Jamaica Theological Seminary

Course Syllabus:


Introduction to Philosophy



Course Schedule:

Wed. 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Course Title:

Introduction to Philosophy

Credit Hours:


Term / Year:

“First” (Michaelmas)/2003


Mr. Gordon E. Mullings, M.Sc. Physics, MBA.


Administration Building

Office Hours:

Tue. 6 - 8 pm


876-969-1226 /8211/8803



Course Web-site:



“That I may know Him…that I may make Him known”


This course introduces students to key approaches, ideas, inquiries and issues of Philosophy in the context of their significance for/challenge to the project of thinking, living and serving Christ and community as informed, educated Christians. Through structured participative approaches, it will emphasise: (1) primary questions/foci/issues; (2) terms, tools and techniques used to address such issues with due regard for precision, clarity and cogency; and, (3) the use of the principle of comparative difficulties to critically reflect on pivotal elements, issues and impacts of the systems put forward by select ancient, medieval and modern/postmodern philosophers, in response to these questions. Through these explorations, the interaction of philosophy and Christian faith across time will also be explored, to discover whether biblically rooted, philosophically informed, prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership (e.g. as sketched in Acts 17:16 – 33) is possible and/or desirable. The participants will then use their findings to discuss the relevance and applicability of philosophical questions and approaches to current challenges faced by the Caribbean.  


GOAL: Through participation in this course, students should demonstrate an understanding of and confident ability to critically assess – and, where appropriate, apply --  key issues, concepts, approaches and tools of philosophy to the 21st Century Caribbean context, in light of relevance/challenges to the areas of ministry into which they are called.

OBJECTIVES: In order to fulfill this goal, students who have successfully completed the course should be able to :


Identify major themes, branches[1], concerns and techniques of philosophy, comparing/contrasting them with those of theology and the empirical sciences.



Critically but fairly assess the claims, degree of coherence and impacts of key elements and arguments of several major philosophical systems and associated worldviews. In so doing they should address:


§         premises, presuppositions, principles,

§         proof- and/or evidence- claims,

§         theories/models & procedures,

§         arguments, conclusions and agendas for action.


(Thus participants will advance their capacity as critical consumers of information, arguments, knowledge-claims and proposals/agendas.)



Compare and contrast Philosophical and Biblical ideas, claims and agendas; through assessing/formulating biblically aware, philosophically informed analyses and/or proposals, in light of challenges facing the Caribbean.  



Identify and critically discuss worldview assumptions and philosophical elements embedded in typical analyses, opinion pieces or proposals in the Caribbean context, presenting findings in fair-minded but critical presentations or dialogue.  



Present such analyses and arguments through acceptable oral, multimedia or written formats as appropriate/required.



1.      Interactive presentations and guided discussions

2.      Presentations: informal (discussion) and formal

3.      Written assignments: short papers and term paper

4.      Multimedia/web-based interaction


5.      Quizzes and tests/examinations (mid and end of term)




A. Attendance

The class meets every scheduled session except for emergencies. Students are expected to attend all classes. The student must notify the lecturer if s/he is going to be absent.

B. Assignments

1.     Readings & Reading Reports:


§         Please complete assigned readings and jot down talking points/responses to set questions before each session. This will help to facilitate your participation in class discussion.

§         Some required readings may be placed on the reserve shelf in the Zenas Gerig Library  from time to time. (Students will be encouraged to do at least 300 pages of reading in the areas highlighted for the course.)

§         After the first session, each of you will be required to re-read the “parable” of the Cave and critically assess its case, in 250 - 300 words.

§         In addition you are required to submit a brief Reading Report on a topic chosen from those set for the group as a whole, as a contribution to the class’ joint research.[2]


2.      Term Paper  


 Prepare a 2500 – 3000 word (type-written, double-spaced; preferably with a disk/emailed copy as well) paper in which you discuss the question: “Are Philosophy and Caribbean Christianity compatible?” (or on another topic as agreed with the course tutor).  As you discuss the  topic, state your own position on the relationship between Philosophy and Christianity, also express the implications of your position for life and ministry.  Due Wednesday, December 3, 2003.   


N.B. All papers must meet the Seminary’s standard  which includes the use of good grammar, careful proofreading, the citing of sources and a bibliography.  Points or letter grade(s)will be subtracted in case of grammatical errors, improper citing of references, lack of proper proofreading and late submission unless excused by the Lecturer.  Please follow the Seminary’s policy regarding late work submission.                                                                                                                                                                 


3.     Two 30-minute Quizzes:  These will be given during the first part of classes in weeks 4 and 4.  Tentative dates are Wednesday October 29 and Wednesday November 19.  The material covered (up to that point) in the readings and class discussions will be tested.  The quizzes will be based on short answer questions.

4.     Examination    There will be an end of term, 2-hour Exam.  It will be comprehensive.  The date of the Exam will be scheduled during the 10th week of term which is the exam week.

C. Assessment

1.      All policies in the 1999-2002 Prospectus pertaining to grading and grades will be followed.


2.      Each course requirement will be weighted as follows:


  • Reading Reports        5 + 15 points
  • Two Quizzes             30 points each
  • Term Paper              100 points
  • End Exam                120 points

                  TOTAL             300 possible points                      


D. Grading Criteria


Prospectus Criteria
































2.      Grades are based on daily attendance, participation, and completion of all other  assignments. All students are expected to attend class and to participate constructively. Three or more unexcused absences will result in lowering the grade proportionately with the number of absences. Three times late to class constitutes one absence. Assignments are due on specified dates. Failure to attend less than 70% of the classes will result in automatic failure of the course.


3.      Assignment deadlines are listed with assignments for the term. Late assignments will begin with one grade lower for each day late. Contact instructor for emergency situations that prevent the completion of assignments.



1.      Course web site: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jtsintrophil/

2.      Reading: Plato’s Republic and other set readings (available online, in print etc as appropriate)

3.      Reference Text: Hasker, Williams. Metaphysics, IVP, 1983

4.      Bible







1.       Oct. 8

Course Intro: Syllabus, overview & what is Philosophy; “parable” of the cave; compare & contrast biblical, philosophical & “man of action” approaches


Read the Cave and critically assess Plato’s case for philosophy as a basis for education and action

2.       Oct. 15

Discussion: Philosophy at work – logic vs. rhetoric, epistemology & ethics in action; select philosophers and their arguments.



“Cave” reports due; begin thinking about a reading review and a Term paper topic.

Oct. 20

Heroes’ Day

3.       Oct. 22

Discussion: metaphysics, world views and the “proofs” for the existence of God; the problem of evil as an atheological “proof”


Term paper and reading review topics chosen

4.       Oct. 29

Quiz # 1;

Discussion: Epistemology & the rise of Science; theology, faith and philosophy



5.       Nov. 5

Discussion: Cosmology, Science, Education & major worldviews in the post-modern age


Reading reviews due; to be posted to course web site after markup

6.       Nov. 12

Discussion: Philosophy and the evolution of theology since C18



7.       Nov. 19

Quiz # 2;

Discussion: ethics, sustainability and development in the Caribbean



8.       Nov.    26

Discussion: Philosophy and the Caribbean in C21



9.       Dec. 3

Student oral presentations of topics in papers


Term papers due

10.   Dec. 10

Possible Exam day




VII. BIBLIOGRAPHY (work in progress)





The Republic

Various, available online

Hasker, William


IVP, 1983

Christian, James L

Philosophy: An introduction to the art of wondering

NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1986 [In ZGL]

Brummer, Vincent

Theology & Philosophical thinking: An Introduction

Phil, PA: The Westminster Press,1982 [?] [In ZGL]

Epstein & Kennedy

The Process of Philosophy: A Historical introduction

NY: Random House, 1967 [In ZGL]

Popkin & Stroll

Philosophy Made Simple

NY: Doubleday, 1993

Trueblood, D Elton

General Philosophy

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 1981.

Moreland, J. P.

Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1989

Holmes, Arthur F

Contours of a World View

Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983


[1] That is, Metaphysics, Ethics, Logic, Epistemology, Aesthetics and extensions to “Philosophy of X,”  e.g. Religion, Education, Politics, or Science.

[2] The report should comprise two to three typed pages, as double-spaced.  It must summarize the evidence and argument on the theme fairly but briefly, and should incorporate a short interaction with and critique of the material.  This report is due before the class for Wednesday, November 5,2003