Assignments Philosophy 180

Assignment 5

For this assignment you have a choice between rewriting a previous essay or doing an analysis of either "Irrationality and Cognition," by John Pollock or "The Evolution of Misbelief" by Dennett and McKay.

Instructions for rewrite

If you elect to rewrite a previous essay,  be sure to make it an entirely new document.  (You can do this easily by clicking 'Make a copy' under the file menu.  Do not in any way edit the one you originally submitted.  When you submit the re-write,  identify it as a rewrite of that particular assignment in the document title.   So, for example, if your name is J. Pheepher and you are re-writing assignment #1, title it:

J. Pheepher, 180,  Rewrite essay 1.

Your re-write will be graded on the basis of the degree to which the original has been improved.  This means that if you were to simply submit the same paper, regardless of the grade you initially received, you would receive a 0.  If you make perfunctory corrections in response to my previous comments, you will receive a grade substantially lower than your first grade.  In general, to receive a significantly better grade on your re-write you must both significantly improve and expand the scope of the paper in interesting ways.  

You may not do a re-write of assignment 4 unless it has been submitted by the original due date (5/2). 

Instructions for analysis

If you elect to do an analysis of one of the aforementioned articles, simply follow the same format outlined in assignment 4.

Assignment 4

The article, "I Think, Therefore I Err," by Gerd Gigerenzer, argues that the evidence adduced in support of the view that human reasoning competences are fundamentally flawed is not compelling and provides a view according to which the observed errors are an integral part of human rationality. Gigerenzer has been developing this view for quite a long time, and you can find different versions of it at the link above.

Your assignment is to write an an essay on this article similar to the one you wrote for assignment 2.  However, this time your essay will conform to these Instructions for Analyzing a Philosophical Essay.  Study these instructions very carefully and be sure that your essay conforms to them exactly. 

Besides our current reading "Reason and Rationality," by Samuels, Stich and Faucher, it would also be useful to read a 1996 article by Kahnemann and Tversky called "On the Reality of Cognitive Illusions," which replies to an earlier paper by Gigerenzer in which he formulates a similar critique. The full text of that article is here.

Note that for this assignment you will not be pasting the instructions in at the top.  Also, while the posted due date is 5/2, you may take until 5/16 without penalty.  I do not encourage this, but I'm aware that the end of the semester is a complicated time for most of you.  The earlier you turn the paper in, the sooner you will get it back, and the more time you will have to devote to essay 5, which will be due on 5/21 (the last day of final exam week.)

Assignment 3

In chapters 3, 4 & 5 of KPN, Kornblith gives distinct arguments for rejecting the view that human knowledge is canonical for the study of epistemology.  Provide a strong, charitable summary of an argument from each chapter.  In each case choose an argument that is representative of the aim of the chapter as a whole.  Then choose one of these arguments to examine critically.  Summarize your criticism as clearly as possible.  Then show how you think Kornblith would respond to it, and conclude by evaluating this response.  

Further advice (not to be pasted into your paper.)

This question breaks down into obvious subsections, so be sure to use them.  A good paper will not simply repeat a criticism that Kornblith himself considers, though a good paper might articulate a stronger or more complete version of such a criticism.  You are welcome to examine and use the Kornblithian literature, but it is not a requirement.  Obviously, cite your sources properly if you do. 


Assignment 2

Read the article:  "Knowledge, Naturalism, and Cognitive Ethology: Kornblith's Knowledge and It's Place in Nature,"   by Jose Bermudez.  You can get this article free by going to the CSUS library website.  Click on the 'Articles' tab,  search by Title, and paste in the title of the article.  

In "Knowledge, Naturalism, and Cognitive Ethology: Kornblith's Knowledge and It's Place in Nature,"  Jose Bermudez makes several distinct criticisms either directly of, or relevant to, Kornblith's view that knowledge is a natural kind.  Write an (approximately)  one page summary of the article, that outlines it's basic structure and content.  Then identify and articulate in your own words 2 distinct and significant criticisms that Bermudez makes of Kornblith's view.  Focus on criticisms that are relevant to the first 4 chapters of Kornblith's book.  After summarizing the 2 criticisms, explain how you think Kornblith would defend his view against each of these criticisms.  Finally, write a concluding section assessing the significance of Bermudez's criticisms given the reply you have articulated.

Further advice:
  • Only paste the orange-highlighted paragraph into the top of your paper.  (But change the color please.)
  • By 'distinct and significant' criticisms I mean that the criticisms should not be different ways of saying roughly the same thing, and they should be adequately defended to merit your attention.  (A good rule of thumb here is that they should occur in different parts of the article.)
  • Do not quote the author and do not quote Kornblith.  Put everything in your own words.
  • You may use outside sources, but you are not required to.  If you do this, reference the sources appropriately.
  • Read the paper several times quite a while before it is due.
  • Make sure you use informative headings and subheadings.  In this essay, at a minimum, you should have headings identifying the summary, each criticism, each reply, and your conclusion.
  • For those of you who remain unclear about the level of detail, organization, etc. that is required for these assignments, I have uploaded one of the better executions of Assignment 1 to the bottom of the schedule page. 
  • Finallly, you may find yourself significantly aided in this assignment by an article by Kornblith entitled "Reply to Bermudez and Bonjour." 

Assignment 1

Naturalism may be broadly characterized as the view that human beings have no supernatural abilities.  This means that any theory of human knowledge and understanding must be compatible with a scientific account of human perceptual and cognitive capacities.  How does naturalism, so described, fit with:

1.  The view that knowledge is justified true belief;
2.  The view that the aim of epistemology is to supply the foundation of science;
3.  The view that philosophy investigates fundamentally different questions than science;
4.  The view that there is a form of human insight that can lead to a priori knowledge?


Each of these questions is relevant to one or more of the first three articles we have read.  Be sure that your answers show a grasp of these readings.  Your answer to each question should fall into two subsections.  The first subsection should make clear the essential difficulty in making naturalism fit with the view in question.  The second section should should clarify the consequences of this difficulty in terms of the modifications needed to accommodate the naturalized account.  It is perfectly ok to articulate a critical stance on naturalistic criteria, but this does not exempt you from any of the above requirements.

Be sure that you have carefully read the instructions for submitting and formatting your assignment.  If your assignment does not meet the minimum criteria, I will return it ungraded.  The morning after the assignment is due I will scan the papers and indicate whether they have met these criteria.