FAQs for PHIL101 (Professor Margolis)
Q: What are the course objectives?
This course has four major objectives: (1) to provide you with an introduction to philosophy by exposing you to a number of representative philosophical arguments and theories, (2) to help you to begin to think philosophically, (3) to improve your critical thinking skills, and (4) to improve your analytical writing skills.
Q: Is this course suitable for students who have no background in philosophy?
Yes. It is intended for students with no background in philosophy, particularly first- and second-year students.
Q: What if I took a philosophy course in high school? Should I still take this course?
Yes. Chances are you will find that your experience in high school isn't a substitute for a good college-level introduction to philosophy.
Q: What topics are covered?
Does God exist? Do people have souls? Is there free will? Are there objective moral facts?
Q: What textbook does the course use?
There is no textbook for this course. Most of the readings are contained in a course packet that can be purchased at the campus bookstore.
Q: Does this course provide a survey of the history of philosophy?
No. It focuses on a small number of representative philosophical problems and some important ways of thinking about them. The reading list does include a few historical texts, but most of the readings are by contemporary philosophers.
Q: How are PHIL101 and PHIL102 related?
These are independent courses. You needn't take them in order, and there is no expectation that you will take both.
Q: Is the final exam comprehensive?
Q: Can I pass the course if I don't pass the final?
No. You must pass the final exam in order to receive a passing mark for the course.
Q: What is the format of the final exam?
The exact format will be decided later, but typically I do something like this: You are given ten essay questions in advance, four of these appear on the final exam, and you have to choose three of the four.
Q: Are there other assignments besides the final exam?
There will be two to three short papers (approximately 5 pages each).
Q: Is there a midterm exam?
Usually no. I prefer papers to a midterm exam but may hold a midterm exam if the course enrollment is high (in which case, I will reduce the number of paper assignments accordingly).
Q: Is attendance required?
Lectures: No, but you shouldn't take this course if you don't plan on attending the lectures. They are an important part of the course; they don't simply rehash the readings.
Discussion sessions: Yes. (This is only applicable for the lecture + discussion version of the course.)
Q. Is it hard to get an A in this course?
I follow the Philosophy Department's norm of reserving A's for excellent work. Some students approach their courses with the attitude that the default grade on an assignment is 100% and that the goal is to "not make mistakes". But in this course, as in most philosophy courses, you should think of the default grade as 0% and your goal is to earn points. Excellent work isn't simply work that doesn't make mistakes.
Q: What criteria are used in marking papers?
A good philosophy paper has a focused thesis and a carefully presented argument that supports the thesis. It isn't simply a book report that repeats the material in the texts. It does explain this material, but also does something new, reflecting your own critical assessment of the issues. Papers will be marked for clarity, originality, and for the quality of their arguments.
Q: What criteria are used in marking the exam?
The exam is meant to test your knowledge of the major philosophical arguments and theories that are covered in the lectures and assigned readings. You will be asked questions that require thoughtful, detailed answers in which you explain and critically discuss this material. Exam essays will be marked for clarity, accuracy, and depth of understanding.