Monday, September 24, 2007

Upon reflection, it seems that the chapter on God should take 2 days, not just 1!
Paper/writing on that due Friday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Writing & Friday

Today we talked some about writing. Here are some good things to study and practice from:

Jim Pryor's "Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper"

Michael Huemer's "A Guide to Writing"

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, especially part III

For fun: "Philosophy Paper Pet Peeves" from SUNY Fredonia

For Friday, re-read Sider ch. 3 on time.
Some notes are below.
There is a writing assignment due, which is to explain the arguments from the chapter and evaluate them as sound or unsound. Another way to approach the assignment is to explain what Sider's (personal) views seem to be and what the best objections to them are.

For Monday, you should read at least 2 out of 4 the online encylopedia articles on time. See below.

Notes on Riddles of Existence Ch. 3: Time

First, for more discussion, see:

Time :

Time Travel:

For more advanced discussion, see:


Time Travel & Modern Physics:

Some highly practical, concrete questions:

  • Could we go back in time? Is this logically possible, or does the very concept of time make this an impossibility/
  • Can our actions now cause things in the past to be different?

Obviously, these questions depend on the nature of time! But what is time anyway?

The flow of time (p. 44) [The “time moves” theory of time]

We tend to describe time as “moving” (it flows, marches on, flies, etc.)

But movement is defined in terms of time! (p. 45)

The present moment “moves.”

But then the present is defined in terms of other times. (Later, the present will be 6 PM).

Different times are part of hypertime? If so, then hypertime is part of hypertime2 and on and on!

Perhaps then the present moves with respect to itself. (p. 47).

“Noon is present at noon,” etc. Trivial and doesn’t explain how time “moves.”

The space-time theory (of time)

Time is like space. (p. 49)

· Space-time diagrams. See figures!

· Temporal parts= a temporal cross section of that object; that object at that time. (Compare spatial part to temporal part).

Person = sum of temporal parts.

Reality = a single unified space time (vs. the “time moves” theory). (p. 50)

Time does not flow; it is like space. (But only one direction: past to future)

1. Temporally distant objects are still real: past objects exist (??), i.e., they exist somewhere in spacetime. (p. 51), like spatially distant objects are also real.

2. Objects have temporal parts, like spatial objects have spatial parts.

3. Claims about “here” and “now” depend on who is saying them, where she is (in space and time) and what is said.

Arguments against the space-time theory: change, motion, causes (p. 52)

Does time flow? Or is like space?

Space-time doesn’t have the problems (paradoxes?) of flow theory. But there are objections to the space-time theory.

In opposition to (1)-(3) above, one might claim that (p. 53)

· past and future objects do not exist (in spacetime?);

· things do not have temporal parts; at any time the whole object is present,

· “now” is not like “here”: the present moment is special, unlike “here.”

Sider says he’ll skip these objections! (“Time is short!”)

Other objections that time is not like space (p. 53); disanalogies:

1. Regarding change. “Change” vs. “spatial heterogeneity”

2. Regarding motion: can spatially move in many directions; can only go one direction in time.

3. Regarding causes: an event at any place events can cause other events at any other place, but events can’t cause events at just any other time: later events can’t cause earlier events. The past isfixed.

Replies to these objections, these claims about disanalogy (p. 54).

· To objection 2, see 54-57 for the details. How’s this work?

· To objection 3 “most challenging and interesting”, see p. 57.

§ Could there be backwards causation? Could we cause ourselves to be present in the past (i.e., travel through time?). Is this logically possible?

· If time is like space, then perhaps!

Time Travel: (p. 58)

“Back to the Future”

First, McFly pushes the button in 1985 and then he is in 1955.”

· Story is contradictory. If contradictory, then impossible. Can a time travel story be told without contradiction?

o Eliminate that contradiction by appealing to McFly’s experience.

· Could McFly prevent himself from ever existing? (Another worry: Time travel to kill earlier self?!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

For Monday, re-read Conee on Fatalism (see argument notes below).

NEW: read the Stanford Encyclopedia article on Fatalism online at . I gave out copies to people in class; those who missed need to print out their own copy.

The Arguments on Fatalism: Riddles Ch. 2

What fatalism is: ________________________________________________________

Below are valid arguments: the reasoning is fine.

Are they sound? What can be said for and against the premises? Are any of the premises unreasonable to accept because there are good reasons to think they are false?

Arguments from Predications and (Past) Propositions: The Sea Battle

A1. Either the prediction that the battle will happen is true, or the prediction that the battle will not happen is true. (Or, either of the propositions is true).

Why? LEM (p. 27). Objections re. settled facts and future truth makers.

Doubts from vagueness!

A2. If any statement is true, then it has to be true.


It has to be true that: if any statement is true, then it’s true.

If any statement is true, then it has to be true.

C1. Whatever predication (or proposition) is true has to be true.

C2. Whether the battle will happen or not is necessary.

Same argument can be given about every event.

Past Predications

A1. For any way that things will be in the future, there existed in the past a true proposition to the effect that things would be that way. (p. 32).

A2. Every aspect of the past is accidentally necessary, i.e., ________________.

C1. The truth in the past of each true predictive proposition is accidentally necessary.

C2. Therefore, the future in every detail is accidentally necessary.

Necessary Conditions (p. 35)

A1. If something has/is an open alternative/possibility, then all that is needed for the alternative to exist is present. (Something is fixed/unalterable/not an open alternative/possibility if any necessary condition for not having the thing is absent).

A2. Any condition is a necessary condition for itself.

C. Therefore, all actual entities, events and circumstances – past, present and future – are fixed and unalterable down to the last detail.

God Knows (p. 39)

A1. If God knows everything, then God knows in advance (or in eternity) all truths about the whole future.

A2. If God knows any given truth about the future, then any potential for that truth to be untrue would be a potential for God to be mistaken about it.

A3. It’s impossible for God to be mistaken about anything.

C. If God knows everything, then the whole future is fixed and unalterable.

Annual Southern Appalachian Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

University of North Carolina at Asheville

Sponsored by: UNCA's Philosophical Society and Phi Sigma Tau Chapter


10th Annual
Southern Appalachian Undergraduate Philosophy Conference
The University of North Carolina at Asheville
The Liberal Arts Campus of the University of North Carolina

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Our symposium provides a professional style philosophical forum for aspiring undergraduates to present significant and original work. All papers will be evaluated by blind review process. At the conference, a judge from a university with important graduate program will determine the top three presentations.
Please submit:
• A computer file of the paper in MS Word (papers accepted for the conference will be posted on the web); and
• two copies of each of the following: the paper, an abstract, and a separate cover sheet

Papers on any philosophical topic are welcome. Papers should be designed for a 20 minute presentation time [approximately 10 pages]. The papers should not contain the author’s name or institutional affiliation, since they will be evaluated by a blind review.
Eligibility: any undergraduate student who does not have an undergraduate degree prior to May 1, 2008.
Abstracts should be one paragraph, double spaced, no more than 150 words, and attached to the paper. These abstracts should not contain the author’s name or institutional affiliation, since they will be evaluated in a blind review process.
Cover sheets should be on a separate sheet and contain the title of the paper, the author’s name, institutional affiliation, address, e-mail address, and phone number.

All submissions must be postmarked by Monday, September 24 2007
Acceptance notification will occur by October 15, 2007.

For submissions or further information, please contact:
Dr. Keya Maitra
Department of Philosophy/CPO # 2830, UNCA
One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804-8505


WILL BE SATURDAY, Nov. 3, 2007


Sep. 24, 2007

Return to Undergraduate Philosophy Conference page

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

For Friday, re-read Conee's chapter on fatalism. There is a writing assignment that was announced in class.

Today we wound up talking about this topic in thinking about the First Assumption of the sea battle argument (p. 24) and LEM (p. 27).


First published Sat Feb 8, 1997; substantive revision Tue Aug 29, 2006

There is wide agreement that a term is vague to the extent that it has borderline cases. This makes the notion of a borderline case crucial in accounts of vagueness. I shall concentrate on an historical characterization of borderline cases that most commentators would accept. Vagueness will then be contrasted with ambiguity and generality. This will clarify the nature of the philosophical challenge posed by vagueness. I will then discuss some rival theories of vagueness with an emphasis on many-valued logic, supervaluationism and contextualism. I will conclude with the issue of whether all vagueness is linguistic.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wed & Friday:

Riddles, Ch. 2 on Fate

Writing assignment on this chapter, due Friday.

See this:


First published Wed Dec 18, 2002; substantive revision Tue Oct 10, 2006

Fatalism is the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. It may be argued for in various ways: by appeal to logical laws and metaphysical necessities; by appeal to the existence and nature of God; by appeal to causal determinism. When argued for in the first way, it is commonly called "Logical fatalism" (or, in some cases, "Metaphysical fatalism"); when argued for in the second way, it is commonly called "Theological fatalism". When argued for in the third way it is not now commonly referred to as "fatalism" at all, and such arguments will not be discussed here.

The interest in arguments for fatalism lies at least as much in the question of how the conclusion may be avoided as in the question of whether it is true.

Friday, September 7, 2007

For Monday, read Schechtman in Reading Metaphysics and answer the questions in the commentary.

The selections in Reading Metaphysics take a long time to read carefully. Read their introduction to understand why.


Department of Philosophy, M/C 267
1404 University Hall
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL 60607

tel: (312) 413-7565
fax: (312) 413-2093
Curriculum Vitae

Schechtman is an Associate Professor. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1988. Her main areas of interest are personal identity, practical reason, and the philosophy of mind. Her book, The Constitution of Selves, argues that contemporary metaphysical discussions of personal identity over time fail to distinguish between two distinct but related questions, one having to do with re-identifying persons and the other with determining the essential features of character, value, and commitment that make a person who she is. She has continued her research in this area, and is currently working on a project investigating the relations between the sense of "identity" at stake in metaphysical discussions of personal identity and that at issue in the work of value theorists. She is also interested in questions of autonomy, the philosophy of psychology, and existentialism. She is a member of UIC's Laboratory of Integrated Neuroscience, and has published several articles on topics concerning personal identity and the philosophy of mind, including "Personhood and Personal Identity" (Journal of Philosophy, 1990), "The Same and the Same" (American Philosophical Quarterly, 1994),"The Brain/Body Problem" (Philosophical Psychology, 1997), "Empathetic Access: The Missing Ingredient in Personal Identity" (Philosophical Explorations, May 2001).

Brief Notes on Parfit’s “Personal Identity” in Reading Metaphysics

Introduction, p. 13

He’s going to be discussing two beliefs:

1. That questions about personal identity must (always) have an answer.

a. E.g., “Is A=B?” or “Am I identical to this future person?” Parfit will argue that there are cases where, presumably, there is no answer, i.e., “yes” and “no” are both incorrect.

(Later, however, on p. 17, he suggests that he means to say that we can’t at all tell or identify the answer; this epistemological skepticism is less radical than the claim above).

b. He can only give a case to make this assumption above “implausible” (p. 14).

c. If this – a – is so, then the principle of self-interest isn’t so important. And aging and death aren’t so depressing (p. 14). (Why?)

2. That personal identity is “important” (for “survival,” memory and responsibility.

a. These concerns can be addressed without identity.


[informative labels for section headings are always nice; too bad he didn’t give them!]

Case of a man dividing like an amoeba

Wiggins case: your brain is divided and each half housed in a new living body. What happens to you?

1. You don’t survive. NO.

2. You survive as one. (which?) NO

3. You survive as both.

a. If survival implies identity, then you are two different people.

b. Usually this is thought to be impossible. Parfit suggests however, that you could be two bodies with a divided mind. (p. 15)

Description of a “full” and then “divided” (and then re-united) stream of consciousness. (p. 16). Thus, two bodies and a divided mind, one person.

If permanent division, hard(er) to speak of one person. (p. 17)

c. Parfit’s (positive) suggestion: you survive as two different people but are not identical to them (and they are not identical to you). (p. 17). (And nothing important requires identity).

Parfit thinks this case suggests that belief (1 above is false, so questions about personal identity do not (always) have an answer.


  • Survival needs not be “one-one” (but identity must be “one-one,” i.e., one person identical to one and only one person; that’s why in branching cases, there is no identity).
  • Identity doesn’t come in degrees: either identical or not, all or nothing.
  • What matters for survival are relations of degree.
  • What matters for survival doesn’t presuppose identity (according to Parfit).
  • Psychological continuity is what’s really of interest, not necessarily identity..
  • Non-branching psychological continuity is identity which is one-to-one. (p. 21)

III Q-Memory

Memory presupposes personal identity: if you genuinely remember doing X, then you are identical to the person who did X.

[Problem: circularity! (p24) So, Parfit is going to try to analyze survival / personal identity in terms of psychological relations that do not presuppose identity]

S “q-remembers” experience X = (p. 22)

(1) S believes that he experienced X; it seems to him that he experienced X;

(2) someone did have such an experience;

(3) S’s belief that S experienced X is dependent on that experience in the same way that a genuine memory of an experience is dependent on that experience.

[??????? P. 23 ] See Parfit’s explanation…

IV Psychological Continuity and Connectedness

Connectedness = direct psychological relations (p. 25)

More important

Continuity = psychological overlap (p.26)

These relations come in degrees. More and less connectedness…

V Consequences of Psychological Continuity and Connectedness

Connectedness = “one of my future selves,” “one of my past selves”

Does not imply identity (p. 27)

“I”= the greatest degree of psychological connectedness. (p. 28).

“Not me who did that, but an earlier self” !! (But that self is not identical to me or previous selves)

“There is no underlining person who we . . are.” (p. 29)

VI Some practical consequences

· The principle of self-interest: do what’s in your best self interest. (p. 29)

“has no force” according to Parfit (because of lack of identity)

· The principle of biased rationality: do what will best achieve what you want.

· The principle of impartiality: do what’s in the interests of everyone concerned.

Suppose someone didn’t care about his future: he wouldn’t care about the principle of self-interest. The principle of impartiality would still apply.

Fear of death…

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

For Friday

For Friday, re-read Parfit in Reading Metaphysics and answer the questions in the commentary.

For Monday, read Schechtman in Reading Metaphysics and answer the questions in the commentary.

The selections in Reading Metaphysics take a long time to read carefully. Read their introduction to understand why.

No late questions will be accepted. It is vitally important that you do the reading and do the reading on time. See the syllabus.