Up@dawn 2.0


(Syllabus under reconstruction*)
Spring 2018

PHIL 3310-001 
Atheism & Philosophy
TTh 2:40-4:05 JUB 202

Dr. James P. Oliver

Office Hours: TTh 11:15-12:45 & by appointment
300 James Union Building, (615) 898-2050, 525-7865 (use this # only during office hours). Philosophy Department 898-2907.

The purpose of our course is to explore the philosophical, ethical, spiritual, existential, social, and personal implications of a godless universe, and to examine various philosophical perspectives on atheism, understood as the belief that no transcendent creator deity exists, and that there are no supernatural causes of natural events. The course compares and contrasts this belief with familiar alternatives (including theism, agnosticism, and humanism), considers the spiritual significance of atheism, and explores implications for ethics and religion.

The theme this semester: Atheism in America... then and now

Required TEXTS 2018:

  • Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (JB)
  • Melanie Brewster, ed., Atheists in America (AA)
  • Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (SJ)
  • Matthew Stewart, Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (NG)J

  • ==
    Just fyi - TEXTS 2016, 2014:
    • Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (JB)
    • Samuel Scheffler, Death and the Afterlife (DA)
    • Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion (RA)
    • Philip Kitcher, Life After Faith (LAF)
    • Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and other essays (BR)

    • A.C. Grayling, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible (GB)
    • Owen Flanagan, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (RHP)
    • Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality (AGR)
    • Christopher Hitchens, Mortality (M)
    • Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience (VSE)
    First day, in class and on our blogsite: Introductions. Who are you? Why are you here? Do you have firm convictions regarding religion, spirituality, an afterlife, a deity...?

    • Spring Semester 2018
      • Jan 16 - Classes Begin
      • Jan 30 - identify midterm report groups & topics
      • Feb 20 - Midterm group report presentations begin
      • Feb 27 - Exam 1
      • March 5-9 - Spring Break
      • Apr 5 - no class, see syllabus for assignment
      • Apr 10 - Final solo report presentations begin
      • Apr 24 - Last class, Exam, runs leaders declared
      • Apr 25 - Final solo report post installment 1 due
      • May 2 - Final solo report post installment 2 due from non-exemptees
      • May 5 - Commencement - Undergraduate
      • May 7 - Deadline for Final Grades

    T 16 - Introduce yourself in class and online (before next class) by replying to "Introductions" on this site, read classmates' introductions. Answer two questions (bearing in mind that this is an open site):
    • Who are you? 
    • Why are you here? 
    And answer a third, if you're ambitious:
    • Do you have firm convictions regarding religion, spirituality, an afterlife, a deity...?
    Th 18 – What is atheism? The case for it (JB 1-2)

    T 23 - Atheist ethics; Meaning & purpose (JB 3-4)

    Th 25 - Atheism in history; Against religion?; Conclusion (JB 5-7)

    T 30 - Atheists in America (AA Intro, 1-"none")

    Th 1 - AA 2-5 (feminism, ex-Mormon...)

    T 6 - AA 6-10 (class, closets...)

    Th 8 - AA 11-15 (relationships...)

    T 13 -  AA 16-20 (parenting...)

    Th 15 - AA 21-23 (work...)

    T 20 - AA 24-end ("my favorite atheist"... aging; Midterm group report presentations begin

    Th 22 - Freethinkers-revolutionary secularism... (SJ 1-2)

    T 27 - ...Lincoln - SJ 3-4

    Th 1 - Exam #1; Evolution, Ingersoll - SJ 5-6

    Spring Break

    T 13 - "Atheists, Reds, Darwinists" - SJ 7-8

    Th 15 - "Onward, Christian Soldiers"... SJ 9-10

    T 20 - ..."Reason Embattled" - SJ 11-12

    Th 22 - Nature's God ..."Pathologies of Freedom" (NG 1-2)

    T 27 - "Epicurus's Dangerous Idea" - NG 3

    Th 29 - Genealogy - NG 4; Exam 2

    Th 5 - No class (I'm goin' to Kansas City), assignment tba

    T 10 - Self-evident truths - NG 5

    Th 12 - Pursuit of happiness - NG 6

    T 17 - Empire of reason - NG 7

    Th 19 - Religion of freedom - NG 8

    T 24 - Last class; Turn in personal log; Exam 3

    W 25 - 1st final solo report blog post due

    W May 2 - 2d final solo report blog post due

    May 7 - Deadline for Final Grades; grade queries welcome

    Course Requirements

    • attendance and participation, which we'll track in personal logs and on a daily "scorecard" and reward with "bases" and "runs" whose final tally will contribute to final grade (4 bases = 1 run, earn up to 5 runs per class... but you have to come to class to get on base and score runs.
    • short daily quizzes, worth one baseper correct answer
    • a short (200+ words) weekly essay posted to the class blogsite - worth 4 bases (1 run)
    • a longer (1,000+ words) final essay posted to the class blogsite in two installments, first installment due by last regular class, second installment due-date tba (but, three top runs leaders may do just one 1,000 word post)... worth up to 20 runs... link to your first installment and to at least two comments on classmates' first final report installments
    • Three 20-question exams based on the quizzes, worth one run per correct answer
    • comments on classmates' final reports (each comment on classmates' reports earns a base)
    • PARTICIPATION is the single largest grading factor: you can earn up to 5 participation "runs" per class, via attendance, quizzes, discussion, and posts to this site. Relevant comments, links, and questions for discussion or the quiz posted before class each earn a base. Be sure to post comments on the group discussions you participate in.
    • Collaborative MIDTERM GROUP REPORT PRESENTATIONS (2-3 reporters to a group, 10-20 minutes), worth up to 20 runs. Include quiz & discussion questions on your report topic. Possible topics include any pre-Descartes philosopher, one of the recommended texts, Stone or This I Believe essay(s)...
    • FINAL SOLO REPORTS (1,000 words) in two blog post installments, including relevant graphics, videos, and links) are also worth up to 20 runs. Possible topics include any post-Descartes philosopher, further development of midterm report topic, a StoryCorps interview/essay, or an imaginary dialogue between yourself and one or two philosophers.
    The top three run-scorers of the semesterare exempt from a second final report installment (but may still post for extra credit).

    Presentations, like group discussions, will follow the peripatetic model whenever weather permits. So, post all supplemental and supportive multimedia material on our site in advance and be prepared to report like a peripatetic, in the open air.

    Count your total bases each class and divide by 4, to determine your daily runs total. Keep track of any extra bases in your personal log, they don't carry over and accumulate (just as runners left on base after the third out each inning don't get to score, but are "stranded") but they do impress the teacher.

    PHONE POLICY. It should go without saying, but for some does not: put your phone away during class. Participate. If you cannot comply with this, you'll be asked to leave and will be marked absent.

    MAKE-UP POLICY. You cannot earn bases or runs from the quizzes on days when you are not present, but you can submit extra-credit blog posts of 500 words (minimum) on topics covered when you were absent, worth up to three runs, to be posted within one week of the class date you missed. Log the date you missed and the date when you posted. You can then claim 3 make-up runs on the scorecard for the day you missed, unless I tell you otherwise.


    FAQ-How do you grade?

    "Well, I add up the grades for the essays, quizzes, the midterm and final. I average them out. Then I consult my stomach."
    That's how someone else puts it. Here's how I do:

    Those with the most RUNS are guaranteed an A. If you finish within the 90th percentile of the 3d-highest run scorer, you're safe at the plate.

    Others will probably also receive A's based on exceptional report and exam scores and participation.

    You get a BASE for every correct daily QUIZ answer, every posted comment, discussion question, alternate quiz question, relevant link, etc.), a RUN for every four BASES, a RUN for each weekly essay (250+ words), a RUN for each correct answer on the three EXAMS, and up to 20 RUNS on each of the two REPORTS. The maximum possible runs per class is 5. Top run-scorers typically average 4-5 runs per class.

    Scorecards, & how to play the game

    Can't tell the players without a scorecard.
    We'll track daily participation with baseball-style scorecards. But our game's much easier than the national pastime, all you have to do to get to 1st base is show up for class. Each class date is a column or "inning" on the scorecard. Simply showing up to class gets you to 1st base. Mark your scorecard accordingly. Now you're eligible to collect more bases and score up to 5 runs per class (runs=participation points, 4 bases = 1 run).

    Collect a base for each relevant comment, question, or link you posted before class, and for each correct quiz answer.

    Be sure to post comments on group discussions you participated in.

    Collect a base if you started the computer/projector & opened this site in our classroom before class.

    Collect a base if you do something else that impresses the professor.

    How to post. Eventually, everyone will have an opportunity to sign up as an "author" on our site. Until then, post your questions, comments, links, etc. in the current "comments" section under the quiz. Or, post via a classmate's author account (click on "new post" in the upper right.)

    Granny Rice

    "When the last great scorer comes to mark against your name, it matters not if you won or lost, but how you played the game." Grantland Rice (Murfreesboro's most famous son)

    Daily routine
    Before coming to each class:
    1. Read/watch/listen to the assigned material for that date
    2. Post relevant questions, comments, & links
    3. Date and log the bases & runs you intend to claim on the scorecard in your personal log, in verbal notation (eg, "posted weekly essay = 4 bases/1 run... posted 2 comments, 1 link, 1 quiz question, 1 discussion question = 5 bases/1 run, 1 extra base"). Turn logs in with each exam.
    4. Write your quiz answers on a separate sheet of paper and bring it to class, where we'll go over them. You get a base for each correct quiz answer.

    We'll split into discussion groups of two or three for a portion of our class time, when we can. If you are physically restricted, or just prefer not to participate, an alternative indoor assignment will be provided... or you and like-minded others can form a sedentary indoor discussion group.

    Daily Quiz

    We'll do daily quizzes consisting of at least 4 questions, posted before class on our site by me and supplemented (in the comments section) by you. Each correct quiz answer earns a base. 4 bases = 1 run.

    Why a daily quiz? Because philosophy is all about the questions, and because "frequent quizzes can deepen learning" (see "How to Study" below).

    And note: "One reason scientists suspect that studying in pairs or groups can be helpful is that students are forced to talk to one another about the material-or better yet, argue about it... [this] deepens learning more than passively rereading or reviewing the material" alone. Hence, the rationale for our quiz-and-collaboration course format.

    Also: three exams (each worth 20+ runs) will be drawn from the daily quizzes. 

    And besides, it's fun.

    Questions & Links etc.

    QUIZ QUESTIONS, DISCUSSION QUESTIONS. An example of a QQ: “Was it Plato or Aristotle who presented the Allegory of the Cave in his book The Republic?” [Plato]. A DQ might be: “Who do you think had a better understanding of reality and how we can discover it, Plato or Aristotle? Why?”

    LINKS. An example of a posted link that would earn you a base: “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is helpfully explained in a cartoon I found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EPz5z1pUag”... OR, “I found a helpful article about Aristotle in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/” etc.

    Personal Logs, Bonus Exemption

    Keep a precise personal log of all your bases and runs, verbally documenting each base and run. For example:

    "Sep 25-Attended class (1 base); turned on projector & CoPhi website (1 base); posted weekly essay (4 bases); posted two comments, two links, one discussion question, one quiz question (6 bases); scored 6 correct quiz answers (6 bases). TOTAL 18 bases = 4 runs, 2 extra bases."Write "4" in the box for today's class next to your name on the scorecard; write "4r, 18b" in your dated personal log.

    Notice, this hypothetical student needed just two more bases to collect the maximum 5 runs on this date. Moral of the story: always try to do just a bit more.
    If you're one of the top three run-scorers of the semester, as determined on the last class date, you only have to do one final report installment of about 500 words. Everyone else does two installments totaling 1,000 words (minimum).

    Peripatetics. The original peripatetics were Aristotle's students at the Lyceum, back in the day. Legend has it that they didn't sit indoors in orderly rows like students nowadays, but instead roamed the grounds in small groups, walking-and-talking philosophy. I like their style, apocryphal or not. It’s a model we’ll emulate when the weather is nice enough, outdoors. 

    "Solvitur ambulando"JPO's blogs & podcasts (we're not using D2L): JPO blogs at CoPhilosophyUp@dawn and Delight Springs, podcasts here and on Soundcloud (More day to dawn, at iTunes), and tweets @osopher. "You don't need to follow me..."

    but if a blog or podcast link is included with the daily quiz you'll probably want to read or listen.

    Don't forget to take the quiz before each class (and add your own questions, for the quiz and for discussion, in the comments section). If you come to class and ace the quiz (with six correct & non-redundant answers) you score a run.

    Lottery scholarship statement. Do you have a lottery scholarship? To retain the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship eligibility, you must earn a cumulative TELS GPA of 2.75 after 24 and 48 attempted hours and a cumulative TELS GPA of 3.0 thereafter. A grade of C, D, F, FA, or I in this class may negatively impact TELS eligibility. If you drop this class, withdraw, or if you stop attending this class you may lose eligibility for your lottery scholarship, and you will not be able to regain eligibility at a later time. For additional Lottery rules, please refer to your Lottery Statement of Understanding form (http://www.mtsu.edu/financial-aid/forms/LOTFEV.pdf) or contact your MT One Stop Enrollment Coordinator (http://www.mtsu.edu/one-stop/counselor.php).