History of Philosophy


Course syllabus




Instructor:  W. Russ Payne

Office Hours:  Mon. - Fri. 11:30 - 12:00 or by appointment

Office:  B 100F (or C207)



Item no. 1896

Time:  Mon. - Fri.  10:30 - 11:20 am

Room:  L221


Texts:  Philosophy: History and Problems 6th ed.  Samuel Enoch Stumpf


Additional Course Materials will be posted on our class website which you can navigate to from the following address:





Course Content:

Our story will begin in ancient Greece with a brief introduction to some of the pre-Socratic philosophers.  We will then study the three major Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in more detail. 

After ancient Greece, philosophy and the sciences in general experience a dramatic slump that lasts nearly two millennia.  During this period, philosophy plays a relatively minor role as 'the handmaiden of theology'.  From this period, we will study the thought of the Christian philosophers St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the development of Aristotelian philosophy in the Islamic world.

Significant progress in the development of philosophy perks up at the dawn of the scientific revolution with the work of Galileo and Descartes in Europe and Bacon and Hobbes in England.  Descartes is often regarded as the father of modern philosophy.  Descartes, though pious himself, was largely to thank for freeing philosophy from the constraints of religious doctrine. 

After Bacon and Hobbes, a vital tradition of empiricism takes root in England with the work of Locke, Berkeley and Hume.  Empiricists take our knowledge of the world to ultimately be founded on our experience of the world rather than first principles arrived at through reason alone.  During the same period, the Rationalist view that knowledge can be had through reason alone is developed in Europe in the work of Descartes, Liebniz, Spinoza and Kant.  Christian philosophy, the scientific revolution, the British Empiricists and the European Rationalists will be covered on two exams.

We will then follow the development of western philosophy after Kant in Europe and in America.  In Europe after Kant, the thought of Hegel and Nietzche leads towards Existentialism and contemporary continental philosophy.  Contemporaneous with these developments, German logicians, British Empiricists and American Pragmatists give rise to contemporary analytic philosophy which has been most vital in America.  This material may be covered on the final.



Course Requirements: 

Your grade in this course will be determined by your performance on exams, a short papers on an assigned topic, and various in class and homework assignments.  Exams and the paper will be weighed roughly equally in your final grade.  Make-up exams will be given in only the most dire cases and then only at my discretion. 


Absences in excess of 3 may adversely effect your grade.  Your classroom participation will also be considered in determining your final grade.  Well intentioned contributions can help you significantly.  Inappropriate or disrespectful behavior may adversely effect your grade in the course.



Student Conduct

Maintaining a good learning environment will be your responsibility as well as mine.  Philosophy is best learned through actively engaging in discussion of the issues.  You may have strong feelings about some of the issues we will discuss.  This is fine and it will present no problem so long as we all make respect for each other a guiding principle of our inquiry.  While the experience will be new to many of you, talking about the existence of God or the nature of morality with people that disagree with you can actually be fun.  Keep in mind that what matters in philosophy is that we do a good job at evaluating the reasons for and against the views we consider.  Whether or not your opinions and beliefs are right or wrong is never what is at issue. Whatever beliefs you hold, your grounds for holding them will be stronger for having thoughtfully considered the possible objections.


Cheating and Plagiarism:

We take a dim view of these.  The interment has made Plagiarism easier than ever.  It has also made catching Plagiarism easier than ever.  Trust me, my search engines are better than yours.  Write your own stuff.  I have a duty to report cheating, plagiarism and conduct that is destructive to the course to administration and student services.  I would appreciate not having to act on that duty.