Monday, May 2, 2011

Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit

Read the whole preface
text available at:
Journals due on May 8.

Guidance questions
1. What's the commonness and difference between Hegel and Kant regarding scientific knowledge?
2. How do you understand the statement: "subject is pure and simple negativity" (Φ 18)?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason

Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason
a. Preface to the second edition 1787;
b. the whole Introduction:
namely from “I. Of the difference between Pure and Empirical Knowledge” to “VII. Idea and Division of a Particular Science, under the Name of a Critique of Pure Reason”)
text available at
Journals due on April 3.

Guidance questions:
1. Which problem does Kant see in Mathematics, Natural Science (Physics) and Metaphysics (philosophy)? What does he aim to achieve?
2. How is judgment important for science? What means a priori synthetic judgment?
3. What means Copernican Turn in Kant's view of knowledge?

Empiricism & Rationalism

In order to understand Kant, we have to know the philosophers before him. Therefore please do research on these two terms: "Empiricism" and "Rationalism".
Key question: their different accounts of knowledge, regarding the relationship between thinking beings (subjects) and existing things (objects). Do you agree with their explanation of knowledge?
Major philosophers: Hume for Empiricism and Leibniz for Rationalism
Methodology: Research on internet or in library

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Descartes: Discourse on Method

Descartes: Discourse on Method,(Part I-IV)
Text available at:
Journals due on Mar 27.
Questions for reading guidance:
What’s Descartes’ criterion for truth and knowledge?
What’s Descartes’ method to get such knowledge?
Do you think his method can guarantee the truth?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Augustine: Confessions

Augustine: Confessions
Read Book XI
text available at
Focus on
1. How can we perceive past, present and future?
2. Why is it difficult to describe time?
3. What's the relationship between God and time?
Journals due on March 13.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Read Book I and X
text available at:
journals due on Mar. 6.
Guidance questions:
1. what are people pursuing in the end?
2. what are the criteria of happiness?
3. What is the function of man?
4. Why contemplation is the best life?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Plato: Republic Book II

read the whole Book II and the allegory of cave in Book VII
text available at
Journals due on February 27

guidance questions:
1. Glaukon mentioned three kinds of good, to which does justice belong?
2. Which problem did Adeimantos find in poems and religion? What does he want Socrates to prove?
3. What's the requirement of guardians in the proposed city?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Plato: Republic I

Read book I,
text available at
Journals due on Feb. 13.

Guidance questions:
1. Can justice do good to friends and do harm to enemies?
2. Does justice mean the advantage of stronger?
3. Is injustice more useful than justice?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Apology and Euthyphro

Read the whole texts
Text available at
Journals due on Feb. 6
Instructions for posting your journals:
click the link "comments" below, paste your journal into the blank field. You must register an blogger ID at the first time. Please use your real name as the display name.
If you want to change anything, simply post the new entry and notify me. I will delete the old one.
If there is any question, please do not hesitate to ask me (

Guidance questions (but your journals do not have to be limited to answering them)
1. What is in common among politicians, poets and craftsmen according to Socrates?
2. Why Socrates thinks he is wiser than them?
3. What does Socrates consider as his contribution to Athens?

1. What does Socrates seek to know from Euthyphro? Be precise.
2. What's the relationship between gods and piety?
3. Though there is no conclusion, what have you learned from this discussion?


Introduction to Philosophy Class hours: Sun 12:30-3:15 PM
PHI 100 Section 922 Instructor: TANG, Xiaoyang
Spring 2011 Office hours: Th 10:30-11:30 AM
Credits 3 (N630, with appointment) email:

Course Description
The study of philosophy helps students develop analytic skills and gain an
appreciation of the general philosophical problems with which human beings
have grappled throughout the civilization. This course will introduce you to some of the main themes, problems and ideas in philosophy from a historical perspective. Our main goals are to develop an understanding of the nature of philosophical thinking, to get familiar with the most well-known philosophical texts and to acquire some basic philosophical skills of constructing arguments and developing ideas. Given that most (if not all) students have no previous exposure to philosophy, this course will start from the very beginning. We will not only read and discuss philosophical writings from thinkers in the history, but will also try to develop a sense for the process and practice of philosophical thinking.

Student Learning Outcomes
This course will examine different approaches to philosophy. The students will learn: 1) There are various possibilities of doing philosophy in the ancient, modern and contemporary times. Philosophy, in broad sense, is not limited to any particular form or question, but has a valuable and influential existence in many areas in our life.
2) In reading these classical philosophy texts, students will acquire a view of the essence of philosophy.
3) Students will also become more sophisticated readers, better writers, skilled analysts and clear, concise communicators.

Required Text and Readings
(Any version of the following texts can be used. Many of them can be downloaded from the website given)
Plato: Apology, translated by Benjamin Jowett,
Euthyphro, translated by Benjamin Jowett,
Republic (excerpts), translated by Benjamin Jowett,
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, Translated by W.D. Ross, (excerpts)
Augustine: Confessions, Translated by Albert Outler, (excerpts)
Descartes: Discourse on Method, (excerpts)
Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason, (excerpts)
Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit, (excerpts)
Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy, (excerpts)

Evaluation & Requirements of Students
1. Class Contribution (including attendance) 20%
2. Journals/Website entries 15%
3. Midterm paper 20%
4. In Class Presentation 15%
5. Final Exam 30%

1. Class Contribution (including attendance)
In order to ensure a strong class contribution grade, you must be prepared for each and every class. This means that you must be able to respond to, or to raise questions about the text, or to complete basic written and verbal quizzes. The class participation grade will be considerably reduced in the case of students who reveal that they have not completed the assigned reading by their inability to ask and answer basic questions about the text. Students who consistently contribute to the exchange of arguments in class discussion will be rewarded for their hard work.
You should read the text at least twice, the first time, to get a general idea of the text; and the second time to look more closely at the specific arguments and issues. Besides, absence and lateness affect your grade.

2. Journals/Website entries
Your journal entries will be based on the reading material. You must write your entries before the class during which the text is discussed and post them on the class website: No late journal entries will be accepted. The journal entries can be about anything, as long as they are inspired by, and in some way relate to, the reading material. Guidance questions will be provided, but your writings do not have to be limited to these questions. Journals must be a minimum of 100 words. You must write all assigned journals (with a grade of “pass”) in order to get a high grade on this assignment. Active comments and discussions on the website will be rewarded.

3. Midterm paper
A list of topics will be distributed in the middle of the semester. You should choose one topic and write a paper of 3-5 pages.

4. In Class Presentation
You should make a presentation about a philosopher, a philosophical school or a philosophical work which are not covered in the class readings. The topic is chosen by yourself, but should be approved by me in advance. You should present it in a clear and convincing manner to the class within 4 minutes, followed by 1-2 minutes Q&A session.

5. Final Exam
The final exam will be scheduled during the exam week. The exam will include some questions testing your knowledge of philosophy and short writings in response to topics that are not known in advance.

College Attendance Policy
At BMCC, the maximum number of absences is limited to one more hour than the number of hours a class meets in one week. For example, when you are enrolled in a three-hour class, you are only allowed four hours of absence (not 4 days). In the case of excessive absences, the instructor has the option to lower the grade or assign an F or WU grade.
Note: Two lateness is equivalent to an absence.

Academic Adjustments for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments for this course must contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. BMCC is committed to providing equal access to all programs and curricula to all students.

BMCC Policy on Plagiarism and Academic Integrity Statement
Plagiarism is the presentation of some one else’s ideas, words or artistic, scientific, or technical work as one’s own creation. Using the idea or work of another is permissible only when the original author is identified. Paraphrasing and summarizing, as well as direct quotations require citations to the original source. Plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional. Lack of dishonest intent does not necessarily absolve a student of responsibility for plagiarism.

Students who are unsure of how and when to provide documentation are advised to consult with their instructors. The library has guides designed to help students to appropriately identify a cited work. The full policy can be found on BMCC’s website, For further information on integrity and behavior, please consult the college bulletin (also available online).

Outline of Topics (Asterisks mark due dates of journals)
Jan. 30 (Sunday) Introduction
Feb. 6 (Sunday)* Plato: Apology and Euthyphro Topics: Wisdom
Feb. 13 (Sunday)* Plato: Republic (Book I) Topic: Justice
Feb. 20 (Sunday)* Plato: Republic (Book II and the allegory of cave in Book VII) Topic: Politics
Feb. 27 (Sunday) *Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics (Book I) Topic: Happiness
Mar. 6 (Sunday) * Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics (Book X) Topic: The best life
Mar. 13 (Sunday)* Augustine: Confessions (Book XI) Topic: Time, Distribution of midterm paper topics
Mar. 20 (Sunday)* Descartes: Discourse on Method (Part 1-IV) Topic: Knowledge
Mar. 27 (Sunday) * Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason (a. Preface to the second edition 1787; b. the whole Introduction, namely from “I. Of the difference between Pure and Empirical Knowledge” to “VII. Idea and Division of a Particular Science, under the Name of a Critique of Pure Reason”), Topic: Self-consciousness
Apr. 3 (Sunday) Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason (continued) Due date of midterm papers
Apr. 10 (Sunday) * Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit (Preface), Topic: Absolute Truth
Apr. 17 (Sunday) Spring Break
Apr. 24 (Sunday) Spring Break
May. 1 (Sunday) * Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy (section 1-4, 7-15, please note these are the numbers of the sections in the text, not in the preface), Topic: Arts
May. 8 (Sunday) Midterm Presentation
May. 15 (Tuesday) Review