{Meets MW 11.00-11.50 in G-24 Cathedral of Learning}

Instructor: Gerald J. Massey, Ph.D., Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy

1009F Cathedral of Learning; Tel: 624-0392 e-mail:

Office Hours: MW 4.00-5.30 & at other times by appointment

Teaching Assistants (Recitation Leaders) & Recitation Sections:

Every student must be enrolled in a recitation section. Students who are taking the course as a 4-credit writing course must be enrolled in a writing section, i.e., a W-section.. (The sections that meet twice weekly are the writing sections.)

Chrisoula Andreou

Donald Bruckner

Alexander Pruss


Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method & The Meditations, Hackett paperback

David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Hackett paperback

Course Requirements for students enrolled in 3-credit (non-writing) course:

There will be three announced hourly (50-minutes) essay exams, one each on (1) Descartes's Discourse on Method and his Meditations on First Philosophy, (2) Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, and (3) Kant's metaphysics & epistemology, and Hume's and Kant's systems of morality. There will also be a two-hour final examination during the final examination period.

Each student will receive two numerical grades (a) and (b) as follows:

(a) An essay-exam-and-recitation grade determined as follows: Each of the three essay exams will count 30%, and the quantity & quality of recitation participation will count 10%;

(b) The final examination grade;

The numerical Course Grade will be the better of (a) and (b).

Course Requirements for students enrolled in 4-credit writing course:

There will be three announced hourly essay exams, exactly as in the requirements for the 3-credit course above. There will also be a two-hour final examination during the final examination period.

Each student will receive three grades (a), (b), and (c), as follows:

(a) An essay-exam-and-recitation grade determined as in (a) above;

(b) The final examination grade;

(c) A writing grade based on assigned papers and revisions (details will be distributed in

the writing sections);

The Course Grade will be determined as follows: 75% of the better of (a) and (b); 25% of the writing grade. For example: if the essay-exam grade were 92, the final-exam grade 85, and the writing grade 88, the numerical Course Grade would be 91, i.e., 69 (75% of 92) + 22 (25% of 88), which converts (see table below) into a Course Letter Grade of A- (A minus)..

Table for converting Numerical Course Grades into Course Letter Grades:

[Fractions will be rounded to the nearest whole number]

97-100 = A+ 87-90 = B+ 77-80 = C+ 67-70 = D+ < 60 = F

93-97 = A 83-87 = B 73-77 = C 63-67 = D

90-93 = A- 80-83 = B- 70-73 = C- 60-63 = D+

Academic Integrity:

Absolute academic integrity is expected of all students. Anyone who cheats on an examination will receive a failing Course Grade. Similarly, anyone who plagiarizes a paper will receive a failing Course Grade. Any students who are uncertain about what counts as cheating or plagiarism should ask their recitation leader to explain these concepts to them. Ignorance of applicable standards of academic integrity will not be accepted as a defense. (The Instructor has a reputation for being sympathetic to students -- except when they violate the canons of academic integrity.)

Examination Questions:

The questions that appear on the hourly essay exams and on the final examination will be drawn from lists of questions distributed (electronically) in advance of the given examination.

Electronic Distribution of Course Materials:

From time to time, such course materials as lists of possible essay-exam questions, lists of possible final-exam questions, and installments of the Study Guide will be distributed electronically. Students can download materials by visiting the Instructor's webpage at:


Study Guide:
1 Discourse on Method
2 Meditations on First Philosophy
3 Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

The Instructor will prepare a Study Guide, which is designed to help the student understand the writings of Descartes and Hume, and to get the most out of them. Installments of the Study Guide will be distributed electronically from time to time. Students are urged to refer frequently to this Study Guide when they are reading the texts of Descartes and Hume.

A Word or Two about Philosophy and Philosophical Texts:

Philosophical texts cannot be read and understood like novels or short stories. They must be worked through slowly, carefully, and reflectively. In many respects philosophical writings resemble sophisticated legal documents such as Supreme Court opinions. It is, therefore, no accident that many leading attorneys and judges (e.g., the late Louis Nizer and Judge Learned Hand) have had substantial philosophical training, and that many leading jurists recommend the study of philosophy as an ideal preparation for the law.

One skill you should take away from this course is an enhanced ability to read a text closely, to grasp the concepts employed or introduced, to recognize presuppositions and assumptions, to identify and evaluate the reasoning, to weigh the evidence for and against positions taken, and to ferret out implications of claims or assertions. These quintessentially philosophical skills are of incalculable value in virtually all walks of life, but especially in such professions as law, medicine, science, and education.