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Syllabus for PHIL 109/ THEO 109 – Perspectives on Western Culture I



Fall 2019


Instructor: Katie Rapier

Office: Stokes 253N

Office Hours: W 4-5:30PM

Email: (24 hours to reply)

Classroom: Stokes 211S

Class Hours: T & TH, 10:30-11:45AM, W 6-8:30PM

Course Website:


Course Description:


This course offers a critical journey through Ancient Greek, early Christian, and Medieval thought. Students will engage contemporary and historical ideas through careful analytical writing and in discussion with peers, the professor, and guest lecturers. Supplemental materials will feature cross-cultural and interdisciplinary readings. This course also makes use of student submissions and multi-media to enrich the learning experience.


Learning Objectives:


In this course students with learn to (1) read historical texts, (2) critically engage historical authors through careful, analytic writing, and (3) form meaningful connections between contemporary and seminal works in philosophy and theology.


Required Materials:


  • Plato, Republic(G. M. A. Grube, Trans.) [ISBN: 9780872201361]

  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics(Ross, Trans.) [ISBN: 9780199213610]

  • New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, 5thEdition [ISBN: 9780190276089]

  • Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning[ISBN: 9780807014271]

  • Anselm, Proslogion with the replies of Gaunilo and Anselm (Thomas Williams, Trans.) [ISBN: 9780872205659]

  • Augustine, Confessions(Henry Chadwick, Trans.)[ISBN: 9780199537822]


***If you choose to purchase these materials via Amazon, please consider using Amazon Smile ( to donate a portion of your purchase to a charity of your choice ***





Participation: Students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the readings, assigned activities, and case studies. You will need to bring copies of the daily reading to each class – printed or electronically. Participation will be assessed by contributions to the class discussion. Please be mindful of other students to allow everyone an opportunity to express their opinions.


Quizzes: Quizzes will be assigned throughout the semester to assess reading comprehensions. Quizzes are timed (30 minutes) and can be completed on Canvas. Students are allowed to use the course material but should not consult classmates or outside sources. Quizzes should be completed beforethe start of class to receive credit. No late quizzes will be accepted.


Moral Exercise Journals: To practice the principles discussed in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (and supported in many other course readings), students will choose one moral exercise to cultivate throughout the course. The moral exercise should be tailored to the values of each student – if you are concerned about your carbon footprint you can eat vegetarian or vegan, if you want to cultivate courage you can practice avoiding the word “sorry,” if you want to be more compassionate you can pledge to engage in conversation with the homeless – the possibilities are endless. In the first weeks of the course you will develop your moral exercise and submit it for approval to the instructor by September 26th.


You will write a total of 8 journal entries for the course. They must be at least 350 words each. The entries can be informal but should describe you experience cultivating your moral exercise. You will be graded on your participation rather than your success (e.g. if you return to eating meat but describe the struggle you will not lose points). Your proposal and journal entries should all be submitted via Canvas.


Reflection Essays: Students will be responsible for completing 5 reflection essays throughout the course. Reflection essays should be approximately 2 pages long (1 ½-2 ½), double-spaced. Reflection essays are due at the beginning of class and should discuss the readings assigned for that day. Students may focus primarily on one reading or discuss all of the readings for that day equally. If you choose to focus on one reading be sure to include a brief discussion of how the other readings relate. You should cite the daily readings and any external sources using APA or Chicago style. 


Essays will be graded based on (1) demonstrated knowledge of the readings and (2) thoughtful engagement. Students may choose to critically analyze an argument in one of the reading and discuss how it relates to past class readings and/or other assigned readings for the day, discuss an argument that you do not fully understand and why it seems perplexing, or use some other organization structure that accomplishes the two goals discussed above. We will discuss examples in class.


You should write at least one reflection essay for each of the three sections of the course: (1) Greek Literature and Thought, (2) The Biblical World, and (3) The Early Christian Centuries and the Middle Ages. Your other two essays can come from any section(s) of your choosing. You may also write one reflection essay about a Wednesday evening guest lecture.


Exams:There are three exams throughout the course. Each exam will cover one section of the course: Greek Literature and Thought, The Biblical World, and Early Christian/Middle Ages. The exams are weighted equally. They may feature some short answer or fill in the blank items but will consist primarily of essay questions to promote critical engagement of course materials. Potential essay questions will be distributed prior to each exam.


Grade Calculation:


Participation: 15%

Quizzes: 15%

Moral Exercise Journals: 20%:

Reflection Essays: 20%

Exams: 30%


Attendance and Lateness Policy


Reflection essays on the daily readings are due at the beginning of class. Students should turn in a paper copy of their essay. Missed exams cannot be made up unless the student discusses options with the instructor prior to missing class. Absolutely no late work will be accepted.


Classroom Policies


Laptops, iPads, and other means of electronic notetaking are permitted. Please refrain from browsing the internet or sending emails while in class. Phones should be on silent and yes, I can see you texting. Food and drink are permitted in class given that they are in quiet packaging and do not produce distracting aromas. Do not bring food to class on guest lecture days.

Academic Integrity


“The pursuit of knowledge can proceed only when scholars take responsibility and receive credit for their work. Recognition of individual contributions to knowledge and of the intellectual property of others builds trust within the University and encourages the sharing of ideas that is essential to scholarship. Similarly, the educational process requires that individuals present their own ideas and insights for evaluation, critique, and eventual reformulation. Presentation of others’ work as one’s own is not only intellectual dishonesty, but it also undermines the educational process.”(quoted from Boston College’s Policies and Procedures Website). 


All violations of this policy will be reported to the academic integrity officer. Particularly relevant to this course, the final essay and reflection essays will be monitored for plagiarism. Students should not collaborate on assignments or essays. We will review the policy in class and students are encouraged to refer to the policy on the University’s website:


If a student is suspected of an academic integrity violation, the instructor will contact the appropriate authorities within the student’s degree program.




Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities can request different kinds of accommodations. To learn more, please visit: If you need accommodations, please follow the instructions on the website and contact the instructor as soon as possible.


Accommodations Based Upon Sexual Assault: Boston College is committed to offering reasonable academic accommodations to students who are survivors of sexual assault. Students are eligible for accommodation regardless of whether they seek criminal or disciplinary action. If you need to request such accommodations, please direct your request to the Title IX Office (  The Title IX Office is a confidential resource; however, requests for accommodations will be shared with the appropriate administration and faculty.  The professor for this course is not a confidential resource and is required to report to the Title IX Office.


Other Resources:

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: 800-841-8371

Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Program: 


Victim Rights Law Center:617-399-6720

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Bias Reporting: The University has a process through which students, faculty, staff, and community members who have experienced or witnessed incidents of bias, prejudice or discrimination against a student can report their experiences to the University’s Bias Response Team. See:


Mental Health: University Counseling Services work with students to resolve personal and interpersonal difficulties, many of which can affect the academic experience. These include conflicts with or worry about friends or family, concerns about eating or drinking patterns, and feelings of anxiety and depression. See:



*All assignments are subject to change. Please check the course website regularly.


Tuesday, August 27th:


*Please take the following brief survey before class: (* 

Reading: “How to Write a Reflection Essay” (distributed in class)




Wednesday, August 28th:


Reading: Vaughn, “How to Read an Argument”(Canvas)

Activity: How to Have an Argument

Thursday, August 29th:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings:Plato, Meno

Supplementary: Perspectives Workbook (pg. 3-5)


*Quiz 1 on Canvas*


Tuesday, September 3rd:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings: Plato, Republic(Books 2-4)

Supplementary: Călian, “Plato’s Psychology of Action and the Origin of Agency” (Canvas)


Wednesday, September 4th:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings: Plato, Republic(Books 5, 7)

Activity: Illustrating the Cave


Thursday, September 5th:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings: Plato, Republic(Book 9)


***Moral Exercise Proposal Due Via Canvas by 11:59PM***

Tuesday, September 10th:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings: Plato, Phaedo(to pg. 126, 88c before Echecrates begins)


Wednesday, September 11th:

Looking Up: Greek Idealism

Readings: finish Plato, Phaedo

Supplementary:Film, “Death Row U.S.A.” (in class)


Thursday, September 12th:

Looking Out: Greek Empiricism

Reading: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Book I) 

Supplementary: “Happiness,”Science Vs, ABC Radio (Podcast)


Tuesday, September 17th:

Looking Out: Greek Empiricism

Reading: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics(Books 2-4)


Wednesday, September 18th:


Readings: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics(all of Book 8 and Book 10 chapters 6-9)

Assignments: MEJ #1 Due

Supplementary: Brown, “Call to Courage” (in class)


Thursday, September 19th:

Looking Out: Greek Empiricism

Readings: Doris, “Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics” (Canvas)


*Quiz 2 on Canvas*


Tuesday, September 24th:

Looking out: Greek Empiricism

Readings: Epicurus, Letter to Menoec, Letter to Herodotus, and Principles


Wednesday, September 25th:

General Lecture: Professor William Wians on Aristotle and Virtue

Assignment: MEJ #2 Due


Thursday, September 26th:

Thinking Greek: Wrap up and Lingering Questions

Readings: Exam 1 Potential Essay Questions (Canvas)




Tuesday, October 1st:

Old Testament, Old World

Readings: Genesis 1-3, 6-9 

Supplementary:Perspectives Workbook (pg. 34-40)

Assignments:Creation Story Activity (in class); MEJ #3 Due


Wednesday, October 2nd:


*Exam 1 in Class*


Thursday, October 3rd:

Old Testament, Old World

Readings:Genesis 11-18; 21-22

Supplementary: Perspectives Workbook (pg. 42-48)


Tuesday, October 8th 

Old Testament, Old World

Readings:Exodus 1-14

Assignment: Artistic Representation of Exodus (upload to Canvas by Sunday, October 6that 11:59PM)


Wednesday, October 9th

Old Testament, Old World

Reading: Deuteronomy 5-11

Supplementary: Code of Hammurapi (workbook)

Film: scenes fromThe Good Place (2019)


Thursday, October 10th

Old Testament, Old World

Readings: Selections from Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Canvas)

Activity:  Understanding the God of Genesis and Exodus

Assignment: MEJ #4 Due


Tuesday, October 15th:




Wednesday, October 16th:

Old Testament, Old World

Reading: Job 1-10

Supplementary: Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl (pg. 3-39)


Thursday, October 17th:

Old Testament, Old World

Reading: Job 32-42

Supplementary: Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl (pg. 137-154)

Activity: Updating Our Notion of OT God


Tuesday, October 22nd:

New Testament, New God?

Readings:John 1-10

Supplementary: Perspectives Workbook (pg. 68-91)


*Quiz #3 on Canvas*


Wednesday, October 23rd:


General Lecture: Pheme Perkins (TBD)

Assignment: MEJ #5 Due


Thursday, October 24th:

New Testament, New God?

Readings:John 11-21


Tuesday, October 29th:

New Testament, New God?

Readings: Matthew 5-28

Assignment: MEJ #6 Due


Wednesday, October 30th:

Exam 2 Review Session

Readings: Exam 2 Potential Essay Questions (Canvas)


Thursday, October 31st:

New Testament, New God?

Readings:Book of James, Galatians; Potential Exam 2 Essay Questions

Supplementary:  “Justification, the Sole Criterion?” Lane


Tuesday, November 5th:

New Testament, New God?

Assignment: Popular Representations of Messiah Story (upload to Canvas by Sunday at 11:59PM) 

Activity: The Contemporary Christ


PART III: The Early Christian Centuries and the Middle Ages


Wednesday, November 6th:


*Exam 2 in Class*


Thursday, November 7th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings:Confessions, Augustine (Book I)

Supplementary:  Perspectives Workbook (pg. 128-131)

Assignment: MEJ #7 Due


Tuesday, November 12th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Confessions, Augustine (Books II and III)

Supplementary:  The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton (pgs.  97-125 on Canvas)


Wednesday, November 13th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Confessions, Augustine (Book IV and VI)

Supplementary:  The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton (pgs.  175-182 on Canvas)


Thursday, November 14th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Confessions, Augustine (Book VII)

Assignment: MEJ #8 Due


Tuesday, November 19th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Confessions, Augustine (Book VIII)

Activity: Summarizing the Confessions


Wednesday, November 20th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Anselm, Proslogion

Activity: How do we argue about the existence of God?


Thursday, November 21st:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Aquinas, “Excerpts from Part IA of The Summa Theologiae” (pgs. 212-217, 219-225 Perspectives Workbook)

Supplementary: Perspectives Workbook (pgs. 182-184)

Assignment: MEJ #9 Due


*Quiz #5 on Canvas*


Tuesday, November 26th:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Aquinas, “Excerpts from Part IIA of The Summa Theologiae” (pgs. 228-234, 236-241)

Activity: Writing Like St. Thomas


Wednesday, November 27th – Thursday, November 28th:




Tuesday, December 3rd:

Meeting in the Middle Ages

Readings: Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles: Book I, Chapters 1-9 (pgs. 199-210, Perspectives Workbook)

Activity: St. Thomas, Plato, and Aristotle


Wednesday, December 4th:


General Lecture: Jeff Bloechel, Faith and Reason in Synthesis and as a Problem


Thursday, December 5th:

What does it all mean?

Reading: Exam #3 Potential Essays (Canvas)

Activity:Moral Exercise small group discussion



MEJ #10 due by 11:59pm (Canvas)

Final Exam (Exam #3) TBA

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