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Philosophy 101

Day/time: Lectures once every 4 Mondays from 7:00pm-9:00pm. Discussions select Thursdays from 5:30pm-7:00pm.

Length: 10 lectures over the course of 30 weeks.

Teacher: Richard Pope

Teacher Email:

Guidelines for Participation:


The purpose of Philosophy 101 is to provide an introduction and overview of the ideas, philosophers, and philosophical schools canonized as western philosophy. Each lecture and discussion stands alone while combining together into a fuller exploration of western philosophy as a whole. Participants may attend single lectures or discussions of interest to them, or attend for the entire series, per their interests and schedules.


Having completed this course in part or in its entirety, each participant should be:

-- familiar with the ideas, philosophers, and philosophical schools canonized as western philosophy.

-- aware of how western philosophy has contributed to our intellectual environment in contemporary times.

Materials and Preparation for Lectures

Each lecture will provide an introduction to that particular lecture’s topic. Participants may attend lectures without preparing in advance. However, prior to each lecture, the following materials will be provided for each participant to explore as their interests dictate:

-- Chapters from The Great Conversation, 6th Edition, by Norman Melchert.

-- Supplemental readings, usually primary texts or internet-based summaries, essays, or encyclopedia entries.

-- Videos/podcasts, usually hosted by

-- Each lecture’s powerpoint presentation.

All course materials can be downloaded or accessed through

Assignments and evaluation

Committed participants are encouraged to submit one or more project(s) related to the course. The assignment should be of personal significance to the participant and approved by the teacher. Example assignments: the participant writes a blog post that utilizes course materials; the participant writes an essay that utilizes course materials; the participant prepares a talk or lecture that utilizes course materials and can be offered through Philosophy 101; the participant prepares a discussion to take other course participants through.

Written assignments may be submitted, discussed, and reviewed at The People's Ink, a writer’s workshop. Spoken word assignments (speeches) may be performed and reviewed at The People's Stage, a workshop that welcomes spoke word performances.

Lectures and Discussions

There are 10 lectures, each of which will cover a philosophical school or historical period, as well as key philosophers associated with that school or period. The course outline is below. Lectures will be offered every 3 weeks while discussions will be offered every week.


Participants are encouraged to attend the entire series to obtain a complete introduction to western philosophy. However, participants are welcome to only attend those lectures or discussions most of interest to them.


The teacher doesn't know everything, nor do all questions have single or whole answers. Furthermore, it is every teacher’s innermost wish that their students surpass them. With this spirit in mind, should a course participant ask a question that the teacher cannot answer, that participant will be encouraged to research the question further on their own time and provide an oral or written answer to those in attendance during a subsequent lecture or discussion. So come prepared with your most difficult questions—and let’s learn together!


At university philosophy departments, it’s routinely stated that the Introduction to Philosophy course is among the hardest to teach. One reason for this is that there is a vast amount of material beneath the umbrella of western philosophy, both canonized and potentially relevant, and so inevitably certain materials will be left out of any introduction. This will also be the case with Philosophy 101, which will be fairly comprehensive of western philosophy as a whole, however certain subjects and thinkers will be excluded or only superficially explored. For instance, we will not examine Christian philosophy beyond a single lecture (Medieval Philosophy), and possibly a follow up discussion or two, even though the tradition has a 2,000 year history. Another example, there will be no lecture on either world religions or non-western philosophy (though these subjects will tie into our discussions) even though such traditions are just as worthy of consideration and are oftentimes just as philosophical. Finally, even to accomplish the breadth that we intend, as is appropriate for an introductory course, certain sacrifices must be made to depth. For this reason, any particular lecture by itself could be drawn out into a 10 week course of its own, and perhaps some of them will be drawn out!

Making this course relevant

Beyond familiarizing participants with the history of western philosophy, the purpose of this course is to provide each participant with concepts, quotations, facts, arguments, and more, relevant to participants' lives. It’s hoped that participants will walk away from each attendance with ideas that they can apply, for instance, in their writing, conversation, or personal development. This is not “philosophy for the sake of philosophy” nor “philosophy for the sake of pedantic understanding” (as is common in university settings—zing!). Rather, this course is “philosophy for the sake of good living,” in order that our lives beyond the classroom become enriched by a tradition whereby humanity has sought insight and wisdom.


Portlanders with a wide variety of philosophical understandings will attend this course, including those who have never studied philosophy and are searching for an entrance into the subject, those who hold degrees in philosophy and who want to keep up with the study and practice of the subject, and everyone in between. It’s expected and encouraged that participants meet one another and become friendly, for philosophy is ultimately a group activity, as demonstrated by how philosophical schools/movements are composed of communities of individuals who share thoughts, perspectives, and debates. This is to say, philosophy does not occur in a vacuum. You can expect that we'll grow as much by exploring the course resources as through our group dynamic—Philosophy 101 will be an exciting intellectual adventure for us all to take together!


1) The Pre-Socratics

2) The Athenians

3) The Ancient Schools

4) Medieval Philosophy

5) The Foundations of Modernism I

6) The Foundations of Modernism II

7) Continentalism and Existentialism

8) Postmodernism

9) Pragmatism and Logical Positivism

10) The Philosophy of Science