to put it simply, is based entirely on your work and achievement in the course. A large part of assigning your grade relies on information you provide me in your self-evaluation for the course. See the General grading policy here. See the page on Self Evaluations here.

I hope that, besides the work you do for a good evaluation in this course, your work will pay off in making the course enjoyable (though perhaps difficult), and highly meaningful for you.