Philosophy

Paper Topics for Introduction to Philosophy
Here are the topics. I have included on for every section we have done.  As you can see, I have mapped out how each paper should go (i.e. to answer the question).  About sources, you can always use the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is online. Also, I’ve tried to include some recommended readings- elementary ones for the most part.  Remember, though, that getting sources is up to you- your responsibility.   
Skeptics (Descartes and Hume) suggest that we cannot have any knowledge. But if so, that means we must be content with mere belief. Is there any way out of skepticism about the external world? Or, should be skeptics? To answer these questions, first of all, you should defineknowledge, and say why we might not have it.  To do this, moreover, you should go over the various skeptical arguments (from Descartes’ Meditations 1 and 2, and then, from Hume).  That is, you should go over Descartes’ doubts, and the Problem of Induction. This needs to be done with care. After all, there is the issue of getting these arguments correct. After you have done this, you should mention some of the standard ways to either mitigate or escape skepticism. Now, here, you should mention John Locke, as well as the responses from philosophers such as G. E. Moore, and Wittgenstein, as well as offering your own thoughts. End by offering a conclusion.
1.     Read Ultimate Questions, chapter 3. 
2.     Descartes, Meditations 1 and 2, in the Packet.
3.     David Hume, Enquiry into Human Understanding, selections, on Blackboard
4.     G. E. Moore, “Proof of an External World,” in  Reason and Responsibility, eds., Feinberg and Shafer-Landau
5.     Michael Huemer, “The Lure of Radical Skepticism,” in the Truth about the World, eds., Rachels and Rachels
6.     Anthony Kenny, Descartes: a Study of his Philosophy, chapter 2
7.     Lawrence Bon Jour, Epistemology, chapters 1-3
8.     Thomas Nagel, What does it all Mean?, chapter 2
9.     Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 1
10.                        Horner and Westacott, Thinking Through Philosophy, chapter 2  
Do we have freedom of the will, or not?  To answer this question, you should define free-will.  Then, of course, go over all four of the usual positions: determinism, indeterminism, soft determinism (both types) and libertarianism, in some detail. However, as noted in class, given all the paradoxes involved with any answer, there is no expectation that you offer a definitive position. Even so, what you can do, at least, is to get all the positions correct. And, you can argue that one of these positions is more persuasive than the others. Remember, though, that in doing this, you must say why you are so moved, and must not rely upon any blind assumptions.  In fact, you might even argue that, in the end, you cannot reach a conclusion, and that is fine.  Still, make sure to wrap up your essay with some sort of summary of what you have argued.
1.     Read the text, chapter 4.
2.     Pierre de Laplace, Essay on Probability
3.     Baron d’Holbach, “The Illusion of Free Will,” in Reason and Responsibility, eds., Feinberg and Shafer-Landau
4.     Brand Blanshard, “The Case for Determinism.”
5.     David Hume “Liberty and Necessity,” as reprinted in Freedom, Determinism and Responsibility, ed. N. Campbell
6.     Harry Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of the Person,” in various places.
7.     J. P. Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism.
8.     Richard Taylor, “Freedom and Determinism,” in Freedom, Determinism, and Responsibility, ed. N. Campbell
9.     Roderick Chisholm, Human Freedom and the Person
10.                        Thomas Nagel, What does it all Mean?, chapter 6
11.                        Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 3
12.                        James Rachels, “The Debate over Free Will,” in  Reason and Responsibility, eds., Feinberg and Shafer-Landau
Personal identity, of course, is what makes you who you are, at any given time, and over time.  However, as we have seen in class, this is difficult to say what this is.  What, if anything, does personal identity consist in?   After offering your introduction, you should delineate the arguments for the Illusion, Body, Soul, and Memory theories (and all the usual authors, such as Hume and Locke), in some detail.  Remember to explain the problems with each of these theories, as well as to weigh the relative importance of these.  Importantly, these theories are mutually exclusive, and so you cannot argue for a combination of them.  So then, after covering the theories and their problems of these four theories, make sure to spend some time on elaborating your choice, and saying why you find your choice is more persuasive. Conclude by summarizing your argument.
1.     Read the text, chapter 5. 
2.     David Hume, “On Personal Identity.”
3.     James Giles “Hume, Buddhism, and Personal Identity.”
4.     John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, selections, on Blackboard
5.     Derek Parfit, “The Unimportance of Identity,” in R. Martin and J. Barrisi, Personal Identity
6.     Parfit and Vesey, “Brain Transplants and Personal Identity,” in Readings on the Ultimate Questions: an Introduction to Philosophy, ed. Rauhut
7.     Basil Smith, “John Locke, Personal Identity, and Memento.”
8.     Ted Sider, “Personal Identity over Time,” in Riddles of Metaphysics, eds. Conee and Sider
9.     Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 4
It often seems that we have minds and also bodies.  That is, they seem different in some way.  We are often told they are.  After all, what else is heaven for?   Even if mind and body are different, how can we show this?   Moreover, it is mysterious how these two substances- one being not physical the one being physical- can interact. This is the mind/body problem.  What is the best solution to the mind/body problem?   To answer this question, first of all, you should introduce the problem (say what it is, and why it is a problem).  Next, of course, you should cite the arguments for substance dualism, property dualism, the identity theory (or physicalism), and functionalism.  Remember, as well, to cite the problems with these theories, along with their relative importance.  Be careful here to not rely on any blind assumptions.  And, make sure to say why your position is clear. Develop why you have chosen one of the options here.   End, as usual, with a conclusion.
1.     Read the text, chapter 6
2.     Rene Descartes, “The Incorporeal Mind,” in Western Philosophy: an Anthology, ed J. Cottingham
3.     Howard Robinson, “Dualism,” Stanford Internet Encyclopedia   
4.     U. T. Place, “Consciousness is a Brain Process,?” on Blackboard
5.     Smart, “Sensations and Brain Processes.”
6.     Frank Jackson, “Epiphenomenal Qualia,” in Readings on the Ultimate Questions: an Introduction to Philosophy, ed. Rauhut
7.     Thomas Nagel “What it is Like to Be a Bat?,” on Blackboard
8.     Jerry Fodor, “The Mind body Problem,” in J. Crumley, ed., Problems in Mind: Readingsin Contemporary Philosophy of Mind
9.     Peter Carruthers, “The Mind/Brain Identity Theory,” in Feinberg and Shaeffer-Landau eds., Reason and Responsibility 
10.                        Paul Churchland, Matter and Consciousness, chapter 2
11.                        Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 2
12.                        Horner and Westacott, Thinking through Philosophy, chapter 3
How we define right and wrong is very important, as our choice about this will affect how we are motivated, and what we do. After all, our positions on happiness, rules, or virtue govern how we approach individual issues, such as abortion or poverty.  Remember that most definitions of right and wrong have the form of something like this: X is right (or Y is wrong) because of property Z (which defines right and wrong).  In this paper, then, compare Relativism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, and Deontology, and choose which is better, as a theory.  Of course, to do this, you must master all these theories. Of course, you must also cover the problems with Relativism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, and Deontology.   And, alas, they are all fraught with serious problems.   Still, regardless of which theory you defend, make sure to be clear and not to rely on blind assumptions (e.g. that people are all good).  As always, offer a conclusion.
1.     Read the text, chapter 8
2.     Ruth Benedict, “Defense of Ethical Relativism,” on Blackboard
3.     David Wong, “Relativism,” in Singer ed., Companion to Ethics
4.     James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, the chapters on these theories.
5.     J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism, chapter 1 and 2.
6.     Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, books 1 and 2.
7.     Robert Louden, “The Vices of Virtue Ethics,” in Timmons, ed., Content and Character.
8.     Immaneuel Kant, Fundamental Principals of the Metaphysics of Morals, preface and book 1.    
9.     Mark Timmons, Moral Theory, chapters 3, 5, and 7
10.            Lawrence Hinman, Ethics: a Pluralistic Guide to Moral Theory, chapters 2, 5 and 6
Many people believe in a single God.  Others, of course, believe in many.   Of course, that does not mean than anyone can support any of these beliefs. Faith, of course, is admitting you believe you have no support.  Given that we have to have some reason to believe in the God or gods we want to believe in, the question arises: What are the arguments for the existence of God?  And, what, if anything, do these arguments prove?  Can we believe in God based on purely pragmatic reasons (e.g. it feels good)?   To answer these questions, you should define this being (or beings).  This is important, since without a precise definition we do not know what God or gods we are talking about.  Afterwards, you should delineate these arguments, from Saint Anselm (the Ontological Argument), and Thomas Aquinas, and his famous “Five Ways.”  Lastly, you should cover the arguments of Pascal and William James, both of whom believe in God but hold we should do so withoutarguments.  Of course, no matter what position you defend- yes, you can defend the idea that God does not exist (e.g. by citing the problem of evil), or is very unlikely- you must defend your arguments, and answer objections.   Offer a conclusion, as usual.
 
1.     Read the text, chapter 7.
2.     Saint Anselm, “The Ontological Argument,” on Blackboard
3.     Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways,” on Blackboard
4.     William James, “The Will to Believe,” on Blackboard
5.     Stephen T. Davis, God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs, chapters 2, 4, 6, and 7
6.     Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, chapters 3 and 4
7.     Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 5
8.     William Rowe, Philosophy of Religion: an Introduction, chapters 2-5
9.     Richard Gale, On the Philosophy of Religion, chapters 1-4
10.                        David Hume, Dialogues on Natural Religion, chapters 10 and 11.
11.                        H. J. McCloskey, God and Evil, in Klemke ed., To Believe or not to Believe: Readings on the Philosophy of Religion
12.                         James Beebe, “The Logical Problem of Evil,” in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy