Pierce College: Fall 2013 – Phil 1 (Online): 0906




Contact Info

         Name: Cara Gillis

         Email: caragillis@mac.com (please put the following in the subject heading: Online Phil 20 – Your Name)

         Phone: Please do NOT call me. (818) 710-2256

         Office Hours: I will be in my office (FO 2603) Monday 4:30-6:30 and Wednesday 2:00-3:00, and by appointment. You are free to drop in if you live in the area.

         Online Office Hours:

o    Use Skype: caralkg (adding me on skype is a VERY good idea for this class)


Website: www.caragillis.com



There is no text for this class.  All the readings are available online. 


Course Description

This is an introductory class in philosophy. It will examine a variety of philosophical topics and explain how they are relevant to YOUR everyday life.  The main questions we will discuss are: What exists?  How do I know?  What should I do?  To facilitate our inquiry we will study both classic and contemporary texts.


Course Goals and Objectives

         To appreciate the importance of philosophy

         To develop and improve your ability to read and interpret philosophical arguments

         To analyze, evaluate, and compare texts

         To make connections between the ideas of different philosophers

         To participate in thoughtful and respectful philosophical dialogue

         To develop a critical attitude towards one's own beliefs and commitments

         To relate philosophical insights to the world in which we live


Student Learning Outcomes

         Students will have the ability to formulate some of the core questions of philosophy and understand various philosophical responses to them in their historical and present context.

         Students will have the ability to analyze and evaluate philosophical claims, arguments and theories using rigorous philosophical methods.



         The only email address I will use for student correspondence is caragillis@mac.com  If you send an email else where, I will not get back to you.

         Please use an appropriate name for your address.

         Do not use ALL CAPS, profanity, !!!!!, etc.

         In the subject line, please write: Philosophy 20 – Your Name.

         Do not expect an immediate response (note that not all emails require a direct response.) This is particularly true if there is no emergency involved (note that lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.)  Dont wait until the last minute if you have a problem.  Again, if you have sent a legitimate email and I havent responded after 72 hours, please send it again.

         Practice proper grammar when writing emails.

         Think before you send.  Remember that what you write in an email becomes part of a permanent record of interaction with me.



         You may contact me via Skype.  My username is Caralkg. Introduce yourself by your real name and class name and number when you ping me.

         Use proper grammar and spell in proper English.  Dont worry about typos, we all make them, but do not use text talk or I will be LSHMBH b/c I DNC.

         Do not get offended if I dont respond.  Im not ignoring you – Im probably away from my computer.


My Goals all of my Classes

I love philosophy.  I think its probably the best discipline in the world.  My primary goal for the class is to help you learn to love philosophy too.  Falling short of that, I would hope to open your eyes to the fact that philosophy is relevant in your everyday life.  The kind of reasoning and thinking you learn by doing philosophy helps you master tasks from prioritizing a chore list to deciding how to vote to answering the question if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?  I want you to learn to live the examined life.  What I dont want to do is change your political views, belittle any beliefs you may hold sacred, or make you feel that you cant do this.  That doesnt mean that I wont challenge all of these things, but I do that for the sake of helping you develop better reasoning.  Above all else, I hope we have fun and learn many things from each other.





Expectations and Time Management

You need to be very honest with yourself at this point:  can you stay on top of your work without a class environment?  There are lots of chances to slack off so you need to make sure that you are a self-starter.  There are many people who desperately want to add this class so if you cant keep up with the work please let me know and take yourself out of the class.  Heres what I expect from you:

         You need to check in to the class regularly.  Once a week is probably not sufficient; plan on checking in around 2-4 times a week.

         It is your responsibility to check the syllabus for all assignments. As a syllabus rarely follows the semester exactly, I reserve the right to make necessary changes, add readings, and introduce timely material.  The potential changes also make it extremely important for you check moodle regularly.

         Self-motivation is crucial to online classes.  If you cant stay on top of the work (or even if you leave everything to the last minute) you wont succeed.

         Reading is the traditional way that one begins to internalize philosophical arguments.  I expect you to generally read between 20-50 pages of text a week.  For an average student this would work out to between 2-5 hours of reading.  You cannot pass the class without doing the reading.

         Apart from the 2-5 hours of reading a week, you can expect to send another 1-4 hours doing course work, reading lecture notes, participating in forms, taking tests, etc.

         I also expect that you interact with other students, generally via discussion forums or chat sessions.  Collaboration can facilitate learning, so its in your best interest to do this.

         DO NOT PANIC!  I expect you to be forthcoming about any problems youre having in the class, either understanding the material, getting the assignments done on time, having consistent access to the online material, etc.  Together we can solve almost every problem; however, you need to communicate with me.  Im nice!



Missed deadlines are not tolerated.  If an assignment is due at 11:55pm and the time stamp shows that it was submitted at 11:56pm then the assignment is considered a full day late.  Late assignments will be penalized 10% per day, including weekend days. This is non-negotiable.  If you know you are having trouble meeting a particular deadline, then let me know and we can make alternate arrangements.  If you miss an assignment and have not let me know ahead of time, you MAY NOT MAKE IT UP.  Since assignment open on Wednesdays and close on Sundays do not expect me to be lenient if the first time you open the assignment is Sunday morning and you realize that you cant finish it before Sunday night.  Plan on getting your work done early.  Technological problems happen, but you need to take that into account.  Dont leave things to the last minute, or forget to save them, or forget to submit them.



Computer malfunctions happen, but unfortunately I cant fix them.  Really.  I would if I could, but I lack the knowledge.  If you have a problem with moodle-based technology then you can email moodle help at onlinehelp@piercecollege.edu. The technology requirements for the class are:

         Know how to use a computer.

         Have an email address.

         Have Internet access for at least 5 hours a week.

         Have word processing (Word, Word Perfect, etc) and web browsing (Firefox, Netscape, etc) software.

         Know how to follow instructions to upload a file.

         You should ideally have some kind of PDF reader (Adobe) and media streamer (Quicktime, Real Player, etc.)


Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is not only illegal it is immoral.  Im an ethicist by training, as well as a love of philosophy, and I find instances of plagiarism to be personally offensive.  I will prosecute plagiarists to the fullest extent possible. If you are uncertain about what counts as plagiarism please ask me. Copying material, buying it online, or cheating in any other way will automatically earn you an F in this class and may also include suspension.  I find examples of it every semester, so dont be one of those I catch this semester. I have included a link in case you need help understanding the meaning or problems of plagiarism: http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/plagiarism.html. If you plagiarize I will report you to Academic Affairs and a note will be placed in your permanent file.  I check every paper and assignment for plagiarism. 





Are You Ready to Take an Online Course?

Consider the following questions (excerpted from http://coursecatalog.com/dbpages/learn/asp_assess.htm):

         Do you stay on task without direct supervision?

         Can you prioritize your own workload?

         Do you learn best from reading text and assignments?

         Do you enjoy learning new computer or technology skills?

         Do you usually understand written instructions?

         Would you plan to allocate as much time in your schedule for an online course as you would for a more "traditional' face-to-face class?

         Do you learn well on your own?

         Do you enjoy taking on new projects?

         Do you stick to the job no matter what happens?

         Are you well organized in terms of time management?

         If you answered yes to these questions, then you are suited to an online class.  If you answered no to these questions, an online class may still be for you, but you need to think hard about how you will stay motivated and on task.


Who Probably Should NOT Take an Online Course?

Here are some thoughts about who may struggle with an online course.  Of course, this list is in no way meant to be definitive, rather its meant to highlight some things or personality traits to be aware of.

         Youre a procrastinator:  There MANY things that need to get done in an online course and many deadlines, you cant succeed by putting everything off until the last minute.

         You dont like to read: There is LOTS of reading in an online course, much more than in a traditional course.  If you dont like reading, this will be challenging.

         Its your first class in college or your first class back to college after a long absence:  This is a tricky one.  If I cant see your face when Im explaining the material I cant always tell if you understand it.  Youre going to be learning a lot of very dense material and if youre out of practice thinking hard then this course will be more challenging than a traditional course.  That being said, if this characteristic describes you, youre more than welcome to come see me in my office hours to chat about all the readings.

         Youre already over-extended:  This class is going to take up a lot of your time, much more than a regular class.  Dont look at it like easy units.  These are definitely harder, more time-consuming units.

         Finally, online classes are not self-paced.  The pace is set, you need to do the work to match it.





Week 1 Requirements IMPORTANT!!

Failure to meet these requirements will result in you being dropped from the class.

-          Check in to the moodle site.

o    Introduce yourself to your classmates on the Introductions forum.

o    Take the Know the Syllabus Quiz.  This will count as 1 point of extra and failure to do it will result in you being dropped from the class.


Discussion Forums

(15%) Each week there will be discussion forums.  Some will be topical while others will be general Questions, Comments, and Concerns forum.  You will earn 1 point for each original post you make and for each response you give to another student for a maximum potential score of 100 points.  That score will then be converted to represent its weight out of 15%.  If you make 15 posts over the course of the semester its easy to satisfy this requirement.


Reading Assignments

(30%) Reading questions will be assigned for one reading each week for 5 weeks of the class. The questions are designed to test your understanding of the material.  Sometimes they will involve applying the concepts in a reading to a specific scenario, other times they will test your understanding of the line of reasoning in an argument.  You will write the answers to the questions in a text document and the upload them to moodle.  Reading assignments will always be due by 11:55pm on Sunday of the week they are assigned.


Essay Tests

(30%) There will be 5 essay tests.  Each test is a short (250-500 word) essay.  You will have three attempts for each assignment and each attempt will build upon the previous one.  Only your final attempt will count and be scored.  The time limit is set at two hours. Always save your work as you go.  You may not quote anywhere in your answers.  Essay tests will always be due by 11:55pm on Sunday of the week they are assigned.


Final Exam

(25%) The final exam will cover EVERYTHING we'll have discussed over the course. You must answer each question in NO MORE THAN 200 words and NO LESS THAN 100 words.  Material that is obviously over the limit will not be graded at all.  Although there are 20 questions, you must answer only 18.  Clarity and concision will be your friends.  Each answer is worth 10 points, for a total of 180 points.  The questions will be posted on moodle in the 5th week of class, so you can get an early start.  The final is due Saturday December 15th  by 11:55pm and must be submitted through moodle.


General Grading Guideline for Written Assignments

A: Meets all the requirements and demands of the assignment, contains neither argumentative nor factual errors, is well written (including grammar, structure, etc.), and offers a degree of insight and sophistication that goes beyond what has been discussed in the lecture notes and forums. 

B: Meets all the requirements and demands of the assignment, contains neither argumentative nor factual errors, and is well written (including grammar, structure, etc.)

C: Meets the basic requirements and demands of the assignment but lacks insight, has a few argumentative or factual errors.

D: Does not meet the basic requirements of the assignment and/or has a argumentative and factual errors, but has made some effort to complete the work.

F: Does not meet the basic requirements of the assignment, and/or has a argumentative and factual errors, and had not made some effort to complete the work




Getting Started (Enrolled Students Only)

         Check  your student schedule to make sure you are officially enrolled in the class, then:

         Go to http://moodle.piercecollege.edu

         Click on your class link with the CORRECT section number. (Chose the link with the appropriate semester, year, and section number)

         Look around and familiarize yourself with the course.



Grading and the Grade Book

I have a maximum 10-day turn around on assignments.  If you havent received a grade for an assignment after 10 days please send me an email.  All your grades will be posted to the moodle gradebook. 


Dropping the Course

After the first week, I will not drop you from the class.  You must drop yourself.  Otherwise you will get the grade, most likely an F, of someone who remained enrolled but who didnt complete the assignments. 



I will only give incompletes in cases where you can completed the majority of the class work, have demonstrated a full-faith effort to complete the class, and have a documentable and legitimate reason for why you failed to compete all the assignments. 


Student Services

If you need help paying for books and other college expenses, call the Financial Aid Office at (818) 719-6428 or see them in the College Services Building http://www.piercecollege.edu/offices/financial_aid  You should also check out the additional services available to Pierce Students either online at www.piercecollege.edu or in the Pierce College Schedule of Classes.


Special Services

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all qualified students enrolled in this course are entitled to "reasonable accommodations." Anyone with a learning disability (e.g., dyslexia, test-taking anxiety, etc.) should see me at once about any special accommodations that need to be made.  You deserve to have your learning needs accommodated!  The Learning Center and Special Services are both terrific and free resources. http://www.piercecollege.edu/departments/learning_center/  We work closely with the Disabled Students Program & Services office and have computer software and hardware available to meet special requirements. The office of Disabled Students Programs is located in the Administration Building, Room 1024 (818-719-6430).