Philosophy 1: Introduction to Philosophy

Pierce College

Department of Philosophy & Sociology

Winter, 2020


Contact Information

Instructor: Christopher Lay, Ph.D

Email: and


Office Location: Room 910 in the 900/IRIS Building


Office Hours

A) Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9:30AM to 10:30AM (no appointment necessary) and

B) by appointment if you can't meet during normal office hours. 

C) (I sometimes change office hours to make room for club meetings, etc.)


Meeting Times and Place for Course #10569

Lecture Meeting Times:  Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:45AM to 1:15PM

Meeting Location:  BRCH 1108


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

Group Exercise & Quizzes

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. 


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.  


Group Exercises and Quizzes

At various times during the semester/session we will engage in group exercises and quizzes for credit/no-credit.  Other, specific expectations for the group exercises and quizzes will be spelled out in the group exercise prompts and the quizzes themselves.  Note: at no point will you be graded on someone else's performance, or lack of performance.  The lowest four group exercise and quiz grades 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.). 



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, to be applied to your final course grade, attend some on-campus event (the middle of the semester/session, but before the final essay is due) and apply some of 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. 


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



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. 


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.


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, Monday

Course Overview / Metaphysics of Virtue


Reading: Course Syllabus and Schedule


Week One, Tuesday

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 One, Wednesday

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 One, Thursday

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


Thursday, January 9

First Essay Due


Week Two

Epistemology, Knowledge, and Accounts 


Reading: Plato's Theaetetus (excerpts)


Reading: Searle's Chinese Room (excerpts)


Sunday, January 19

Second Essay Due


Week Three

Epistemology to Metaphysics


Reading: Descartes' Second & Sixth Meditations (excerpts)

Reading: Churchland's Matter and Consciousness (excerpts)


Week Four  



Reading: Churchland's Matter and Consciousness (excerpts)


Friday, January 31st

Third Essay Due


Week Five



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


Saturday, February 8th

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."