Announcement about posts

Dear Students, 

Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the reading on Crito! I have now posted my summary response to this reading. You can find a link to it on the “Reading Discussions” page. Please read it carefully, and ask any questions you have about it in the “comments” section underneath. That way other students can also see my response. Remember, the final exam will primarily be taken from our readings and from the concepts, terms, and arguments that I highlight in my summary responses.

Please remember the following points, when making posts in the future. First, each student needs to make two posts for every reading: one is an individual response to the reading. The other is a response to another student’s comments. Full credit for participation for the day is only given to students who do both. Second, please make sure that your main response to the reading consists of your own thoughts and ideas and questions in response to the reading. Do not merely summarize the reading! The assignment requires a critical interaction, not merely a summary. For example, you might disagree with an argument in the reading. You might explain why you think the argument is wrong. Or you might suggest a better argument. Or you might agree with the arguments, in which case you should try to give additional reasons for thinking that the author’s arguments are strong or correct or insightful or important. Full participation credit is awarded for critical interaction, and not mere summary.

Please also pay special attention to any comments I made on your forum post. In some cases I correct misunderstandings, in other cases I have asked you to respond differently in the future or to respond in a different place. Sometimes I just mention something for further thought.


Dr. MacDougall

Midterm progress posted

Dear students, 

Mid-term progress has now been posted on Blackboard. The school requires me to inform students whether their performance has been “passing,” “borderline,” or “unsatisfactory ” thus far. Accordingly, you should have either an “P” (passing), a “BL” (borderline), or “U” (unsatisfactory). I must also notify students if they have “stopped attending” (SA). Scores are decided based on the number of points you have earned as a percentage of the overall points available thus far. Passing means that your grade is above 65%, Borderline means it is between 55% and 65%, and Unsatisfactory means it is below 55%. If you receive a grade of borderline (BL), stopped attending (SA), or unsatisfactory (U), I strongly recommend that you contact me. You may also want to consider withdrawing from the class.

This assessment is based entirely on your score for the first homework assignment, the midterm, and the first argument paper. Together these constitute 31.6% of your final grade. It does not however take into consideration participation so far, which may have an impact on the overall score.

The reason for telling students about this is so that they have an opportunity to improve their grades before the end of the semester, or, in extreme cases, to withdraw. Although you should take the present assessment seriously, I want to note that nearly 70% of the grade for this class is yet to be determined, so it is still quite possible that your grade can change before the end of the semester.

Please feel free to arrange an online meeting to talk to me about your grades, about the class, or anything else. I am generally available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Best regards, 

Dr. MacDougall

Midterm exam grades posted

Dear students, 

Midterm exams are now graded. You can see your grade in the grade center on Blackboard. You should also be able to review your actual test by going to “Tools,” then “My Grades,” then clicking on the midterm. Then click on the score under “calculated grade.” You can see your answers and point scores there.

Because of the unusual format and circumstances of this test, I have decided to curve it by 7 points. That means that the grade recorded in my official grade book is 7 points higher than whatever you see on your test (with a maximum of 100%). 

If you did not do as well on the test as you would have liked, Do not get discouraged! An unsatisfactory score doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not good at this subject or this class. Many students have trouble initially adapting to philosophy, but can improve by making some changes. In the case you did much worse than you expected, I recommend that you set up a meeting with me. In some cases it may be possible to dramatically increase the grade for the final by changing study habits or other learning behaviors.


Dr. MacDougall

New Office Hours

Dear Class,

I will be holding office hours virtually, via Zoom. I am available to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but need some advance notice to arrange a meeting. Please email me if you would like to chat about anything that is class-related. Don’t feel shy! This is a difficult time, and many problems are best worked out by speaking face to face (or, face to computer!).

Dr. MacDougall

Change in schedule, due date for paper 2

Dear Class, 

The announcement, two days ago, of the Equity Recalibration period and altered dates for spring break, has altered our schedule yet again. I have updated the syllabus on OpenLab to reflect the changes in our schedule. The most important changes are, first, a change in the due date for argument paper #2 to 4/16. This was necessary in order to keep the content of the assignment the same. Second, note that we will not have class or an assignment due this Tuesday (3/31). Our last class before spring break will be on 4/2. Please look at the syllabus to see the reading for 4/2, and remember to make the associated post then. 

Let me know if you have any questions!

Dr. MacDougall

PHIL 3211 **Update and changes in course**

Dear class, 

I hope this finds all of you safe and calm! I know this is a difficult time for many of us. We will do well to focus on our normal activities, and not get too overwhelmed with everything that is going on. That said, if you are having any kind of serious problem as a result of the current situation, I encourage you to contact me immediately. Thank you all for being patient while your professors and administrators figure out how to finish the semester.

I am writing today to outline our plans for the remainder of the semester. 

Changes in due dates

As you should have already seen, we are planning the midterm exam for Tuesday, 3/24. Please see the announcement on Blackboard about this. I know this is a difficult time for all of us, but the midterm needs to happen if we are going to finish the class. We will have a midterm review this Thursday, 3/19, on Blackboard Collaborate at 11:30am. The test will now be open book/notes. Please see the previous announcement for more information. 

Other due dates (for the final, and the argument papers), will remain unchanged. Please see the newly updated syllabus on OpenLab for a handful of changes to the readings.

Otherwise, there will be one major change to this class, namely, a change in the format of class sessions. We will be moving from a lecture-based course to a reading- and discussion-based course.

Change in format for class sessions and participation

Essentially, I will expect you to do the assigned reading for class each day, and to make two posts on the discussion board that day. Comments are not required for readings on days when “argument” papers are due.

The discussion board for our class can be found under “Reading Discussions” on OpenLab.

The two posts: 

  1. The first one is your own individual thoughts and response to the reading. This post should be at least 100 words long. You should interact with main ideas, although what you say is up to you. You may want to criticize an idea, agree with something, or offer further insight or thoughts about some topic discussed in the reading. Or, you may want to pose a question for others about the reading. I expect the post to interact with the content of the actual reading, and not just the day’s topic or other thoughts you may be having.
  2. The second post is an interactive comment, posted as a response to another student’s comment. There is no length requirement on this post. 

Within a couple days after the comments have been posted, I will write a summary of the topic and some major points from the reading. You will want to read this, since it will answer your questions, and the things I point out in these posts will also be the basis for the final exam.

This may seem like extra/additional work, but it isn’t. This exercise will be entirely replacing our 1.25 hr classroom lectures for each class period. Your participation grade for the semester will be based on your effective participation in the online discussion forum. I will assign grades based not only on mere participation, but also on the quality of that participation.

These changes have been added to the revised syllabus. Please refer to that first when you have any questions about class format or what to anticipate. 

Thank you so much, class, for being patient and open to changes in this class. It is my hope that we can work together to make this a successful class, and everyone can get the credit that they need to move on with their education and careers. 

Take care, keep calm, stay safe! 

Dr. MacDougall

Midterm exam rescheduled for Tuesday 3/24; midterm review session scheduled for Thursday, 3/19 at 11:30am

Dear students, 

Thank you for your patience as I have been putting together plans for the rest of the semester. 

Since you had already begun preparing for the midterm, I think it is best if we get out of the way first thing. Consequently, I have transported the midterm to an online format. 

We will make up the midterm exam online, Tuesday, March 24. The exam will be available on Blackboard, under “Content” (where everything else for the course is). You may take the test any time on 3/24, from 12:00am to 11:59pm. You will have 75 minutes to complete the exam; after that, you will lose 2 points for every minute the test is late. 

The test will be considered open notes/open books. However, you must take the test alone. 

I’m sorry that we have to do it in this way. As you know, this wasn’t planned, and we will have to make the best of it so we can all finish the class. 

You will need to take this on a traditional computer. Computers are available in the computer lab at City Tech, if you have no other option. If there is some legitimate reason that you can not be in front of a computer on Thursday, please let me know ASAP.  For helpful information about taking tests on Blackboard, read this page:

Additionally, we will try running a midterm review session this Thursday 3/19, at 11:30am on Blackboard Collaborate. You should be able to log in up to 15 mins early. 

There are several ways to log into the session. First, you can go through Blackboard by going to the Blackboard site for our class, then selecting: 

Tools—Blackboard Collaborate Ultra—Midterm review

Alternatively, you can enter this web address into your browser (works on phones too):

Or, you can call in from a phone. If you do this, you will be an “anonymous caller”: 

+1-571-392-7650 PIN: 263 186 1960

However, I have not been able to get this feature to work, so I suggest trying one of the other methods.

Please note, I have not used this before! So it will be a bit of an experiment. 

I’ll be in touch soon with plans for the rest of the semester.

Please let me know if you have any questions. And, keep calm and stay safe!


Dr. MacDougall

Class update, Move to online

Dear Class:

You have probably heard by now, but CUNY has canceled all classes for 5 days, and will be resuming in an online-only format after that for the remainder of the semester. You can see more news here:

Coronavirus Update

This means that our class on Thursday, 3/12  is canceled, and the midterm study session and exam will have to be postponed for the time being. I plan to be in touch with you about plans some time within the next week. Please remember to:

  1. make sure you can receive emails at the email address you have registered with Blackboard. Also, make sure that you check this email address.
  2. register for this OpenLab site. As before, most class materials and assignments will be available through (and only through) OpenLab.

It is my hope that we can cooperate productively so that the rest of the semester can be a success, and everyone can finish the class and get the credit they need to continue in their programs. Please remember to stay safe and keep calm during this time.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Dr. MacDougall