Philosophy 1765: Requirements

Table of Contents

Course Structure

The course will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1pm, in Corliss-Brackett 106. We will generally discuss a different paper each meeting, and each student is required to post a "response" to the reading to the course forum by no later than 10am the day we will be discussing it. (This is to give everyone, and especially me, time to read and digest your responses.)

Course meetings will primarily consist of discussion, though I will lecture when that seems advisable. Students are not specifically required but are encouraged to read each other's postings, to comment upon them, and generally to use the course forum as a platform for discussing the readings and asking questions.

Class periods marked as `Discussion' are an opportunity for us to try to synthesize some of what we've been studying. You should plan to review the papers we've read since the previous Discussion session and write some thoughts, as usual, to the course forum.


Contemporary analytic philosophy began with certain discoveries in formal logic, and much of the work we shall be reading is informed in one way or another by logic: Arguments, premises, and conclusions are often stated using the concepts of formal logic. A working understanding of basic logic, such as one would acquire in Phil 0540, is therefore essential.

Prior exposure to philosophy is also essential: Much of the material we will be reading is difficult. As usual with 1000-level courses, then, at least one prior course in philosophy is required, and two are really preferred.


The papers we will be reading are generally quite difficult. You should expect to read each paper at least twice in order to understand it. The first time you read a paper, I'd suggest you just read through it, and don't worry too much if you're not getting everything. At this point, you're just trying to get a general sense for what the author is trying to do. The second time you read the paper, you should slow down. This is when you really do want to pause and think carefully through the various arguments that the author is giving. You will find extended reading notes to help you on the syllabus. If you have questions about the reading, you should feel free to post those to the course forum. (Start a new topic, if that seems appropriate.)

There is one required text for the course: Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity, which should be available at the Brown Bookstore.

Other readings will be distributed electronically. Many of these are available online, through Brown's digital journal holdings; others will be scans of articles, or chapters from books, that are not otherwise available digitally. Students will be able to download these from the course website.

The files are usually available in two forms. There are (i) a DjVu file and (ii) a PDF file. Why both forms? They have different virtues.

There is another advantage to DjVu. It is a file format specifically designed for scanned text, so when we're dealing with page scans (as we often are with older articles), the DjVu encoder produces files that are typically much smaller than the corresponding PDFs, sometimes dramatically smaller.

To view the PDFs, you will of course need a PDF reader. For the DjVu files, you will need a DjVu reader. Free browser plugins for Windows and Mac OSX are available from Caminova; Linux users can likely just install the djviewlibre package using their distro's package management system. Another option is Okular, which was originally written for Linux's KDE Desktop Environment but which can now be run, experimentally, on Windows and OSX, as well. A list of other DjVu resources is maintained at There are also DjVu readers available for Android and iOS. Go to Play Store or whatever to find them.

The program I've used to convert PDFs to DjVu is a simple Bash script I wrote myself, pdf2djvu. It relies upon other programs to do the real work and should run on OSX as well as on Linux.

Requirements and Grading Policies

Grades for the course will be determined as follows.

Grades will be recorded on the course's Canvas site (which will really be used only for that purpose). Pay no attention to Canvas's report of your cumulative grade. This is useless.

The short papers are due at the beginning of class on the day specified. I will not accept late papers. On the other hand, you will find that I am quite prepared to grant extensions, so long as they are requested in advance, that is, at least one day prior to the due-date. Extensions will not be granted after that time except in very unusual and unfortunate circumstancess.

Because I am so reasonable, exploitation of my reasonableness will be taken badly.

Time Expectations

You should thus expect your total time commitment for this class to be about 180 hours.

In Class Behavior

Students may use laptops and the like to take notes in class or to access material we are discussing in class, but all other use of computers, tablets, and mobile devices is prohibited during class. This includes but is not limited to checking email, texting, and searching the web, even if the search is related to the course. I establish this rule not for my benefit, not even for yours, but rather for that of your peers.

In a study entitled "Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers", Faria Sana, Tina Weston, and Nichola Cepeda showed eactly that. It is not just that students who "multi-task" during class—check e-mail, text, or whatever—received significantly lower grades in the study than students who did not. This is not surprising, since the human brain simply cannot focus on very many things at one time. (If you're skeptical about this, then watch this video or perhaps some of these ones.)

Rather, the surprising conclusion was that students who were sitting near other students who were "multi-tasking" also received significantly lower grades than students were who not. In fact, they were almost as distracted as the students who were actually doing the multi-tasking. There is thus evidence that "multi-tasking" does not only hurt the person doing it. It also harms the people around them. And that is the basis of my request that students not engage in such activities during class. If someone near you is doing so, you should feel free to ask them to stop.

Richard Heck Department of Philosophy Brown University