Saturday, August 26, 2006


Northwest Christian College

PHL 250: Metaphysics and Epistemology

Fall, 2006

Beth Bilynskyj, instructor

MWF 3:00-3:50
Room L203B

Description of Course:

This course will provide an overview of some of the central concepts and issues in metaphysics and epistemology by allowing the student to work with various classic and contemporary primary texts. We will give serious attention to the following topics in the first half of the class:
• the nature and possibility of metaphysics
• Aristotle’s understanding of substance and change
• particulars, properties and relations
• universals and particulars,
• modality and possible worlds
• causality
• realism/anti-realism debate

In the second half of the class, we will take the “epistemological turn” and focus on these areas:
• intellectual virtue and skepticism as motivators for epistemological inquiry
• kinds of knowledge, including a posteriori and a priori knowledge
• the standard analysis of knowledge as justified true belief and the Gettier problem
• foundationalism and coherentism
• reliabilism
• naturalized epistemology and virtue epistemology
• epistemology and religious belief
• emotions and knowledge

Purpose of Course:

• To provide a fundamental part of a Christian liberal arts education, integrating NCC’s biblical and Christian studies with rigorous philosophical study.
• To contrast premodern and modern approaches to metaphysical and epistemological questions
• To provide students with a strong foundation for further exploration of the philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of language, philosophy of human nature, and/or the philosophy of science.
• To prepare students for effective and successful roles in ministry, teaching, counseling, science and technology.
Course Objectives:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:
• describe some of the central concepts and issues in metaphysics and epistemology,
• analyze and critically evaluate arguments regarding the positions on issues.
• explain which would be your “first philosophy,” metaphysics or epistemology, and why.

Textbook and Resource material:

• Knowledge and Reality: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Steven M. Cahn, Maureen Eckert, and Robert Buckley. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall, 2004).
• W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous. ( Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998).
• handouts, online and reserve readings.

Suggested, but not required:
• Josef Pieper, Living the Truth. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989).
• W.R. Carter, The Elements of Metaphysics, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1990.)
• D.W. Hamlyn, Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
• Moser, Mulder and Trout, The Theory of Knowledge: A Thematic Introduction (New York: Oxford, 1998).
• Louis P. Pojman, What Can We Know? An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. ( Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001).


Students are invited to check the course blog for syllabus, updates to the course calendar, bibliographies, additional articles, quotes, and to continue conversations outside the classroom.

Instructor Information:

• Beth Bilynskyj, M.A. Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, 1979.
• 744-9343 (home phone; leave message and best time for me to return your call)
• (probably the best way for us to immediately connect)
• Office Hours: TBA

Please feel free to contact me. It is important that we end confusion and answer your questions as soon as possible. I also welcome your comments on the content of the course, and/or any suggestions you have to improve the class. Most of all, I want to get to know you, and invite you to the Great Conversation which is philosophy by inviting you to wonder about what is real, and how we know.


Since this will be a small class, I will have ample opportunity to evaluate your grasp of the material through our discussion.

1. Reading Reports (5 worth 10% each, totaling 50%)

Philosophy has been described as a “great conversation,” so the bulk of our time together will be discussing the day’s assigned readings. Plan to spend at least two hours in preparation for every
hour in class. Outlining is an excellent way to master material so you can begin to wonder about it. Those who have not read the material will be unable to contribute profitably to the seminar, and thus weaken the quality of the class as a whole.

In order to ensure you are keeping up with the readings, I will collect “Reading Reports” at various points throughout the term. A reading report will be a 1-2 page legibly written or typed paper
1) outlining at least one main claim and supporting argument from the assigned text.
2) including at least one question or comment of yours, raised by the text.

ALL READING REPORTS ARE DUE AT THE START OF CLASS, over material assigned for that day. Please refer to “Policy on Late Papers and Class Assignments” below, in the section on NCC Academic Policies.

2. Discussion/Participation (20%)

As this is such a small seminar, its success depends upon you. Your class discussion/ participation grade will be calculated by the frequency of your contributions to class discussions, and the quality of your questions, observations and conclusions.

NOTE: Students should be prepared to offer at least one well-thought written question, comment, or criticism about the day’s reading to each session. Students failing to do so will receive a lower reading grade.

NOTE: Should participation and discussion flag as a result of students not having done their readings, I reserve the right to give “pop” quizzes, which will be counted as part of this discussion/participation grade.

3. Attendance (10%)

Absence is the greatest damper for discussion, so you should make every effort not to miss class. Everyone has something to contribute, so your presence is crucial. Being absent from class more than three times leads to significant grade reductions, i.e. A becomes A-, B+ becomes B, etc. Ten or more unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Please refer to the NCC attendance policy below.

4. Final (20%)

A review sheet will be handed out on Dec. 6, and Dec. 8 will be set aside as a study day for the final. The final will be proctored by Steve Bilynskyj, as I will be in Oxford, England Dec. 8-14.

NCC Academic Policies:

General undergraduate academic policies can be found starting on page 42 of the Undergraduate Academic Catalog 2006-2007 which is online at The following specific policies are related to this particular course:

Class Attendance.
Students are expected to arrive on time for class. Your participation grade will be affected if you are not in class or are late to class, for whatever reason. Excused absences will be allowed for activities such as serious illness, family or work emergencies, and recognized commitments with the College, (such as NCC days, intercollegiate softball and basketball.) The professor will determine the validity of the excuse. The student is responsible for knowing all information presented in the class(es) missed. If there are any problems, please let the professor know BEFORE the class.

Missed Quizzes, Tests, and Exams.
No make-ups will be allowed for reading reports except for circumstances granted a legitimate excuse status. In the event that a student cannot do a report or take an exam, he/she must contact the professor BEFORE the absence, and the professor will determine whether or not a legitimate excuse is warranted. Final exams are not given before their scheduled time unless permission has been secured from the Vice President for Academic Affairs in advance. In case of serious illness or an extreme family crisis the student should request the professor for an I (incomplete) grade. In such a case, the policy on make-up exams applies.

Late Papers and Class Assignments.
Assignments will be accepted without penalty for circumstances considered a legitimate excuse. Otherwise, they will be lowered according to the following formula:
one day late: A to A-, A- to B+, B+ to B, and so on.
two days late: A to B, B to C, C to D, and so on.
three days late: A to C, B to D, C to F.

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty.
Plagiarism, cheating, and any other form of academic dishonesty are not acceptable and will not be tolerated at NCC. A student reported to have engaged in any one of the above will be subjected to a disciplinary action according to the policy stated in the Undergraduate Academic Catalog.

Disability Services.
If you need special accommodations because of a documented disability whether it is psychiatric, learning, physical or sensory, you must process your request with Ms. Angela Doty, the designated Disability Officer. Contact Ms. Doty through the Student Development Office by phone at 684-7345, by e-mail at:, and/or refer to the Disability Services Handbook (available in the Student Development Office) for the policy and detailed procedures regarding disabilities. Contact should be made prior to the beginning of each semester so that the Disability Officer can make reasonable accommodation for each eligible student.


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