PHL 100: Philosophy and Its Issues

Online Course: Winter Quarter 2020

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Professor Peg Birmingham

Email: : While I welcome emails from students, I encourage you to post on the “Q&A Discussion” that serves as a resource for students who might have the same questions. I encourage students to answer questions posted by fellow classmates. I will be checking the Q&A discussion regularly and will respond to student questions posted there. If you email me directly, I will try to respond as soon as possible, certainly within 24 hours.

Online Office Hours: By appointment


This course will examine the nature of the philosophical inquiry—its issues and its methodologies. We will begin by examining the origins of philosophy in Ancient Greece with the pre-Socratic philosophers Thales, Heraclitus, and Parmenides.We will then explore the major issues that demarcate philosophical thought in Plato’s Apology and Republic. We will then examine how these same issues are taken up by Descartes in Meditations on First Philosophy and in The Passions of the Soul. Finally, we will look at Jean-Paul Sartre’s way of addressing these same issues in his essay, “Existentialism is Humanism.”The course will focus on three questions fundamental to the philosophical inquiry: 1) what is the truth of reality? 3) How do we know this truth? 4) How ought we to live? A fourth question, “What does it mean to be human?” will be asked continuously as we explore these three questions.


Thales Fragments (online)

Heraclitus Fragments (online)

Parmenides Fragments (online)

Plato: Republic, translated by Allen Bloom, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-06936-3

Trial and Death of Socrates, Hackett Publishers, ISBN 13:978-0-87220-554-3

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy, Hackett Publishers, ISBN 0-915144-57-3

Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism” (online)

Please note that the RepublicTrial and Death of Socrates, and Meditations on First Philosophy are available for purchase at DePaul’s LPC bookstore. Please be sure to purchase the Bloom translation of the Republic.


For each module, students are required to listen to the lectures, read the required readings, take the timed quiz, post a response to the discussion question, and respond to a classmate’s posting. Students are also expected to complete introductory module by reading the syllabus and posting a response to the introductory discussion topic. Please note that students will receive an extra 5 points for posting to the introductory discussion topic.

Important Note: This is an online course which means that students are not required to appear in a classroom once or twice a week, but instead, are required to have an active, visible, and thoughtful online presence through their postings to each module’s discussion question as well as in their responses to classmates’ postings to the discussion topic. The discussions are an opportunity to discuss and debate with fellow classmates as well as with the professor. While students are only required to post and respond once for each module, I encourage students to respond to more than one posting by fellow classmates. I will try to respond to each of your postings and I will also generally to the discussions.

Evaluation of discussion postings and responses: It is important always to keep in mind that your postings and responses take the place of formal essays. In other words, your posting requires more than what you do in a regular classroom setting when making a comment or raising a question. The posting is far more formal. You should respond to each topic prompt as if you were writing a short essay, paying attention to required word length, grammar, development of argument, citing the text to support your arguments, and so on. You will be judged on how well you do this. Responding to your classmate(s) can be more informal, although your response should be thoughtful and well-considered. Please note: I have prepared a rubric that will give you more detailed guidance on your discussion posts and responses.

A student may earn up to 10 points for his or her posting and response(s) for each module: 7 points for the posting and 3 points for the response. Postings and responses that are outstanding, meaning they are thoughtful, well-argued, demonstrate knowledge of the readings and lectures, as well as thoughtfully engage with a classmate’s positing will receive the full 10 points. Very good postings and responses will receive 7 points: (5 points for posting and 2 points for the response). Postings that are perfunctory, demonstrating no real engagement with the module readings, lectures, or with fellow classmates’ responses will receive no more than 4 points (3 points for the posting and 1 point for the response) and if the post demonstrates no knowledge of the thinker or ethical issues being considered, you will receive less. The ten discussion postings and responses will total 100 points. Please consult the discussion rubric for more details on my grading system.

Quizzes: Each module includes a required quiz. The quizzes are timed at 15 minutes. Be sure that you have read the required readings as well as listened to and understood the lectures for each module prior to taking the quiz. The quizzes ask for short answers to questions drawn from the lectures and the readings for each module. The quizzes will also ask you to define key terms that have been introduced in the lectures, so be sure to note the key definitions introduced and know their meaning prior to taking the quiz! The ten quizzes will total 100 points.

Study tip for doing well on the quizzes: Quiz questions and definitions are taken directly from the learning objectives for each module. I advise you to write the answer to each learning objective prior to taking the quiz. You may even bring your written answers with you to the quiz and cut and paste them. The only way to do well on these timed quizzes is to prepare for them. As we go along, I will give you some guidance on which learning objectives for each module are most important and most likely to be seen on a quiz.


Students are expected to have completed all the readings and listened to all the lectures for each module prior to taking the quiz and posting/responding to discussion questions. The quizzes are timed. Students must complete the quiz and posting of response to discussion question by the completion date of each module. There are no make-up quizzes nor extensions given to the deadline for your discussion posts and responses to your classmates.

Module One: “What is Philosophy?”

Quiz and discussion post must be completed by Saturday, January 11 at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due on Sunday, January 12 at 11:59 PM

Module Two: The Pre-Socratics

Quiz and discussion post must be completed by Saturday, January 18th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate due by Sunday, January 19th at 11:59 PM

Module Three: Plato’s Apology and Crito

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, January 25th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, January 26 at 11:59 PM

Module Four: Plato’s Republic, Books One and Two

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, February 1st at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, February 2nd at 11:59 PM

Module Five: Plato’s Republic, Books Three and Four

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, February 8th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, February 9th at 11:59 PM

Module Six: Plato’s Republic, Books Five, Six, and the Beginning of Book Seven

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, February 15th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, February 16th at 11:59 PM

Module Seven: Descartes’ Meditations, Meditations One and Two

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, February 22nd at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, February 23rd at 11:59 PM

Module Eight: Descartes’ Meditations, Meditations Three and Four,

Quiz and discussion post completed by at Saturday, February 29th 19 at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, March 1st at 11:59 PM

Module Nine: Descartes’ Ethics and Sartre’s Humanism

Quiz and discussion post completed Saturday, March 6th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, March 7th at 11:59 PM

Module Ten: Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

Quiz and discussion post completed by Saturday, March 14th at 11:59 PM

Response to classmate’s post due by Sunday, March 15th at 11:59 PM


Online discussions and responses: 50%

Quizzes: 50%



A- 91-93

B+ 88-90

B 84-87

B- 81-83

C+ 78-80

C 74-77

C- 71-73

D+ 68-70

D 66-67

D- 60-63

F 59 or below

Academic Integrity Policy: Plagiarism is a violation of academic integrity and will result in a failure of the required assignment. More than one instance of plagiarism will result in a failure of the course.

Please be warned in advance that software will detect if you have cut and pasted your quiz answers and/or discussion posts from a website.

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