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Ways of Knowing:

How We Choose What to Believe

A Multidisciplinary Coordinated Studies Program
North Seattle Community College
Spring Quarter 2007
(This syllabus is subject to change. Please check often and read all announcements in order to note any changes we make.)

FACULTY:     E-Mail
Diane Hostetler, Eng/Drama
Tom Kerns, Philosophy

PROGRAM THEME: As Thomas Aquinas, Jacques Maritain, and others have noted, the world’s great mix of realities can be known in a variety of different ways. These various realities, such as human nature, human cultures, the physical universe and the spiritual world, have traditionally been explored through the lenses of philosophy, history, the natural and social sciences, mathematics, the arts, myths, storytelling and the intuitive nature of religious encounter. In this team-taught coordinated studies program combining literature, philosophy, history, and tradition, you will have the opportunity to explore some of these ‘great realities’ as you are introduced to various ways of knowing.

Course description

PROGRAM FORMAT: A coordinated studies program is different from regular courses. We emphasize a sense of community where students and faculty learn together. Students are encouraged to cooperate with each other and be more responsible for their own learning. You will learn how to read, write about, and discuss important works from classic philosophy, drama, modern science and postmodern criticism that question or support different claims to knowing the truth.

In small seminars you will examine personal and cultural assumptions and beliefs in light of several opposing worldviews and ways of knowing. You will develop more complex critical thinking skills so you can more confidently affirm that which you believe to be true. The faculty team will provide traditional lectures, facilitate the development of your academic skills, and participate as co-learners so as to create a productive learning community. You will also learn how to interact with others in online discussion groups.



  • Willis Nutting, The Free City (available online)
  • Plato, Trial and Death of Socrates, Hackett
  • Plato, "the story of the cave," from The Republic (available online)
  • Sophocles, The Theban Plays, Penguin
  • Francis Bacon, Idols that Beset Men's Minds, (from Novum Organum, available online)
  • Bertold Brecht, Galileo, Grove Press, ISBN: 0802130593
  • C. S. Pierce, The Fixation of Belief (available online)
  • Harold Pinter, The Collection
  • Tom Kerns, Epistemology Lectures (available online)
  • Michael Frayn, Copenhagen
  • Wilson, The Piano Lesson, Plume
  • Edwin Abbott, Flatland (available online or in the Dover edition)
  • Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth, Harper
  • Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

These are the required books listed in approximately the order in which they will be read. Those in yellow will be made available to you online (or some could be purchased from an online bookstore, details in the classroom). Those in red are available for purchase in your campus bookstore (or some may be purchasable from one of the online bookstores).



A. Book seminars

We explore our topic by reading the texts and discussing them in seminars.  Active participation in these book seminars is an essential part of this program. You will be taught the necessary seminar skills and expected to demonstrate development in this area. You will need to complete all reading assignments on time and attend all seminars online. These seminars are donducted asynchronously (not in real time) but your prompt posting is essential.

Full participation in the online discussions and seminars is expected every week. This will probably mean logging in to the online classroom and seminar group at least 6 days each week. You are expected to read 100% of all postings in the main classroom discussion forum and 100% of all postings in your own seminar group. It is expected that each student will post to discussion and study question areas several times each week. The more you respond, the more you will learn.

Posting of your discussion contributions for the online discussion will need to be completed by Tuesday and Friday at 9:00pm each week. Students are encouraged to post contributions as early as possible each week so that others will have an opportunity to respond to ideas before theTuesday and Friday evening deadlines.

How to Seminar: Please see these for helpful explanations and information about class and online seminars(discussions).

What's in a seminar

B. Papers

Two formal papers will be produced, with the help of peer and faculty feedback, in a process that includes multiple drafts. All drafts must be ready and posted by the due date. Late papers will not be tolerated.

C. Expectations

A self-evaluation. You will be asked to reflect on the program objectives and requirements and to assess how you are performing and developing at mid-quarterand at the end of the quarter. See midterm and final self-evaluation guidelines for specific details.

Full participation in all components of the course is your responsibility as part of a commitment to the rest of the group and will be reflected in your evaluation. For you to be successful you must arrange to meet all deadlines for assigned reading, , drafts of papers, and group work. In an emergency email faculty.

Study groups Former students report that when they include studying together in small informal groups they are much more successful. You may find that your research group will work well as a study group. Online study group rooms can be arranged for you (ask one of the instructors to set one up for you), or use the "student lounge" portion of the online classroom discussion.

E. Evaluation

You will receive the same grade for all 12 credits based on:

• Papers................................................................................ 25%

• Online discussion and seminars.................................. 50%

Other class Requirements...........................,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 25%

Completion of all assignments is required for a passing grade. We see learning as a developmental process so for your evaluation we will be looking for on going development in your writing, seminar participation, and in the other requirement areas.

Grading Criteria: Please click here to see the criteria used for final grades.

CREDITS: Choose 2 of the following:

1215 Eng 102.C1 Composition – 5 credits

1216 English 133.C1 Introduction to Dramatic Literature- 5 Credits

9644 Phi 100.C1 Introduction to Philosophy – 5 credits

and one of the following:

1150 Dra 201.C1 SpecialStudies in Drama – 2 credits (VLPA requirement satisfied)

9645 Phi 298.C1 Special Topics in Philosophy – 2 credits

1217 Eng 299. C5 - Special Topics in English

for a total of 12 credits


The primary objective of this course is to help you develop a solid foundation in academic knowledge, skills and attitudes that will aid you throughout your college experience. NSCC has identified some general education goals that we think are important to work towards.

In the knowledge area, by the end of the quarter you should

Understand some of the major ideas, values, beliefs, that have shaped human history.

Understand artistic expression as an essential human and cultural phenomenon

Understand moral and ethical principles and theories that are integral to personal and interpersonal development.

Understand the nature of the individual and the relationship between the self and the community.

Identify and understand fundamental terminology and concepts of dramatic literature.

In the area of attitudes, we hope you will

Recognize the value of intellectual inquiry, personal responsibility and ethical behavior.

Discover the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge.

Develop confidence in your own ability to judge, analyze, and come to your own conclusions.

Demonstrate a willingness to learn from many cultures, persons, methods, and viewpoints.

Appreciate different forms of written expression, intellectually emotionally, and aesthetically.

In the skill area you will learn how to

Develop the ability to think critically and clearly communicate ideas orally and in writing and on-line.

Write college-level essays that communicate your unique perceptions and demonstrate unity, coherence, adequate evidence, and a logical organization.

Improve your speaking and listening and problems-solving skills, your verbal and non-verbal skills in both group discussions/seminars and group presentations.

Access and evaluate information from a variety of electronic sources.

Evaluate your own and others' oral and written work.

Distinguish between your own ideas and those that come from other sources.

Use quantitative reasoning processes to understand, analyze, interpret, and solve quantitative problems.

Work and communicate effectively in groups.


Please click here for course policies.

Click here for grading policies

Student responsibility: Your cooperative spirit will enhance the personal and academic experience for all of us in this community of learners. We consider it your responsibility to be prepared, to find out what you missed if you are absent, and to contact us about problems. Please don’t just disappear.

Faculty Commitment: We want to help each of you to succeed. Call us or stop by during our office hours or make an appointment to discuss a problem before it overwhelms you–or us. We can usually help you work out a solution. We are aware of and have services available to accommodate those with special needs including learning and physical disabilities. The faculty are open to suggestions for improvement in all aspects of the program. We will be asking for your feedback throughout the quarter.