Phil 101.001: Introduction to Philosophy

Spring 2022, MW 11:15 am-12:05 pm in Chapman 211, plus Friday recitations, 3 credits

Professor Jim Pryor (he/him)

Sakai Site, Zoom, and Regular Updates

UNC students enrolled in the course (or otherwise authorized by the instructor) can access the Sakai webpages for this course at

Those pages include the Zoom links for the course meetings and for Professor Pryor’s office hours. These can also be retrieved from this restricted page.

Most of the information for the lecture part of the course will be published here, outside of the Sakai system, and can also be viewed by people not enrolled in the course. Your recitations may work more closely with Sakai.

This front web page won’t be updated frequently. Regular announcements, readings, and lecture notes will be posted at this page instead.

General Catalog Listing

We are obligated to copy this general information onto every syllabus. See below for a description of how this specific instance of the course will be run.

PHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy: Central Problems, Great Minds, Big Ideas. 3 Credits.

An introduction to philosophy focusing on a few central problems, for example: free will,
the basis of morality, the nature and limits of knowledge, and the existence of God.

Honors version available.
Gen Ed: PH.
Grading status: Letter grade.

Description for Our Specific Instance of this Course

This course will be an introduction to philosophy focusing on a few central problems:

  1. What does it take to have free will? Is this incompatible with one’s choices being programmed or physically determined?

  2. Relations between minds, brains, and machines: Are your mind and body made of different stuffs? If a machine duplicates the neural structure of your brain, would it have the same thoughts, experiences, and self-awareness that you have?

  3. How can we tell whether animals and future computers have minds, or whether they’re instead just mindless automata?

  4. Personal identity and its relation to surviving bodily death: What makes you the person you are? If we perfectly recorded all the neural patterns in your brain, could we use that to “bring you back” after a fatal accident?

  5. Questions about the nature and disvalue of death: What does it mean to die? Do you have an immortal soul which could survive the death of your body? Why is death bad? How can it be bad for people who aren’t alive anymore to be harmed?

Target Audience and Course Goals

This course does not presuppose any prior background or coursework in philosophy.

It aims to introduce you to a range of philosophical topics and writing, and give you experience analyzing and discussing arguments and writing philosophical papers.

More specifically, the course goals include:


The course is offered by Professor Jim Pryor (he/him).

Professor Pryor’s office is Caldwell 108A. He can best be reached by email, at

Professor Pryor’s office hours are on Mondays starting at 3 pm, and Wednesdays starting at 1 pm. (If you have a quick question, you can also ask just after class.) If you’re unable to meet in person, we can also arrange to meet by Zoom. The Zoom link for office hours can be found on this restricted page.

Feel free to drop into office hours to discuss anything you like about our course. I’m happy to talk about paper ideas, continue discussion, and so on. If you do come to my office and I’m already speaking with someone, make sure that we know that you’re waiting for us to finish.

Recitation Sections

All recitations meet on Fridays (starting the first week of classes) for 50 minutes. They’ll meet in person as circumstances allow.

Sorting the recitations by times: there is one at 9:05 (led by Ripley), one at 10:10 (led by Frank), three at 11:15 (led by Ripley, Devin, and Jackson), one at 12:20 (led by Frank), and two at 1:25 (led by Devin and Jackson).

The TAs’ emails are linked above. Here are their office hours and locations. (Your TAs may sometimes or regularly hold office hours by Zoom; they’ll let you know.)

Hours Tue 2-3 and Fri 10-11, Office Caldwell 206C
Hours Tue and Wed 9:30-10:30 am, Office Caldwell 206C
Hours Wed and Fri 12:15-1:15pm, Office Caldwell 107E
Hours Mon and Wed 12:30-1:30pm, Office Caldwell 107B


These should be available in the bookstore. You can also buy or rent them online. I’ll also make sure readings from the textbooks are available to everybody at the start of term.

Additional readings will be provided by web links. Some of these are in a restricted section of the course website. The username and password for these were emailed to you, and will also be announced in class.

In addition to philosophy articles and textbooks/dialogues, we’ll also read some science fiction stories and watch one movie that deals with issues that we’re examining in the course. We’ll discuss all these in class and (especially) in recitations.

Course Requirements

It is important that you attend the class meetings regularly. Material not in the readings will be presented there, and useful background and framing for many of the readings will also be provided. The University’s Policy on Class Attendance can be found here. In brief, they authorize absences only for some University activities, religious observances, disabilities, significant health conditions including pregnancy, and personal or family emergencies. If these include your situation, then consult the link about how to get your absence approved. (The University Approved Absence Office (UAAO) also has useful information.) If you need to miss class meetings for other kinds of reasons (like a job interview or to attend your mother’s wedding), ask me about it well in advance. In any case, you will be responsible for catching up with missed course content; and permission to miss a class doesn’t excuse you from deadlines for work due before or after the class.

Though this is an in-person course, attending a class meeting doesn’t necessarily mean being bodily present in the room. As the carolinatogether website says:

Each time prior to coming to campus, all members of the Carolina community should self-assess whether you are experiencing any symptoms.

If you have symptoms, you should stay home. You should not enter any campus building, attend any class or report to work.

Information about Covid testing is available here.

Information about quarantining and isolation is available here.

If you need to stay home during any of our class meetings, try to attend the meeting by Zoom instead.

See the Policies section below about wearing masks and using laptops or other devices in class.

When you join the class meetings, you are expected to have read any material assigned for that day, and to be ready to discuss it (in recitation) and/or ask questions about it (in recitation or lecture).

It is essential that you ask questions when things in the readings or lectures are unclear, and be ready to participate when we have class discussions. We’ll expect you to actively engage with each other in recitation, and encourage you to do it outside of class too. Talking about philosophy is one of the best ways of learning how to do it. Your overall participation will make up 15% of your grade for the course. See this page on participation for more details. If you don’t plan to participate earnestly, you should not take this course.

There will be reading assignments for most class meetings. These readings are often pretty short, but they all require close study. You should read them carefully before we discuss them in class, and you’ll need to read them more than once. For most of the readings, you won’t understand the material sufficiently with just a single reading. A good strategy would be to read the assignment once before we discuss it, and then go back and read it again after we’ve discussed it. If you don’t plan to do this, you should not take this course.

Here is a detailed explanation of how you’ll be expected to read philosophy papers.

You will have to submit four brief writing exercises (about a half-page each) for the course, due on Jan 18, Jan 25, Feb 1, and Feb 8. These will be graded one of: High quality/Satisfactory/Low quality. You will submit a more substantial, 3-5 page paper on Mar 1. This will receive a normal letter grade and feedback from your TA. You will then have to rewrite and resubmit that paper, improving it in light of that feedback. The rewrites will be due on Mar 29, and will also be graded. You will also write a new 3-5 page paper that is due on Apr 19.

We will arrange that grading of your work is done without us knowing whose work is whose.

Here is a detailed explanation of how you’ll be expected to write philosophy papers. That page includes a section “How you’ll be graded”; here is more information on how I understand different grades for written work.

There will also be a final exam, given in compliance with UNC-Chapel Hill’s final exam regulations and according to the final exam calendar. Our exam will be on Fri May 6 from 12-3 pm.

See below about rescheduling your final or paper deadlines.

The University Honor Code applies to all course assignments, exams, and petitions for absences or rescheduling. In brief, this means students are expected to refrain from “lying, cheating, or stealing” in the academic context. For more information or to clarify which actions violate the honor code, consult with your instructors,, and/or The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance.

What constitutes “lying, cheating, or stealing” depends on the academic activity.

Your grades for the different components of the course will be weighted as follows:

15% for participation and brief writing exercises 15% first draft of substantial paper 1 20% revised version of paper 1 25% substantial paper 2 25% final exam

Grade Appeals: If you feel you have been given an incorrect grade for any part of the course, we can review together how we applied the announced standards. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you have the right to discuss with our department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (currently Professor Markus Kohl), or to appeal through a formal University process. You’ll be expected to make a case that the grade reflects an arithmetic/clerical error, arbitrariness, discrimination, harassment, or personal malice. To learn more, consult the Academic Advising Program website, or this summary of University policies.

Most requests that I and other professors hear for changing grades are based on how good/bad it would be for a student to get a given grade; but it would be unfair and inappropriate for justifications like that to succeed.


This schedule lists due dates for assignments and the rough order of our topics. See this other page for course announcements, specific readings, lecture notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meetings 1-2 / Mon Jan 10, Wed Jan 12
Introducing Determinism
Mon Jan 17
MLK Day, No classes
Tue Jan 18
First brief writing exercise due
Meetings 3-4 / Wed Jan 19, Mon Jan 24
Compatibilism and Incompatibilism about Determinism and Free Will
Tue Jan 25
Second brief writing exercise due
Meetings 5 / Wed Jan 26
Libertarian accounts of Free Will
Meeting 6 / Mon Jan 31
Introducing substances and the Dualism/Materialism debate
Tue Feb 1
Third brief writing exercise due
Meetings 7-8 / Wed Feb 2, Mon Feb 7
Dualism and Leibniz’s Law
Tue Feb 8
Fourth brief writing exercise due
Meetings 9-10 / Wed Feb 9, Mon Feb 14
Causal Arguments against Dualism
Meeting 11 / Wed Feb 16
Varieties of Mental States
Representational Content
Privileged Access
Meetings 12-13 / Mon Feb 21, Wed Feb 23
Other Minds - Leiber dialogue
Meetings 14-15 / Mon Feb 28, Wed Mar 2
More on Other Minds
First paper due on Tue Mar 1
Meetings 16-17 / Mon Mar 7, Wed Mar 9
Numerical Identity
Begin Personal Identity
Mon Mar 14, Wed Mar 16
No classes (Spring break)
Meeting 18 / Mon Mar 21
Perry dialogue, First Night
Meetings 19-21 / Wed Mar 23, Mon Mar 28, Wed Mar 30
Perry dialogue, Second Night
Revision of First paper due Tue Mar 29
Watch movie The Prestige (2006)
Meeting 22 / Mon Apr 4
Perry dialogue, Third Night
Meeting 23 / Wed Apr 6
Meeting 24 / Mon Apr 11
Feldman on Life, chapters 1-3
Meeting 25 / Wed Apr 13
Feldman on Death, chapter 4
Fri Apr 15
University Holiday, no recitations
Meeting 26 / Mon Apr 18
Feldman on Existence after Death, chapter 6
Tue Apr 19
Second paper due
Meetings 27-28 / Wed Apr 20, Mon Apr 25
Feldman on What Makes Death Bad, chapter 8-9
Meeting 29 / Wed Apr 27
Last class (review)
Fri May 6
Final Exam 12-3 pm

Other Information

If you wish to be in the course, but aren’t yet enrolled

(Whether or not you’re on the waitlist, the procedure is the same.) Come to the first week of classes and be in touch with me asap about your interest in the course, how it fits into your larger educational plans, and what your background in other philosophy courses might be. We’ll accommodate you if we can; but you should also figure out a backup plan.

If you want to change what recitation you’re enrolled in

If you have issues about which of the recitation sections you’re signed up for, please be patient about this. To take this course, it’s mandatory that you have space in your schedule to attend at least one of our scheduled recitations. But if you can’t sign up for the one that suits you best, we’ll try to sort that out eventually. Make sure you go to some recitation the first week anyway, even if it’s not the recitation you ultimately hope to be in. We ask you to email the TAs rather than Professor Pryor about any recitation-scheduling matters. (All our emails are listed above.) The registrar will need to assign you to some section; but at the start of term you don’t need to worry about whether they think you’re taking a section we give you permission to take.

Rescheduling/missing deadlines or the final exam

If you know in advance you’ll have good reason for being unable to submit a paper for a deadline:

What if it turns out that you can’t turn the work in, but now it’s only days or hours before (or even after 😮) the deadline?

If you have two final exams scheduled at the same time, or three scheduled within twenty-four hours:

Policies and Resources

The first few of these are specific to our course; the rest are information that the University mandates we include on every syllabus. (So you will see a lot of overlap with your syllabi for other courses.)


The instructors reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus, including paper due dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules.


We welcome your input about the course at any time. You are welcome to approach me and the TAs directly. We’ll also provide opportunities for anonymous evaluation and feedback during the term.