The purpose of the weekly discussion forum is to engage in dialogue about the philosophical questions raised in each week’s coursework, in order to advance your understanding of the philosophical issues raised. As such, it is the ‘heart’ of the course.
There are eight weekly discussion assignments, worth up to 25 points each week. Each assignment consists of an initial response to the discussion questions for that week, as well as at least two reply posts to other students’ posts and/or instructor’s comments. Please note that your initial response to the discussion questions must post before the rest of the discussion area for the week is opened to you. Initial posts are due no later than 11:59 pm CT on Thursday of each week, and reply posts are due no later than 11:59 pm CT on Sunday of each week (except for the final week of the course when they are due 11:59 pm CT on Saturday). Your initial post is worth up to 15 points each week and your reply posts are worth up to 10 points each week.
Your discussion posts must be as complete and substantive as possible. Your posts should show that you are seriously trying to come to terms with and evaluate philosophical responses to questions raised each week and that you are learning how to recognize, formulate, and analyze proper philosophical arguments (this procedure becomes more formal after the ‘logic’ unit during week 4). When answering the discussion questions for the week, you should make sure that you are answering all parts of each question to be answered for that week. Please note that it isn’t necessary for you to get everything ‘right’ in your initial post; the readings on which you base your answers may be difficult and require discussion before you completely understand the material. That is why the discussions are so important to this course. It is perfectly fine for you to admit to being confused about something in your initial post, and to ask questions about the material. This also means that you should read as many of the posts each week as possible in order to maximize your understanding of the material! You are expected to engage in dialogue and discussion with your peers and your instructor, and if you are replying to responses to your initial post, those replies can be counted as part of your initial post and contribute to the 15 point maximum you may earn for your initial post for each week.
If you use any sources outside of course material to enhance your understanding, you must identify each source that you are using whether you quote from such material directly or not. There are also specific instances where you are asked not to use material other than the course readings until after you have done your initial post for the week. All posts should be primarily in one’s own words. If you do use additional source material, when you cite such material you should make sure that sufficient information is given so that others may have a look at the same source. Bibliographic references should conform to any generally recognized standard style manual as long as you are consistent.
When doing reply posts, please make sure that they are substantive. You may add information you regard as important in your reply posts, as well as ask questions. You will not get credit for reply posts that only consist of such statements as “I agree/disagree with your post,” or “Good post!” ‘Substantive’ means that you are adding something of value to the discussion of the material by providing additional information or asking relevant questions.
Argument Analysis Paper
The purpose of the argument analysis paper is to demonstrate a knowledge of the structure of a philosophy paper, showing understanding of how arguments are formulated and evaluated for consistency, relevance, validity/strength, and soundness/cogency.
The submission of the paper should be a two-step process; the first step is to submit a draft of the paper for the instructor’s comments, by 11:59 pm CT, on Thursday of Week 6, via the appropriate dropbox. The second step would then be to revise the paper, taking those comments into consideration, before one submits the final version of the paper to the appropriate course dropbox, no later than 11:59 pm CT on Thursday of Week 8. Note that only the final version of the paper receives a grade, worth up to 200 points; however, the draft version is a highly recommended first step to improve the grade earned on the final version of the paper.
This two-step process takes place subsequent to the student’s passing of the Week 4 Quiz (Logic), with at least a 75% grade. Unlike the other quizzes, this quiz may be taken as many times as is necessary in order to pass with the minimum required grade. It is important that students master the logic material before writing the argument analysis paper, since the successful completion of the paper depends on an understanding of the logical material covered in Week 4 of the course.
Instructions for how to structure the paper are given first in the week 4 lecture material of the course. The specific assignment is to reconstruct an argument as it is made by one of the philosophers we are studying in the course material, subjecting it to an analysis to show whether you think it works or not. This means subjecting it to a validity test (if deductive) or evaluation of its strength (if inductive), based upon the evidence it presents in its premises in support of its conclusion. Then, if you agree that the argument is a good one, try to imagine what someone who wished to criticize the argument would say in response to it, in an attempt to undermine it, and then respond to the criticism, by showing why you do or do not still think that the argument is a good one. Alternatively, if you think that the initial argument you’ve presented isn’t a good one, explain why, and then try to think of how the philosopher who formulated it would respond to your criticism, and how you would reply to the philosopher’s response.
Your paper should begin with a basic thesis statement and summary of what you are about to do: “In this paper, I will show that (philosopher x’s) argument concerning (subject y) is a successful/unsuccessful argument. First, I will reconstruct the argument, and discuss why it is significant. Then, I will show that the argument is/isn’t successful, and why. I will then consider possible objections to what I have said, and how I would reply to them. Finally, I will summarize the contents of the paper, showing what has been accomplished by my analysis.”
For maximum points, the structure of your paper should adhere to this format as closely as possible. It’s expected length is about 4-6 pages, double-spaced, with standard font size and margins. If outside sources are consulted, even if they are not directly quoted from, full citations are required, in accordance with any generally accepted style manual.
Please note: This is NOT a research paper, which will not conform to the structure as outlined above. While outside sources may be used for clarification, it is expected that the paper can be written simply by being familiar with the material presented in the course; including the lectures, quizzes, and readings.
The purpose of the course quizzes is to provide a regular assessment and self-check to determine how well you are learning and understanding the course material, as well as preparation for the midterm and final exams. There are 8 weekly quizzes in all, worth 25 points apiece (one point per question, which are either multiple choice or true/false questions). Each quiz can only be taken once, except for the Week 4 quiz that contains the logic quiz; this may be taken as many times as is necessary in order to achieve the minimum passing grade of 75% that allows one to begin the argument analysis paper assignment.
Please note that these quizzes are untimed; they are ‘open-book’ quizzes and are designed to allow you to remedy any deficiencies in your knowledge of the material by allowing you to check to make sure you are answering the questions properly. At the conclusion of each quiz, after submission, you will be able to view your score and questions missed, but not the answers; you will have to check with your instructor if it is unclear to you why you answered a question wrongly. Each weekly quiz opens at 12:01 am CT on Monday, and closes at 11:59 pm CT on Sunday (except for the Week 8 quiz, which closes at 11:59 pm CT on Saturday). Quizzes not taken by the due date can be made up at the discretion of the instructor. It is strongly recommended that students not attempt the weekly quiz until they’ve completed both the reading for the week and had the benefit of the weekly discussion to clear up any misunderstandings of the material.
This course has both a proctored Midterm and proctored Final exam. The Midterm covers all course material relating to Weeks 1-4 of the course, and the Final exam covers all course material relating to Weeks 5-8 of the course. The Midterm exam opens at 12:01 am CT on Monday of Week 4, and closes at 11:59 pm CT on Sunday of Week 4. The Final exam opens at 12:01 am CT on Monday of Week 8, and closes at 11:59 pm CT on Saturday of week 8. The purpose of these exams is to provide a comprehensive assessment of student achievement in learning the basic material of the course. Please note that these exams are the first and only time students will have to work from memory alone; no materials other than the exam itself will be accessed during its taking.
Each exam is worth up to 200 points and consists of 50 multiple-choice and/or true-false questions. Only one attempt is allowed and each exam has a maximum time limit of 120 minutes. After submission, students are able to view their score and questions missed, but not the answers.
Please note the proctor requirement; students must submit the student proctor information form during Week 2 of the course; one form is sufficient for both exams unless you are making different proctor arrangements for each exam (however, each exam requires a separate appointment).