ASSIGNMENTS: Submit 5 Journals and 1 Paper to TurnItIn  Class ID: 26115048   Password: madness
5 journals (75%): on any of the topics in the syllabus, and each journal should contain and discuss at least 5 quotes from the textbook(s).
  • See below FAQ #1: What is a journal and what is required? 
  • Each journal, at least 500 words, should contain reflective and critical commentary: the required components are listed below at FAQ. 
  • Aim to submit your journal(s) on or close to: Sep 16, Sep 30, Oct 14, Oct 28, Nov 11, Nov 25, and/or Dec 9, 2020.
  • I will be grading and commenting on any new submissions shortly after Sep 16, Sep 30, Oct 14, Oct 28, Nov 11, Nov 25, and Dec 9, 2020. 
  • You can expect to receive the feedback and grade on each journal in 2 weeks after submitting it.  
  • The feedback and grade will be posted directly on each submission uploaded from your TurnItIn account: look for the comments and number there.
  • There are five folders, Journal 1, Journal 2 ... in TurnItIn: simply submit each of your journals, accordingly. Just fill all five folders by Dec 9, 2020
  • You will not be penalized for letting go any earlier dates. The earlier you submit, the earlier you get your grade, that's all. 
one 5,000 word paper (25%): on any topic(s) in the syllabus, in which you can expand on any of your 5 journals: due on Dec 9, 2020, the last day of class
  • See below FAQ #3: What is required in a final paper?​
  • Your paper, structurally the same as the journal, should be an expanded and detailed version of your journal(s), and so again, all the main quotes should come from the textbook(s) and materials listed in the syllabus. Delve into a topic or a combination of topics you have already analyzed in your journal(s) and make sure to cite exactly and specifically from the textbook(s) and analyze, integrate and expand them as your main study material - that is required, and so without such, you will not be able to earn a passing grade. Aim for a total of about 15-20 direct quotes from the textbooks and listed materials for this 5k word paper.  
  • As a supplement but not a substitute, after you cover the basics as required, you can certainly refer to any outside sources if they meaningfully contribute to the development of your core argument, and any such additions will result in some additional points earned too. Yet, the number of external quotes should be limited to 10. You will not be penalized for not using any external sources. Again, what really matters, your priority, is your closely studied reflection on the textbook(s). 
  • ​If you end up wanting to write on a topic that you have not yet covered in any of your 5 journals but is still evidently in the textbook too, you are allowed to write on that as long as the evidence is literally there with all your specific references to the chapters/passages/parts in the textbook(s). 

On the 100 point scale, each journal counts up to 15 points (15 x 5 =75 points) and the remaining 25 points are for the 5,000 word paper.
Cycles/Deadlines for Fall 2020: Sep 16, Sep 30, Oct 14, Oct 28, Nov 11, Nov 25 (journals & draft paper & revisions, soft) + Dec 9 (final paper & all, FIRM)   
If you have any alternative suggestions on your assignment plan, email me with a request and explain why you need or want a different approach. 

NOTES on the general method and evaluation criteria 
1. Writing-focused: read the textbook(s) at your own pace and focus on producing, ultimately, a 5000 word paper at the end. 
2. Feedback on your submission will be the main portal of communication between you and the instructor in this class. 
3. Upon request, a further individual guidance will be available through an occasional online meeting or ad hoc workshop: email me with a request. 
4. Blackboard group discussions will function as a classroom discussion throughout the course; active use of it, while not required, is strongly recommended.
5. You are encouraged to review supplementary materials linked below or on the course Blackboard.
6. You are also encouraged to utilize and quote from any materials you found online as long as they are reasonably reputable sources and you reference them clearly. 
7. You are expected to work towards producing a "portfolio" of your own ideas and learning, given the wealth of information and specific prompts provided here. 


Course Description          
An introduction to four major philosophical questions: What can I know for certain? Does God exist? How should I act toward others? What is justice? This analysis of the foundations of knowledge, religious belief, ethical theory, and social justice includes readings from Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, Descartes, Kant, Mill, and contemporary philosophers. 

Course Objectives           
To gain some basic understanding of philosophical ideas and methods by reading, debating and writing about some of the key texts and issues. 

Required Texts  
Kathleen Higgins and Robert Solomon, The Big Questions (Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2017). 10th Edition. ISBN-10: 1305955447 ​
Earlier editions are acceptable too. 

Recommended/Further Readings
​Any materials of your choosing, online or in print. 



  • This asynchronous online course focuses on your individually-paced and oriented reading and writing. 
  • The textbook functions as the proxy guide in terms of both topical coverage and a set of study questions for you to choose to answer.
  • The book has 11 chapters and you choose at least 5, your own; your journal topics should come from the "opening questions" in the book, in any combination.
  • Any supplementary materials I might provide as we proceed, depending on your needs and feedback, will be posted below or on the course Blackboard. 

Good For General/Quick Introductions and Overviews: 
philosophize this!
philosophy bites
stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

Topic 01: Philosophical Questions
Topic 02: The Meaning of Life
Topic 03: God
Topic 04: The Nature of Reality
Topic 05: The Search for Truth
Topic 06: Self
Topic 07: Freedom
Topic 08: Morality and the Good Life
Topic 09: Justice and the Good Society
Topic 10: Beauty
Topic 11: Non-Western Philosophy



1. What Counts as a Journal? 

Study the textbook(s) carefully, especially the part/page/chapter of your choice, and write a well-condensed and composed entry containing all three elements: 
@ a succinct summary of the reading material or section of your choice 
@ a critical response to or close analysis of any crucial passage(s) which should also be clearly cited, and 
@ a conclusive elaboration of the significance of the topic and the passage(s) under discussion. 
​Here are some samples: journals on"The Personal is Theoretical?"; Theoretical is Scientific?; "Naming Oppression and Position"
These examples are quite extensive, and just aim for a shorter version of the comparable level of analytic and critical reading.
Some writing tips: 
  • Try and "budget" words around each quote you intend to discuss and connect. You could start mechanically with around 70-80 words per paragraph. 
  • In this class, well-incorporated and thoughtful reflections on real life episodes as examples are more than welcome. In fact, they would be very interesting. 
  • Make sure you aim for quality, not quantity, and logical and engaging links among ideas, not just a series of fragmented thoughts merely bundled together.

What Citational Style Should I Use for the Journals? 
​Any standard academic style such as APA/Chicago/MLA

Where Do I Submit a Journal and How Is It Graded? 
Each journal should be submitted to Turnitin and will be graded and returned with comments within 2 weeks of submission.

Can I Write Multiple Journals on a Single Figure? 
Yes. For instance, you can certainly write all of your five journals on one word or even a paragraph. What matters is the quality of your studied reflection and writing. 

Can I Write More Than Five Journals? 
No. Redirect your surplus energy to paper writing, your 5,000 word final paper. 

Can I Rewrite My Journals and Resubmit Them for Better Grades? 
OK. Up to 2 journals post-feedback. If your revision is evidently better, your final grade will be higher. I have created 2 additional folders for your optional revision. 

2. What Are the Grading Criteria? 

Grading Scale 
97- A+
93- A
90- A-
87- B+
83- B
80- B-
77- C+
73- C
70- C-
67- D+
63- D
60- D-
Below 60 F (Fail)

On the 100 point scale, each journal counts up to 15 points (15 x 5 =75 points) and the remaining 25 points are for the 5,000 word paper. 
  • Those regularly and actively participating in the blackboard discussion could earn an extra credit up to 10, but no one will be losing points for not participating. 
  • Grades are non-negotiable unless there is a clerical error. 

Grade A: Mastery of the issues and literature, and an ability to make some original contribution. 
Grade B: Good grasp of issues and literature, but little or no attempt at own contribution. 
Grade C: Some but uncertain grasp of the issues. 
Grade D: Failure to grasp issues but some attempt made. 
Grade F: Not even trying. 

3. What are the Basic Requirements for a 5,000 word Paper? 
  • Topic: any figure(s)/chapter(s)/topic(s) of your choice from the textbook(s): if you have any other specific suggestions, discuss them with me first for approval. 
  • Primary Source: textbooks ("required texts") and links on this syllabus page: you are required to study and cite from the primary materials.
  • Outside Sources: print or internet-based, in any combination, supplementary (not required), limited to 10; any reference, a url, a chapter, or a book, counts as 1. 
  • You will not be penalized for not using any external sources of your choice but will be penalized for not using the required primary source.
  • If your additional, supplementary sources contribute meaningfully to your overall argument, you will earn some additional points, accordingly. 
  • Bibliographic Format: any standard academic style such as APA/Chicago/MLA
  • The deadline: the last day of class: firm

Can I submit a draft paper for a quick comment and preliminary grade before submitting the final version?
Yes. I have created an optional "draft submission" folder in Turnitin for that purpose. The deadline for this is two weeks before the final paper deadline. 

Can I incorporate my own journals into my final paper by literally reusing some passages? 
Yes. Your paper could certainly expand on some of the key points in your own journals also by importing some sections, as long as your paper as a whole makes sense.  

Statement of College Policy on Plagiarism
"Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else‘s ideas, words, or artistic, scientific, or technical work as one‘s own creation. Using the ideas or work of another is permissible only when the original author is identified. Paraphrasing and summarizing, as well as direct quotations, require citations to the original source. Plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional. Lack of dishonest intent does not necessarily absolve a student of responsibility for plagiarism. It is the student‘s responsibility to recognize the difference between statements that are common knowledge (which do not require documentation) and restatements of the ideas of others. Paraphrase, summary, and direct quotation are acceptable forms of restatement, as long as the source is cited. Students who are unsure how and when to provide documentation are advised to consult with their instructors. The Library has free guides designed to help students with problems of documentation." (From the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Undergraduate Bulletin, p. 36)
Should plagiarism be determined, a formal disciplinary action will be taken immediately: the student in question will receive an F grade for the course.

Accommodation of Religious Observances
Upon request, academic accommodations for a religious observance are available on an individual basis; by the end of the second week, please provide me with a supplementary document that specifies and verifies your context and needs for modification. 

Accommodation of Documented Disabilities
Please contact me within the first two weeks of the semester. An appropriate, case-by-case arrangement will be made to ensure that the student in question is given an
 equal opportunity for learning. 


PHI 231. The Big Questions
Prof. Kyoo Lee, 524 West 59th St. Rm 8.63.15, Dept. of Philosophy, John Jay College, CUNY
Office Hours: By Appointment