Phil 101H: Honors Introduction to Philosophy


Course Number Phil 101H.001 (fall 2023)
Title Honors: Introduction to Philosophy: Central Problems, Great Minds, Big Ideas
Credit Hours 3 credits
Course Description See below
Prerequisites None
Target Audience First-year students with no prior experience with philosophical texts or reasoning
Class Times and Location Mon Wed 3:35–4:50 pm in Graham Memorial 038
Instructional Format In-person, mix of structured presentation and group discussion, with presentation and collaboration components
Instructor Professor Jim Pryor (he/him), email
Teaching Assistants None
Course Website
Instructor’s Office Hours Mon 11-12 pm and Wed 11-1 pm in Caldwell 108A
Course Texts 3 required textbooks and additional readings provided by web links

Canvas Site, Zoom, and Regular Updates

UNC students enrolled in the course can access the Canvas site.

Those pages include the Zoom links for any course meetings you need to attend remotely, and for Professor Pryor’s office hours. These can also be retrieved from this restricted page.

Most of the information for the course will be published here, outside of the Canvas system, and can also be viewed by people not enrolled in the course.

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

Here is an index of all the course handouts, webnotes and readings we’ve covered so far (together with some of the upcoming ones).

Course Description

This course will be an introduction to philosophy in the analytic tradition, by focusing on a few representative issues:

  1. How can we tell whether animals and future computers have “minds” — that is, their own thoughts, experiences, ambitions, self-awareness, and so on — or whether they’re instead just mindless automata?

  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 and other mental states that you have?

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

The course will place a strong emphasis on learning how to read philosophical texts and how to evaluate and produce philosophically compelling arguments. The format will vary between lectures and in-class group discussion.


The course is offered by Professor Jim Pryor (he/him). Undergrads genrally address me as “Professor Pryor,” and grads as “Jim.”

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 11 am (until at least noon, sometimes I can go later), and Wednesdays from 11-1 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.

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.

Our class meetings will be a mix of structured presentation and intense group discussion, in which I’ll be both a guide and participant. We will also consult closely about your writing, which will be submitted in several stages.

In addition to the group discussions, you’ll also be learning how to give each other constructive feedback on your writing-in-progress.

You’ll be learning how to engage respectfully and charitably with the arguments of others: both your peers and the philosophers we study. This includes identifying what the arguments and their underlying assumptions are; learning how to clearly explain an argument; formulating counter-examples and other reasonable objections; and recognizing how a view can best be defended (whether you endorse it or not).

You’ll also be learning how to develop your own independent arguments, objections, proposals, and responses.

Philosophy Courses

All our philosophy courses aim at the acquisition and nurturing of basic philosophic skills. One of the main goals of our philosophy curriculum is to instill and enable the development of skills that are distinct to philosophy, but which are foundational to all forms of knowledge.

These basic philosophical skills involve being able to:

IDEAs in Action General Education Curriculum

This course satisfies the Ways of Knowing Focus Capacity (FC-KNOWING). These courses help students develop intellectual humility; learn to question assumptions, categories, and norms that structure their worldviews; and understand the sources and effects of biases. They’ll learn, use, and distinguish strengths and weaknesses of one or more approach(es) to knowledge of the unfamiliar, such as: aesthetically, philosophically, linguistically, historically, or culturally remote forms of knowledge and worldmaking, or formal logic, scientific practice, and similar formalized approaches to countering bias and creating knowledge.

These courses address questions like these:

As an FC-KNOWING course, we will aim at the following learning outcomes:

Alternatively, this course satisfies the Ethical and Civic Values Focus Capacity (FC-Values). These courses help develop your capacity to think carefully and critically about how to make and justify private and public decisions, and address questions like these:

As an FC-Values course, we will aim at the following learning outcomes:

Every Focus Capacity course includes the following activities:

These elements — referred to as “recurring capacities” — will help you repeatedly practice crucial skills for future study, life, and career success.


These should be available in the bookstore. You can also buy or rent them online.

Total expected cost: approximately $35.

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 will be emailed to you, and also announced in class.

In addition to philosophy articles and textbooks/dialogues, we’ll also read some science fiction stories that deal with issues that we’re examining in the course. We’ll discuss these in class.

Course Requirements and Expectations

The University advises you that a 3 credit course should be expected to demand 9–12 hours of work per week on average, including the time for classroom meetings. For our course, that means in a standard week (when no written assignment is due) you should still expect to be devoting about 7 hours to this course outside of our in-class meetings. This includes reading (and re-reading, analyzing, and taking notes on) the assigned texts, reviewing any lecture notes, coming to my office hours, discussing the isses with other students, and so on. When you’re working on a paper or preparing for the final exam you should expect to need substantially more time.

It is essential that you attend the class meetings regularly. Material not in the readings will often be presented there, and useful background and framing for many of the readings will also be provided.

The University’s Class Attendance Policy 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 these links:

  1. The University Approved Absence Office (UAAO) provides information and FAQs for students related to University Approved Absences.

  2. Students can be excused because of disability, pregnancy, or religious observance, as required by law and approved by Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

  3. Students can be excused for significant health conditions (generally, these will require you to miss classes for five or more days) and/or personal/family emergencies, as approved by the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), Gender Violence Service Coordinators, and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

If you need to miss class because of a more temporary illness, just email to let me know. If you need to miss class for other kinds of reasons (like a job interview or to attend your mother’s wedding), ask me about it well in advance. If you do miss a class, you will be responsible for catching up with missed content; and permission to miss a class doesn’t excuse you from deadlines for work due before or after the class.

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 using laptops or other devices in class.

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

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. I’ll expect you to actively engage with each other in class, 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 10% of your grade for the course. See this page on participation for more details. (This course won’t have separate “discussion sections” as that page assumes; we’ll integrate discussion into the main meetings.) If you don’t plan to participate earnestly, you should not take this course.

Your participation grade will reflect your regular contributions to our class discussion, and also other aspects of how you’re engaging with the course, including the brief writing exercise (more on this below).

The course also has a collaboration component involving you giving each other feedback on a paper-in-progress, and a presentation component involving you signing up for two “on-call days” (more on this below too). Often, several of you will sign up to be on-call for the same session, so this offers more opportunities for collaboration. Together these two components make up another 10% of your grade.

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 (even when you’re not “on-call”), 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 a brief writing exercise (half-page to one-page) for the course, due on Tue Sept 19 Tue Sept 26. These will be graded one of: High quality/Satisfactory/Low quality. You will submit a more substantial (4-5 page) midterm paper on Tue Oct 17 Thu Oct 19. This will receive a normal letter grade and written feedback. You will then have to rewrite, expand, and resubmit that paper, improving it in light of the feedback. The rewrites will be due on Tue Nov 7 Sun Nov 12 Tue Nov 14, and will also be graded. Instead of a final exam, you will write a final paper (approx 6 pages) for the course, that will be due before our scheduled final exam session on Thu Dec 14 at 4 pm.

In total, this will all exceed the University requirement of ten pages of writing.

We will also have an final wrap-up discussion meeting online during the scheduled exam session.

As mentioned above, you’ll need to sign up for two “on-call days” during the semester. These are days where you’re expected to be especially well-prepared for class, to have asked any clarifying questions in advance, to have 2-3 topics for discussion ready for the class, and you may be invited to remind the rest of the class about key points in the readings, suggest responses to objections raised in the readings, and so on. This will constitute the “presentation” component of the IDEAs in Action requirements.

See below about missing or rescheduling your paper deadlines.

I will arrange that grading of your work is done without me 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.

The University Honor Code applies to all course assignments 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 exercise (due Sept 19 Sept 26 Sept 28) 10% for presentation component (on-call days) and collaborative feedback on each other’s papers 15% first version of midterm paper (due Oct 17 Oct 19) 25% revised version of midterm paper (due Nov 7 Nov 12 Nov 14) 35% final paper (due before our scheduled final exam session on Dec 14)

When it’s necessary to convert between numeric and letter grades, I use the following correspondences:

F 0 or 50, explained below D 63.3 D+ 66.7 C- 70.0 C 73.3 C+ 76.7 B- 80.0 B 83.3 B+ 86.7 A- 90.0 A 93.3

Grade Appeals: If you feel you have been given an incorrect grade for any part of the course, we can review together how I 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, context for the main readings, links to optional further reading, lecture notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meeting 1 / Mon Aug 21
Begin unit on Animal minds
Meeting 2 / Wed Aug 23
Varieties of Mental States
Read for this session: Colin Allen, “Star Witness”
Mon Aug 28
Campus lockdown: Classes cancelled
Wed Aug 30
Classes also cancelled
Mon Sept 4
Labor Day, No classes
Meeting 3 / Wed Sept 6
Read for this session: Leiber Chapter 1
Meeting 4 / Mon Sept 11
Read for this session: Pojman, Norton, Philosophical Terms & Methods
Wed Sept 13
Classes also cancelled
Meeting 5 / Mon Sept 18
Begin unit on Souls
Introducing substances
Read for this session: Gennaro p. 5–mid p. 21, Notes on Ontology and Substances, Reading Philosophy
Meeting 6 / Wed Sept 20
Leibniz’s Law
Read for this session: Gennaro pp. 21-28, Notes Introducing Leibniz’s Law
Start reading for this session: van Inwagen
Mon Sept 25
Well-Being Day, No classes
Meeting 7 / Wed Sept 27
More on Leibniz’s Law
Continue reading van Inwagen
Expository exercise due Thursday Sept 28
Meeting 8 / Mon Oct 2
Causal arguments against dualism
Read for this session: Gennaro pp. 29-44, review van Inwagen pp. 226-29 and 260-62
Meeting 9 / Wed Oct 4
More on causal arguments
Read for this session: Princess Elisabeth and Descartes
Meeting 10 / Mon Oct 9
Read for this session: Huxley
Meeting 11 / Wed Oct 11
Begin unit on Machine minds
Read for this session: Gennaro pp. 60-86, Leiber Chapter 2
Meeting 12 / Mon Oct 16
Read for this session: Lycan, Turing
Meeting 13 / Wed Oct 18
Read for this session: Mind’s I Chapter 5
Midterm papers due Thursday Oct 19
Meeting 14 / Mon Oct 23
Discuss sample papers
Meeting 15 / Wed Oct 25
Read for this session: Searle
Meeting 16 / Mon Oct 30
Read for this session: Leiber Chapter 3, Einstein’s Brain, Learning to Be Me
Meeting 17 / Wed Nov 1
Read for this session: Schwitzgebel and Garza
Meeting 18 / Mon Nov 6
Begin unit on Free will
Read for this session: Feinberg
Meeting 19 / Wed Nov 8
Read for this session: Lemos Chapter 1, Rachels
Meeting 20 / Mon Nov 13
More on Determinism
Read for this session: van Inwagen, Lemos pp. 21–25
Revised midterm papers due Tue Nov 14
Meeting 21 / Wed Nov 15
Read for this session: Lemos Chapter 2
Meeting 22 / Mon Nov 20
Read for this session: Beebee
Wed Nov 22
Thanksgiving Break, No classes
Meeting 23 / Mon Nov 27
Read for this session: Lemos Chapter 3
Meeting 24 / Wed Nov 29
Read for this session: Taylor, parts of van Inwagen skipped earlier
Meeting 25 / Mon Dec 4
Read for this session: Lemos Chapter 4
Meeting 26 / Wed Dec 6
Thu Dec 14
Take-home due before Final Exam Session at 4–6 pm

Other Information

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

Honors course enrollment and wait list procedures are located here. Please direct all registration questions to Jenn Marshburn, Enrolled Student Services Coordinator for Honors Carolina.

Rescheduling/missing deadlines

The deadline for the final paper is when our course’s final exam would have taken place, and can be extended only in the special circumstances that you could be excused from an exam. These must be documented and approved by an academic dean. See the final exam regulations and fall schedule for more details.

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

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

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.)

Syllabus Updates

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


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