Course Description

This course is an investigation of truth, and how Western philosophers have addressed this question. We will ask how and what we know about important things whose truth is at issue. We will focus on three invisible things in which most people believe, or disbelieve --  the soul(personal identity), God, and free will.

We will investigate the evidence for these beliefs by asking you to tell your own truths and asking, as well, that you try to formulate the reasons you have for holding these truths.  In addition, we will read and discuss how a series of philosophers have conceived and written about these issues, and we will read accounts from contemporary sources that address the same issues. By the end of the class you will have held some of your most closely held beliefs up to the light for examination and if all goes well these beliefs might even be established on firmer foundations or modified to fit standards that the class has made available.

You will be asked to write two kinds of essays. First you will write your own initial versions of your beliefs about God, the self and free will. Then, after reading the philosophers and the other written sources, and discussing what these have to say, you will write three more formal essays, each a minimum of 7 pages, on the questions of the reality and nature of God, the self and free will. These essays will reflect readings and discussions, and will comment on your original essays. We will spend much class time discussing your views, and the views of our philosophers, in a variety of formats, including some form of debate. Expect to read some of your work in class.


 Each class member will write three “rough” essays on his or her beliefs about God, self and free will. These essays will be typed, the pages numbered, and should be at least three (3) pages in length. Each member will then write a longer, more formal essay on the same topics, written after reading the philosophers and other sources. Each of these essays will be at least five (5) pages in length, will be typed, pages numbered, and bear a header with you name, as well as a title on the first page, which will be repeated in the header.

You will also be expected to attend class unless you have a good reason for missing, a reason about which you inform me beforehand by way of email. Excessive absence (more than four) will seriously jeopardize your standing in the class and your grade. 

You will also be expected to do the reading and to be able to respond to questions about it, which I will ask during class. Evidence that you are not reading will also have a serious negative effect on your standing. Each of three essay sets will count for 30% of the final grade.

The final 10% of the grade will be calculated based on two final written objects. 

You will write a two page essay on what one thing you have learned in the class, something that matters.

You will write a one page Manifesto, in which you will express your most fundamental beliefs about God, self and freedom without arguing. The Manifesto is all assertion. Details on this item will be provided.




Instructor and Office Hours


Kevin O’Neill

101 Bekins Hall

Extension 8655;  909-748-8655         email:koneill@coemgenus.com

Office Hours;

Monday  2:30 - 4:00


Bibliography: John Cottingham  Western Philosophy: An Anthology by Blackwell Publishing



January 12 Introduction. Begin to write identity essay.




17 Present and discuss identity essays. Summarize kinds of beliefs about identity. Read Cottingham pp. 63 - 69 , Plato and the Cave.

19 Discuss Plato. Read Berkeley , pp. 91 - 96 Cottingham

24 Discuss Berkeley. Read Descartes, pp. 22 -25 and 145 - 151 Cottingham

26 Discuss Descartes. Read pp. 127 -133, Plato on the soul. Cottingham

31 Discuss Plato. Read Locke on consciousness, pp. 187 - 191. Cottingham


2  Discuss Locke. Read Hume, pp. 37 -41 and 197 -202. Cottingham

7   Discuss Hume. Read Freud, pp. 203 -208. Cottingham

9  Discuss Freud

14 Review identity theories. Sketch our identity essay.

16 Present drafts in class.

21 Identity paper due. Introduce God.(!)




February 23  Discuss Anselm and Descartes.  Read Aquinas arguments pp. 248-250; Pascal’s Wager,  256-259

March 5 Discuss Aquinas and Pascal. Read Leibniz Problem of Evil pp. 260-264; Kierkegaard and Faith, 277-282 

7 Discuss Kierkegaard and Leibniz. Read Hume on Design and Miracles pp. 265-276.

12 Discuss Hume. Read James on Will to Believe pp. 283-287

Discuss James

14 Discuss James Read  Wisdom on God and Language pp. 288-294

March 19 Discuss Wisdom.

21 Read God drafts in class.

26 God essay due. 

28 Begin Freedom. Read Sartre, pp.


2 Discuss Sartre. Read Strawson on Freedom and Resentment pp. 234 - 240. 

 4 Discuss Strawson. Read pp. 427-432, Hume on Suicide.

9 Discuss Hume. Read pp. 455-460 on abortion.

11 Discuss Abortion. Assign Freedom paper

16   Reading of freedom paper drafts.

18  Freedom paper due. Discuss final assignments



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