What's Up Philosophy 006 Fall 2011

Lecture note slides chapter 4-7 have been uploaded to the bottom of the class schedule page.

Here is the final exam study guide.  Be sure to study it carefully, including all instructions for writing short answer and essays.  These instructions will not be repeated the day of the final but you are responsible for knowing them.

Here is the midterm.


Listen to Adrian Moore on Kant and read Think 253-259

Philosophy Journal Entry for December 8, 2011

1.  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 as an object of some kind. (text)

2.  How does your answer in question 11 relate to Kant's view about our understanding of 'things' in general?  (text 255-256)

3.  What is metaphysics, according to Adrian Moore?

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

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

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

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

8.   What is synthetic a priori knowledge?

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

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

11.  What does Kant's view in 10 imply about the rationality of believing in 


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for December 1, 2011

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?


Think pages 211-217, Massimo Pigliucci on Hume, Peter Millican on Hume's Impact.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 27, 2011

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

3.  What is induction?

4.  What is the problem of induction?

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

Petter Millican on Hume's Impact

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

7.  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?

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

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

10.  What does 'anathema' mean?

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

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


Text p. 176-185,  Michael Shermer on Strange Beliefs, William Craig on Keeping Faith.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 22, 2011

1. According to Hume, what condition must be satisfied in order to make it reasonable to believe testimony that a miraculous event has occurred?

2. Why, according to Hume, do no reports of miracles ever satisfy this condition?

3. Does Hume's view rest on the denial of the existence of a God that could perform miracles? Explain why or why not. (p.183).

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

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

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

7.  How does Craig think that a Christian should respond to someone like Stephen Law who raises explicit doubts about the existence of God?

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

9.  How does Craig think that a Christian should deal with those doubts?

10.  Perhaps this is the sort of class that the interviewer has in mind when asking Craig how to deal with doubts.  Do you think Craig is giving the best advice to believers or do you think a student in this situation should be willing to more seriously question what he calls the witness of the holy spirit?  Explain.


Text p. 168-175 and Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 17, 2011


1. In order to introduce the problem of evil Blackburn makes an analogy with living in a particularly horrible dormitory. What is his point?

2. What, according to Blackburn, is the problem with answering the problem of evil by appeal to the 'mysterious and incomprehensible nature of the divine mind?'

3.  What, according to Law, is the logical problem of evil?

4.  What is the evidential problem of evil?

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

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

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

8.  What is theodicy?

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

10.  Do you think 9 appeals to a compatibilist or an incompatibilist notion of free will?  Explain.

11.  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?

12.  What is the problem of good?  Explain.

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


Leonard Susskind and Michio Kaku on: Is the Universe Fine-Tuned? 

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 15, 2011

1.  How does Leonard Susskind describe the fine-tuning problem?

2.  What is the cosmological constant, and how does it relate to the fine-tuning problem?

3.  What are the three main responses to the fine tuning problem according to Susskind?

4.  Susskind poses the question:  Why is it that we just happen to be in one of the few places that water exists?  How does he answer that?

5. Michio Kaku talks about "The Goldilocks Paradox."  What does he mean by that?

6. What is Kaku's solution to the paradox as it applies to the earth?

7. What is the "fine-tuning argument?" If you can't understand this from the context, look up the Wikipedia article on the Fine Tuned Universe.

8. How does Kaku explain the Fine-Tuned Universe?

9. What is the Copernican Principle?

10. What is the Anthropic Principle?

11. In lecture I said that the argument from design is extremely important, because it forces us to completely change our conception of the universe.  Can you briefly summarize why that is the case?


Text p. 163-168, Stuart Sutherland on Design and Bede Rundle on the Design Argument. 

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 10, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

6. What, according to Sutherland, is Hume's first objection to the design argument? It is reminiscent of something that Blackburn said about the explanatory value of the Real Me?  Can you remember what it was?

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

8. How else does Hume criticize this argument?

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

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


Text 149-162, videos on Ontological Argument and Cosmological Argument.  It will help to watch the videos before reading the text. 

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 8, 2011

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.

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)


Finish reading chapter 4 and listen to Nancey Murphy on the soul and Hod Lipson on Robot Awareness.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 3, 2011

1.  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?

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

3. Do you think Murphy has a plausible way of reconciling the problematic aspects of dualism within a Christian worldview, or do you think that  belief in an immaterial soul is essential to being a Christian?  Explain.

4.  Given that Murphy doesn't believe in souls, what do you suppose she thinks about the nature of God?

5.  How does Kant explain the nature of the self?

6.  Does Kant's account seem to provide a reason for thinking (or denying) that you are the same person over time?  If so, what is the basis?  If not, what is his view actually explaining?

7.  Watch the Hod Lipson video and briefly describe how what he says relates to a Kantian conception of the self.

8.  What does Lipson appear to mean when he says that the robots are self-aware?  Do you think that human self awareness is entirely different than this, or just a very advanced version of it?


Watch Daniel Kahneman on the Riddle of Experience.  Read Paul Bloom's article "First Person Plural."  Watch Joachim de Posada on the Marshmallow Test.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 1, 2011

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 does Kahnemann apply this distinction to his story about the man at the symphony?

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

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

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

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

6.  What is dissociative identity disorder and how does it relate to the central thesis of Bloom's article?

7.  Watch the marshmallow video.  Are you surprised that something like that could be so predictive of a child's future?  

8.  Can you see how Bloom's remarks about the marshmallow test and self-binding might give us a way of thinking about the relation between free will and will power. 

9.  How does Paul Bloom use the idea of a plurality of selves to account for the behavior of the children?

10.  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?


Read Think 128-138.  Listen to Thomas Metzinger on the Self  (the radio interview. Metzinger's YouTube lecture is very interesting, but not assigned.)

Philosophy Journal Entry for October 27, 2011


1. Both Locke and Kant think that even if immaterial substances exist, they aren't sufficient to justify the belief in a self that persists through time, or after bodily death.  Try to explain either Locke or Kant's reason for this in your own words. 

2.  How does Reid's story of the brave officer function as a criticism of Locke's view? (This was also discussed in the Christopher Shields interview.)

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

4.  What does Metzinger suggest the self really is?

5.  How does Metzinger explain the function of consciousness?

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

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

8.  Metzinger points out something 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.)

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

10.  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 just for grins.


Congratulations on finishing the midterm. I have decided not to post the grades to the multiple choice section of your test independently, because it is only 25% of your grade and a distraction from grading your midterms.  If you are very, very interested in knowing how you did on the multiple choice section, then you can e-mail me and I will tell you.

Journal Entry for October 25, 2011

Read text 120-127, and listen to Christopher Shields on personal identity.

1. Much of what we have talked about this semester has centered on the apparent fact that our thoughts and experiences and memories are generated by our brains.  Since our brains are physical things, and obviously just decompose with the rest of our body when we die, what do you think this implies about the idea that we are somehow capable of surviving bodily death?   

2.   Why is Hume skeptical of the existence of a self that endures through time? 

3.   What does Locke thinks makes us the same human being over time?

Christopher Shields on personal identity

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Do you think someone should be punished for a crime that they honestly have no memory of having committed? Why or why not?

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


Midterm on Thursday, don't be late to class.  Class notes have been uploaded to the bottom of the schedule page. Study guide is here.


Here is the midterm study guide. Study it!

Read text pages 107-110 and 117-119

Journal Entry for October 18, 2011

1. What, according to Strawson, is lost in the switch to the compatibilist rationale for praise and blame?
2. Why does Blackburn disagree with Strawson's view that the compatibilist perspective is dehumanizing? 
3. Many people think there is an inherent conflict between the deliberative, first person-perspective and the objective third-person perspective.  How does Blackburn respond to this?
4. How does the quote from Wittgenstein on p.118 provide an alternative perspective to those who find it humiliating to think of themselves as purely physical?
5. At the end of the chapter Blackburn introduces the idea of flexibility.  Can you relate what he says here to Dennett's views connecting free will to the idea of avoidance?
6.Watch this very short video called The Magic of Truth and Lies. Toward the end Marco Tempest makes some interesting remarks about positive illusions.  Can you see a way to relate this to the problem of free will?


Read the text, pages 110-117 and watch Stephen Wolfram on free will.

Journal Entry for October 13, 2011

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

2.  What is computational irreducibility?

3.  What is the basis of Wolfram's view that deterministic systems can appear to be free?

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

5.  Late in the video, the interviewer, Robert Kuhn, says "But that's not free will."  Do you find yourself agreeing with Kuhn, or with the reply Wolfram gives to him?  Explain.

6.  What is the difference between fatalism and determinism?

7.  Blackburn says that according to fatalism choice is an illusion, but that according to determinism, choice is real.  Why?

8.  What does Blackburn think about the view that our futures are a matter of fate?

9.  According to Blackburn, what sort of mistake are people making when they commit the 'lazy sophism?'



Journal Entry for October 11, 2011

Read text pages 97-99.  Watch John Searle and Daniel Dennett (Part 1 and 2) on Free Will.

1. Is Blackburn's mini-Martians example posing a problem for compatibilism or incompatibilism? Explain.

2. Blackburn's mini-Martians is science fiction; but can you think of some other quite common situation in which a person's decision processes are clearly compromised despite satisfying the compatibilist sense of could have done otherwise.

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

4.   What is a tautology?

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

6.   How would you answer Dennett's question about the robot babysitter? What, if anything, do you think your answer implies about the importance of the traditional incompatibilist conception of free will?

7.   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?

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

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

10. What does Searle mean by the experience of the gap?

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

12.  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, are you favorably disposed to this idea ?  Why or why not?  


Watch Ned Block on Free Will and read text pages 91-96.

Journal Entry for October 6, 2011

1. Suppose you volunteered for an experiment in which your skull is fitted with a bunch of electrodes that send information about your brain activity to a computer. The experiment requires you to press one of two buttons, A or B.  A clock is running in front of you and you are asked to record the exact moment that you feel yourself make the conscious decision to push either A or B.  You do this about 1000 times, pushing whichever button you decide to push each time. Afterwards you learn that the computer monitoring your brain activity was able to predict with 95% accuracy which button you were going to push milliseconds before you yourself were even conscious of having made the decision.

If these results actually occurred, how would it affect your understanding of your capacity for free will?

2. Watch this short video and write any additional thoughts or observations you may have with respect to question 1.

3. Explain why Ned Block thinks the concept of free will is confused.

4. Based on what Block goes on to say, would you regard him as a compatibilist or as an incompatibilist? Explain.

5.  Why does Block think that even the presumed existence of an immaterial soul will help to preserve a strong conception of free will?

6.  Blackburn notes that compatibilism is sometimes called 'soft determinism,' but that this is not a very good label.  Why does he not like this term?

7.  Many people think that if determinism is true, then it makes no sense to blame people or praise them.  Blackburn here shows why this is not necessarily the case.  How?

8.  According to Blackburn, can a compatibilist make any sense of the idea that a free action is one for which you "could have done otherwise?"


Important note:  Make sure you have access to the textbook to study for the midterm. The bookstore is going to send unpurchased copies back to the publisher in a couple of days.

During the first half hour we will finish chapter 2 discussing psycho-physical identity theory; then we will move on to Chapter 3 on Free Will.   Watch the short animated video, Do We Really Have Free Will? (sorry about the stupid ad that precedes it) and read the text pages 85-91.

Journal Entry for  October 4, 2011

Vocabulary:  hard determinism, incompatibilism, compatibilism, homunculus, pineal gland

From the video

1. How is the problem of free will connected the question of individuality?

2. How is the problem of free will connected to the nature of responsibility?

3. How is the problem of free will connected to our view about the nature of mind?

4. Why does the indeterminism of quantum mechanics not seem to be a reason for believing in free will? (Blackburn also addresses this question on p. 84)

5. The video concludes with the claim that we need to "find room in our contemporary worldview for persons."  What do you think the narrator means by that? 

From the reading

6.  Many people are convinced that they are conscious of having free will.  How is Schopenhauer's parable of the water meant to meant to cast doubt on that view?

7.  According to Blackburn, Schopenhauer thinks that our so-called consciousness of freedom is really just a certain kind of ignorance?  Ignorance of what, exactly?

8.  How, according to Blackburn, does our belief in free will appear to arise from our commitment to dualism?

9.  On page 89 Blackburn says that the approach to free will makes a fundamental philosophical mistake. What is it?

10. Although he does not use the term, Blackburn is saying that this mistakes is involved in circular reasoning, much like Descartes' Caretsian circle.  Can you figure out what he says that indicates that circularity?


Read pages 69-72.  Listen to Rebecca Saxe on on theory of mind and Ramachandran on Brain Damage.

Vocabulary:  RTPJ, TMS, phantom limb, learned paralysis, Capgras Delusion, synesthesia, amygdala, fusiform gyrus

Journal Entry for September 29, 2011

1. What does Blackburn seem to be saying is the main difference between 
behaviorism and psycho-physical identity theory?

2. What point is Blackburn trying to make when he talks about the kinetic molecular theory of temperature?

3.  Rebecca Saxe says she is not interested in the philosophical problem of other minds.  What problem is she interested in?

4.  What is the ability to pass the false belief task supposed to show?

5.  How does Saxe connect our ability to think of other minds to our capacity for moral judgments?

6.  If you knew someone who had a damaged RTPJ, how would you expect them to respond if you accidentally walked off with her cell phone thinking it was yours?

7.  Do you think that Rebecca Saxe's research has any relevance for the philosophical problems of mind that we have been discussing.  If so, how?  If not, why not?

8.  What does Ramachandran think causes Capgras Delusion?

9.  How does Ramachandran's treatment of learned paralysis work?

10.  What is synesthesia?

11.  How does Ramachandran explain the fact that synesthesia is much more common in creative people?

12.  What does Ramachandran demonstrate with Booba and Kiki?

13.  What is one of the abilities you would lose if you sustained damage to your fusiform gyrus?

14.  Not so long ago it was widely held that mental disorders could not be explained or treated in purely physical/organic terms.  Mentally ill people were regarded as 'possessed' not simply suffering from a brain disorder.  This obviously reinforces a dualistic world view.  After watching Ramachandran, do you find yourself thinking that probably all mental disorders are just brain disorders, or do you think that some mental disorders are purely mental, and have nothing to do with the brain at all?


Read pages 65-68.  Watch John Searle on What Things are Conscious, and listen to David Papineau on Physicalism.

Vocabulary:  rheostat, kinetic energy, physicalism, a priori, a posteriori.

Journal Entry for September 27, 2011

1.  What is logical behaviorism? ('behaviourism' is the British spelling, btw.)

2.  According to logical behaviorism, what does it mean to say "I have a bad headache" ?

3.  Explain why the joke about two behaviorists having sex is meant as a criticism of logical behaviorism.

4.  Would John Searle agree with the behaviorist that behavior is our only guide to whether other individuals are conscious?  Explain why or why not.

5.  How does Searle think we could in principle go about determining whether a snail is conscious? 

6.  Does Searle think that it's possible to build a machine that is conscious? 

7.  What is the Turing Test? (You'll need to look this up in Wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It's not in the book.)

8. There are now many research labs dedicated to passing the Turing Test.  Cleverbot.com is one of them.  You should go there and have a short conversation with cleverbot.  Click on the avatar if you want something more face to face. Based on your experience there, if you had to bet 1000 dollars on the question whether there will be a computer that can pass the Turing Test within 50 years, what would you bet?

9. Papineau talks about what it means to be a physicalist with respect to the mind.   What does Papineau take to be the main reason in support of physicalism?

10.  How, according to Papineau, does the thought experiment about Mary the Neuroscientist seem to challenge the truth of physicalism? (If you have a hard time understanding this or just want to hear more, try listening to the the interview with the philosopher who invented the thought experiment, Frank Jackson on What Mary Knew. )

11. How does Papineau think a physicalist should respond to this thought experiment?

12.  Do you think Papineau's response is a good one, or do you think the case of Mary gives us a reason for accepting some form of mind/body dualism? 


Read p. 58-65 and watch John Searle on Explaining the Mind

Journal Entry for September 22, 2011

Vocabulary: materialism, phosphene, epiphenomenalism, ontology, God's good pleasure.

1. How did John Locke explain the fact that certain kinds of physical motions inside our bodies produce certain kinds of sensations?

2. On what basis does Leibniz criticize Locke's view (from 1)? 

3. Blackburn asks you to imagine yourself, and then an absolutely exact physical duplicate of you, including your brain and it's precise microphysical structure. Do you think it is possible for you to have consciousness and the duplicate you not (to be a zombie, in other words)?  Explain why or why not. 

4. Does your answer from 3 put you more on the side of Locke or Leibniz?  Explain.

5. What does John Searle mean when he says that "where consciousness is concerned, the illusion is the reality?"

6.  What is Searle's point when he talks about the scientific explanation of life?

7. The interviewer, Robert Kuhn, disagrees with Searle's analogy between consciousness and digestion.  What is his point?

8. In answering Kuhn's objection, Searle makes a remark that makes him sound like either Locke or Leibniz.  Which one, in your view, and why?


Read Chapter 2 pages 49-58 and watch David Chalmers on Consciousness. Pay attention to the vocabulary words on the top.  You will probably have clicker questions concerning these.  You don't have to write the meanings down in your journal, but it is ok if you do.  Words typically have different meanings, so establish that you are learning the relevant ones.

Journal Entry for Septermber 20, 2011

Vocab:  epistemology, epistemological, metaphysics, metaphysical. epiphenomenon, epiphenomenal, ectoplasm, beatific, conjecture 

1. What do we mean when we say our mind is private in a way that our body/brain is not?
2. Why do we call Descartes a 'substance dualist'?
3. What is meant by the phrase "the ghost in the machine"
3. What is the difference between a zombie and a mutant?
4. Why does Blackburn discuss zombies and mutants?
5. What, according to Chalmers, is the difference between the easy problem and the hard problem of consciousness?
6. Chalmers seems to have a very different attitude to zombies and mutants than Blackburn.  Try to describe the difference.
7. Would you agree that sometimes you can know what another person is thinking or feeling better than that person does? Can you give an interesting example of this?  What do you think this implies about the view that the mind is private?


Finish reading Chapter 1 if you haven't already.  Listen to Nick Bostrum on Are We Sims?

Journal Entry for September 14th, 2011

1.  What is the simulation hypothesis and what is the basic reason for thinking that it could be true?

2.  What are the three alternative hypotheses about the nature of technologically mature civilizations as it relates to the creation of ancestor simulations?

3.  Why, if the third hypothesis is correct, would it seem to imply that we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation?

4.  How does Bostrum distinguish the simulation argument from the kind of skepticism that Descartes entertained?

5.  The interviewer, Nigel Warburton, asks what makes us think that a computer simulation could have consciousness.  How does Bostrum reply?

6.  What does Bostrum think are the important differences between dreaming and being in a computer simulation?  

7.  If you believed in God, and then became convinced that the simulation hypothesis was true, how do you think that would affect your views about God? 

8. Hardly anyone thinks we are actually computer simulations.  But this argument is actually quite powerful, isn't it?  Can you come up with any other reason for rejecting  the simulation hypothesis?  (It's ok if you can't, we wouldn't necessarily expect a sim to be able to do something like this.)

(Here is a link to Nick Bostrum's original paper, in case you are interested.)

9/8/11 & 9/13/11

No class meeting on Thursday.  Read through the end of Chapter 1 in Think.  Watch all three links to D. Touey explaining Descartes. The production values are not high, but Touey is very engaging and you will learn a lot from him.  These three links substitute for the lecture I would have given on Thursday.  In addition, listen to A.C. Grayling on Descartes and Barry Stroud on Skepticism.  

Journal Entry for September 8th and 13th

Text and A.C. Grayling Interview

1.  How does A.C. Grayling find fault with Descartes' attempt to prove his own existence?

2.  How does Blackburn find fault with Descartes' attempt to prove his own existence.

3.  What does Grayling take to be the lasting contribution of Descartes' Meditations?

From Stroud Interview

4.  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?  Why or why not?

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

6.  Why is true belief not the same thing as knowledge? 

From Touey lectures and text:

7. How does God's perfection, in particular His benevolence, figure in to Descartes' argument that he (Descartes) has knowledge of a physical world?

8. What concept or criterion helps Descartes reconcile God's perfection with the fact that he (Descartes) often makes errors?

9. What is the source of human error according to Descartes?

10. According to Blackburn, what problem arises for Descartes in the course of employing this criterion?

11. Why do we call Descartes a rationalist?

12. In general terms, what is the difference between an empiricist and a rationalist?

13. What, according to Touey, do empiricists and rationalists specifically disagree about?

14. What, according to Touey, do empiricists and rationalists agree about?

15. Read the excerpt from Hume on page 40 a few times and then summarize in your own words what you think he is saying.

16. What does Blackburn say Hume accepts about Descartes' assumptions?

17. How does Blackburn characterize the fundamental disagreement between Hume and Descartes?

18. What is coherentism, and in what sense does it provide an alternative to an assumption common to both Hume and Descartes? 


Re-read Chapter 1, p 15-28 and then read on through to page 34.  From the schedule page, watch the video Appearance and Reality with Nigel Warburton, and listen to the interview with Simon Blackburn on Plato's Cave.

If my initials 'grm' have appeared on your jounral  page, then your journal has been set up correctly and you are ready to go. Just erase my initials. Your first journal questions are listed below. Copy and paste all of the text inside the box (not the box itself) into your journal.  After you do this you will see white text on a black background.  To make this look normal just select the text and go to the toolbar and change the text color and text background color.)

Write your answer to each question directly beneath the corresponding question.  Be sure to use your own words in answering these questions.  Do not copy answer from any source and keep direct quotes to an absolute minimum.  

Remember that at the end of the semester your journal will be graded not so much for the correctness of the answers but for the care you have taken in answering them.  Good answers to questions will be well-written and thoughtful, with a minimum of spelling and grammatical errors.  You must also be sure to get the majority of your responses in before the corresponding class meeting.  Journals that are not done regularly and punctually will receive very little credit.

Be aware that GoogleDocs is a highly transparent medium.  I may sometimes visit and comment on your page while you are working on it.  Also, checking to see that you are doing your own work and doing it punctually are routine operations from my end, so please don't harm yourself in this way. Remember that even though the journal is only worth 10% of your grade, plagiarizing even parts of your journal will result in failing the entire class regardless of your performance on the tests and quizzes.  

Journal entry for September 6, 2011

 1. Explain how Descartes' belief that it is impossible to doubt his own existence leads him to the view that the mind and the body are completely separate substances.

 2. Compare Warburton's postulation of an evil scientist to Descartes' postulation of an evil demon. Do you think there is any interesting difference in the kind or degree of skepticism that they create? Explain. (Blackburn can help you a bit with this on page 26 and 27.)

 3. Warburton says in the video that he knows it is unlikely that he is just a brain rigged to a computer by an evil scientist, but that he can't be certain this isn't the case. But does he really even know that it is unlikely? Can you give a reason for doubting even this?

4. Plato's allegory of the cave is interestingly similar to Descartes' ruminations on the wax (p.20 and 21). Try to explain how.

5. Do you think Descartes has proved his own existence beyond all possible doubt. Explain why or why not, in light of what Blackburn says on p.30. favors the bold


Carefully read and perform everything under the 8/31/11 entry.  Be sure you have registered your clicker and created and shared with me your GoogleDoc according to the instructions below.  Soon after you successfully share your GoogleDoc with me I will initial it in order to let you know that you have successfully completed this task.  You will not have a GoogleDoc assignment until 8/6.  On 9/1 we will begin with a quiz covering the course requirements as described in the syllabus.  After that we will cover Chapter One of your textbook Think, p. 15-28.


Hi everyone, this is the page you will check regularly to find out about your daily assignments.  By the first day of class you should do the following:

1.  Get your book and clicker.  (see below)
2.  Register your clicker online (see below) and bring it with you the first day of class.
3.  Read the syllabus carefully. (see link to syllabus on main page)
4.  Create your journal page in Google Docs. (see below)

Course materials

These are the course materials you will need to buy or rent.

    1. Textbook:  Think, a Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, by Simon Blackburn. Hardback, softback or Kindle edition are all fine.

    2. Clicker

All materials are available at the Hornet bookstore. Note: You may purchase or rent either the CPS GEN 2 RF Response Pad or the CPS Pulse Clicker, but no other clicker will work.

Instructions for registering your clicker.

You will need to go online and register your clicker for this class.  Register it according to the instructions on the box or those you were provided with when you purchased it. You will require a credit card. Be careful to register the serial number of your clicker accurately.  At some point during the registration process you will be prompted for a class key. This is a unique number associated with the class in which you are enrolling. The class key for this class is: 


If you do not have a box or instructions for registering your clicker, then do one of the following.

1.  If you just acquired this clicker, then click here to register it.  You'll need a credit card and the class key above.

2.  If you are using a clicker that you have previously registered, click here and log in.  Then follow the instructions given in 1 above.

3.  A few important points about clickers.
  • If other courses you are taking require the use of this clicker, your online registration fee covers all of them.
  • If other courses you are taking require a different clicker, I'm sorry about that, but the clicker for this course is the one sanctioned by Sac State.
  • If you register your clicker and you turn it on and it still says No Classes Found that's ok!  It will not find your class until you are actually in the classroom.

Instructions for creating your Google Doc

Here are the instructions for making and sharing your Google Doc journal with me.  You should have this document created by Friday at the latest.  Be sure to follow every step very carefully. When you have shared the document with me correctly I will put a comment on the page.  If you do not get a comment within 24 hours, it means you have done something wrong.