What's Up Philosophy 006 Fall 2012

Here is the study guide for the final exam.

Note (12/8):  The original version of the study guide said the exam is worth 40 points, but it is actually worth 50 as stated in the syllabus.  It is structured exactly like the midterm, with the short answers being worth 20 points.  Sorry for the error and resulting confusion.

Note (12/5) On the study guide, the short answer questions 13 and 18 are actually the same question.  I will post a new version with one of them struck out.  Your last journal entry will be posted Wednesday morning.


Here is your last journal entry!

Listen to Kant: Marrying Rationalism and Empiricism

Philosophy Journal Entry for December 6, 2012

1. Briefly restate Hume's problem of induction and say how Kant addressed it.

2. According to Kant, what sort of judgment is this?  The shortest distance between two points is a straight line?  What is his reasoning?

3. Why did Kant claim that metaphysics is impossible?



Your last journal entry will be assigned Tuesday and will  not be very long.  For Tuesday, your assignment is just to do the class evaluation.  To do it, either login to MySacState or your Saclink email and locate the invitation to evaluate this class.  There are two sections to the evaluation and in the second section there will be a couple of drop down menus asking you to identify the instructor and the class.  My name appears there as Gregory Mayes, and this course is Philosophy 6.

As noted in class, if 90% of the class does the evaluation, everyone will get 3 extra points toward their total grade. Here is something philosophical to think about.  Suppose you reason: Well, everyone will get the points even if 10% of the students don't do the evaluation.  Surely more than 90% of the people will do it, so I can just not do it, and still get the 3 points.

This is excellent self-interested reasoning!  In philosophy it is a problem known as the Prisoner's Dilemma. The problem is that if it makes sense for you to reason in this way, then it makes sense for anyone to.  Hence, everyone reasoning excellently to maximize their self-interest, results in nobody getting the benefits of cooperation, in this case 3 points.  Moral: Sometimes just doing the right thing is what actually ends up being best for you, too.   

When you have done the evaluation, please copy and paste this into your journal.  

Philosophy Journal Entry for December 4, 2012

I did the class evaluations!  


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 29, 2012

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 1 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 


No new journal or reading assignment for Tueday, but be sure you are current on the previous assignment.


Note that there are two assignments below.  One for 11/15 and one for 11/20.  Since we are not meeting on 11/15 it will not be counted late until Thursday at midnight. 

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

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 20, 2012

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?

Re-read text 213-217 and Listen to Helen Beebee on Laws of Nature.

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 15, 2012

1.  Most people would respond to Hume's problem of induction that while we can not absolutely prove the uniformity of nature, it is still probable.  But Blackburn concludes from his Loterry of the Golden Harp that even this weaker claim does not appear to be warranted.  Briefly explain why.

2. In your own words summarize the meaning of the quote from Hume on p. 217.

3. What, according to Beebee, is the supposed difference between a true generalization and a law of nature?

4. Does Beebee, think laws of nature describe the way nature must behave? If not, how does he understand their significance?

5. How do some philosophers appeal to the problem of induction to support the views that laws describe the way nature must behave?

6.  How do dispositional essentialists understand natural laws?

7.  What point is Beebee making when she talks about holding certain facts 'fixed' when we do counterfactual reasoning? (To reason counterfactually, is to try to figure out what would happen, if such and such were the case.)

8. What is an axiom, and how does Beebee use the concept of an axiom to explain how we should view laws of nature?

9. Why, according to Beebee, might we find her, essentially Humean view, dissatisfying?


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 13, 2012

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

11.  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, 2012

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 6 2012


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?


Watch Leonard Susskind and Michio Kaku on: Is the Universe Fine-Tuned? Listen to Nick Bostrom: Are We Sims? (This last one is located in the 'Knowledge" section of the schedule.)

Philosophy Journal Entry for November 1, 2012

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. How does Kaku explain the Fine-Tuned Universe?

8. Nick Bostrom's simulation argument is normally thought of along the lines of Descartes' Evil Demon argument, but there is a way of looking at it as contributing support to the idea that our universe is fine-tuned by an intelligent being.  Briefly summarize how.


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for October 30, 2012

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 October 25, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for October 23, 2012

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?


Journal Entry for October 18, 2012

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

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.   Summarize either Locke or Kant's argument for this in your own words. 

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

3.  What does Metzinger suggest the self really is?

4.  How does Metzinger explain the function of consciousness?

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

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

7.  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.)

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

9.  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.


Journal Entry for October 16, 2012

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 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 suggests about the possibility that a person can survive 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.)


Read the text, pages 100-119.  

Journal Entry for October 9, 2012

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.  What is the difference between fatalism and determinism?

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

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

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

8. 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?

9. 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?


Journal Entry for October 4, 2012

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

1. Does Blackburn's mini-Martians example pose a problem for compatibilism or for 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.   How does Dennett use the concept of avoidance to define free will?

5.   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?

6.   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?

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

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

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

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

11.  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 2, 2012

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 not 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?"


Watch the short animated video, Do We Really Have Free Will? and read the text pages 85-91.

Journal Entry for  September 27, 2012

Vocabulary:  hard determinism, incompatibilism, compatibilism, homunculus, libertarianism, interventionism.

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 mistake is involved in circular reasoning, much like Descartes' Cartesian circle.  Can you figure out what he says that indicates that circularity?


Read p. 65-72 in Think.  Listen to David Papineau on Physicalism and watch Ramachandran on Brain Damage.

Journal Entry for September 25, 2012

1. 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?

2.  How, according to Papineau, does the thought experiment about Mary the Neuroscientist seem to challenge the truth of physicalism? (If you have trouble understanding this from the video, read this section of the Wikipedia article on qualia.)

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

4.  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? 

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

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

7.  What does Ramachandran think causes Capgras Delusion?

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

9.  What is synesthesia?

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

11.  What does Ramachandran demonstrate with Booba and Kiki?

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

13.  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 brain disorders, or do you think that some mental disorders are purely mental, and have nothing to do with the brain at all?


Re-read p. 54-57 paying particular attention to the "argument from analogy to the existence of other minds." Read pages 65-68.  Watch Rebecca Saxe on Theory of Mind.

Journal Entry for September 20, 2012

1.  What is the argument from analogy to other minds and why does Blackburn say it is unavailable to the dualist?

2.  How does Blackburn's analogy of a beetle in a box illuminate his argument from question 1?

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

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

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

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

12. There are now many research labs dedicated to passing the Turing Test.  Cleverbot.com is one of them.  It is interesting to go there and have a short conversation with cleverbot.  Click on the avatar if you want something more face to face. (Also, here is an interesting example of two cleverbots talking to each other. It quickly gets philosophical for some reason.) Based on your experiences, 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? 


Read p. 58-65.  Listen to Tim Crane on Mind and Brain and watch John Searle on Explaining the Mind

Journal Entry for September 18, 2012

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. Tim Crane says that someone today who says that the mind is the brain is like an Ancient Greek who says that mass is energy.  What does he mean by that? 

6. Tim Crane does not think that the mind/body problem arises because we lack a certain piece of knowledge.  What does he think it arises from?

7. Crane does not think that the problem of consciousness is a problem for neuroscience.  Why does he say this?  

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

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

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

11. 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. This chapter introduces terms you  need to learn, which I've written below. I've also included ones we have learned from the last chapter. The clicker quiz will cover some of these.  You don't have to write the meanings down in your journal, but it is ok if you do.  Words have different meanings, so when you look them up, be sure you you are learning the relevant ones. Wikipedia is usually a good source if you pay attention to disambiguation.

Journal Entry for September 13, 2012

Vocab:    rationalist, empiricist, a priori, a posteriori, foundationalist, coherentist, epistemology/epistemological, metaphysics/metaphysical, epiphenomenon, epiphenomenal, substance dualism, qualia, ectoplasm. 

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"
4. What is the difference between a zombie and a mutant?
5. Why does Blackburn discuss zombies and mutants?
6. What, according to Chalmers, is the difference between the easy problem and the hard problem of consciousness?
7. Chalmers seems to have a very different attitude to zombies and mutants than Blackburn.  Try to describe the difference.
8. 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?


Journal Entry for September 11, 2012

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.  

1. According to Blackburn, what problem arises for Descartes in the course of employing his criterion of clarity and distinctness to demonstrate that we have knowledge of an external world?

2. Why do we call Descartes a rationalist? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Important notes: 

1.  Do not  make a new journal page.  Every new assignment goes on the page you have already created and shared.

2.  Paste every new journal entry at the top of the page, above  the previous entry.

3. Be sure to write all late entries or any editing to on time entries in a blue font.  You will not be marked off for edits or corrections in light of class discussion, but journals that are not consistently finished on time will receive substantially less credit. 

Read Think through page 40 and listen to the interviews with A.C. Grayling and Barry Stroud

Journal Entry for September 6, 2012

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?

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.  Why, according to Stroud, is true belief not the same thing as knowledge? 

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

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. Explain how the criterion of clarity and distinctness helps Descartes reconcile God's perfection with the fact that he (Descartes) often makes errors.

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


Read Chapter 1 through 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 as well as the interview with A.C. Grayling.

If my initials 'grm' have appeared on your journal 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 capital A's in 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 your 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.  If you are entering journal responses after the date for which they are due, they must be in a blue font, and they will get less 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.  

Journal entry for 9/4/2012

1.  Why does Descartes postulate the existence of an evil demon?

Note: After you have answered this question, click here to get a sense for how good it is.

2.  What can the evil demon not succeed in deceiving Descartes about?

3.  Why does Descartes believe the mind is better known than the body?

4.  What is skepticism (as the term is used in the text)?

5.  Was Descartes a skeptic?

6.  What does Descartes require in order to extend knowledge beyond what can be established with the cogito argument?

7.  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.

8.  Warburton says in the video that he knows it's 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?  How does he know that? Can you give a reason for doubting it?

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

10. 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. 


Hi and stuff

Hey everyone, this What's Up page is the one you will check regularly to find out about your daily assignments.  Please read every bit of what follows, super carefully and do what it says to do. 

First, you should have received an e-mail already telling you that we will not meet the first day of class. (This is just an odd thing due to a personal situation.)  If you didn't receive the e-mail, it is probably because you aren't checking the one you have on file with the school, so you should be sure to do that.

Second, before Thursday make sure to:
  • Read the syllabus.
  • Read the Introduction to the text, pages 1-14.
  • Do everything below. 

Stuff to do before class Thursday 8/30

  1.  Get your course materials, which consist of a book and a clicker (see below).

  2.  Register your clicker online (instructions below) and bring it to class.  There will be a clicker quiz on Thursday.

  3.  Read the syllabus carefully (link on main page). The clicker quiz will be mostly about the syllabus.

  4.  Create your journal page in Google Docs. (see instruction 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. e-instruction CPS RF Response Pad (aka: clicker)

All materials are available at the Hornet bookstore. (Note: If you now own one of the early model e-instruction clickers that looks like this, it will work as well.  But do not purchase this model now. There are several different models of clickers being used on campus, so be sure you get the one made by e-instruction.)

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 or rented it. You will require a credit card. Be careful to read and 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 currently endorsed by Sac State.
  • If you register your clicker and you turn it on and it says No Classes Found that's ok!  The clicker will not find your class until you are actually in the classroom.

Instructions for creating your Google Doc

Click here for the instructions for making and sharing your Google Doc journal with me.  You must have this document created by Friday at the latest. If you don't have it done by Friday I will take that as an indication that you are not in the class and you may be disenrolled in order to make room for others.  Be sure to follow every step very carefully. When you have shared the document with me correctly I will put my initials 'grm' on the page.  If you do not see these 24 hours, it means you have done something wrong.