University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper


Course holder:        Dr. Maria Cijntje-van Enckevort

Guest Instructor:   Dr. S. Sergio Scatolini Apóstolo

Phone:                       +599 - 524 0303


Office hours:           By appointment only

Course Description

This course will introduce the students into the world of Philosophy. It will first offer a brief description of Metaphysics and Ethics, and then present the students with a selection of articles aiming at triggering off their own reflection on value-related issues.

            The term metaphysics originally referred to the writings of Aristotle that came after his writings on physics. It is the study of the kind of things that exist in the universe. Some things are physical (e.g. rocks, bodies, stars, etc.), others are not (e.g. thoughts, gods, values, etc.). Traditionally, meta‑physics refers to the branch of philosophy that attempts to understand the fundamental nature of all reality, whether visible or invisible. In order to help the students realize that metaphysical thinking is not an exclusive peculiarity of the West, the course will briefly introduce Hindu Vedanta Metaphysics, which has exerted its influence on people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Aldous Huxley.

            Human values are dealt with in the area of Philosophy known as ethics. The metaphysical component of ethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human conventions.

To ensure that all participants understand the same thing by values I will include a definition from a report (1987) for UNESCO by the Club of Rome: “The concept of value refers to two contrasting ideas. At one extreme we speak of economic values based on products, wealth, prices - on highly material things. In another context, however, the word value acquires an abstract, intangible and non-measurable meaning. Among such spiritual values are freedom, peace, justice, equality. A value system is a group of interconnected values that form a system and reinforce each other. They are anchored in religion or in humanist traditions. To be precise, it is necessary to distinguish clearly between the values themselves and the means of attaining them. In many cases there is broad agreement over ethical goals, but there are differences of opinions over rules of conduct.... In any society you will find different systems of values co-existing - but nor peacefully - side by side.”

The array of texts that will be dealt with during the lectures examines specific controversial issues such as:

·         Abortion, suicide, and bio-genetics

·         Feminism, Racism, Culture and Identity - examines certain social problems in relation to cultural development, gender and concern for the preservation of cultural heritage

·         Democracy and War - examines morality in democracy, politics, and war (specifically in the aftermath of the war in Iraq) from a Euro-American and African perspective

Course Requirements

v      All students are required to read the texts assigned for each class (see “course outline”) and to actively participate in class discussions about the texts (20%). Therefore, always bring the assigned text to class!

v      Open class discussion (20%).

v      Each student must write a midterm essay (4-5 pages, excluding the table of contents) on a metaphysical topic envisaged from a Caribbean perspective (30%).

v      Each student must write one end paper (7-10 pages, excluding the table of contents) on an ethical issue viewed from his or her own local perspective (St. Martin, Jamaica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, USA, etc.), taking the articles on African Philosophy as a guideline. (30%)

Students are encouraged to use one or more of the articles taken up in the Reader as starting point for their essay and/or paper.



Students who attend the preliminary special public lectures of the Education conference and submit a short report on the talks they followed and 5 philosophical questions that could be asked about what the speaker said will gain extra points for the PHIL 232 course.


Course Objectives

It is not the course’s main aim to have the students learn endless lists of philosophical jargon by heart. Even though students will be presented with some of the essential vocabulary of this discipline, they will be asked to concentrate on the use of the concepts dealt in class and/or the texts, and to develop their personal, critical, and consistent thinking.

There are six overarching objectives to this course:

1.       to acquaint the students with some of the basics concepts presupposed in the mainstream current philosophical discourse which our students may encounter in the media

2.      to expose the students to a variety of texts in the field of ethics, epistemology, existentialism, literature, social history, and feminism. This should bring the students into contact with different value systems

3.      to help the students realize that many of the values that guide our actions today have a long history and are in deed of re-evaluation and re-adjustment

4.      to assist the students in their search for the meaning and foundation of their personal identity

5.      to show them how philosophical theories and methods relate and apply to problems in professions such as law, medicine and business, as well as to social problems in the world at large

6.      to instill in the students the habit of thinking clearly, critically, and responsibly.


Students are required to attend all classes. In order to verify attendance, an attendance list will be circulated to be signed in by each student and submitted by the end of each class.

If an urgent situation should arise, causing you to be late for class, or if you should need to leave the class early, please do notify the instructor beforehand.

Students who have missed classes without a valid cause will be given lower marks than others who have consistently attended all lectures.

Essay and paper: Guidelines, Due Dates and Topics

The midterm essay and end paper must be typed, double spaced, printed on one side of 8 ½ x 11 inch paper (letter settings), with no more than one inch margin on all sides. The maximum font size will be 12 points, preferably 11 points using the font type called “Georgia”.

Both the midterm essay and the end paper must be written in keeping with the grammar of Standard English. In all things pertaining to punctuation and spelling, it must consistently follow one writing style (e.g. Strunk’s The Elements of Style, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, APA Style, Chicago Style, The Times Guide to English Style and Usage, etc. You can find some of these at

Essays or papers not meeting these specifications and essays judged to contain excessive errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling, as well as lacking due references to the works alluded to or cited, will be returned without a grade.

The midterm essay must be submitted by 9th October 2006. The end paper must be submitted by 9th December 2006.

Guidelines for writing the midterm essay and end paper

To write a good essay and/or paper, do the following:

  1. Before you start writing, make an outline of your response.
  2. Make a short summary of the main points, insights and/or arguments of the material consulted. In doing this, bear the following questions in mind:

§         What were the writing’s strong and weak points?

§         Which points were interesting, relevant, and connected to other readings, and why?

§         What assumptions seemed explicit and/or implicit in the reading, and why?

§         Did the author state the purpose of his or her writing? Was it achieved, according to you?

  1. Explain which points you (do not) agree with, and why.
  2. Explain all additional insights and information that you gained during class discussions and have helped you to better interpret the assigned reading.

To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)