Philosophy 5 Honors: Critical Thinking and Composition

Los Angeles Pierce College

Department of Philosophy & Sociology

Fall, 2020


Contact Information

Instructor: Christopher Lay, Ph.D

Email: and


Office Location: Room 910 in the 900/IRIS Building


Office Hours

10:00 to 10:45AM every Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday–no appointment necessary 

11:15 to noon every Wednesday & Thursday–no appointment necessary

1:00 to 1:45PM every Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday–no appointment necessary

By appointment if you can't meet during the above times. 

These times will occasionally change.  I will give advance warning via email when these times change. 


Meeting Times and Place

Lecture Meeting Times:  Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:00AM

Meeting Location:  Zoom (link in Canvas)


How to Join

You can join our Zoom meetings by going to our Canvas shell and clicking the "Zoom" link in the left-hand course links. Then, click "Join" the that day's session.


Catalog Course Description

"Students develop and refine the critical thinking skills necessary to formulate and evaluate argumentative essays. Critical writing about philosophical and logical concepts that are applicable to any systematic thinking is emphasized."



English 101: College Reading and Composition


Student Learning Outcomes:

1.  Ability to summarize an argument and evaluate an essay's arguments with respect to clarity of key terms, emotive use of language, informal fallacies, underlying assumptions and values, as well as validity, soundness, and strength of arguments;

2.  Be able to synthesize various arguments presented in essays on a single topic, comparing and contrasting the main points.


Required Texts


Graff, Gerald. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. Any Edition (without "The Readings" is fine), W.W. Norton and Co., 20__.


(Any edition of this book should work–without "The Readings" is fine.) 



Recommended Texts


Relevant entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Course Grade and Assignments

In-Class Writing, Discussions, & Group Exercises

10% of course grade

First Essay 

15% of course grade

Second Essay 

20% of course grade

Third Essay 

25% of course grade

Final Essay 

30% of course grade


Course Grade Grading Scale


100 – 90%


89 – 80%


79 – 70%


69 – 60%


59 – 0%


Essay Grade Gradings Scale


100 - 94%


93 - 90%


89 - 87%


86 - 83%


82 - 80%


79 - 77%


76 - 73%


72 - 70%


69 - 67%


66 - 63%


62 - 60%


59 – 0%


In-Class Writing, Discussions, & Group Exercises Grading Scale



No Credit



General Ground Rules:

Do what you can to be collegial and respectful–and don't be intentionally offensive. 



Students who miss the equivalent of one week of course meetings prior to Census Date (list the date), WILL be excluded from the course in accordance with California state law.  Towards the end of the semester, I am required to submit an Active Enrollment Roster to drop students for significant non-attendance.  Therefore, students may be dropped due to lack of participation, attendance and/or progress. 


In-Class Participation

You are expected to do the readings on time (i.e. before the class period indicated) and come to class prepared to discuss them.  


Recording and Privacy

Parts of our Zoom meetings will be recorded so that I may share parts of the recordings and students can view them on their own time.  You are not required to turn on your webcam and show your face in our Zoom sessions.  The parts of the recordings of our Zoom sessions will be available via email, as they become available by Zoom. Please do not share or post these recordings yourself.  If you are interested in recording our Zoom sessions for your own use, please contact me. Recording in a classroom without the prior consent of the instructor is prohibited, except as necessary to provide reasonable auxiliary aids and academic adjustments for students with disabilities.


Student Conduct in Zoom

It's important that we all treat one another with respect and kindness in Zoom, just as we would in person. For any misconduct, I will report the incident to LAPC's disciplinarian.  These Zoom sessions are a great opportunity for us to interact, discuss, and learn together, and I'm looking forward to these meetings together! 


In-Class Writing, Discussions, & Group Exercises

You are expected to do the readings on time (i.e. before the class period indicated) and come to class prepared to discuss them.  You will occasionally be prompted to write down impromptu answers to impromptu questions to get you thinking, for credit/no-credit.  I will be using the discussions (marked "Discussions" on our course's Canvas page) as a kind of auxiliary, virtual classroom wherein I will guide you through the assigned readings in addition to answering your questions about the class, the assigned texts, and the assignments.  To get full credit for any one discussion, contribute three complete sentences that are reasonably relevant to the discussion's topic.  My hope is that our online discussions will be lively and in line with the general ground rules spelled out above.  Specific instructions will be outlined in the discussion prompts on Canvas.  At various times we will engage in group exercises for credit/no-credit.  Other, specific expectations for the group exercises will be spelled out in the group exercise prompts.  Note: at no point will you be graded on someone else's performance, or lack of performance.  The lowest four grades for these in-class writing, discussions & group exercises will be dropped, so no make-up group exercises or quizzes will be given (unless you have some credible excuse, e.g. doctor's note, jury summons, obituary notice, etc.).  Here are some of my notes on group work. 



You will be given a prompt for each of the four essays, and approximately a week to complete it.  The essays for this class must be philosophical.  Your essay must have an original thesis/argument and support for that thesis/argument.  Other, specific expectations for the essay will be spelled out in the essay prompts.  Also, you will be expected to correct errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, and spelling.  Here are some of my notes on writing philosophy essays. 



You are encouraged (but not required) to submit rough drafts of assignments (except the final essay).  I will comment on your draft and offer advice and assistance where I can.  Rough drafts should not exceed half of the final draft length (e.g. if the final assignment is three pages the rough draft submitted for comments should not exceed one and a half pages).  The deadline for turning in a draft for comments is three days before the scheduled due date.  If I get swamped with drafts before the assignment is due I sometimes return comments two or three days later, along with an extended due date, so that you have time to take my comments into consideration. 


Late Paper Policy

If you have a credible excuse (e.g., doctor's note, jury summons, obituary notice, etc.) late take-home assignments will be accepted.  Extensions for take-home assignments will be given only when 1) a compelling reason is given and 2) permission is sought at least three days before the normal deadline.  Without a credible excuse, late assignments will be given a third of a letter grade penalty for each day the assignment is late for up to seven days, after which late assignments without a credible excess will not be accepted for anything more than half of the assignment's value. 


Extra Credit

For 2.5% of extra credit, to be applied to your final course grade, seek out the assistance of our tutor at least twice before the middle of the semester/session.  For another 2.5% of extra credit apply the skills we've developed over the course of the semester.  More details about both of these extra credit options can be found here:


Turn-Around Times for Emails, Rough Drafts, and Final Drafts

I am usually able to respond to emails within 24-hours, but sometimes I cannot (e.g., it is the weekend, or it is the day before an assignment is due and everyone is emailing me with last-minute questions, etc.)  I usually return rough drafts with comments about two days after they have been submitted to me, but sometimes it takes longer because there is a sudden flood of rough drafts (e.g., when the due date is two days away).  I usually return final drafts (with the exception of the final assignment of the semester) two or three weeks (or one week during a shorter session) after they have been submitted to me (which is not always the same thing as the assignment's due date).  Taking that amount of time to grade final drafts allows me to give you all of the comments I give—I try and give many, many comments.  The final assignment of the semester will be returned upon request only. 



The Center for Academic Success helps students who need academic support.  Tutors can help you acquire the skills and tools necessary to meet your academic, vocational, or personal goals. All tutoring services are free to currently enrolled Pierce College students.  Please contact the Pierce College Center for Academic Success at 818.719.6414, or see them on the first floor of the Library & Learning Crossroads Building. 


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (from the Pierce College Catalogue):

"Students with physical, psychological or learning disabilities are offered a wide range of services including registration, special parking and counseling. These services are also available to students with a temporary disability such as injury or post-operative recuperation. All services and equipment are provided free of charge to any qualifying disabled student."

"Deaf and learning disabled students are offered additional services including special classes, tutoring and computer-assisted instruction. The Disabled Students Office is located in the Student Services Building, room 48175. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m." 

Phone: (818) 719-6430

Fax: (818) 710-4219

VP Number:(818) 436-0467



Student Health Center

Medical and mental health services are available to all currently enrolled students at the Student Health Center. There is no cost to students to see any of the medical and mental health providers during extended office hours. Please contact the Student Health Center at 818.710.4270 to make an appointment or to ask a question, or see them on the second floor of the Student Services Building. 


Financial Assistance

If you need money to pay for books, supplies, enrollment fees, parking, and other expenses to help you with college, apply for financial aid.  To learn about the financial aid process, visit or send an email to pierce_finaid@piercecollege.eduThe office is located on the 2nd floor of the Student Services Building.  The Financial Aid Office uses a virtual queue called QLess which enables students to wait in line virtually.  To learn how to join the financial aid queue, go to


Title IX

Pierce College is committed to fostering a campus community based on respect and nonviolence. To this end, we recognize that all Pierce community members are responsible for ensuring that our community is free from discrimination, domestic and dating violence, gender bias, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In accordance with Title IX, Pierce is legally obligated to investigate incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occur on our campus. Faculty who become aware of an incident of sexual violence, including harassment, rape, sexual assault, relationship violence, child abuse or stalking, are mandatory reporters and required by law to notify Pierce Title IX Coordinator. The purpose of this disclosure is to ensure that students are made aware of their reporting options and resources for support. For more information about your rights and reporting options at Pierce, including confidential and anonymous reporting options, please visit . Title IX Coordinator: Dr. Earic Dixon-Peters, V.P. of Student Services, 818 710 4228,


Name and Gender Policy

The campus provides me with a roster that lists the name that it has on record for you.  But you may prefer a different name. In such cases, please email me or correct me in class and I'll gladly refer to you however you wish as best I can.  The same applies with gender identity–if you identify with a particular pronoun, set of pronouns, or always by your proper name, please let me know and I'll be sure to my part.


Current and Former Foster Students

Pierce College is making a special effort to support current and former foster youths at Pierce College. If you are a current or former foster youth you may qualify for other support services to help you achieve your educational goals.  Please contact our Guardian Scholars Program at (818) 710-3323 or send an email to so you can get the support you are eligible for.


Religious Holidays

There are a variety of religious holidays occurring during the semester.  While these are neither Federal- or State-sanctioned holidays, they are days of religious observance that may impact some students in the class.  If you plan to miss a class period, an assignment due date or an exam because you will be practicing your religion on a particular day, please notify me of this fact at least two weeks in advance to make arrangements. Official notification will take the form of an email, which specifies the anticipated date(-s) of absence.  A student who provides this information by the deadline will be able to reschedule missed exams or work, and their absence will not adversely affect their attendance record.  Failure to provide proper notification at least two weeks in advance will negate the student's option to reschedule or receive credit for missed activities.


Limits to Confidentiality

Essays, journals, and other materials submitted for this class are generally considered confidential pursuant to the Pierce College's student record policies. However, students should be aware that Pierce employees, including instructors, may not be able to maintain confidentiality when it conflicts with their responsibility to report certain issues based on external legal obligations or that relate to the health and safety of Pierce community members and others. As the instructor, I must report the following information to other Pierce offices if you share it with me: suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened when you were a child, allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment when they involve Pierce students, faculty, or staff, and credible threats of harm to oneself or to others.  These reports may trigger contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared.  In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with that individual. If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting you are encouraged to make an appointment with the Pierce Student Health Center.


Three Attempts Policy

Familiarize yourself with the new statewide policy regarding how many times (generally 3) you may attempt a class before you are 'locked out' of further attempts in the LACCD.  See the Pierce College Schedule of Classes, the Counseling Center, or me for more info. 


Counts as Attempt?

A student enrolls in a course and drops prior to census



A student enrolls in a course and drops or withdraws from the course after census and prior to the withdraw deadline


A student enrolls in a course and stops attending, but never drops or withdraws from the course


A student enrolls in a course and a grade of D or F is recorded for the course




Students are responsible for dropping a course.  After the census date (at the beginning of the semester/session) non-attendance does not automatically drop you from a course. 


Dates to Remember

Make sure to familiarize yourself with important dates (official holidays, the last day to drop without a W, the last day to drop with a W, etc.) found on the Pierce College academic calendar.


Reading and Assignment Schedule

(Subject to occasional change)



Week One

Introductions, the Metaphysics of College, & Representation




Reading: Course Syllabus including Schedule of Readings and Assignments


Reading: Delbanco's "College at Risk"


Reading: V Soni's (2019) "There's a Loneliness Crisis on College Campuses


Reading: They Say, I Say, "Introduction: Entering the Conversation."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, "Introduction: Entering the Conversation."


Reading: Labaree's (2018) "The Five-Paragraph Fetish: Writing essays by a formula was meant to be a step on the way.  Now it's the stifling goal for student and scholar alike," from

Week Two

Critical Thinking, College, & Self-Knowledge


Reading: excerpts from Plato's "Apology" (the bolded parts on pages 1-4 & 13) 


Reading: They Say, I Say, Chapter 1 "'They Say:' Starting with What Others Are Saying"

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 1


Sample Paragraphs Outlined for a Working Draft of the First Essay


Reading: "The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage," by Michael S. Teitelbaum

Lecture Notes for optional " Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage," by Michael S. Teitelbaum


Friday, September 11

First Essay Due


Week Three

Doubt and Error 



Reading: Bill Nye on Descartes (transcript only)

Optional Reading: Bill Nye Reversal on Philosophy

Optional Reading: Phil[osophy] Skills


Reading: excerpts ("First Meditation" only) from Descartes' Meditations


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 2 "'Her Point Is': The Art of Summarizing." 

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 2

Week Four

Doubt and Certitude  


Reading: excerpts ("First Meditation" only) from Descartes' Meditations


Reading: They Say, I Say, Chapter 3 "'As He Himself Puts It': The Art of Quoting."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 3


Week Five

Thinking and Bodies


Reading: excerpts ("Second Meditation" only) from Descartes' Meditations


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 4 "'Yes / No / Okay, But': Three Ways to Respond." 

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 4


Week Six

Inner vs. Outer Knowledge


Reading: excerpts ("Sixth Meditation" only) from Descartes' Meditations


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 4 "'Yes / No / Okay, But': Three Ways to Respond." 

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 4


Friday, October 9

Second Essay Due


Week Seven

Implicit Bias


Reading: excerpts from Alexander's The New Jim Crow


Optional Reading: Banaji Interview Transcript 

Optional Reading: Baum's "Legalize it All: How to win the war on drugs"

Optional Reading: Ojiaku's "Is Everybody a Racist?"

Optional Reading: "Pre-Suasion"

Optional Reading: Gayla's "A Federal Court Asks Jurors to Confront Their Hidden Biases: But is a novel video tutorial the best way?  The jury is still out." 

Optional Reading: Lyon's "[Seven] Criminal Cases That Invoked the 'Sleepwalking Defense'"

Optional Reading: Lyon's "When Sleep Problems Become Legal Problems, Neuroscience Can Help"

Optional Reading: Hayward's "Implicit Bias: The New 'Original Sin'"

Optional Reading: Daryl Davis & the KKK: "'When Two Enemies are Talking, They're Not Fighting': Meet the Black Man who has Made a Career Out of Befriending Members of the KKK"


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 5 "'And Yet': Distinguishing What You Say from What They Say." 

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 5


Week Eight

Analogical Minds


Reading: excerpts from Russell's "The Argument from Analogy for Other Minds" from Human Knowledge


Notes on Research


Reading: "Spectacle" and "Investigation" from Clever Hans


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 6 "Skeptics May Object': Planting a Naysayer in Your Text."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 6


Week Nine

Researching the Self


Reading: Purugganan & Hewitt's "How to Read a Scientific Article"


Reading: Kaste's (2017) "Eliminating Police Bias When Handling Drug-Sniffing Dogs"

Reading: (2011) "Explosive- and Drug-Sniffing Dogs' Performance is Affected by Their Handlers' Beliefs"


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 7 "'So What?  Who Cares?': Saying Why It Matters." 

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 7


Week Ten





Friday, November 6

Third Essay Due


Week Eleven



Reading: excerpts from Book I of Brentano's Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint  (Chapter II §§ 1, 3, 4, & the last paragraph of 5) 


Reading: Nanay's (2017) "'Know Thyself' is not just silly advice: its's actively dangerous"


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 8 "'As a Result': Connecting the Parts."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 8


Week Twelve



Reading: excerpts from Book II of Brentano's Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (Chapter I §§ 5 & 6, Chapter II §§ 1, 2, 3, & 7) 


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 9 "'Ain't So / Is Not': Academic Writing Doesn't Always Mean Setting Aside Your Own Voice."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 9


Week Thirteen

The Unconscious and Empathy


Reading: excerpts from Stein's On the Problem of Empathy


Reading:  They Say, I Say, Chapter 10 "'But Don't Get Me Wrong': The Art of Metacommentary."

Lecture Notes for They Say, I Say, Chapter 10


Week Fourteen

Empathy and Self-Knowledge


Reading: excerpts from Stein's On the Problem of Empathy


Optional Reading: (2013) "Dove Real Beauty Sketches"


Week Fifteen

Empathy and Self-Knowledge


Reading: excerpts from Stein's On the Problem of Empathy


Finals Week(s)


Friday, December 18

Final Essay Due





Conduct on Campus for Students and Instructors (from 


"A student enrolling in one of the Los Angeles Community Colleges may rightfully expect that the faculty and administrators of the Colleges will maintain an environment in which there is freedom to learn. This requires that there be appropriate conditions and opportunities in the classroom and on the campus. As members of the college community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment, to engage in the sustained and independent search for truth, and to exercise their rights to free inquiry and free speech in a responsible, non-violent manner. In the furtherance of the students' interest in free inquiry and the search for truth, it is also important that students be able to hear the views of non-students and engage in the free exchange of ideas with non-students."


Academic Honesty (from the Pierce College Catalogue):

"I . Violations of academic honesty and integrity occur when a student participates in any act in which he/she uses deception or fraud while performing an academic activity. Violations include, but are not limited to, the following:

"• Submitting for a grade the words, ideas, and/or written work (including laboratory notes and drawings) of another person without giving due credit to that person. This includes purchased papers or papers written by other students."


Student Grievances (from 

"The student grievance procedure is designed to provide a prompt and equitable means for resolving student grievances, including but not limited to the grading process. The grievance procedure may be initiated by a student or group of students who reasonably believe that they have been subject to unjust action or denied rights that adversely affect their status, rights, or privileges as a student. To initiate a student grievance, please contact the Office of Student Services at 818-710-6418."

"Informal Resolution"

"All parties involved in a potential grievance are encouraged to seek an informal remedy."

"The recommended steps for students to follow are:

"meeting directly with the faculty member(s) with whom the student has a problem"

"meeting with the department chair of the faculty member(s)"

"meeting with the department's Dean of Academic Affair" or

"meeting with the College Ombudsperson Ombudspersons are faculty members appointed by the Academic Senate to assist students in obtaining informal resolution of a grievance."


Syllabus Change Policy

This syllabus and due dates are subject to change. This syllabus is intended to give your guidance in what may be covered during the semester and will be followed as closely as possible. However, the professor reserves the right to modify, supplement and make changes as the course needs arise.