Philosophy 101 (02 & 03)  Michael Kagan
Philosophical Foundations of Western Thought  Office Hours in RH 436:  MWF 9:30-10:25 AM
Le Moyne College and by appointment.
Spring 2001 Email: 
Phone: Ext. 4489  Homepage:
Course Objectives:
  1. to encounter philosophical inquiry by examining some classical philosophers' responses to questions concerning knowledge of reality, the good life, religion, and the nature of the human person;
  2. to present criticisms that will aid in evaluating these responses in terms of:
  3. arguments;
  4. background assumptions, cultural influences, and an appreciation of some of the problems faced by originators and advocates of these responses;
  5. to encourage sensitivity to issues of gender and race as they bear on our varied understandings of philosophical challenges and responses;
  6. to help develop and defend our own responses to philosophical problems.
  1. Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Simon & Schuster Touchstone Book, 1972) [Referred to in assignments as HTR].
  2. Steven M. Cahn (editor), Classics of Western Philosophy, Fifth  edition (Hackett Publishing Company, 1999). [Referred to in assignments as CWP
  3. There will also be some required readings available on the internet, as indicated.
METHOD:  Thinking through ideas introduced by means of the traditional philosophical methods of talking, reading, and responding to philosophical ideas in writing.


(1) Carefully read the assigned texts, trying to answer the following general reading questions:

1. "What problem is bothering this philosopher?"
2. "Why is it important?"
3. "What is this philosopher's response to this problem?" or "What is this philosopher's thesis?"
4. "How well does the philosopher support this thesis?" (What are the evidence, reasons, grounds, suggested consequences offered for accepting the thesis? Are these grounds credible, relevant, and convincing? Why/Why not?)
5. "What are the virtues (or strengths or advantages or good points) and defects (or weaknesses or disadvantages or bad points) of this philosopher's response to the problem?"
(2) Be prepared to talk about the readings in class.
(3) Be prepared to answer questions about the readings in class on two quizzes (cumulative in scope).


GRADING IS DONE ON THE "TRADITIONAL TEN POINT SCALE” [90-100 = A RANGE, 80-89 = B RANGE, ETC. [Plus and minus grades determined by three point divisions; e.g., 70-73 = C-, 77-79 = C+.]
Two quizzes, each quiz counts for 25% of your grade.  Group work, in-class writings, attendance and participation will together count for the other 50% of your grade. Extra-credit presentations, exceptional contributions to class discussion and individual insights may raise your core grade more. Exceptionally poor attendance may result in an F. Students who miss in-class writings are obligated to turn in typewritten make-ups on the same topic within one week of the date the in-class writing took place.
You are encouraged to talk to me about any grading requirement or grade you think inappropriate to your situation.


In coordination with the Academic Support Center (ASC), reasonable accommodations are provided for qualified students with disabilities. Please register in the ASC Office for disability verification and determination of reasonable accommodations. After receiving your accommodation form from the ASC, you will need to make an appointment with me to review the form and discuss your needs. Please make every attempt to meet with me within the first week of class so your accommodations can be provided in a timely manner.



WEEK 1: 1/17 READ THE SYLLABUS CAREFULLY. FOR 1/19 READ How to Read a Book (referred to as HTR from now on), from the beginning to page 56 (Part One).
WEEK 2: FOR 1/22 READ HTR, Part Two, pp. 57-188. For 1/24 read HTR, Ch. 18, "How to Read Philosophy," pp. 270-295. Then, for 1/26, begin reading Plato's Euthyphro in CWP.

Part I: Classical foundations

Socrates and Plato
WEEK 3: (week of 1/29) Read Euthyphro and Meno in CWP.
WEEK 4: (of 2/5) Read Apology and Crito in CWP.
WEEK 5: (of 2/12). Read selection from Republic in CWP.

WEEKS 6-7: (of 2/19 and 2/26) Read CWP, selections from Categories and Physics (pp. 178-193)) Read CWP selections from Metaphysics, 209-230.  NOTE: no class week of 3/5)
WEEKS 8-9: (of 3/12 and 3/19. QUIZ 1: March 14. Read Nicomachean Ethics selections in CWP., pp. 231-268.  Read selection from Book 8 at   Find Generation of Animals  on the internet at; read Book 2, CH. 3. NOTE: No class March 23.

Hellenistic Philosophy
WEEK 10 (of 3/26) Read CWP, selections from Epicurus (CWP, pp. 271-276) and Epictetus (CWP, pp. 279-290). Lectures this week also concern philosophy in transition - stoics, cynics, materialists, neo-platonists; the encounter with Judaism and Christianity.

Part II: Medieval foundations

WEEK 11 (of 4/2) Augustine:  Read CWP, selection from Confessions. Read  City of God, Book 1, Ch. 17, on-line at
WEEK 12 (of 4/9 NOTE: No class 4/12- 4/16)) Anselm and Aquinas: Discussion of Anselm's proof for the existence and nature of God. Read Anselm section in CWP, pp. 306-328. Read Aquinas' criticism in CWP, selection from Summa Theologica ("Whether the existence of God is Self-Evident?") pp. 339-340.
WEEK 13 (of 4/16) Aquinas continued: Read CWP, selection from Summa Theologica, pp. 329-342. Read Aquinas selection  on "The Production of the Woman (Four Articles)" on the www at
WEEK 14 (of 4/23) QUIZ 2: April 23. Some Jewish Medieval Philosophy: Lecture on Saadia and Maimonides.

Part III: Modern foundations and foundationalism

WEEKS 15-16 (of 4/30 and 5/1) Descartes. Read Descartes' first three Meditations in CWP (pp. 343-364).   OPTIONAL READING: Finish reading the Meditations. LAST DAY OF CLASS, MAY 7:  TBA.