Here is the study guide for the final exam. Slides for chapters 1-6 are are at the bottom of the schedule page.
Please log in to your Saclink account and find the email containing the link to the course evaluation form and the following assessment survey. Extra points for everyone if almost everyone does it. See syllabus for details.
Some very important information:
(1) Most important, the final exam is on Thursday May 23rd at 8AM. All the information you require is on the study guide at the link above.
(2) I have uploaded the slides to Chapter 7. The slides for all of the chapters are located at the bottom of the schedule page.
(3) You may edit your journal (in blue) until the final exam date. Then you must stop.
(4) Your grade on your journal will be posted sometime this week at the top of your journal.
(5) Super important: Remember, you absolutely will fail the class if your journal is discovered (a) to contain plagiarism of any kind in any amount or (b) to have late entries that are not written in a blue font. You will not be warned. Go back and check your entries if you if you any doubts about your diligence in this regard. Plagiarism amounts to writing anything not generated by you without acknowledging the source. If you ever copied and pasted any sort of answer into your journal without specifically acknowledging.the source, you have plagiarized your answer. If you have have copied the work of a friend, or they have copied you, then both of you will fail the course.
(6) You still have a little time to do the class evaluation. So far only 83% of the students have done them, which is below the level required for anyone to get credit. (See syllabus.)
We will spend 15 minutes finishing Kant and then review for the final. The review will consist in students asking any questions they like and other students answering them. I will provide corrections where necessary.
This is your last journal entry! Listen to Adrian Moore on Kant and read Think 253-259
Study questions for 5.14.13
1. What is metaphysics, according to Adrian Moore?
2. How, according to Moore, did Kant agree with rationalists about the nature of reason?
3. How, according to Moore, did Kant agree with empiricists about the limits of reason?
4. What is the difference between a synthetic truth and an analytic truth according to Moore?
5. How does this distinction relate to the distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge?
6. What is synthetic a priori knowledge?
7. How does Moore use the analogy of spectacles to makes sense of the possibility of synthetic a priori knowledge?
8. What does Kant's view imply about what we can know about the world apart from how it appears through these spectacles?
9. What does Kant's view in 10 imply about the rationality of believing in
Journal question for 5.14.13
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 a persisting object of some kind. (This is from the section entitled The Self as Organizing Principle.)
2. How does your answer in question 1 relate to Kant's view about our understanding of the nature of 'things,' generally speaking. (text 255-256).
3. How can Kant's basic approach be used to answer Hume's problem of induction?
Listen to Kant: Marrying Rationalism and Empiricism. Listen again to John Campbell on Berkeley's puzzle and review your answers from last time.
Study Questions for 5.9.13
1. Briefly restate Hume's problem of induction and say how Kant addressed it.
2. What is the difference between a priori and aposteriori judgments?
3. What is the difference between analytic and synthetic judgments?
4. What is a synthetic a priori judgment?
5. According to Kant, what sort of judgment is the following? The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. What is his reasoning?
6. Why did Kant claim that metaphysics is impossible?
Journal Questions for 5.9.13
1. Watch the video The Mystery of Magenta, and afterwards briefly explain why and in what sense it makes sense to say that magenta is not a real color.
2. Notice that after watching this video you now have a way of talking about colors that are created by the brain and colors that exist outside of us. But haven't we been saying up until now that all colors are created by the the brain and no colors exist outside of us? Can you clear up this confusion?
Listen to John Campbell on Berkeley's Puzzle/ Read Think 233-250.
Study questions for 5.8.13
1. How, according to Galileo, Descartes, and Locke do primary qualities differ from secondary qualities? (text)
2. How does Campbell characterize Berkeley's Puzzle?
3. Does Locke see 'solidity' as a primary or a secondary quality?
4. 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?
5. Which of the above, (a) or (b), seems to be what Campbell calls 'Berkeley's Puzzle?' Explain.
6. What do we mean when we call Berkeley an idealist?
7. What, according to Campbell, is the distinction that we require in order to begin to solve Berkeley's Puzzle?
8. Does Campell's proposed way of solving the problem accept or reject the view that secondary qualities are only in the mind?
9. 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?
Journal questions for 4.8.13
Employ the distinction between primary and secondary qualities to briefly summarize what Campbell describes as the challenge to common sense posed by the scientific world view.
2. Idealism strikes most people as a fantastically strange view. Essentially it amounts to one of two claims: either that the physical world does not exist at all, or that what we call the physical world is actually mental in nature. Yet Berkeley's arguments are very difficult to answer. If we accept that secondary qualities like 'red' and 'sour' are just aspects of consciousness and not properties of the object themselves, then why shouldn't we conclude the same thing about all properties? Can you think of any good reason for regarding primary qualities like 'extension' 'quantity,' 'figure,' etc as being part of an objective physical world while preserving our sense that the secondary qualities are not?
Listen to Radiolab: Stochasticity. Listen to the whole thing if you have time, but the questions below relate to A Lucky Wind and Seeking Patterns, which you can listen to independently if you scroll down.
Study Questions for 5.2.13
1. How are basketball players like coins?
2. Why, according to Jonah Lehrer, do we believe in the illusory phenomenon of the hot hand?
3. How has our concept of the function of dopamine changed?
4. How can your answer to 3 be used to explain at a neurological level why we believe in the hot hand in particular, and why we see patterns in randomness in general?
Journal Questions for 5.2.13
1. Bearing in mind our discussion of miracles as well as the Aristotelian tendency to explain natural events in teleological terms, how are you inclined to explain what happened in A Lucky Wind? Do you think this is the explanation you would accept if it actually happened to you? Explain why or why not, taking account of the difference in your answers if there is one?
2. Return for a moment to our discussion of personal identity and the common belief that we are necessarily the same person over our entire life. At the end of the Seeking Patterns episode, Ann's son tells her "Mom, those were just things. It's really great to have you back." A strong interpretation of Ann's episode is that while she was on the Parkinson's she literally became a different person. Does this seem right to you, or do you prefer to preserve the traditional view and believe that the Real Ann was somehow there all the time? (Perhaps consider an alternative scenario in which Ann died before she went off the drug.) Explain.
Re-read text 213-217 and listen to Helen Beebee on Laws of Nature.
Study questions for 4.30.13
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 Lottery of the Golden Harp that even this weaker claim does not appear to be warranted. Why?
2. What is the meaning of the Hume quote 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 she 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?
Journal question for 4.30.13
1. Suppose you have a large urn filled with letters of the alphabet. You randomly reach in, pull out a letter, and put it on the table. You repeat this process, pulling out letters randomly, and putting down one letter after another. If you were able to do this for your whole life, you could go back and examine this sequence of letters. While the vast majority of this sequence will be nonsense, you will find some short words and the occasional longer ones. You might even find a simple sentence, like "I love you." or "God is good." But now suppose you had an infinite supply of letters and punctuation marks, and also that you are immortal, so that you could engage in this process forever. In that case, it should be clear, the sequence you lay down through this purely random method, will contain not only long words and sentence, but entire books. At some point, e.g., you will write all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, in sequence. And not only once, but an infinite number of times. All, by a perfectly random method.
Question: How does this relate to, and perhaps help to illuminate, Hume's problem of induction?
Think pages 211-217, Massimo Pigliucci on Hume, Peter Millican on Hume's Impact. Review study questions from 4.23.13.
Study Questions for 4.25.13
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. What is induction?
3. What is the problem of induction?
4. What does Pigliuccio mean when he characterizes the usual defense of the rationality of induction as circular?
Petter Millican on Hume's Impact
5. How does Aristotelian physics explain the movements of objects?
6. 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?
7. On what basis does Hume deny that modern scientific explanations provide us greater insight into the nature of the world than Aristotelian physics?
8. Does Hume conclude from our inability to justify induction that we should not trust reasoning based on induction? Why or why not?
9. How does Millican relate Hume's views to Darwin's views?
10. How does Millican relate Hume's views on induction to his approach to miracles?
Journal Questions 4.25.13
1. Present a situation (real or imagined) in which a person has become convinced that s/he has witnessed a miracle, but which you would think probably has a natural explanation. Try to come up with a compelling example, not one that is just easily dismissed because the person is gullible, stupid, or desperate. State exactly why you think the person would be wrong in believing that the event is a miracle.
2. Present a situation (real or imagined) in which you would be willing to acknowledge that a miracle has in fact occurred. State exactly what would be so compelling for you in this case, and why it is missing in the previous case. If you would never be willing to acknowledge that a miracle has occurred, carefully explain why.
3. When you studied free will you learned about a compatibilist conception in which people can have free will even if determinism is true. See if you can apply this thinking to miracles. A compatibilist definition of a miraculous event would allow that miraculous events do occur, but that they can also be explained scientifically. Can you provide a definition that makes sense of this proposal?
Text p. 176-185, Michael Shermer on Strange Beliefs, William Craig on Keeping Faith. Review previous study questions on problem of evil.
Study Questions for 4.23.13
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?
Journal questions for 4.23.13
1. Suppose that God (as the sort of being represented within the Judeo-Christian-Islam tradition) actually does not exist. If this were true, is it obvious to you that people should not believe in God in this sense. Or do you think there would still be a compelling rationale for believing a falsehood of this kind. (Note: Don't say that you should believe because it's still possible that God exists. In this case we are assuming, for the sake of argument, that he does not.)
2. Perhaps this is the sort of class that the interviewer has in mind when asking William 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, so that s/he actually entertains the possibility that his or her religious beliefs are incorrect? Explain.
3. Perhaps you are the sort of person who believes it is ok, or even required, to accept God's existence and his commandments on the basis of faith. (If you are not that sort of person, suppose for the moment that you are.) Now think about someone from a different religion who accepts on faith that people who deny God's existence or who fail to worship God appropriately must be killed. Which means you must be killed. How does this affect your views about your own appeal to faith?
Study questions for 4.18.13
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. Does 9 appeal to a compatibilist or an incompatibilist notion of free will? Explain.
11. What is the problem of good? Explain.
12. Does Law think it would make more sense to believe in an evil God than a good God?
Journal questions for 4.18.13
1. Law and Blackburn both believe that the extent of suffering in the world is very strong evidence against the existence of an all loving, omnisicient, and omnipotent God. Suppose, if only for the sake of argument, that he is right about this. Does this constitute, for you, a strong case that there is no God at all, or simply that God lacks one of the properties mentioned above. If the latter, which one? Explain.
2. We have seen a lot of analogical arguments this semester. In this section Blackburn makes an interesting analogical argument about living in a horrible dormitory. What conclusion is he asking you to draw? Do you think the argument is a strong one? Explain.
Watch Nancey Murphy on the soul.
Study Questions 4.16.13
1. Nancy Murphy is a Christian who is not a dualist. What does she believe about souls?
2. How does she reconcile her views with standard Christian views about life after death?
3. What is Murphy's stance with respect to the view that humans evolved from earlier hominid species?
Journal questions 4.16.13
1. Do you think Murphy has a plausible way of reconciling the problematic aspects of dualism within a Christian worldview, or do you think some form of dualism is essential to a religion that believes in an afterlife? Explain.
2. Given that Murphy doesn't believe in souls, what do you suppose she thinks about the nature of God?
3. Within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, God is generally conceived as an omniscient and infinitely wise and loving being. If this is so, it is impossible for us to give God information of any kind that God does not already have. This would appear to make petitionary prayer (i.e., prayer that involves some kind of request) pointless. For example, praying for the continued health of people you love can not possibly provide information, including information about the degree of your love and concern, to an omnisicient being. Hence, it does not appear that our petitionary prayers could have any effect on the behavior of such a being.
Do you think there is a rationale for petitionary prayer that is sufficiently attentive to these considerations? Explain.
Think p. 163-168, Listen to Stuart Sutherland on Design and Bede Rundle on the Design Argument.
Study questions for 4.11.13
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. What?
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?
Journal Questions for 4.11.13
1. Philosophers and scientists agree that in order to hold a belief rationally it must be possible for you to acknowledge evidence against it. This is often called the criterion of falsifiability, which you should look up on Wikipedia if you don't quite understand what I mean.
So, If you believe in God, identify something that, if it were true,would count as very strong evidence against your view. This needn't be something that would immediately cause you to give up your belief, but one that would significantly challenge it. If you don't believe in God, do the same thing, identify some kind of evidence that would cause you to seriously re-evaluate your view. Say exactly why the evidence you identify would be so compelling in either case.
Read Think 149-162, watch videos on Ontological Argument and Cosmological Argument. It will help to watch the videos before reading the text.
Study questions for 4.9.13
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'. Are these criticism 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 does Inwagen means by 'brute contingency'?
Journal question for 4.9.13
1. One thing I hope you have noticed during this course is that for each of the central concepts we have examined so far: knowledge, mind, free will and self, the question has not been whether these things exist, but, rather, what sorts of things they are. The basic point has been that as we learn more about the world though scientific inquiry, we must let the meanings of these terms evolve in such a way as to remain compatible with what we have learned, while hopefully retaining their fundamental importance to us.
Atheists and agnostics typically claim that they do not believe in God. But what they really reject (or doubt) is a certain conception of God, namely an anthropomorphic conception according to which God is a being with human like qualities who created the universe and established a universal moral code. Hence, rather than simply denying the existence of God, it open to the atheist to say that she accepts God on a particular definition. For example, she might claim that God is simply the ultimate reality, whatever that may turn out to be. Or she might say that God is an ideal, a projection of what humans might aspire to in epistemic and moral terms.
So, my question for you here is, not whether you believe in God, but what conception of God makes it possible for you to say that you do. Your answer needn't be long, but it should be clear and you should give reason why this view is attractive to you. Don't just say that this is what you were taught as a child. If that's the best your mind has to offer, you don't belong in college.
Finish reading Chapter 4. Review study questions from 4.2.13.
Study questions for 4.4.13
1. How does Kant explain the nature of the self?
2. 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?
3. How does Blackburn use the problem of robot design to elucidate the nature of the self.
4. What must a robot have, according to Blackburn, in order to have a minimal form of self-conscousness?
Journal Questions for 4.4.13
1. Summarize briefly how both Metzinger and Blackburn explain our belief in a permanent self or soul. Do you see these as competing explanations or do you think they are compatible (i.e., that it is possible for both of them to be right)?
2. You are living 10,000 years from now. You are paralyzed from the neck down after an accident. Surprisingly, you are not terribly unhappy, because technology has been developed to keep you comfortable and somewhat productive. Doctors can not fix your current body, but they can back up the contents of your mind onto a hard drive and then install it into a healthy clone of you. There is a 10 day waiting period to be sure that the transfer has been successful, during which time both you and the clone will exist and be fully conscious of all that has taken place. After that period, the old quadriplegic you will be painlessly deleted while sleeping. (Note: it is not an option to let both of you keep on living. Once the new you is successfully created, the old you must be deleted.)
Would this be an attractive offer to you? Why or why not?
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.) Listen to Joseph Campbell on schizophrenia.
Study questions for 4.2.13
1. Why does Locke think that the idea of a permanent unchanging immaterial soul does not provide an adequate account of personal identity?
2. How does Kant's elastic ball analogy support Locke's skepticism in this regard?
3. How does Reid's story of the brave officer function as a criticism of Locke's view? (This question was asked last time, but we didn't get to it in class.)
4. What is Hume's bundle theory of perception and what is the standard problem with it?
5. Does Metzinger believe in the existence of a self as an enduring substance that is distinct from the body?
6. What does Metzinger suggest the self really is?
7. How does Metzinger explain the function of consciousness?
8. Where does Metzinger think our belief in a soul comes from?
9. What is lucid dreaming and why is Metzinger interested in it?
10. 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.)
11. Why does Metzinger think it is very important to develop the field of neuroethics?
12. What phenomenon associated with schizophrenia particular interests John Campbell?
13. Campbell find this phenomenon philosophically interesting because it challenges the Cartesian notion of the self. How?
14. Campbell says that the schizophrenic is making a mistake. What is the mistake?
15. Notice that what Campbell says about Wittgenstein here is what Blackburn calls your attention to on page 137. Does Campbell seem to be agreeing with Blackburn and Wittgenstein?
16. What, according to Campbell, is the structure of the notion of "my thought" that has not been widely appreciated?
17. What is Chris Frith's theory of how we know about our own actions?
18. Why does Campbell think that it is initially very weird to apply Frith's theory to thoughts?
19. What consideration makes this idea seem more plausible to Campbell?
20. Why, according to Campbell is it so hard for us to empathize with people who have schizophrenia and other mental illnesses?
21. Why does Campbell think reflecting on a condition like schizophrenia suggests about a priori methods in philosophy?
Journal questions for 4.2.13
1. 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.
2. In the Philosophy Bites interview, John Campbell suggests that we don't typically have voluntary control of our thoughts, and that the idea of voluntary control over our thoughts doesn't really seem to make sense. Summarize briefly why he says this. It is interesting to consider this deeply, because we intuitively associate free will with both the idea of voluntary control and with a basic feeling that we are free to think what we like. If Campbell is right that our thoughts are not under voluntary control, do you think there is still some important sense in which our thinking is free? What is it? (Campbell actually suggests an answer to this question.)
Study questions for 3.21.13
Read text 120-127, and listen to Christopher Shields on personal identity.
1. What does Blackburn mean when he characterizes the claims on his 2nd list as involving the belief that the self is "contingently fastened to a dying animal?"
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?
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.)
Journal Questions for 3.21.13
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, i.e., that there is an afterlife?
2. Most of us go through life thinking that, in spite of the fact that we grow and deterioriate both mentally and physically, we are, in some strong sense, exactly the same person from birth to death. But you also know that many people say that they have been so utterly transformed by certain events in their lives (e.g., finding religion, living with the consequences of a horrible (or good) deed, falling in love with you, getting Alzheimer's) that they are no longer the same person they were before. Do you regard claims like this to be simply exaggerations, or do you think there are some changes that are so profound that it makes more sense to think of the person from before as having been replaced by a different one?
Read the text, pages 100-119.
Study questions for 3.14.13
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 question for 3.14.13
1. We have mentioned that determinism is not to be confused with fatalism, a teleological view according to which a person's fate is ordained, regardless what we may do to avoid it. Blackburn notes that, according to fatalism "the gods laugh" as they watch us struggle against our fate. But there is nothing of that sort of inevitability implied by determinism. On determinism, our actions and decisions really do participate to create our future. We've also learned that determinism doesn't make humans into "mere machines." We may in some sense be machines, but if so we are completely amazing ones that have the incredible ability to determine their own actions by imagining alternative futures they would like to pursue and avoid. In fact, as far as we know, humans are the only creatures that have the ability to think about their futures at all. (You can not think about your future if you can't think about yourself.) And, as Blackburn points out, we are not "pre-programmed" in any normal sense, because we have amazing flexibility in the way that we deal with problems.
But, all that said, there is still something upsetting about the possibility that determinism is true, isn't there? Try to explain what it is. But be sure to try to answer this question without committing the mistakes noted above.
Read text pages 97-99. Watch John Searle and Daniel Dennett (Parts 1 and 2) on Free Will.
Study questions for 3.12.13
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?
12. How does Searle understand the possibility of a quantum mechanics-based account of free will?
13. Why does Searle say that if determinism is true, then evolutionary biology has played a massive trick on us?
Journal questions for 3.12.13
1. Earth is going to be destroyed by an asteroid within the next few weeks. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to be transferred to a different universe and can choose which one to join. You will make this decision under your current degree of knowledge and ignorance about our world. In other words, you may be inclined to believe we are free in the libertarian sense or determined, but you really do not know which. Also, it is important to understand that when you join one of these worlds, you don't know where you will end up in it. You could be in the worst situation that exists in that world, or the best, or anything in between.
Universe 1 is fully deterministic. Its inhabitants have discovered this and they appear to be fine with it. They do everything that we do, but they do it much better. There is more love in the world, more beauty, more cooperation, more decency, more tolerance, more knowledge, better health, and all of this spread much more equally among more people. It also tons more fun for almost everyone.
Universe 2 very closely resembles our world. People act basically the same way they do in our world and this world has everything we like about our world and everything we detest about it as well, in roughly equal proportions. People in this world believe they actually are free in the traditional libertarian sense of the term and this belief turns out to be true.
Which world would you choose and why? What does your answer reveal to you about the degree of significance you attach to the libertarian notion of free will?
2. 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? Do you see your answer as being consistent with how you answered question 1? Why or why not?
Watch Ned Block on Free Will and read text pages 91-96.
Study questions 3.7.13
1. Explain why Ned Block thinks the concept of free will is confused.
2. Based on what Block goes on to say, would you regard him as a compatibilist or as an incompatibilist?
3. Why does Block think that even the presumed existence of an immaterial soul will not help to preserve a strong conception of free will?
4. Blackburn considers the schoolteacher's pronouncement: "I don't mind a stupid pupil, but I do dislike a lazy one." What is his point?
5. 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?
6. 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?
7. When might it be reasonable for a compatibilist not to blame a person for the negative consequences of his actions?
8. How does Blackburn propose the compatibilist analyze the notion of "could have done otherwise?"
9. What does Blackburn mean by "interventionist control?"
10. How does Blackburn use a thermostat to cast doubt on the argument for hard determinism?
Journal questions 3.7.11
If these results actually occurred, how do you think it would affect your understanding of your capacity for free will?
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.
2. Watch this short video and write any additional thoughts or observations you may have with respect
to question 1.
3. In class we have briefly discussed whether the problem of free will is an empirical problem or a conceptual one. Questions 1 and 2 above make it out to be an empirical problem by providing evidence that our conscious decisions do not themselves cause our actions in the way that we usually imagine. But the compatibilist sees it as a conceptual problem. For her, the person who insists on an interventionist conception of free will is just thinking of free will in the wrong way. So what do you think a compatibilist should say about the results of Benjamin Libet's experiment?
Listen to Thomas Pink on free will and read the text pages 81-91 Learn these words: hard determinism, incompatibilism, compatibilism, homunculus, libertarianism, interventionism.
Study questions for 3.5.13
1. According to Pink, the problem of free will begins when we consider what?
2. According to Pink, has science shown that human choices are causally determined?
3. Does Pink see the problem of free will as a conceptual problem or an empirical problem?
4. What example does Pink explore to determine whether we have an experience of free will?
5. 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?
6. According to Blackburn, Schopenhauer thinks that our so-called consciousness of freedom is really just a certain kind of ignorance? Ignorance of what, exactly?
7. How, according to Blackburn, does our belief in free will appear to arise from our commitment to dualism?
8. On page 89 Blackburn says that the approach to free will makes a fundamental philosophical mistake. What is it?
9. Although he does not use the term, Blackburn is saying that this mistake is involved in circular reasoning, much like Descartes' Cartesian circle. What does he say that indicates that circularity?
Journal question for 3.5.13
1. Many people, like Thomas Pink for example, seem to think that the exercise of free will is something they can feel. For example, we can feel ourselves resisting the urge to eat a fattening treat or go to a party when we should be studying. But this may be to confuse free will with something else, namely will power. Based on what you have learned so far, how might you distinguish the two? (Alternatively, you could say why you think they must be the same thing.)
2. Many people think it is obvious that if human actions are determined by physical law, then we are not determined. But many people find this far less obvious: If God knows everything that we are going to do, then our actions are determined. But surely if the first is true, then the second must be true, too. How could we be not free in one case and free in the other?
Finish reading Chapter 2. Watch John Searle on What Things are Conscious and Marvin Minsky on Consciousness.
Study questions for 2.28.13
1. What is the point of Blackburn's discussion of monochromatic vision? (p.76-77)
2. Why does Searle think his dog is conscious?
3. Does Searle sound like a logical behaviorist?
4. What is a rheostat? Why did I ask this?
5. How, in general, according to Searle, do we figure out whether something is conscious?
6. Does Searle think that it is possible to build a conscious robot? What are his reasons?
7. What is pansychism?
8. What point is Searle making at the end when he talks about wood being on fire?
9. How does the interviewer frame the basic question in the Minsky interview?
10. What does Minsky have to say about the immediacy of perception?
11. What does Minsky think about the idea that we have privileged access to our own minds?
12. What point is Minsky making in discussing magic?
Journal questions for 2.28.13
1. Descartes believed that no non human animals have subjective experiences of any kind. In other words, he thought of animals as zombies. Most people today find this to be very unintuitive. But here is an argument in support of Descartes. Think about what it is like to have a really bad pain, like a toothache. Notice how much more it seems to hurt when you are thinking about it. Notice, also, how it goes away when you become distracted by something. Suppose, e.g., that you are driving and you have to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting someone who has stepped out in front of you. Your toothache will disappear for several minutes. Now think about non human animals and their cognitive capacities. Can you come up with a reason for thinking that Descartes could be right? Do you think it is a good reason? Why or why not.
2. Watch Rebecca Saxe on Theory of Mind. Briefly summarize the significance of the false belief task. Saxe says that she is not interested in the philosophical question of other minds, but can you think of any way that what you learn in this video may be relevant. Hint: Ask yourself, given what Saxe says about the origin of a theory of mind, whether Descartes is really right that we know the existence of our minds better than we know the existence of others.
Read pages 65-72. Read the first two sections of the Wikipedia article on Functionalism and read the introduction to the Stanford Encyclopedia article on The Turing Test. Listen to David Papineau on Physicalism.
Study Questions for 2.26.13
1. What, according to Blackburn, does the analytical approach to the concept of mind try to achieve?
2. What is logical behaviorism? ('behaviourism' is the British spelling, btw.)
3. According to logical behaviorism, what does it mean to say "I have a bad headache?"
4. Read the second paragraph on p.66 very carefully. Most people who read this section go away thinking that logical behaviorism is just the view that our mental states cause our behavior. But that is not correct. Why?
5. Explain why the joke about two behaviorists having sex is meant as a criticism of logical behaviorism.
6. What is functionalism?
7. What is "multiple realizabilty" and how does it figure into the argument for functionalism?
8. What is the Turing Test?
9. What is the point of Blackburn's discussion of the kinetic molecular theory of heat?
10. What is psycho-physical identity theory?
11. 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?
12. 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.)
Journal Questions for 2.26.13
1. How does Papineau think a physicalist should respond to the Mary the neuroscientist thought experiment? Do you think that this is an adequate response or do you think the thought experiment gives us a good reason for doubting the truth of physicalism? Explain.
2. There are now research projects dedicated to building a computer that can pass the Turing Test. Here is one of them. It is interesting to go there and have a short conversation. (Also, here is an interesting example of two bots 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? Do you think there are any good reasons for doubting that it possible to build a fully conscious robot?
Read p. 58-65. Watch John Searle on Explaining the Mind. Review journal questions from last time.
Study questions for 2.21.13
1. What is Locke talking about when he says "It being no more impossible, to conceive, that God should annex such ideas to such motions, with which they have no similitude; than that he should annex the idea of pain to the motion of a piece of steel dividing our flesh, with which that idea hath no resemblance."
2. How did Locke understand the fact that certain kinds of physical motions inside our bodies produce certain kinds of sensations in our minds?
3. On what basis does Leibniz criticize Locke's view?
4. How does Blackburn use God to summarize the difference between Locke and Leibniz?
5. Is Leibniz an empiricist or a rationalist? In virtue of what?
6. Locke is generally known as a strong empiricists, but Blackburn tells you that there is a sense in which he is a rationalist. What sense?
7. What does John Searle mean when he says that "where consciousness is concerned, the illusion is the reality?"
8. What is Searle's point when he talks about the scientific explanation of life?
9. The interviewer, Robert Kuhn, disagrees with Searle's analogy between consciousness and digestion. What is his point?
10. 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?
Journal Questions for 2.21.13
1. Suppose scientists could take an exact picture of your body and brain in its current state and assemble from basic chemical ingredients a perfect physical living replica of you. This being would be such that, if you were subsequently killed and the duplicate were substituted into your life, nobody could ever tell the difference. Now, of course this being is not you. But since it has an identical brain, it does express all of your beliefs and all of your memories of the past. Question: Does this individual actually have experiences? Can it know joy and sadness? Can it know what a peach tastes like or a robin sounds like? Or it just a robot like zombie that behaves just like you, but has nothing really going on inside.
2. Chalmers says it is impossible for me to think that I am a zombie. But, as we mentioned in class, that also appears to be true of a zombie. After all, if you ask a zombie whether it is a zombie it will say no, and it can not be lying, since this would also be theoretically detectable. This suggests either that it is possible for a being to believe it is conscious when it is not (and hence Descartes is wrong) or, alternatively, that the concept of a zombie is somehow incoherent. Which of these options seems most plausible and why? (Or you can suggest a third option if you can think of one.)
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 rprevious chapter. The clicker quiz will cover some of these. 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.
Vocabulary: rationalist, empiricist, a priori, a posteriori, foundationalist, coherentist, epistemology/epistemological, metaphysics/metaphysical, epiphenomenon, epiphenomenal, substance dualism, qualia.
Study Questions for 2.19.13
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 is the argument from analogy to other minds?
7. How does the beetle-in-a-box example function as a criticism of this argument?
8. Why, according to Blackburn do mutants and zombies pose a problem for Cartesian dualism?
9. What, according to Chalmers, is the difference between the easy problem and the hard problem of consciousness?
10. Who seems to be more open to mind-body dualism, Blackburn or Chalmers?
Journal Questions for 2.19.13
1. Blackburn and Chalmers seem to have very different attitudes toward zombies and mutants. How would you characterize this difference?
2. Most people intuitively agree with the Cartesian idea that your mind is an entirely private place that only you have access to. Today we would express this by saying that a person has 'privileged' or 'first-person access' to their thoughts, experiences and feelings. But is this necessarily true? Have you ever known someone so well that you could sometimes know what they feeling even better than they did? Have you ever been so close to a person that you could, quite literally, feel their pain? Try to come up with at least one clear counterexample to the Cartesian idea that the mind is a private theater.
Re-read text p. 40-48 and listen to Nick Bostrom: Are We Sims?
Study Questions for 2.14.13
1. Review your answers to study questions from 2.12.13.
2. What is coherentism, and in what sense does it provide an alternative to an assumption common to both Hume and Descartes?
3. What does the quotation from Otto Neurath mean?
4. What skeptical puzzle does Bertrand Russell pose?
5. What reasons does Blackburn give for taking it seriously? (Note: This problem is now called the Boltzmann Brain problem.)
6. What is the simulation hypothesis?
7. What, according to Bostrom, must be true if the simulation hypothesis is false?
8. Why, according to Bostrom, is the simulation hypothesis fundamentally different than Descartes' dream hypothesis?
Journal Questions for 2.14.13
1. Bostrom's simulation hypothesis (like the Boltzmann Brain hypothesis) is in some ways more challenging than the dream hypothesis. Why?
2. Write a reason response to the simulation argument. (If you do not embrace one of Bostrom's three alternatives, you should give reasons for thinking that the the one that you are advancing is a possibility he missed.)
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. Read through the end of Chapter 1 in Think. Be sure, also, to review the study questions from last time, as we only got about half way through them last class meeting.
Study Questions for 2.12.13
1. How, according to Touey, do we resolve the fact that God is not a deceiver with the fact that we are prone to error?
2. In general terms, what is the difference between an empiricist and a rationalist?
3. What, according to Touey, do empiricists and rationalists specifically disagree about?
4. What, according to Touey, do empiricists and rationalists agree about?
5. What is the Cartesian circle?
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. If there are any weird words or phrases on page 42 be sure to look them up.
10. How does Blackburn appeal to the theory of evolution to help to address the problem of knowledge?
Journal questions for 2.12.13
1. On the basis of what you have learned so far, would you consider yourself to be more of a rationalist or more of an empiricist? Explain why in a way that shows you understand the difference between the two.
2. On page 39 Blackburn considers one way of defending Descartes from the charge of circularity by introducing the possibility that we can know the particular without being sure of any general rule. Explain what he means by that and try to relate it to the possibility that Descartes may be been wrong to think that in order to know we must know that we know. (Re-listen to the Barry Stroud interview if you don't recall this clearly.)
Listen to the interviews with A.C. Grayling and Barry Stroud then read Think through page 37.
Study questions for 2.7.13
1. How does A.C. Grayling find fault with Descartes' claim: Cogito ergo sum?
2. What does Grayling take to be the lasting contribution of Descartes' Meditations?
3. 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?
4. Why, according to Stroud, is true belief not the same thing as knowledge?
5. What, according to Stroud, is the faulty assumption about knowledge that generates skeptical conclusions?
6. What is the point of Blackburn's use of the masked man fallacy?
7. What is Lichtenburg's criticism of Descartes' claim: Cogito ergo sum?
8. How does Descartes' wax example supply a possible response to Lichtenburg's criticism?
9. On the bottom of page 32 Blackburn identifies a very basic problem for Descartes in proving anything more than his own existence. What is it?
10. What is rationalism? (Note: Blackburn isn't terribly clear here. Look at the beginning of the Wikipedia article on rationalism.)
11. What is a priori knowledge? (Wikipedia is useful here, too.)
12. Why does Descartes appeal to the concept of clarity and distinctness?
13. How does God's perfection, in particular his benevolence, figure in to Descartes' argument that he (Descartes) has knowledge of a physical world?
14. What does Blackburn see as some of the fatal flaws in Descartes' 'trademark argument?'
Journal questions for 2.7.13
1. The predicament Descartes' arrives at through his method of doubt might be summarized as the worry that everything he calls reality is in fact a dream from which we have never awoken. If your task were to refute this possibility, what would you say?
2. Some philosophers, e.g., Wittgenstein, believe that a private language is not logically possible. (A private language is one that is only understandable by one particular individual.) How do you think a claim like this might be relevant to Descartes' concerns?
Your assignment is below, but read all the following first.
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 study questions and journal questions are listed below. Copy and paste the journal questions only into your journal. Make sure you capture the header as well which says "Journal entry for 2.5.13". 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.
Add something like this for next time:
Properties of a good journal:
1. Entries all on time.
2. Entries all thoughtful.
3. Entries all clear, with answers being clearly visually delineated from questions.
4. Answers italicized.
5. All late entries in blue font (this is essential.
6. Corrections based on learning from class in another color font.
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, It is good (thought not required) to go back and correct your answers at a later date, but do not erase what you wrote previously. Just write your correction underneath.
Be aware that GoogleDocs is a highly transparent medium. Checking to see that you are doing your own work and doing it punctually are routine operations from my end, so please don't do anything foolish. Students who plagiarize their journals anywhere at all do not simply get a failing grade on their journals, they fail the entire class.
Read Chapter 1 through page 28. From the schedule page, watch the video Appearance and Reality with Nigel Warburton and listen to Simon Blackburn on Plato's Cave.
Study questions for 2.5.13
1. What does Blackburn mean when he says that Descartes was trying to make science safe for human beings?
2. Why does Descartes postulate the existence of an evil demon?
3. Why is the Evil Demon supposed to be able to deceive Descartes?
4. What does Descartes mean when he says "The proposition, I am, I exist is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."
5. What is Descartes' reason for believing this claim from 4 above?
6. What is the significance of this claim from 4 above?
7. Why does Descartes believe that he is in essence a thinking thing rather than a physical thing?
8. How does Descartes use the wax example to reassure himself that this rather strange idea is in fact correct?
9. What is the problem with this argument? "The senses sometimes deceive us. Therefore, it is possible that the the senses always deceive us."
10. What, according to Blackburn, would be the problem for Descartes in using the claim "We can not distinguish occasions when our senses deceive us from occasions when they do not"?
11. What does Blackburn mean by skepticism?
Journal questions for 2.5.13
1. On the basis of what you have read so far, do you think it would be appropriate to call Descartes a skeptic? Explain why or why not.
2. Compare Nigel Warburton's postulation of an evil scientist to Descartes' problem of dreams. Both of these lead to a certain kind of skepticism about the external world, but they both do not lead to the same kind or degree of skepticism. Why?
3. Does Plato's Allegory of the Cave seem to be addressing the same issues as those in Descartes' Meditations, or in different ones? Explain.
Hi, for Thursday make sure you've done everything below. Your clicker quiz will be on the syllabus, so read it carefully and make sure you've shared a Google doc with me by Friday at the very latest. All this is explained in detail below. Remember, your clicker will not work in class unless you've registered it online for this class according to the instructions below. Sprint!
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, and I mean every freakin' bit, of what follows, super carefully and do what it says to do.
Stuff you should do before class Tuesday 1/29, but Thursday 1/31 at the latest.
1. Get your course materials, which consists 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 instructions below)
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.
Instructions for creating your Google Doc
Click here for a YouTube video with instructions for making and sharing your Google Doc journal with me. You need to watch this video even if you are already familiar with Google Drive and Google Docs, because I need you to format the page and share this with me in a very specific way.
Note: I forget to mention in this video that is possible that when you try to share your page with me you will get an odd note telling you that it can't be done. If you do, just keep trying or try again later.
You may take until Friday to make your Google Doc journal page, but 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 do everything exactly as I do it in the video. As I say in the video, when you have shared the document with me correctly I will put my initials 'grm' on the page. If you do not see my initials within 24 hours of sharing, it means you have done something wrong.