Introduction to Philosophy Through Film (PHIL 101)


Course Lectures/Films:  Monday 6:00 - 8:00

Discussion Sections: Tues through Friday as indicated on your registration

Instructor: Don Callen

Assistants/Small group instructors:  to be announced



Basic Information


Callen:  Office/314 Shatzel; Phone/372-8369;  e-mail/;  Office hours/to be announced.


Your assistants will provide you with basic information at the first meeting of your discussion section.




The texts, exercises and some additional resources may be found on the Web.  This is the only place to find them.  This requires that you have access to the web (available to all BGSU students) in order to download, print and read your assignments.   If you have a problem using the web, make an appointment with your small group instructor who will help you access your texts and tools exercises.


            Instructions for Locating Your Texts and Tools Exercises


      1.  Open the WWW page which has the following address:





2.    The page should look something like the graphic on the next page

3.     of your syllabus.  Click your mouse on the link as indicated.



















            4.  Alternatively, open the WWW page that has the following address:




            5.  You should now be able to read, download and print the texts and tools- exercises you will need.






We will be viewing four films over the course of the semester: Vanilla Sky, The Road to Perdition, L.A. Confidential, and Signs,.   Some of these films are R rated.  If that is a problem for you, you should sign up for a different section of Philosophy 101.  This is the only section that employs film as an essential part of the course.


Schedule of Films, Readings, Tools-Exercises-Due-Dates, Exams



* * * * * * *


Unit One:   What is Philosophy?



Week 1  January 10-14


            Monday:   The syllabus for the course   Lecture on first half of Unit One

Assignment for Disc. Section:    Locate and Download texts from the Web.   First reading of the first part of Unit One:   What is Philosophy?   Heidegger’s “Memorial Address”.


T/W/Th:   First Meeting with Small Group Instructors,.








Week 2  January 17-21


            Monday. Martin Luther King Day.  No class

Assignment for Disc. Section.: Finish reading Heidegger’s Memorial Address, complete Tools exercises covering the first part of Unit One.


T/W/Th.:   Review of first part of Unit One.


Assignment for Mon.: Read the second part of Unit One, from Descartes’s Meditations   and continue with the Tools Exercises for Unit One.


Week 3  January 24-28


Mon:  Lecture on Descartes’s Meditations.

T/W/Th: Review of Descartes’s concept of philosophical thinking


Week 4  January 31-February 4


Mon:    Film:  Vanilla Sky


Assignment for T/W/Th.:  Complete the Film Application part of the Tools Exercises in preparation for discussion of the film.


T/W/Th:   Discussion of Vanilla Sky  in the light of philosophical concepts.


Assignment for Mon.:    Read the selections by Epictetus and B.F. Skinner in Unit Two.  Do the Tools Exercises for this part of Unit Two.


* * * * * * *



Unit Two:   The Question of Freedom: “Who controls my life?”



Week 5   February 7-11


Mon:   Lecture on Unit Two, Who controls my life?,  Selections by Epictetus and Skinner.  Introducing the selection by Simone De Beauvoir.


                        Thursday is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit one.


Assignment:   Read the Simone De Beauvoir selection in Unit Two and do the accompanying Tools Exercises.


T/W/Th:   Review Unit Two and Lecture on central concepts in the De Beauvoir selection.


Assignment:   Review the readings for Unit Two and continue to work on the tools exercises for Unit Two.


Week 6  February 14-18


Mon: Film:   The Road to Perdition


Assignment:   Complete the Film Application part of the Tools Exercises in preparation for discussion of the film.


T/W/Th:   Discussion of  The Road to Perdition in the light of philosophical concepts.


Assignment:   Begin the reading for Unit Three and do the Tools Exercises for the selections by Rand, Hobbes,  the short story “Counterfeit Money,”  and the selection from Plato, “The Ring of Gyges.”


* * * * * * *


Unit Three: The Basic Questions of Ethics: “Should I care more about others than I care about myself?”



Week 7 February 21-25

Mon: Lecture on Ayn Rand’s defense of selfishness, “Counterfeit Money,”  and Plato’s “The Ring of Gyges.” 


Thursday is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit Two.


Assignment:    Read the rest of Unit Three including the selection by Kant   and   the selection from the Bible.


T/W/Th: Review of the defense of selfishness


Assignment:   Review the readings for Unit Three and continue with the Tools exercises for Unit Three.





Week 8   February 28-March 4


Mon: Lecture on the last part of Unit Three, Kant, The Good Samaritan and Introduction to Unit 4


Assignment: Continue with Unit Three


Thurs:  Review of the second half of Unit Three


            Assignment: Complete the Tools Exercises for Unit Three


Week 9 March 7-11

Spring Break


Assignment:    Do Web review for the Midterm. 


* * * * * * *


Week 10  March 14-18


Mon:  Midterm examination   (The exam will not be a long one but it is important that you be on time for this exam so you will have a full hour to complete it.  No makeup will be given in the absence of an appropriate documented  excuse.)


T/W/Th:    Review of the midterm


Assignment:  From the text for Unit 4 read  the selections by Epicurus, Mill and the first part of the text by C. S. Lewis;  do the accompanying Tools Exercises.


Thursday is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit Three.



Unit Four:   The Basic Questions of Ethics: “Does goodness lie in happiness or in acting according to the moral law?”





Week 11  March 21-25


Monday:  Lecture on  Unit Four

Assignment:  Work on the Tools Questions for Unit Four


T/W/Th:  Discussion of Unit 4




Week 12 March 28-April 1

Mon: Film: L.A. Confidential


Assignment:  Complete the Film Application part of the Tools Exercises in preparation for discussion of the film on Thursday.


Thurs: Discussion of L.A. Confidential in the light of philosophical concepts from both Units 3 and 4.


Assignment: Read Unit 5, Lewis and Russell,  and do the appropriate Tools Exercises.


* * * * * * *


Unit Five: The Questions of Metaphysics: (1) “Should we accept the scientific view or the religious view of the world?”



Week 13 April 4-8

Mon: Lecture on Lewis and Russell, the religious versus the scientific view of the world. 


Thursday is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit Four.


Assignment:   continue with the Tools Exercises for Unit Five.  Finish reading Unit 5.


T/W/Th: review of Unit Five.  Discuss the Clarke story.


Assignment: continue with the Tools Exercises for Unit Five.



Week 14 April 11-15

Mon: Film: Signs     


T/W/Th:  Discussion of the film, Signs, making use of philosophical concepts.


Assignment:  Complete the Film Application part of the Tools Exercises.   Read Unit Six.  Do the appropriate Tools Exercises


* * * * * * *



Unit Six:  The Questions of Metaphysics: (2)  “Are we mortal or eternal beings?”



Week 15 April 18-22

Mon: Lecture on Unit 6


Thursday is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit Five.


Assignment:   continue with the appropriate Tools Exercises.


T/W/Th: review and discussion of readings for Unit Six.


            Assignment:   complete the Tools Exercises for the readings in Unit Six.


Week 16 April 25-29

Mon:  Review for Final Exam


           Assignment:  Complete Tools Exercises for Unit Six.  


            T/W/Th:  Continue with review for the final exam




Monday of exam week is the deadline for turning in the Tools Exercises for Unit Six.



Week 17   May 2-6



Mon: Final Exam   No make-ups will be given in the absence of a suitable documented  excuse.  This is the exam which has Mon. as its fixed time.  You will have to arrange to take any conflicting exam at another time.




Course Requirements


(1).  Regular Attendance.  While attendance will not be taken, you simply will not pass the course unless you attend lectures, view the films and meet for discussion and review sessions.  The reason for this is simple.  You will not be able to adequately complete the Quizzes and Tools Exercises and perform well on the exams.  The only times when attendance is absolutely mandatory, however, are examination sessions.  No make-ups will be given for missed examinations except for documentable illness or other emergency.


(2) Philosophical Tools Exercises.  Completion of the tools exercises in a timely way is essential to completing the course.  These exercises are designed to help you develop the concepts and skills which enter into philosophical thinking.  The exercises target vocabulary and concept development, reading comprehension, the understanding of argument, formulating objections to arguments, critical comparison of opposing philosophical views, applying philosophical concepts to interpreting character and action in film, etc.  While you will not be asked to write a term paper for this course, the tools exercises will include practice in philosophical writing.


(3)  Beginning with the lecture on Descartes, a quiz will be given following the completion of each Monday lecture.  If you miss more than one Monday lecture and quiz without a suitable documented excuse, your point total for the course will be lowered by twenty points, the equivalent of one letter-grade.  This does not mean that you are free to skip one lecture session.  It is to allow for emergency situations only.  If you skip a lecture (and thus miss a quiz) early, and later on in the semester, let’s say,  your car happens to break down leaving you stranded in Toledo on a lecture night, you will be out of luck. The only way to make up for the lost twenty points owing to missing more than one lecture/quiz is through extra-credit points.


(4) Examinations.  There will be two examinations, a one hour mid-term exam and a two-hour final exam.  These examinations will include multiple choice, true-false, and short essay questions.  The final exam for this course is the regularly scheduled examination for the class period.  If you have a course that schedules an exam in conflict with this exam, you must reschedule the other exam.


Viewing the Films


You may be familiar with some of the films featured in the course.  It is important that you understand that you must see them again.  Commonly, the viewing of films is largely a passive activity.  We let the images dumbly wash over us and then leave the theater registering either pleasure or displeasure at what we have seen.  One of the aims of the course is to introduce you to a more thoughtful and active viewing of film.  You will be asked to watch the films with particular issues or questions in mind.  Ideally, you would view each film at least twice, looking for details in the action and the dialogue presented to support something which is “argued” to be importantly true about the human condition. With some practice at this, in the future you won’t have any difficulty in discovering for yourselves the important questions or issues a film is addressing.  Whether you ever take another philosophy course or not, you will discover that a philosophical dimension of reflection will become available to you as a permanent part of your movie-going experience.


 If you come to the film session, you should decide in advance that you will stay until the film is over.  It is rude and disruptive to your fellow students to leave during the last ten or fifteen minutes.  This is usually a very crucial part of the film where many things are coming together quickly.  If you can’t stay the full time, don’t come;  rent the video and watch it at home.  All the films will be in DVD Widescreen format, Dolby sound etc.






Your grade for the course will be based on a total of 200 available points broken down as follows.


Quizzes:  5 points each for a total of 30 points.


Tools Exercises: 15 points each for a total of 90 points.


Mid-term: 35 points.


Final: 45 points.


The final grade will be calculated by dividing your total number of points by 2.


90 - 100 = A

80 - 89 = B

70 - 79 = C

60 - 69 = D

0 - 59 = F




The Tools Exercises are of different kinds.  You may work together to answer vocabulary and other short answer questions.   You should remember though that these are meant to develop skills necessary for more difficult reading and philosophical writing.  “Working together” means working   together.  Simply copying something will be of no use to you in the end.  The exercises which call for your own independent thought and work must show just that.  These are short essay questions which ask you to develop your ideas in response to a reading or a film.  Plagiarism is  presenting  someone else’s work as your own.  You can be guilty of it even if you did not intend to do anything deceptive.  Sometimes a student in high school will think that writing a paper is a matter of copying information from various sources.  That is plagiarism.  Now when developing your own ideas, often it is important to cite or quote what someone else has said about some issue.  In such a case the other’s words should be enclosed in quotation marks and a reference to the book and the page should be included.  If your instructors find that you have copied the work of another either exactly or nearly so – or if you allow someone else to copy your work -- you will fail the course and your name will be reported to the Academic Honesty Committee for possible suspension or expulsion from the University.