Philosophy 1: Introduction to Philosophy

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:  Mondays from 1:00 to 2:00PM

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 analyze some of the fundamental issues of philosophy and humanity that include topics such as knowledge and reality, the foundations of truth and science, and the nature of human consciousness/self."





Student Learning Outcomes:


1) Students will have the ability to formulate some of the core questions of philosophy and understand various philosophical responses to them in their historical and present context.  


2) Students will have the ability to analyze and evaluate philosophical claims, arguments and theories using rigorous philosophical methods.



Required Texts


All materials will be found, for free, online. 



Recommended Texts


Relevant entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Course Grade and Assignments

In-Class Writing, Discussions, & Group Exercises

10% of course grade


90% 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%


Quiz and Groupwork 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 single lowest of the four grades will be dropped.  Note: I will not drop an essay grade if the essay in question includes an instance of plagiarism.  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. 



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

Course Overview


Reading: Course Syllabus and Schedule


Week Two

Metaphysics of Virtue


Reading: Plato's Meno (from the beginning of the dialogue until the spot where Socrates says: "I know, Meno, what you mean; but just see what a tiresome dispute you are introducing. You argue that a man cannot enquire either about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he knows, he has no need to enquire; and if not, he cannot; for he does not know the very subject about which he is to enquire," in bold)


Week Three

Metaphysics of Virtue


Reading: Plato's Meno (to the spot where Meno asks: " ... Whether in seeking to acquire virtue we should regard it as a thing to be taught, or as a gift of nature, or as coming to men in some other way?" in bold)


Week Four

Metaphysics of Virtue


Reading: Plato's Meno (though to the end of the dialogue) 


Friday, September 25  

First Essay Due


Week Five

Epistemology & Knowledge 


Reading: Plato's Theaetetus (excerpts)


Week Six



Reading: Plato's Theaetetus (excerpts)


Week Seven



Reading: Searle's Chinese Room (excerpts)


Week Eight

Syntax and Semantics


Reading: Searle's Chinese Room (excerpts)


Friday, October 23

Second Essay Due


Week Nine

Epistemology & Metaphysics


Reading: Churchland's Matter and Consciousness (excerpts)


Week Ten



Reading: Churchland's Matter and Consciousness (excerpts)


Week Eleven



Reading: Jackson's "What Mary Didn't Know


Week Twelve

Beyond Science


Reading: Jackson's "What Mary Didn't Know


Friday, November 20

Third Essay Due


Week Thirteen

Philosophy in America


Reading: Hill Collins' "Black Feminist Epistemology"


Week Fourteen

Strategic Positivism


Reading: Hill Collins' "Black Feminist Epistemology"


Week Fifteen

RHN ...


Reading: Hill Collins' "Black Feminist Epistemology"


Finals Week


Friday, December 18

Final Essay due via email


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.