Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophical Problems

Course Number: PHL 201
Transcript Title: Introduction to Philosophy
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: March 27, 2018
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121.

Course Description

Examines the seminal thinkers from both the Western and Eastern traditions of philosophy through a survey approach to the history of ideas. Develops reasoning skills in order to think critically and recognize that philosophy is everywhere  Prerequisites: MTH 20, or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Recognize and reflect upon the philosophical assumptions embedded in the students’ own ideas and in their immediate culture.
  2. Reflect critically upon their assumptions, values and mental models associated with their personal philosophy of life.
  3. Be familiar with the names and main ideas of influential philosophers from ancient to modern times.
  4. Read and comprehendselections from philosophical primary sources.
  5. Apply philosophical principles to everyday problems of life.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

In-depth 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)

Not Addressed

3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Appreciate cultural diversity and constructively address issues that arise out of cultural differences in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Due to the complex nature of philosophical readings, formative assessment strategies are the most effective measurement of evaluating comprehension. Formative assessment strategies like the reading comprehension tool (REAP), study questions attached to the text, movie reviews, and small group report outs help students to encode their understanding of the text and ponder the material using their own critical thinking skills. 

Critical to effective formative assessments are clear scoring rubrics that identify the expectations, length, and point allocation. Because an accurate comprehension of   philosophy text can rarely be achieved on a first attempt, relying on the methodology of proficient learning is recommended. Offering students an opportunity to modify the main assignments is successful in achieving a greater and more complete understanding of the text.

A summative assessment in the format of a brief multiple-choice and essay exam is may be used at the end of the quarter to measure levels of cognitive competence and retention.   

Course Activities and Design

In philosophy class, the exchange of ideas and discussion is critical to comprehension, the development of critical thinking skills and cultivating a tolerance for different points of views. A classroom activity that can facilitate this exchange and skill building is collaborative learning. For example, in small groups, students share and compare each other’s assignments. This gives students the opportunity to express their point of view in a low-risk environment and help each other’s understanding of the text. On occasion, these small groups could have different reading assignments from each other, so they are responsible for “teaching” the material to the rest of the class. Using the collaborative learning approach, the instructor facilitates the discussion, more than giving a straight lecture.

To maximize the students’ exposure to a diversity of ideas, guest speakers are an ideal opportunity to bring them in direct contact with people from different religious traditions.

In lieu of a guest speaker, the regular use of YouTube, TedTalks, OPB and movie clips is an excellent way to enhance the course content.  Many of these online resources are now available on the Moodle course website.  Ten CGCC videos have been created to help prepare students for the class readings and each individual philosophy.

An additional resource is Second Life. In collaboration with Portland Community College, there is a philosophy garden in Second Life constructed where students can tour the garden and visit the philosophers in the virtual reality of their own worlds.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

There is a standard stable of philosophers surveyed in every textbook and anthology of philosophical readings:

  1. Asian Sages: Lao-Tzu, Confucius & Buddha
  2. The Sophist 
  3. Greek Philosophers: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
  4. Stoicism and Hedonism
  5. Thomas Aquinas
  6. Rene Descartes
  7. David Hume and the British Empiricists
  8. Immanuel Kant
  9. John Stuart Mill
  10. Karl Marx
  11. Soren Kierkegaard
  12. William James
  13. Friedrich Nietzsche

Department Notes

This course involves a great deal of difficult reading. Thus, the student must be able to follow complex articles and to write fluently. This is primarily a readings course and will concentrate on the writings of major figures in this history of philosophy - from early Greek philosophers to contemporary writers.