Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2018)


INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Bradley Rettler


OFFICE: Ross Hall 128

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday 2:30ish-3:30, Wednesday 11-12, Friday 2-3, and by appointment


Course Website:




Schedule and Readings (readings are to be done by the day they are listed)

Aug 29: Introduction: What is Philosophy?

Unit 1: How should we live?

Aug 31: Living Well -- Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics I.7 and II.1-4 

Sept 3: No class (Labor Day)

Sept 5: Logic and Reasoning

Sept 7: Logic and Reasoning, Continued

Sept 10: The Life of Questioning - Plato - Apology

Sept 12: The Life of Questioning, continued

Sept 14: Leaning on Tradition - Confucius - The Annalects

Sept 17: Leaning on Tradition, Continued

Unit 2: What Do We Know?

Sept 19: The Method of Doubt -- Descartes - Meditation I

Sept 21: The Method of Doubt -- Descartes - Meditation II

Sept 24: Believing by Choice? -- James - ``The Will to Believe''

Sept 26: Believing by Choice, continued
Sept 28: Believe in God -- Pascal - ``Pascal's Wager'' 

Oct 1: Believe in God, continued

Unit 3: Is There a God?

Oct 3: There is a God -- Collins - ``The Fine-Tuning Argument''

Oct 5: There is a God -- Aquinas - ``The Cosmological Argument''

Oct 8: There is a God -- Descartes - Meditation 5

Oct 10: There is no God -- Dostoevsky - ``The Rebellion'' from The Brothers Karamazov

Oct 12: There is no God -- van Inwagen - ``What is the Problem of Divine Hiddenness?"

Oct 15: There is no God, concluded

Unit 4: What is the Nature of Right and Wrong?


Oct 17: There are no objective moral truths -- Mackie - ``The Argument from Relativity"

Oct 19: There are no objective moral truths, continued

Oct 22: There are objective moral truths -- Nussbaum - ``Judging other Cultures"

Oct 24: God is the source of morality -- Shafer-Landau - ``Morality and Religion''

Oct 26: Morality, concluded 

Unit 5: What makes an Action Right or Wrong?

Oct 29: Morality is about duty -- Kant - The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals Preface and Part I

Oct 31: Morality is about duty, continued

Interlude: Should we Vote?

Nov 2: Do we have a duty to vote? -- Brennan - ``Arguments for a Duty to Vote''


Nov 5: Is it rational to vote? -- Mackie - ``Why it is Rational to Vote''

Back to Unit 5

Nov 7: Morality is about pleasure and pain -- Mill - ``What Utilitarianism Is'

Nov 9: Morality is about pleasure and pain, continued

Nov 12: Morality is about being a good person -- Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics Book VIII

Nov 14: Morality is about being a good person, continued

Nov 16: Morality, concluded

Unit 6: Which Life is Best?

Nov 19:  The best life is one of contemplation -- Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics Book X



Nov 26: The best life is one of action -- Martin Luther King Jr - ``Letter from a Birmingham Jail''
Nov 28: The best life prepares for the afterlife -- Aquinas - Summa Theologiae 2-2: 179-181
Nov 30: The best life, concluded

Dec 3: A good death -- Nagel - ``Death''

Unit 7: Are We Free?

Dec 5: Freedom is incompatible with determinism -- The Consequence Argument  

Dec 7: Freedom is incompatible with indeterminism -- The Mind Argument


Dec 10: Final Exam Review

Dec 14: Final Exam, 1:15-3:15pm