PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore

Just like the history class that I also took this semester, I completely had no clue as to why I landed on this Philosophy class. My final decision was probably also due to the timing. All I can remember is that Professor Portmore’s ratemyprofessor page said something about tests being easy and I was basically sold.

Similar to HST 109, I ended this philosophy class feeling a totally different person. I had my doubts as to what I would end up learning in this course and at the end of the semester, I still wasn’t so sure what I actually learnt. It’s hard to explain about it but I did learn the meaning of philosophy and some life lessons. But I am not so sure what am I going to use with this knowledge. I’ll try my best to explain this course as detailed as possible.

word of advices, Dr Portmore won’t be at ASU for the 2016-2017 academic year

At a glance


The structure of this course is very simple. There will be 4 exams spread out throughout the semester and the lectures are just lectures. No clicker points nor are they any pop quizzes of any sort, you just have to pay attention to the story that he has to say. There are actually readings that accompany the lectures but I have never once tried to read them. Professor Portmore says that those readings will help better understand the lectures but in my experience, his lectures are quite in-depth already.

The class actually has 7 different topics but this semester we only managed to cover 5 of them. That’s the beauty of this course, there is no pressure to finish all 7 lectures in the semester and that is why Professor Portmore has allocated part of the lecture time to discuss about what we think about the topic. So, the more your class talk about the topic, the lesser the time there is to cover other topics which inturn makes the exam a little easier.

Honestly, I have never quite managed to pay attention to his lectures because my brain isn’t that good at processing new information very quickly and the fact that I am always open to change. To some people, they have their beliefs about what life is about and that what they are seeing is real opposed to the idea of everything comes out from the matrix.

I am a very flexible person when it comes to believing the fundamental theories of life. That is why understanding this course is a little tough for me because it never crossed my mind that things like free will or determinism exists. Some people might think that I am naive to just believe what I have been told but the fact is that I just don’t care about these things.

Philosophy talks about the very definition of life and as I have learnt in this class, philosophers tend to disagree on every fundamental definition. The topics that they disagree range from everyday beliefs like god all the way to less controversial things like the existence of free will.

But as I hinted in the beginning, I did end up liking this course when Professor Portmore started discussing about the topic of determinism. Out of all the topics that we discussed in this class, the discussion about determinism is the one that struck me hard because I could relate to it. In an earlier post, I did talk about it a little.

In a nutshell, the concept of determinism is the belief that things are determined no matter what you do. Given the nature of disagreeing one another, philosophers have come up with three general versions of determinism.

Is this a boring class?

For me I would definitely say that the lectures are a little boring and challenging for me because (as I said) I couldn’t fully understand these concepts when Professor Portmore talks about it in class. While some lectures are certainly boring as ever, other lectures can end up being pretty fun when I get into the zone.

My advice for you is that if you do decide to take this class, you should definitely make friends with people in the class so you don’t get bored during the lectures. Professor Portmore doesn’t seem to care about what you are doing as long as you don’t disrupt the class he’s fine with it.

How easy is the exams?

There two assessments in this class account for the total course grade and both of them are interweaved together. The first and most easiest one is the blackboard tests which are multiple choice questions that you can take an infinite number of times throughout the semester. They are essentially the same kind of multiple choice questions that will come up in the in-class exams.

The blackboard tests is probably the best way to study to the in-class exams and the multiple choice questions is also related to the short answer questions. So, you must know how to answer the multiple choice question if you want to do good in the short answer questions.

The in-class in the other hand is pretty straight forward, what each exam covers really depends on what the class has covered up to that point. The thing you have to watch out is the short answer questions. Sure, they are taken directly from the lecture slides but you need to know how to answer them as Professor Portmore doesn’t include the answers in the slides.

To get the answers, you will need to pay attention during the lectures as he does sometimes talk about the questions. But the easiest and the one that Professor Portmore recommends is to visit him or any one of the TAs during their office hours to discuss about the questions. I would definitely recommend you to look up the TAs before the exam to discuss about the short answer questions as they will be the ones grading you exam sheets and if they say it is acceptable, then you are on the right track.

There is a pattern on answering the exam questions and once you hold grasp of that pattern, you should be fine.


As a whole, this class does feel boring sometimes but after studying for the exams throughout the semester, I think I did learn something from this introductory philosophy course. But it’s just that I don’t have any use for the knowledge that I have gained from this course. The exams in particular is not as easy as I thought, it will require quite a bit of effort.

Here are some key takeways from my PHI 101 class with Professor Portmore:

  1. Grades are curved
  2. Make sure you get 100% for the blackboard tests
  3. Visit Professor or TAs before exam
  4. No books required
  5. No attendance taken
  6. No final exam

Insider talk

My course reviews for Spring 2016

  • FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen — An introductory engineering course that revolves around projects. Read this review
  • ENG 101 with Professor Ivan Wolfe — The first of two fresman level english courses that is required by ASU. Read this review
  • PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore —  This is my first time learning about philosophy, it’s quite an interesting course I would say. Read this review
  • HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth — American history from the start till the end of the civil war. Read this review
  • CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein — The basics of digital logic with both theoretical and practical work. Read this review
  • IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin — More statistical formulas and concepts than you can imagine. Read this review

I would  value your feedback on things that I may have missed in my review(s) and I would gladly update the review to include that information provided that your request is not too much in the future that I forget about the deep details about my experience in that course. Just hit me a comment below and I’ll gladly answer your question.



One thought on “PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore

  1. Pingback: Fall is over – ^ dickwyn .

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