Big Question: Select a challenge from the list below. Do research on it. You’ll probably find that it’s
far too large a project for a 6 page essay. However, every complex problem breaks down into smaller
subproblems, and trying to figure out some of these subproblems might be appropriate for a 6 page
essay. By doing extensive, independent research with credible sources, you should discover a smaller
subproblem, and solve that. For instance, if you want to write on the existence of God, you may do
some research and find that some particular argument is especially persuasive or unpersuasive. You
can write an essay rehearsing and defending or attacking it. Here’s a table of complex problems for
you to look into and break down:
(a) You can write on something off the list, as well, but you need to come up with a proposal that
I approve. This requires either writing a detailed proposal and submitting it to me or coming to
office hours to discuss the topic in some detail. If you write on something that does not meet the
conditions of these projects without getting approval, you will get an F on the paper.
3. Detailed Response:
(a) Write a detailed response paper to one or more texts from the reading list or from the Anthologies
folder. Here are some examples of projects you could take on:
i. Example: Write a detailed assessment of Descartes’ project in the Meditations. Does he
succeed in building a certain foundation for scientific knowledge? Give an analysis of his
method and argument. Do all of the different steps in this argument work?
ii. Example: Write a detailed counterargument to Peter Unger’s argument for skepticism. Does
he succeed in proving that propositional knowledge is impossible? Give an analysis of his
method and argument. Do all of the different steps in this argument work?
iii. Example: Defend one of the solutions to the infinite regress problem of justification. Give
analyses of the solutions and assessments of the arguments for the different solutions and
show which one is the best.
is there any “stuff” out there? Does anything exist that lies beyond perception? How would
Berkeley answer? How would Churchland answer? How would you answer?
What is eliminative materialism? What are Churchland’s main arguments in support of it? What
objections does he raise against it, and how does he counter them?
What is a Turing test? What do you think Turing would say about the AI robot Sophia’s ability
to pass such a test? What do you think Searle would say? Sophia has been made an honorary
citizen of Saudi Arabia. Does she therefore have personhood? Why or why not?
Explain Searle’s allegory of the Chinese room. What is he attempting to demonstrate? Do you
think he succeeds? Why or why not?
Can “understanding” be reducible to a complex algorithm —e.g. a computer program? Or is
understanding irreducible? Contrast the answers given by Churchland’s reductionism, Turi
a) Can we reliably tell the difference between appearance and reality? Why or why not? Is this
central question from Descartes resolved, or just rehearsed, in The Matrix?
(b) Descartes was a rationalist; Berkeley, an empiricist. Explain the differences in their epistemologies
(philosophies of knowledge). Is there any potential agreement between them on the nature of
“material substance”? On God? Explain.
Assessment: Each sub-paper is graded on four criteria: Development, Exposition, Argumentation
(Argumentation and Defense together), and Mechanics. Each criterion is explained in more detail
in a rubric available on blackboard. I will also go over each of these criteria at length in class.
Success with respect to each criterion is measured on a scale of 25 points. The coherence and
readability of the final term paper formed from these parts can raise or lower the total score. Your
total score for the writing project is thus _/100.
Essay Content The main idea is that the essay should be a presentation of your reasoning as you work
out some answers to philosophical questions. They should reflect careful thought, not superficial hot
Background You must briefly tell me about the background of the case or problem.
Argument You must develop a well thought out argument that includes responses to anticipated or
NO (MERE) REPORTS You must report information that others have acquired, but you
CANNOT succeed on this essay without constructing an actual argument for an actual,
controversial thesis. No “some people say X, others say Y” nonsense, no mere reporting of
things you’ve researched. You must put all research to work in building an argument for your
Clarification You must provide definitions of key terms, explications of major concepts, and examples
or whatever other techniques help to make your ideas clearer.
Does Socrates have to die? Why or why not?
What is justice according to Socrates?
What is the ideal form of government under Plato? Would Plato’s ideal form of government work? Why or why not?
What is justice according to Aristotle? Is it feasible?
What is friendship according to Aristotle? Does anyone have a friend from Aristotle’s philosophy?
Are Kant’s ethics practical? Why or why not?
Is human nature naturally good or evil? Why?
Is Marx’s economic system viable? Why or why not?
Is free-market capitalism a viable economic system? Why or why not?
Do we have any rights? Why or why not? If we have rights, where do they come from? Why?
What is the philosophy behind the “rule of law?” Is it important? Why or why not?
Are Utilitarian ethics practical? Why or why not?
Are all opinions equally good?
Is everything just opinion? Why or why not?
Choose a position related to your topic and then argue for it
Note: You do not have to agree with the position you are arguing. In fact, it is often better if you disagree with the position you are arguing for, because you will learn the arguments more thoroughly.
Make sure to support your argument with evidence and logic.
Using Philosophical Theories to support your claims is an important strategy.
It’s often a good idea to quote the texts we’ve read, as well as other sources as they relate to philosophy
Ex: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Utilitarianism, Rawls, etc.
Make sure to avoid logical fallacies
These are arguments made from bad reasoning
Ex: Ad hominem, circular reasoning, strawman, red herring, slippery slope, etc.
Give counter arguments to your position.
What would someone against your position say?
Why would they say it?
Why is it important?
These should be well-developed arguments.
Don’t just look at the weakest argument in order to respond easily, I will point out that you need to address more significant arguments while grading your paper.
Counter to the Counter Arguments:
How ought you to respond to the counter points raised to your argument?
Have you taken their position into account already?
Why do you hold the stronger argument?
What is the philosophical question? Why is it important (Why is it interesting)?
Choose a topic that is interesting to you. Philosophy is interesting in that it can be applied to almost any topic or idea. What is something that you find interesting, what’s a philosophical question that can be applied to your interests?
Note: this can include sports, music, art, television, social media, smart phones
What does a particular type of music say about the culture?
How does social media affect our views of privacy?
Why do certain forms of art appear during specific cultural timeframes or phenomena?
Ex: what does the appearance of Rick and Morty say about the current American culture?
I don’t know how to handle this Philosophy question and need guidance.PQR 1: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This statement of Socrates’, as told by Plato, is sufficient to explain the necessity of studying philosophy. Everyone is pitched into the world blindly and makes do as best they can with the things they are given. For many, this muddling through is hard enough, and examining their motives and the rightness of their actions is just an added, and superfluous, difficulty. However, if we do not examine our lives and use the wisdom we gain from it to plan the future, we are no better than animals following instinct to survive. To take control of your life you must engage your mind. This is not to say that everyone must become a new Socrates, or study academic philosophy, but to paraphrase Voltaire ‘we must all cultivate our own wisdom.’What is your response to this philosopher’s perspective?ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION . . .The introductory statement to this ICD said, if we do not examine our lives and use the wisdom we gain from it to plan the future, we are no better than animals following instinct to survive. Would you agree? Explain.Getting through this life is hard enough on its own. Could it not be argued that examining our motives and the rightness of our actions is just an added, and often meaningless, waste of time? Does it really matter? What do you think? Explain.
Requirements: as much as it should be