What's Up Philosophy 006 Fall 2010

I will be holding office hours from 8-12 on Monday December 13th.

The final exam for this class is 10:15-12:15 AM, Thursday December 16th.  The final exam study questions are now attached to the bottom of the schedule page, and lecture slides will be available by Wednesday December 8th.  

Note:  I wrote the time and date of the exam incorrectly earlier.  It is now correct.

Philosophy Journal Entry for December 7, 2010

John Campbell on Berkeley's Puzzle/ Think 233-250.

1.  How, according to Galileo, Descartes, and Locke do primary qualities differ from secondary qualities?  (text)

2.  Use the distinction between primary and secondary qualities to summarize what Campbell describes as the challenge to common sense posed by the scientific world view.

3.  How does Campbell characterize Berkeley's Puzzle?

4.  Does Locke see 'solidity' as a primary or a secondary quality?  

5.  Blackburn uses Locke's view concerning the nature of of solidity to describe two of Berkeley's problems. 

    a.  What is the first problem?

    b.  What is the second problem?

6.  Which of the above, (a) or (b), seems to be what Campbell calls 'Berkeley's Puzzle?'  Explain.

7.  What do we mean when we call Berkeley an idealist?

8.  What, according to Campbell, is the distinction that we need to begin to solve Berkeley's Puzzle?  

9.  Does Campell's proposed way of solving the problem accept or reject the view that secondary qualities are only in the mind?

10.  According to Campbell, Berkeley thinks that there is no difference between hallucinating a dagger and perceiving an actual dagger.  On what basis does he reject this view?

Adrian Moore on Kant's Metaphysics/Text 253-269.

11.  Recall and briefly summarize from the chapter on the Self how Kant's view of the self differed from those who thought of the self an object of some kind. (text)

12.  How does your answer in question 11 relate to Kant's view about our understanding of 'things' in general?  (text)

13.  What is metaphysics, according to Adrian Moore?

14.  How, according to Moore, did Kant agree with rationalists about the nature of reason?

15.  How, according to Moore, did Kant agree with empiricists about the limits of reason?

16.   What is the difference between a synthetic truth and an analytic truth according to Moore? 

17.   How does this distinction relate to the distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge?

18.   What is synthetic a priori knowledge?

19.   How does Moore use the analogy of spectacles to makes sense of the possibility of synthetic a priori knowledge?

20.   What does Kant's view imply about what we can know about the world apart from how it appears through these spectacles?

21.  What does Kant's view in 20 imply about the rationality of believing in 

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 30, 2010

Massimo Pigliucci on Hume/Text

1.  What did Hume mean when he said "It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger."

2.  According to Hume, what conditions must be satisfied in order for it to be reasonable to believe that a miracle has occurred? 

3.  Do you think there is any tension between Hume's attitude toward miracles and his view of the relation between reason and emotion? Explain.

4.  What is induction?

5.  What is the problem of induction?

6.  What does Pigliuccio mean when he characterizes the usual defense of the rationality of induction as circular?

Michael Shermer on strange beliefs

7.  How does Shermer's approach to evaluating extraordinary claims compare to Hume's.

8.  What point is Shermer making when he discusses Galileo's observations of Saturn?

9.  How do Shermer's remarks about the appearance of facial likenesses and hidden messages in Stairway to Heaven relate to his point about Saturn?

Petter Millican on Hume's Impact

10.  How does Aristotelian physics explain the movements of objects?

11.  How does Millican distinguish the explanations given in Aristotelian physics from the kinds of explanations sought by those philosophers and scientists who were developing a modern scientific perspective?

12.  On what basis does Hume deny that modern scientific explanations provide us greater insight into the nature of the world than Aristotelian physics?

13.  Does Hume conclude from our inability to justify induction that we should not trust reasoning based on induction?  Why or why not?

14.  What does 'anathema' mean?

15.  How does Millican relate Hume's views to Darwin's views?

16.  How does Millican relate Hume's views on induction to his approach to miracles?

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 23, 2010

Stewart Sutherland on Design

1. What, according to Sutherland, is Hume's first objection to the design argument?

2.  On what basis  does Hume claim that the argument from design does not lead to the infallible god of Christianity?

3. How else does Hume criticize this argument?

Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil

4.  What is the logical problem of evil?

5.  What is the evidential problem of evil?

6.  How does Law think that the logical problem might be addressed?

7.  What point is Law making when he distinguishes degrees of reasonableness?

8.  Does Law appear to accept the argument from design?

9.  What is theodicy?

10.  How does the concept of free will enter into the discussion of the problem of evil?

11.  Do you think 10 appeals to a compatibilist or an incompatibilist notion of free will?  Explain.

12.  Law believes that the extent of human suffering is very strong evidence against the existence of an all loving, omnisicient, and omnipotent God.  How would you respond to this?

13.  What is the problem of good?  Explain.

14.  Does Law think it would make more sense to believe in an evil God?  Why or why not?

Don Cupitt on Non Realism

15.  What does Cupitt mean when he says that he is a non realist about God?

16.  Where, according to Cupitt, did belief in a creator god originate?

17.  Why does Cupitt think that the popular version of God is too anthropomorphic?

18.  How does Cupitt think we should conceive of God?

19.  What is the basis of Christian ethics according to Cupitt?

William Craig on Keeping Faith

19.  How does Craig think that a Christian should respond to someone like Stephen Law who gives evidence against the existence of God?

20.  What does Craig mean when he says that doubts are not spiritually neutral?

21.  How does Craig thinks that a Christian should deal with those doubt?

Think 168-176

22.  Under what conditions, according to Hume, is it reasonable to believe that a miracle has occurred?  

23.  What, according to Hume, makes humans especially prone to believing in miracles?

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 16, 2010

The Ontological Argument  (video/textbook 152-158

1. How is God's nature characterized for the purpose of the ontological argument?

2. The ontological argument attempts to establish that anyone who denies the existence of God is contradicting herself.  What assumption about existence is critical to establishing this conclusion?

3. Kant criticizes the ontological argument by reference to a pile of coins.  Blackburn criticizes it by reference to a 'Dreamboat'.  Do you think these criticisms are basically the same or different?  Explain.

4.  Characterize Paul Guyer's summary of Kant's criticism using the concepts of rationalism and empiricism.

The Cosmological Argument  (video/textbook 159-163)

5.  What does it mean to say that something is contingent?

6.  What question about contingency is central to the cosmological argument?

7.  What principle about the nature of explanation is central to the cosmological argument?

8.  How do the answers to 6 and 7 result in the conclusion that there is a necessarily existing being?

9.  What does Inwagen take to be the main defect in the cosmological argument?

10. What do you think Inwagen means by 'brute contingency'?

11.  Both the ontological argument and the cosmological argument rest on the concept of a necessarily existing being.  What does Hume think about this concept? (text)

The Design Argument

12.  Why does Blackburn say that the design argument is an argument by analogy?

13.  On what general basis does Hume claim that we should be suspicious of this analogy?

14.  In criticizing the design argument, Hume claims that the world resembles something else more than it does a designed object.  What?

15.  Why does Hume think the principle of 'generation' provides a better explanation than the principle of intelligence?

16.  Why does Blackburn think that people don't really appreciate the power of Hume's point?

17.  What does Rundle characterize as Hume's main criticism of the design hypothesis?

18.  Why does Rundle think evolution is a better explanatory strategy than the design hypothesis? 

Comments on midterm exam.

Midterms will be returned on Tuesday 11/9.  Grades will be posted on e-instruction by the evening of Monday 11/8.  To understand your grade you need to know the following.

1.  The maximum possible is 40 pts.  To know your percent correct, just divide your score by 40.

2.  There were 20 multiple choice problems worth 1/2 a point each.  The pink scantron score is the number of questions you got right, hence that score is divided in half.  Also, I mismarked the very first question on the key, so many of you have your score altered in pen.

3.  Abbreviated answers to the exam have been uploaded to the bottom of the schedule page.  If you have points deducted without comment, this means that you should be able to figure out what is wrong with your answer by looking at the correct one.

4. If you are one of the many people who did poorly on the exam and would like to know what your chances are of passing the class, all you need to do is look at the syllabus to see how grades are calculated, and examine your grades thus far.  The midterm is worth 20% of your total grade.

5.  The exam was curved by 2 points.  So the score you read on e-instruction will be 2 pts. higher than the one marked inside your blue book.  As a result, a few people scored over 40 pts.


Philosophy Journal Entry for November 9, 2010

Daniel Kahnemann, The Riddle of Experience

1. One of the cognitive traps preventing us from understanding happiness is the failure to distinguish between being happy in your life and being happy about your life.  How does this distinction apply to his story about the man at the symphony?

2. What are the two kinds of selves that Daniel Kahnemann distinguishes between?

3. How does Kahnemann use this distinction to explain the results of the colonoscopy experiment?

4. Why, according to Kahnemann are people not good judges of how happy they are?

5.  What point is Kahnemann making when he says "time has very little impact on the story?"

6.  Students are needed for an experiment in pain tolerance.  Subjects will be tortured for 1 hour continuously. (They will experience pain so intense that within 1 minute 99% of all subjects will beg to be released from the experiment.)  The torture will cause absolutely no physical damage to the subject and at the end of the session they will be given an amnesiac drug that makes them recall the session as an intensely realistic and satisfying fantasy.  Each subject will be paid 1000 dollars at the end of the session.  Will you sign up?  Use Kahnemann's distinction between the two selves to explain why or why not.

Paul Bloom, First Person Plural  

7.  What is dissociative identity disorder and how does it relate to the central thesis of this article?

8.  Watch this short video.  How does Paul Bloom use the idea of a plurality of selves to account for the behavior of the subjects?

9.  Compare Bloom's discussion of the question whether having kids make us happy to Kahnemann's discussion of whether moving to California makes us happy.  Do they explain our misconceptions in the same way or differently?

Nancey Murphy on the Soul

10. Nancey Murphy is a Christian who does not believe in a soul.  How does she reconcile this with standard Christian views about life after death?

11. What is Murphy's stance with respect to the view that humans evolved from earlier hominid species?

12. Can you think of any problems with her materialistic conception of the afterlife? 

Think, 137-144

13.  How does Blackburn explain our belief in a self on p. 138-140?

14.  How does Blackburn explain our tendency to believe in life after death or reincarnation on p. 140-144? 


Congratulations on finishing the midterm!  I am going to be out of town from Thursday to Sunday, so I will not be able to hold my usual office hours.

On Tuesday we will finish up the Free will chapter and then move on to The Self. 

Philosophy Journal Entry for October November 2, 2010

Christopher Shields on personal identity

1.  How does Shields characterize the problem of personal identity?

2.  What is Locke's criterion of personal identity?

3.  What conclusion does Locke draw from the story of the Prince and the Cobbler?

4.  What does Locke mean when he says that personal identity is a forensic notion?

5.  According to Shields, what does Locke's view appear to imply about the relation between moral responsibility and memory?

6.  Do you think someone should be punished for a crime that they don't remember having committed?

7.  How does Reid's story of the brave officer function as a criticism of Locke's view? (See also Think p.130-134.)

Galen Strawson on the sense of self

8.   Strawson points out that your character is more visible to others than to you.  How does he explain that?

9.    Suppose you think you are a very caring person, but almost everyone who knows you agrees that you are quite selfish.  Whose view is more likely to be correct?  Explain why you think this.  Would Strawson agree with you?

10.  Why does Strawson object to the idea that the self is socially constructed?

11.  Why does Strawson think about the idea that to know yourself is to be involved in a construction of a meaningful narrative of your life?

Thomas Metzinger on the self

12.  Does Metzinger believe in the existence of a self as an enduring substance that is distinct from the body?

13.  What does Metzinger suggest the self really is?

14.  How does Metzinger explain the function of consciousness?

15.  Where does Metzinger think our belief in a soul comes from?

16.  What is lucid dreaming and why is Metzinger interested in it?

17.  Metzinger points out something every interesting about the difference between dreaming and non dreaming which might not have occurred to someone like Descartes.  What is it? (He doesn't refer to Descartes.)

18.  Why does Metzinger think it is very important to develop the field of neuroethics?

19.  Watch this video on the rubber hand illusion and explain how it relates to the things that Metzinger was talking about.  Afterwards, watch this very short one.

Think, p. 120-137

20.  How does Locke explain what it means to be the same human being over time?

21.  Why doesn't Locke think it helps to invoke an immaterial substance in order to make sense of the possibility of transcending bodily death?


Here is the study guide for the midterm.  Print out and read the entire document very, very carefully!  You are responsible for every word of it.  If you have questions, e-mail me or come to my office during my office hours.  I will hold extra office hours for this class on Monday 10/25 from 8:30-10:30 AM The lecture notes have been uploaded to the bottom of the schedule page.

Note 1:  These notes will by no means sufficient to do well on the test.  Absolutely do not memorize or quote anything in them.  If entire sentences from my notes turn up verbatim in your exam, I will have to assume that you are cheating, which will result in failing the class.

Note 2:  For some reason the questions on a couple of the quizzes were not uploaded.  Hence, I've included the questions in the notes.


Philosophy Journal Entry for October 19, 2010

Daniel Dennett on Free Will  (parts 1 and 2)

1.  Does Dennett think that we should look to physics to understand the nature of free will?  Why or why not?

2.   What is a tautology?

3.   How does Dennett use the concept of avoidance to define free will?

4.   How does Dennett use the idea of a robot babysitter to motivate his compatibilist approach to free will?

5.   What does Dennett say we have to give up in order to accept his view?  Why does he think we should be fine with this?

Stephen Wolfram on Free Will

6.  What recent discovery about rules is the basis of Wolfram's views on free will?

7.  What is computational irreducibility?

8.  Do you think that Wolfram is supporting a compatibilist or incompatibilist notion of free will?  

John Searle on Free Will

9. How does Searle characterize the origin of the problem of free will?

10. How does Searle use the problem of building a robot to understand the problem of free will?

11. What is the experience of the gap?

12. Would Searle agree with Blackburn and Dennett on the significance of indeterminacy for free will?  Why or why not?

Think:   p. 97-119.

13.  What, for Blackburn, does "could have done otherwise" mean from a compatibilist perspective?

14.  What is 'interventionist control'?  Is it a concept in support of compatibilism or incompatibilism?

15.  How does Blackburn use mini-Martians to challenge the compatibilist notion of free will?

16.  How does Blackburn modify the compatibilist notion of "could have done otherwise" to meet this challenge?

17.  According to compatibilism, we can be free in every important sense of the term even if determinism is true.  After hearing and reading the arguments, do you think this is correct?  Why or why not?

Philosophy Journal Entry for October 12, 2010

Philosophy Talk:  Free Will

1. Summarize how John and Ken use the story of the Garden of Eden to characterize the problem of free will.

2.  Why does Ken think God's defense of punishing Adam and Eve is unacceptable?

3.  How does the argument from causation differ from the argument from God's foreknowledge?

4.  What is libertarianism?

5.  What is hard determinism?

6.  What do libertarians and hard determinists agree about?

7.  How does Manuel Vargas attempt to motivate the idea that freedom and determinism are compatible?

8.  How do Ken and Manuel distinguish between determinism and fatalism?

9.  What issue does Ron from Cincinnati raise?

10. Does Vargas seem to you to be saying that freedom and determinism are compatible or incompatible?  What does he say to make you think one or the other?

(The concluding discussion of the movie The Reader is interesting, but they do not connect it explicitly to free will.)

Thomas Pink on Free Will

11.  What, according to Pink, is the power we presume humans to have, that gives rise to the problem of free will?

12.  Does Pink think that human choices are determined by prior causes?  Why or why not?

13.  What is incompatibilism?

14.  What is compatibilism?

15.  Pink suggests that the problem of free will is not a conceptual problem but an empirical one.  What does he think is the experiential basis of our belief in free will?

16.  Does Pink seem to agree with Vargas for the most part about the nature of freedom?  Why or why  not?

Think, p. 81-97

17.  Why does Blackburn think that indeterminism provides no basis for a belief in free will?

18.  What do you think is the point of Schopenhauer's parable of the water?

19.  How does Blackburn connect the idea of free will to dualism?

20.  Does Blackburn think it can make sense to blame or praise people for their actions even when they are determined?   Explain why or why not.  


Philosophy Journal Entry for October 5, 2010

Paul Bloom on Dualism

(Note: this video gets cut off abruptly, but the full transcript is below the video.  Questions 4 and 5 can only be answered by looking at the transcript.)

1. What does Bloom claim to be the origin of dualism?
2. Is Bloom himself a dualist?
3. How do children respond when they learn that the brain is the source of thinking?
4. How does Bloom connect our belief in souls to the emotion of disgust?
5. Does Bloom think it is likely that people will ultimately reject dualism?  Why or why not?

Rebecca Saxe on Theory of Mind

6.  Saxe is not interested in the philosophical problem of other minds.  What problem is she interested in?
7.  What is the false belief task?
8.  What is the ability to pass the false belief task supposed to show?
9.  What brain region is implicated in the false belief task?
10.  According to Saxe, what would happen to your moral judgments if this brain region were damaged?

Ramachandran on Brain Damage

11.  What is Capgras Delusion?
12.  What does Ramachandran think causes Capgras?
13.  What is a phantom limb?
14.  What is learned paralysis?
15.  How does Ramachandran's treatment of learned paralysis work?
16.  What is synesthesia?
17.  How does Ramachandran explain the fact that synesthesia is much more common in creative people?
18.  What does Ramachandran demonstrate with Booba and Kiki?
19.  What is one of the abilities you would lose if you sustained damage to your fusiform gyrus?

Marvin Minsky on Artificial Intelligence

20.  What does Minsky think about the view that neuroscience can't explain the immediacy of conscious experience?
21.  What does Minsky think about the view that individuals have privileged access to their own mental states?
22.  Do you think Minsky would agree with Chalmers' view of the Hard Problem and Levine's view of the Explanatory Gap?  Why or why not?

Think, p. 65-70.

23. How does this joke function as a criticism of logical behaviorism?  Two behaviorists just finished having sex.  One says, that was great for you, how was it for me?
24. How does Blackburn employ the kinetic molecular theory of heat to motivate psychophysical identity theory?


The midterm for this class will be on October 26th.  It will cover the first three chapters of the book:  Knowledge, Mind, and Free Will.

You can monitor your quiz grades in this course by logging into your account on e-instruction.com.

If you attended any of the McCormick/Disilvestro debates and would like credit for them, click on the Attendance Credit link in the sidebar and follow the instructions precisely.  Any failure to follow the instructions will result in no credit.  Look at the Extra Credit section in the syllabus to see how credit is awarded.

Philosophy Journal Entry for September 28, 2010.

Philosophy Talk: Consciousness

1.  What is the explanatory gap?
2.  Watch this very short video and very seriously follow the instructions.  It only takes a few seconds.  What were the results for you?
3.  What is inattentional blindness? 
4.  What is the distinction that arises from Joseph Levine's discussion of a scene from the movie "The Terminator"?
5.  Who is the performer who sings the lyric " 'scuse me while I kiss the sky'?  What is the name of the song?  Why did they play it?
6.  Does Joseph Levine believe that we will be able to bridge the explanatory gap? Who do you think he agrees with more:  Chalmers or Rosenthal?
7.  What does the caller Kevin think is important about the nature of consciousness?
8.  What is the difference between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness? (Ned Block's distinction.)
9.  What is an antinomy?
10. What does Levine think it is going to take to understand consciousness?
11. Most people think Descartes' view that animals don't have experiences like pain or fear is crazy, but here is an argument in favor of that view:  

An animal can be in pain, but it can't actually think about its pains.  But you aren't really aware of a pain unless you are thinking about it.  That's why it 'goes away' when you get distracted.  So really animals only have pains in the way that you have pains when you are unaware of those pains.  

What do you think of that?

David Papineau on Physicalism

12.  What is the main argument that Papineau gives in favor of physicalism?
13.  What is epiphenomenalism?
14.  Is the Mary the neuroscientist thought experiment given in support of physicalism or against it?
15.  What is Papineau's basic response to the Mary experiment?
Tim Crane on Mind and Body

16.  Nagel says that when today we say that the mind is the brain, we are in the same position of an ancient Greek who says what?  
17.  Tim Crane does not think the mind body problem is the result of our lacking a certain piece of knowledge.  What does he think is the root of the problem?
18. Does Tim Crane think the problem of consciousness is more a problem for neuroscience or for philosophy?

Think, through page 77

19.  What is Leibniz's response to Locke's view that the connection between our physical states and our experiential states is 'God's Good Pleasure?'
20.  What is the 'principle of sufficient reason'?
21. Even though Locke does not think so highly of the powers of reason as Descartes and Leibniz, Blackburn says Locke is fundamentally a rationalist.  Why?
22. What does the doctrine known as 'logical behaviorism' assert?

The quiz questions for 9/21 will come from the following reading and links on the schedule page:  

Reading: Chapter 2, pages 49-64
Philosophy Talk:  Dualism
David Chalmers on Consciousness
Daniel Dennett on the Mind/Body Problem

Before proceeding, be sure you understand the following:

1.  Do not create a new Google Doc for each entry.
2.  Put your new entry above your old one on your journal page.
3.  You must do your own writing.  It is ok to quote the authors and speakers for the purpose of discussion, but if you simply write exactly what they say/write then you will fail the class.
4.  Do not share your journal with your friends.  It is fine to discuss your answers, but when multiple journals have identical answers to questions, all students involved will fail the class.
5.  Journal entries must be written with care, in complete well-constructed sentences.  Journals that simply contain notes will receive little or no credit.
6.  Journal entries should be finished before the date in the heading. An occasional late entry will not hurt your grade.  Consistently late entries will.

Philosophy journal entry for September 21, 2010

From Philosophy Talk: Dualism:

1.  What is the difference between a thought and an experience?
2.  Do dualists believe that the mind and the brain affect each other?
3.  David Chalmers invokes the distinction between correlation and explanation.   What is his point in doing so?
4.  How does Rosenthal respond to this argument?  Thoughts and experiences can't be physical aspects of the brain because if we were shrunk to be small enough to walk around inside a person's brain, we would simply see brain matter, not the thoughts and experiences of that person.
5.  Rosenthal is not a dualist.  What is he?
6.  What does he think an experience actually is?
7.  The caller Mark, from Hayward, suggests that if dualism is false, then humans might also lack what?
8.  According to Rosenthal, is it possible to have a pain without being conscious of it?

From the book:

9.  What is the difference between a zombie and a mutant?
10. What is Blackburn's purpose in introducing them?
11. Blackburn says: "If I have a box and it has a beetle in it, that gives me only very poor grounds for believing that everyone else with a box has a beetle in it as well?"  What is the point of this remark?
12. What does John Locke mean by the phrase "God's good pleasure?" in connection with the mind/body problem?

From the Chalmers interview:

13. What will a zombie say if you ask it if it is conscious?  On your understanding of zombies, does that mean it is lying?
14. Does Chalmers think that we can give an evolutionary explanation of the origin of consciousness?
15. What is the difference between the easy problem and the hard problem of consciousness?

From the Dennett interview:

16. What do you think about what Descartes says about animal minds?
17. Dennett suggests that Descartes's dualism was partly the result of his understanding of machines.  Why?
18. What is heterophenomenology and how does it contrast with autophenomenology?  (If this is confusing to you in the video, look at the Wikipedia article.)
19. Does Daniel Dennett think it is possible for us to be wrong about what we believe, think and feel?


The quiz questions for 9/14 will come from three audio interviews on the schedule page. Simon Blackburn on Plato's Cave; A.C. Grayling on Descartes; and Barry Stroud on Skepticism.  To listen to these interviews, click on 'Direct Download'.  Each one is about 15 minutes long.  The reading is the rest of Chapter 1, pages 32-48. Do not get bogged down in the section entitled "The Trademark Argument," we will be dealing with proofs of the existence of God later in the semester.

Important: Place each new journal entry at the top of the page. 

Philosophy journal entry for September 14, 2010

From the reading:

1.  What is rationalism?

2.  What is a priori knowledge?

3.  Why does Descartes think that we can trust our clear and distinct ideas?

4.  Does Hume agree with Descartes that our knowledge requires a foundation?

5.  What is an empiricist?

6.  What does Hume think about Descartes' method of hyperbolic doubt?

From Simon Blackburn interview:

7.  Compare what Blackburn has to say about Plato's view of the nature of understanding with what he says in the book about Descartes' conception of clear and distinct ideas.  

From Anthony Grayling interview:

8.  How exactly does Descartes use God to show that we have knowledge of an external world?

9.  What is an enthymematic syllogism?

10.  Grayling says that if we treat the cogito as an argument it is missing a premise, what is it?

11. What does Grayling characterize as the greatest criticism of Descartes?

From the Stroud interview:

12.  Descartes believes that in order to know x, you must be able to know that you are not simply dreaming x.  Does Stroud agree with this?  

13.  What, according to Stroud, is the faulty assumption about knowledge that generates skeptical conclusions?

14.  Is true belief the same thing as knowledge?  Explain why or why not.


Read everything below carefully!

Be sure to create your journal page by Thursday 9/2.  In class, some of you reported that when you tried to share your page with me Google sent you a message that I have exceeded capacity.  This turns out to be an error that happens occasionally, possibly when many people are trying to share at once.  Just keep trying to share it with me until you succeed.  When you successfully share your document with me, I will write something on the page like: "Good job! -grm."  If you do not receive this message within 24 hours of sharing, then you have done something wrong.  Go back through the steps, and if you can't figure it out, you need to e-mail me or come by my office on 9/2 from 9-10:15.  The two most common errors so far have been:

1. Untitled documents.  There are two places where I need you to write: "Your Name, Philosophy 006 journal"  The first place is in the upper left hand corner of the webpage in a box that initially says "Untitled Document".  The second is in the upper left hand corner of the actual journal page.

2. Failure to UNclick the "send e-mail notification".  This is step 8.  If you do not unclick this box then I will receive an e-mail every time you make a journal entry and I do NOT want this to happen.  

Journal instructions

Below you will see a reading assignment as well as some online audio material.  There will be a list of questions for you to answer in your journal relating to these materials.  You will copy and paste these questions into your journal and then insert your responses under each question.  (i.e., insert your response to question 1, directly below question 1, response to 2, directly below 2, etc.)  

At the beginning of the period on 9/7 you will take a clicker quiz based on these questions.  Some of the clicker questions will be identical to these questions, others will not, but your answers will still be of value in answering them.

Assignment for  9/7/2010

Note:  Links for all online assignments are on the schedule page.   I strongly advise doing the online portion of these assignments on Thursday, but at lease well before Tuesday.  If you wait until the last minute, then you are assuming the risk that some temporary technological difficulty will prevent you from getting access to the material.

Also, I think you will generally find it helpful to engage the online material prior to the reading.

1.  Listen online to Philosophy Talk: Descartes.  
  • Use the "Listen online" feature.  You can fast forward to 2:19 to avoid some unimportant chatter.  Philosophy Talk is a very accessible show hosted by two Stanford Philosophy professors: John Perry and Ken Taylor.  
2.  Read Chapter 1 of Think:  pages 15-32.

Copy and paste the following questions, including the heading, into your journal. (You will need to change the text color to black when you do this.)  Answer each question carefully.  Your answers will not be graded in the journal for correctness, but correct answers are important, as they determine how you will do on the quiz on Tuesday.  

Important:  Compose your answers carefully, using complete sentences, correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.  If you produce a journal that is of poor quality in this regard, you will get almost no credit for it. 

Philosophy journal entry for September 7, 2010

1.  How does John Perry initially characterize the problem raised by Descartes?

2. What, according to Ron Rubin, is the ultimate purpose of Descartes' assertion: Cogito Ergo Sum?

3. According to Rubin, what sort of system does Descartes strive to make his own thought most resemble?

4. According to Rubin, would it be correct to say that Descartes wants his thinking to be just as certain as mathematics?

5. To what task does Descartes proceed after having established the certainty of his own existence? 

6. What is Cartesian Dualism?

7. Descartes says that he is essentially a thinking thing (rather than a physical thing.)  Why?  

8.  What does the caller Michael, from Sunnyvale, think is the problem with Descartes' Cogito Ergo Sum?  (Blackburn raises this very issue on p. 30.)

9.  According to Rubin, does Descartes ultimately want to make people doubtful about the existence of the external world and the existence of God?

10.  What is solipsism?  

11.  Why does Descartes introduce the idea of an evil demon?  

12. According to Blackburn, is Descartes asking you to believe in the possibility of an Evil Demon?  Why or why not?

13. What is scepticism?

14. Do you think this is a good argument?  Why or why not?  "It really does not make sense to wonder whether what we call reality is just a dream.  The very concept of a dream presupposes the existence of a waking state in which we are experiencing the external world." 

15.  Do you agree with this statement?  Explain why or why not.   "By showing that it is impossible to doubt ones own existence, Descartes proved that there is no evil Demon and that reality is not simply a dream."


Hey, if this is this is your first time visiting this page, be sure to read everything below.  Your assignment for Tuesday, the first day of class, is to watch this short video about the nature of philosophy and answer the following questions.  You'll answer these questions using your clicker, so be sure to get it an register it online before class according to the instructions below.  If you just buy it at the bookstore and bring it to class, it won't work!  

1. According to Massimo Pigliucci, what does the word "philosophy" mean?
2. Who, according to Pigliucci,  was the quintessential philosopher?
3. Why was this philosopher put to death?
4. What books did this philosopher write?
5. Pigliucci says that philosophy is "not so much a discipline but _______________"
6. What, according to Pigliucci, are the six big issues in philosophy?
7. What, according to Pigliucci, is the main difference between philosophy and science?
8. How, according to Pigliucci, does philosophy differ from religion and mysticism?
9. What, according to Pigliucci, makes philosophy important in practical terms?


Welcome to Philosophy 006: Introduction to Philosophy

I'm teaching two sections of Philosophy 006 this semester:  Sections 10 and 80.  The sections are designated to meet in the same room at the same time:  T/Th 10:30-11:45.   Unfortunately, we do not have a big enough room to accommodate everyone on both days.  There is, however, a room large enough for everyone on Tuesday, so the solution I've come up with is to hybridize the course.  We will be meeting in Library 11 on Tuesday. On Thursday we will not meet, but I will be giving you a variety of online experiences to supplement the missing lecture, and I will be holding extended office hours and/or discussion sections on Th 10:30-11:45. Please refer to the syllabus for the details of the class.

The text is Think: A compelling introduction to philosophy, by Simon Blackburn.  Yes, you do need to buy it. It's cheap.  You also need to get a CPS response pad (aka: Clicker).  You need to buy (or rent)  the exact clicker that is being sold in the bookstore, which is made by E-Instruction.  If you have an older E-Instruction clicker, that will work, but clickers made by other companies will not work.   

After you get the the clicker register it online according to the instructions on the box, or simply go to www.einstruction.com and click on the "Students pay for and register your clickers" tab.  You'll need a credit card and a class key (a number) from me in order to do so.  That number is

  • H62672I793
(The character between the 2 and the 7 is the letter I not the number 1. For best results, just cut and paste this number into the box that requests it.)

If you are taking other classes using this clicker, you will only have to pay the registration fee once.

That's it for now.  Be sure to get the book and register your clicker before class on Tuesday. Check back here by Sunday evening for your first assignment.

Get started formatting your journal

When you read the syllabus you'll notice that you are going to be keeping a journal on Google Docs. Here are the instructions for making and sharing that document with me.  If you are enrolled and committed to taking this class, feel free to do it now!