What's Up in Philosophy 006 Spring 2011

Congratulations on finishing the course.  Please leave your journal documents shared with me until I have had a chance to grade them. The grade will be written at the top of the page, a number between 0 and 20.

Below is your last journal entry and Wednesday is your last quiz.  We will meet on Friday to finish up on Kant and discuss any questions you may have about the final exam. 


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for May 9, 2011

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

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

3.  What is metaphysics, according to Adrian Moore?

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

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

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

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

8.   What is synthetic a priori knowledge?

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

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

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

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

Philosophy Journal Entry for May 9, 2011

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

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

3.  How does Campbell characterize Berkeley's Puzzle?

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

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

    a.  What is the first problem?

    b.  What is the second problem?

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

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

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

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

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


Listen to Helen Beebee on Laws of Nature.

Philosophy Journal Entry for May 4, 2011

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

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

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

4.  How do dispositional essentialists understand natural laws?

5.  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.)

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

7. 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 May 2, 2011

Massimo Pigliucci on Hume/Text

1.  What did Hume mean when he said "It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger."
2.  Do you think there is any tension between Hume's attitude toward miracles and his view of the relation between reason and emotion? Explain.

3.  What is induction?

4.  What is the problem of induction?

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

Petter Millican on Hume's Impact

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

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

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

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

10.  What does 'anathema' mean?

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

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


We will meet on Friday as announced to finish God chapter.  No new readings or viewings, but we will have a quiz during class on the content of lecture. Journal questions for Monday will be posted by Friday.  Don't forget to turn in Nammour summaries if you went and want credit (see above).


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for April 25, 2011


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

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

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

Michael Shermer on strange beliefs

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?

William Craig on keeping faith

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 thinks 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 April 20, 2011


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

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

Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil and Think

3.  What 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?


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for April 18, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Stuart Sutherland 

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

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?

Bede Rundle

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 April 13, 2011

The Ontological Argument  

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

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

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

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

The Cosmological Argument  (video/textbook 159-163)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Philosophy Journal Entry for April 11, 2011

Nancey Murphy on the Soul

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?

Think & Hod Lipson

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? 

9.  Do you think human self-awareness is essentially the same or different than what he is trying to instill in robots?

10.  Think about a future-science version of Locke's Prince and the Cobbler.  We have the technology to both figure out the exact microstructure of your brain at any given moment, record it in a computer, and replicate that microstructure in another person's brain.  If we could do this, how would you describe the accomplishment in terms of selves?  E.g., Is one and the same self in two different bodies?  If their are now two distinct selves, what makes them different?




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

Philosophy Journal Entry for April 6, 2011

Daniel Kahnemann, The Riddle of Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Bloom, First Person Plural  

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

8.  Watch the marshmallow video.  Are you surprised that something like that could be so predictive of a child's future?  Do you think you would have been one of the 1/3 of children who would not have eaten the marshmallow?  

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

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



Read Think 128-138.  Listen to Galen Strawson and Thomas Metzinger on the Self.  

Philosophy Journal Entry for April 4, 2011


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

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

Galen Strawson on the sense of self.

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

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

5.  Suppose you think you are a very selfish person, but almost everyone who knows you agrees that you are are thoughtful and caring.  If you were asked the same question as above, would you answer it in the same way?  Or does your suggest that you are less likely to be wrong about some self-knowledge claims than others?

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

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

Thomas Metzinger on the self (radio interview, not YouTube.)

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

9.  What does Metzinger suggest the self really is?

10.  How does Metzinger explain the function of consciousness?

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

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

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

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

15.  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.


Listen to Christopher Shields on Personal Identity and read pages 120-127.

Philosophy Journal Entry for March 30, 2011

From Think

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


No journal questions for Monday, but bring clickers.  We will finish the free will chapter. Scores for essay part of midterm will be posted by Saturday night 3/26.  I will not return exams in class, but you can come by my office either during office hours or during class time on Friday and pick it up.   


Congratulations on finishing the midterm.  Unfortunately, grading the essays will take me about a week.  Grades will be posted sometime during spring break, and I'l return your entire exam when we get back.  

Read Chapter 3, p. 107-119.   

Journal Entry for March 9, 2011

1.  Listen to this recent NPR interview about robots. What does Sherry Turkle think of as the real threat of our growing reliance on robots?

2. Do you think Turkle's concerns are legitimate?  Why or why not? (Recall, btw, Dennett's thought experiment concerning the robot baby sitter. Not just a thought experiment now, is it?) 

3. On page 108, Blackburn speaks of a philosopher named Peter Strawson who thinks that the compatibilist vision of human freedom 'objectifies' people in a way that is negative.  What does he mean by that?

4. How does Blackburn address this concern?

5. Do you see a way in which the interview you just listened to might provide a different kind of answer?

6. What is the difference between fatalism and determinism?

7. What is the lazy sophism?

8. What does Blackburn see as the proper response to the lazy sophism?

9.  Why, according to Blackburn, is the image of God or the Devil laughing as we struggle to avoid our fate not applicable to determinism?

10.  What is the point of Wittgenstein's remark on p. 118?  



Short answer/essay part of exam on Monday.  Bring Blue Book.  Grades for midterms have been uploaded to e-instruction. The grades are out of 40 and reflect a 4-point curve.  (i.e., subtract 4 points from the posted score to know what your raw score was.) No letter grades are assigned to exams.  Simply divide your score by 40 to calculate % correct.  If you are satisfied with your score, you may skip Monday's test without penalty.  If you missed the multiple choice test, you may not make it up, so be sure to be there Monday for the short answer/essay.


Multiple choice part of midterm Friday. Study guide attached to bottom of schedule page. 


Text pages 97-107.

Journal Entry for March 9, 2011

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

2. How, exactly, does Blackburn's revised definition of 'could have done otherwise' (p.100) address this problem?  (Don't copy the revised definition, explain in your own words.)

3. 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 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 

4. Watch this short video and write any additional thoughts or observations you may have.


I have uploaded the midterm study guide and notes to the first two chapters of the book. Read the guide carefully. 

Watch Daniel Dennett (Part 1 & 2) and John Searle on free will.  Read p. 91-97 of text.

Note:  You will have a very short journal assignment for Wednesday, and none for Friday or Monday.

Journal Entry for March 7, 2011


1.  What is compatibilism?

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

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

Daniel Dennett on Free Will  (parts 1 and 2)

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

5.   What is a tautology?

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

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

8.   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?

John Searle on Free Will

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

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

11. What is the experience of the gap?

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

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

Journal Entry for March 2, 2011

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 philosphical mistake. What is it?

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


Watch Paul Bloom on Dualism and Ramachandran on Brain Damage. Read pages 81-84. 

Journal Entry for February 28, 2011

Paul Bloom on Dualism

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

1. What does Bloom claim to be the origin of dualism?

2. Is Bloom himself seem to be a dualist?

3. How do children respond when they learn that the brain is the source of thinking?

4. How does Bloom connect our belief in souls to the emotion of disgust?

5. Does Bloom think it is likely that people will ultimately reject dualism?  Why or why not?

6. Assuming Bloom is right that children have a natural tendency to be dualists, how does that effect your beliefs about dualism?  Does it make you more or less inclined to believe dualism is correct?  Explain.

Ramachandran on Brain Damage

7.  What is Capgras Delusion?

8.  What does Ramachandran think causes Capgras?

9.  What is a phantom limb?

10.  What is learned paralysis?

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

12.  What is synesthesia?

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

14.  What does Ramachandran demonstrate with Booba and Kiki?

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

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

17.  Everyone believes in free will in the following sense:  Whenever you choose to do something, it was possible for you to have done something else. What reasons does Blackburn give for doubting that this is actually true?



Read pages 69-72.  Listen to David Papineau on physicalism, and Rebecca Saxe on on theory of mind.

Journal Entry for February 23, 2011

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

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

3. Papineau talks about what it means to be a physicalist with respecctc to the mind.  He means roughly the same thing by 'physicalism' that Blackburn means by 'psycho-physical' identity theory. What does Papineau take to be the main reason in support of physicalism?

4.  How, according to Papineau, does the thought experiment about Mary the Neuroscientist seem to challenge the truth of physicalism?

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

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

7.  What is the false belief task?

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

9.  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? 


Read p. 65-68 and watch John Searle and Ray Kurzweil on what things are conscious?

Journal Entry for February 21, 2011

1.  What is logical behaviorism?

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Does Ray Kurzweil seem to be sympathetic to behaviorism?  Explain why or why not.

8.  What is the Turing Test? (You'll need to look this up in Wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

9.  Explain how the Turing Test seems to be relevant to a disagreement between Searle and Kurzweil.

10.  Do you find yourself thinking differently about the question whether a robot could have consciousness than you did a couple of weeks ago?  If so, how?  If not, why not?


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

Journal Entry for February 16, 2011

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

2. Why is Leibniz critical of Locke's understanding (from 1)? 

3. Blackburn asks you to imagine yourself, and 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 be have consciousness and the duplicate you not?  Explain why or why not. 

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

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

6. What is 'epiphenomenalism'?  (This is mentioned on page 57 of the book and briefly in the video about halfway through. You can also take a look at the Wikipedia article.

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

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


Read Chapter 2 p. 49-58.  Listen to Tim Crane on the Mind/Body Problem and watch David Chalmers on Consciousness

Journal Entry for February 14, 2011

1. How does Blackburn characterize the problem of consciousness?
2. Why do we call Descartes a 'substance dualist'?
3. What is the difference between a zombie and a mutant?
4. Why does Blackburn discuss zombies and mutants?
5. What, according to Chalmers, is the difference between the easy problem and the hard problem of consciousness?
6. Chalmers seems to have a very different attitude to zombies and mutants than Blackburn.  Try to describe the difference.
7. Tim Crane says that someone today who says that the mind is the brain is like an Ancient Greek who says that matter is energy.  What does he mean by that? 
8. 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?
9. Crane does not think that the problem of consciousness is a problem for neuroscience.  Why does he say this?  


Finish reading Chapter 1 if you haven't already and watch Daniel Touey on empircism.

Journal Entry for February 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read pages 34-40 of the text and watch the videos on Descartes Meditations 4 and 5.

Journal Entry for February 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

5. Why do we call Descartes a rationalist?

What do you think?

6.  Notice that in the Meditations Descartes has attempted to prove the existence of God and an external physical world simply on the basis of logic.  Do you think this basic approach makes sense or do you think there is something fundamentally wrong with it?  Explain.


Re-read pages 22-33 and listen to the Barry Stroud interview on scepticism.

Journal Entry for February 2, 2011

From Text

1. Descartes considers a ball of wax in an effort to understand how it is possible to be certain of his existence as a thinking thing.  What do his reflections on the wax reveal that is relevant to this question?

2.  Descartes seems to think that the fact that we are sometimes mistaken about some things means that it is possible that we are always mistaken about everything.  What reasons does Blackburn give for being skeptical of this suggestion?

3.  Explain how the phrase "it is thundering" may be used as the basis for believing there is something wrong with the cogito argument.

4.  Blackburn returns to the wax example in an attempt to show how Descartes might respond to this point (from the previous question.) Summarize this response in your own words.

From Stroud Interview

5.  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?  

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

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


Read pages 22-33 of the text.  Watch the Nigel Warburton video entitled Appearance and Reality and listen to the interview with A.C. Grayling.  These, and all supplementary material, are located on the schedule page.  To listen to the interview, click the 'direct download' link.  Philosophy Bites interviews are also available on iTunes.

Copy the questions below, including the heading, into your journal, then answer each question. (Because this type is white, you will need to change the color to black after you do this.)  Remember, doing well on your journal depends on writing well.  If your entries are typically just notes, or poorly composed sentences, or incomplete answers, you will get very little credit.  It is also important to do your journal work prior to the date for which it is assigned.  The last one or two questions in each journal entry is typically one that asks for you to do your own thinking.  You will not be given graded clicker questions on these, but how much care you take in answering them will be a significant part of your journal grade.

Copy the following into your journal, including the boldfaced heading with date. Type your answers directly below the corresponding questions.

Journal Entry for January 31, 2011

Text and A.C. Grayling Interview

1.  Why does Descartes postulate the existence of an evil demon?
2.  What can the evil demon not succeed in deceiving Descartes about?
3.  Why does Descartes think it is impossible to imagine the self?
4.  Why does Descartes believe the mind is better known than the body?
5.  What is skepticism (as the term is used in the text)?
6.  Was Descartes a skeptic?
7.  What does Descartes require in order to extend knowledge beyond what can be established with the cogito argument?

Nigel Warburton video

8.  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.

What do you think?

9.  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?


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


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

    1. Textbook:  Think, a Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, by Simon Blackburn.

    2. Clicker

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

Instructions for registering your clicker.

You will need to register your clicker for this class.  Register it online according to the instructions on the box, or 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 a class key (a number) from me in order to do so.  That number is

  • K66776I715
If you are taking other classes using this clicker, you will only have to pay the registration fee once.  

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.

That's it for now!