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PHILOS 1E03 ProblemsofPhilosophy

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Diane Enns

Email: ennsd@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 318

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27529


Office Hours: Thursdays 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. or by appointment (UH 318)

Course Objectives:


This introduction to philosophy will focus on one particular philosophical problem: meaning in life, and its opposite—meaninglessness. Some of the questions we will consider: What do we mean by “meaning” in life and is it universal or particular to an individual life? Is a meaningful life a happy life, a moral life, a life that accepts suffering? What are the fundamental conditions for meaning in life; in other words, what makes life worth living, and what makes it not worth living? How do we pursue meaning in our lives and what are the obstacles to such a pursuit? We will read historical and contemporary philosophical and literary texts that explore the quest for meaning through such avenues as self-reflection, faith, love, art, suffering, work, solidarity, and the pursuit of justice.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates

Laozi, The Daodejing of Laozi

Courseware (all essays in the Courseware will also be posted on Avenue in pdf)

Method of Assessment:

Essay #1 (1200-1500 w) = 30%

Essay #2 (1200-1500 w) = 30%

Tutorial participation = 10%

Final exam = 30%


1. Two Essays = 30% each

Two essays will be required in this course, due February 2 and March 16 at 3:30 p.m. (the start of class). These essays will be focused on one or more texts from the course reading list, and will require comprehension and explication of the ideas as well as some critical reflection. Essays must be a maximum of 1500 words, submitted electronically on the Avenue course site. More specific information will be posted on Avenue.

2. Participation = 10%

It is expected that all students will regularly attend tutorials, come prepared by having done the assigned readings for the week, and contribute to discussions. This grade is for active participation, not mere attendance.

3. Final Exam = 30%

The final exam will consist of short answer questions based on lecture and reading material from the start of term and one essay question based on the readings from the last month of the course. It will be a 2-hour exam, held during the final exam period.

Summary and weights:

Essay 1: Due Monday, Feb 6, 3:30 PM; 30%

Essay 2: Due Monday, March 20, 3:30 PM; 30%

Final Exam: During Scheduled Exam Period; 30%

Tutorial Participation: 10%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

1. Essays over the word limit will be returned to the student to revise. Late marks will apply from the day the essay is returned to the student.

2. A late deduction of 5% per day (including weekends) will be applied to late essays. Exceptions will be made only if you have legitimate medical reasons or extenuating personal circumstances and you notify your T.A. in advance of the deadline. Please see your Faculty advisor for medical documentation in case of serious illness.

3. Since the assignments in this course are all worth more than 25%, you may not submit an MSAF for missed deadlines. All assignments must be completed in this course to receive a final grade.

4. If any assignments are missed, we will not permit other course assignments to be re-weighed.

5. Any student who requires special academic accommodations must submit a SAS form to the instructor and discuss all accommodations with their T.A. at the start of term or as soon as the SAS form has been submitted. Any request for extensions must be made in person to your T.A., not to the instructor.

6. In this course we will be using a web-based service (Turnitin.com) to reveal plagiarism. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically to Turnitin.com via Avenue. Students who do not wish to submit their work to Turnitin.com must notify the instructor for permission to submit a hard copy instead. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to Turnitin.com. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.). To see the Turnitin.com Policy, please go to www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity.

7. You must submit your essays electronically, using the “Dropbox” tool on the Avenue site for this course. Please make sure that you choose the correct folder for your tutorial group. Comments and grades will be returned to you on Avenue. If your T.A. requires a hard copy as well, you must submit one in class on the due date, in addition to submitting an electronic copy. In this case, your T.A. will return comments and grades on your hard copy.

8. Your essays should include your name, ID, and your T.A.’s name, and should be double-spaced, in 11-12-point font with regular sized margins. Proper citation is expected (consult either MLA or Chicago style guides).

9. Essays must not be submitted to the Philosophy Department Office. They must be submitted directly via Avenue (and, if your T.A. requires a hard copy, in class the day they are due). Be sure to keep your own electronic copies of all work submitted.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Schedule of Classes:

wk 1      Jan. 5: Introduction to course

2             Jan. 9: Plato, Apology (from The Trial and Death of Socrates)

Jan. 12: Plato, Crito (from The Trial and Death of Socrates)

3             Jan. 16: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, “Book I: The Human Good”

Jan. 19: Epictetus, “Enchiridion”

4             Jan. 23: Laozi, The Daodejing of Laozi

Jan. 26: William James, “Lectures IV and V”

5             Jan 30: William James, “The Sick Soul”

                Feb. 2: Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Suffering of the World”

6             Feb. 6: Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, (excerpts)


Feb. 9: Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, (excerpts); and “The Myth of Sisyphus”

7             Feb. 13: Simone de Beauvoir, “Ambiguity and Freedom”

                Feb. 16: Simone de Beauvoir, “Personal Freedom and Others”


8             Feb. 27: Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Mar 2: Simone Weil, “The Needs of the Soul”

9             Mar 6: Simone Weil, “The Needs of the Soul” cont.

                Mar 9: Irving Singer, "Love and Meaning"

10           Mar 13: Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, “On Loneliness”

                Mar 16: Hannah Arendt, “Action”

11           Mar 20: Hannah Arendt, “Action” cont.


Mar 23: Virginia Woolf, Chapter 3, A Room of One’s Own

12           Mar 27: Karl Marx, “Estranged Labour”   

                Mar 30: Franco Berardi, “The Soul at Work”

13           Apr 3: no reading

                Apr 6: no reading

Final Exam during exam period: TBD

Other Course Information: