PHIL 1200 -- Philosophy and Society
Summer 2010
Prof. Chris Heathwood


An important part of our course is Discussions.  A great way to do philosphy is to talk philosophy with other intelligent, interested, fair-minded people.  One place where online courses have an advantage over traditional classroom is in the way the Discussion fuction allows us to discuss the topics we're studying:
Online discussions, however, can also have their drawbacks.  The biggest problem is that, for some reason, when people interact with others online, they are often less respectful.  Nice people can turn into mean-spirited "flamethrowers" when communicating at a computer terminal.  Thus, our number one rule of conduct during our discussions is: be respectful.  It may be more challenging to do so in our course than in other courses because it is easy to get emotional about the important moral issues we'll be discussing.  Nevertheless, make it a point to treat your fellow discussants with the respect with which you expect to be treated.  Avoid reducing anyone to a stereotype based on the views he or she holds.  It is ok to disagree -- in fact, we better not all agree, or we will have nothing to discuss.  Just do so respectfully.

Here are some further guidelines.  We'll have higher quality discussions if we keep them in mind:

What I Look For In Determining Your Grade for Discussions

Discussions are worth 25% of your grade for the course.  Part of this is determined by the quantity of your participation, but quality is more important.  The following adjectives signify features that contribute to the quality of a post:


Q: You say we will be graded on quantity.  How frequently are you expecting us to contribute to discussions?

A: There is no clear answer to this question, because one can make up for quanitity with quality.  Also, some posts are much more substantive than others.  Also, in some cases, a few students with have a lengthy back-and-forth in which one might contribute a dozen posts.  But these dozen wouldn't count for as much as  a dozen substantive posts on different topics.  All that said, a good rule of thumb is contribute at least several times per unit.  Definitely don't feel you need to participate in every single discussion topic (indeed, it would make discussions to "crowded" if all 32 of us contributed to each one).  You might aim to participate in about every other discussion topic.

Q: Do we get credit for replying to existing threads, or only for starting a new thread?

A: You definitely get credit for reply to existing threads.  I want to encourage you not only to share your ideas on the topic itself but also your ideas on what your classmates have said.  This is supposed to be a genuine back-and-forth discussion.