Last year in Amsterdam, I got my first opportunity to teach Introduction to Philosophy. I found this a daunting task, especially given the student body: there were 250 non-philosophy majors enrolled in the course, people mostly from STEM fields and something called business analytics. As an undergraduate, the intro to philosophy course I got was very historically oriented. The professor who gave the course was a talented, passionate teacher, who gave a sweeping overview from the presocratics to roughly Heidegger, with a big emphasis on ancient and continental philosophy. He dismissed medieval philosophy saying, "Nothing of substance was written then." I found the course very interesting but at the same time dissatisfying: going through so many authors (often 10 or more!) during one 2-hour lecture gave me the impression I did not know what philosophy was really about, as we rarely spent more than 10 minutes on one of the "great figures". We also did not read any primary materials.
So I wanted to do something different for the introduction course, focusing instead on four topics which I focused on in great depth. I chose articles (not secondary literature) as the primary materials, and I chose topics I thought STEM students would be interested in: What's it like knowledge (Thomas Nagel, Laurie Paul, Jackson); are we living in a computer simulation? (Bostrom, Descartes Meditations, Chalmers on The Matrix), mathematical platonism versus nominalism (Quine, Kitcher, Mary Leng, the new indispensability arguments by Baker and Colyvan), and nativism versus empiricism (Plato's Meno, Spelke, Locke, Hume, Prinz). This worked fairly well. It was surprising how excited my students were about the mathematical platonism materials. When at the end of it, some students came to me and asked "So what do you think is the right position, nominalism or platonism?" I knew they enjoyed that.
I took time looking at each view in detail, and we also did a bit of close reading in the classes albeit not as much as I wanted to do. I encouraged people to have discussions in small groups (a lecture theatre with 250 people is not the most conducive to philosophy, and this had mixed results). I also spent quite some time teaching them how to read a philosophy paper, with Concepcion's excellent paper on this topic as a guideline.
The student evaluations came back positive, and I felt happy with the course but overall I also felt the course had a bit of a disjointed feeling. There was no overarching justification for choosing the topics I chose except something STEM students might like. I am curious how other people approach the task of teaching intro. What do you choose? Which topics inspire students? Also, which topics tend to fall flat?