Friday, August 31, 2007

No class Monday.

For Wed., we need to quickly finish discussion of Riddles Ch. 1.
For Wed. 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.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Personal Identity

Notes on Riddles of Existence, Ch. 1, Personal Identity

The question: what makes persons numerically the same over time (if they are)?
Numerical sameness vs. qualitative sameness: we aren’t qualitatively the same at all times, yet we are numerically the same (or are we not?).

Some concrete reasons to be interested: regret, anticipation, just punishment, and life-after-death seem to make sense only on the assumption that that was me who did that or that will be me in the future.

“Same matter” theory:
Necessarily , a person A (at T1) is numerically identical to person B (at T2) if, and only if A & B are composed of the same matter.

Objections:
1. If the “same matter” theory is true, then you = the Greek statesman.
2. But you ≠ the statesman.
3. Therefore, the same matter theory is not true. (Modus tollens)

4. If the “same matter” theory is true, then you-NOW ≠ you-5MINUTES AGO.
5. But youNOW = you-5MINUTES AGO.
6. Therefore, the same matter theory is not true. (Modus tollens)


The Soul theory:
Necessarily, a person A (at T1) is numerically identical to person B (at T2) if, and only if A & B have the same soul.

A soul= ? (Non-physical entity that enables thought and feeling).
Sider’s responses: no good reason to believe there are souls. Brains are a better explanation for human thought and feeling.
1. If it is reasonable to believe the soul theory of personal identity, then it is reasonable to believe that there are souls.
2. But it is not reasonable to believe there are souls.
3. So the soul theory is not reasonable to believe.

Another problem:
A & B have the same soul if and only if__?___.
• At the very least, it’s not clear how one could tell this. If this would be known by observation of bodies, brains, and/or psychological matters (i.e., the personality), etc. then it would seem that those factors are what makes for personal identity: the soul would seem to be a “3rd wheel”.
• Further problems if souls have parts that they lose and gain: the problem of soul identity again. This is to dig our hole deeper.

Spaciotemporal (space-time) continuity theory:
Necessarily, a person A (at T1) is numerically identical to person B (at T2) if, and only if A & B are spaciotemporally continuous (and chances between members in the series are gradual, caused by the previous member …. )

Objection from Locke’s case of the Prince and the Cobbler:
1. If the Spaciotemporal (space-time) continuity theory is true, then the person in the prince’s body is really the prince, not the cobbler.
2. But the cobbler is in the prince’s body!
3. So the Spaciotemporal (space-time) continuity theory is not true.

The problem: the space-time theory focuses only on bodies. Locke’s suggestion is that personal identity depends on psychologies.

Psychological continuity theory (mental life=personalities, memories, character traits, etc.):
Necessarily, a person A (at T1) is numerically identical to person B (at T2) if, and only if A & B are psychologically continuous (and chances between members in the series are gradual, caused by the previous member …. ).

Charles and Guy Fawkes objection (from Bernard Williams, a famous philosopher):
Case: Both Charles and Robert (in 2007) have Guy Fawkes’ (1906) psychology.

Objection 1: The Duplication Problem (see also Parfit’s Teletransporter case)
1. If the Psychological continuity theory is true, then Charles = Fawkes and Robert = Fawkes.
2. But if Charles = Fawkes and Robert = Fawkes, then Charles=Robert!
3. But Charles ≠ Robert!
4. So, it’s not the case that: Charles = Fawkes and Robert = Fawkes
5. So the psychological continuity theory is not true.

Objection 2: The Circularity Objection [from Reading Metaphysics]
6. If the Psychological continuity theory is true, then Charles = Fawkes if and only if Charles has Fawkes’ memories, experiences, etc.
7. But Charles has Fawkes’ memories, experiences, etc. (i.e., he doesn’t just think he has these, or imagine having them) only if Charles = Fawkes!!
Moral: there is memory only with identity. So appealing to memory doesn’t help identify the essence of personal identity.

Back to Spaciotemporal (space-time) continuity theory:

How much Spaciotemporal change (to your body) can happen but you remain?

Duplication problem again:
Case: your body and brain are split down the middle. Each half is “rebuilt.” Each is spacio-temporally continuous with you.
If each = you, then each is identical to each other. But each isn’t identical to each other (suppose one is shipped to Japan, the other to Alaska). So each isn’t identical to you.

Problem: both theories have trouble with branching or duplication cases.
• An interesting fact: if there’s no branching, then there’s identity. If there is branching, then there is no identity!

Radical Solutions to the Problem of Duplication:

• Parfit: Being numerically identical to persons “before” and “in front of you” in time is not important!
• What’s important is psychological continuity. (Apply this to the cases above).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today I gave out a logic and argument handout.

Writing assignment for Friday, based on Riddles, Ch. 1.

1. What is the question or issue of personal identity?
2. What are the main positions taken on the issue?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each position?
4. Which position (if any) is best? Why?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Time on Trial: One Hundred Years of McTaggart's Argument against Time
Morgantown, West Virginia
25 - 26 April, 2007

West Virginia University's Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce a major conference April 25 and 26, 2008 in Morgantown. "Time on Trial: One Hundred Years of McTaggart's Argument against Time" will celebrate a century of the reception of McTaggart's (in)famous argument that time does not exist. We are pleased to have three outstanding keynote speakers: L. Nathan Oaklander, Quentin Smith and Michael Tooley.

We are seeking quality submissions: 3,000 word papers in blind review format on any topic related to McTaggart's argument or its reception. They should be emailed to:

ernani.magalhaes@mail.wvu.edu

by November 1.

Those accepted will be reimbursed for one day of their lodging expenses.

Undergraduate students with an interest in the topic are also encouraged to submit relevant papers. One presentation slot has been reserved for a qualifying undergraduate submission. Papers should be in the same format and sent to the email address above. The undergraduate presenter will receive a stipend of $100. Please note if yours is an undergraduate submission.

Department of Philosophy

For Monday

Additional reading for Monday:

Jim Pryor's Guidelines on Reading Philosophy
Philosophical Terms and Methods
All at http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching

Previously posted assignments:

FIRST ASSIGNMENTS:

  • The first writing assignment is to reflectively develop and defend answers to these questions: what is philosophy? What is it to think philosophically? How does one think philosophically? What is it to be a philosopher? What is the value in thinking philosophically and/or being a philosopher? Are there any risks to thinking philosophically and/or being a philosopher? Due Monday 8/27.
  • The first reading assignment is Riddles, Ch. 1. and the Introduction of Reading Metaphysics. Due Monday 8/27.
  • ASAP email the instructor at aphilosopher@gmail.com to let him know that you are going to be in this class. The email should say which class you are, your name, your major and ask a question or give a comment about the class so far. This will help the instructor make an email list for the class.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Syllabus

Course: Metaphysics - 42150 - HPHI 475A - 01

Course web page: http://MorehouseMetaphysics.blogspot.com

Syllabus @ http://aphilosopher.googlepages.com/metaphysics-syl.doc

Days: MWF.

Time: 9 AM currently; perhaps will change to 10, 11, or later

Place: depending on the size of the class, hopefully we can find a seminar room for a better learning environment.

Instructor: Dr. Nathan Nobis (nnobis@morehouse.edu, aphilosopher@gmail.com)

Office: Philosophy & Religion Department, Sale Hall 113

Office Hours: 10-12 MWF and by appointment (but please let me know if you want to meet)

In this course, we will survey the range of answers to challenging philosophical questions in metaphysics, including:

  • How is that you are the same individual you were last week, or when you were 10 (or 5, or 1, or birth, or before..?), given all the changes that have occurred to you? What makes a person the same person over time, despite such drastic changes?
  • It seems that everything that happens has a cause (whether we know what it is or not). But if everything is caused, and so our actions are caused, then can we have free will?
  • Two red things have something in common, namely that they are red. But what is this “redness”? Is it a thing of some kind? Or is this just a way we talk about things?

Other issues concern whether anything is fated; the nature of time (and time travel); whether God exists; why anything exists; the relation between objects and their parts; the nature of possibility and necessity; the challenging (and peculiar) question, “What is metaphysics anyway?” and more.

All the issues in this class are extremely intellectually challenging. These are hard philosophical problems and require a lot of careful and critical thinking. The challenge, however, can reap great rewards!:)

Required Books: (Many are available used – and often cheaper – online at Amazon.com, AbeBooks.com, etc.)

Our main two texts that we will read first:

1. Riddles of Existence by Ted Sider and Earl Conee (Oxford). The first chapter is available here: http://fas-philosophy.rutgers.edu/sider/riddles/riddles.html

2. Reading Metaphysics: Selective Texts with Interactive Commentary (Blackwell) by Julian Dodd and Helen Beebee.

We will then revisit free will and related issues:

3. A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, by Robert Kane (Oxford)

And then revisit personal identity and related issues:
4. A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, by John Perry (Hackett)

Finally, we will investigate the possible relevance of metaphysics to ethics/bioethics:
5. Bioethics and Human Identity by David DeGrazia (Cambridge).

Grading:

Midterm Exam 25 percent

Final Exam 25 percent

Argumentative Research Paper 25 percent

Readings Homework and Presentations 25 percent

Attendance variable impact

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities: In accordance with Title 5, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Acts of 1990, reasonable accommodation will be provided to any student who has followed Morehouse College procedures. To begin the process, please contact The Learning Center at the beginning of the semester. Once the need for accommodations has been officially established, the student should consult with the instructor to insure that the student’s needs may be met as effectively as possible.

Basic Responsibilities:

  1. Always do the readings. Do them carefully, in the proper (quiet, distraction-free) environment and with adequate time given to them. Come to class so we can have an informed, responsible and intelligent discussion of them and the issues they raise. Always bring the assigned and have them out since we cannot do anything without them: much of our class time will be spent reading the texts and discussing them very carefully.
  2. Chronic tardiness to class will not be tolerated. Certainly, sometimes circumstances cause one to be late for class but these times should be the exception. Students who cannot make it to class on time are encouraged to change their habits or drop the course. If you do come in late, please do so in a quiet manner so that you do not disrupt class.
  3. Attendance and participation are mandatory. After three unexcused absences, your final grade for the class will be lowered by one letter grade. Subsequent unexcused absences will continue to lower your final grade at the same rate. Each class period a sign-in sheet will be passed around to take role. It is your responsibility to sign it. If your name is not on the sheet, then you will be counted absent for that day.
  4. Distractions are prohibited. No using cell phones, PDA’s, Sidekicks, text messaging, listening to music on headphones, reading a newspaper or doing work for other classes. Computers can only be used for taking notes and other class-related work, not web surfing. Anyone using such devices for unacceptable purposes, doing work for other classes and is otherwise disengaged or disruptive will be asked to leave.
  5. No eating in class.
  6. “Help me help you”: The instructor should be informed of medical, family, or other problems that necessitate missing class or that interfere with your work. In addition, students are encouraged to visit with the instructor during his office hours if they are having difficulty reading or understanding the materials presented in class. If you ever have any questions about anything, please just ask!

A WARNING ABOUT PLAGIARISM:

“The Division of Humanities & Social Sciences at Morehouue College endorses the highest standards and expectations of academic honesty and integrity. Plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Sanctions for violation of these standards include possible suspension or dismissal from the College. It is each student’s responsibility to be familiar with the expected codes of conduct as outlined in the College Catalogue and Student Handbook.”

Cheating and plagiarism are forms of lying (to the instructor, the school, future teachers and employers, and yourself, among others) and theft (of other people’s ideas and words) and are grounds for failing the course. If you submit a plagiarized paper (e.g., a paper you took in whole or in part from the internet or some other illegitimate source), the instructor (with the help of Turnitin.com) will notice this and you will then fail this course immediately: no excuses will be accepted. It is your responsibility to know what plagiarism is.
Here are some suggestions to avoid plagiarism: do not check the internet for anything related to your papers: instead use the texts required for the course and think for yourself; do not take phrases from the texts; put all of your writings in your own words; do not cut and paste anything from the internet into your paper; do not visit Wikipedia; do not take articles from online encyclopedias; do not visit online dictionaries; use an acceptable citation method (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.), which you learned to do in Introductory English courses. If you would like additional sources to learn more about a topic, see the instructor.

READING SCHEDULE AND ASSIGNMENTS

FIRST ASSIGNMENTS:

  • The first writing assignment is to reflectively develop and defend answers to these questions: what is philosophy? What is it to think philosophically? How does one think philosophically? What is it to be a philosopher? What is the value in thinking philosophically and/or being a philosopher? Are there any risks to thinking philosophically and/or being a philosopher? Due Monday 8/27.
  • The first reading assignment is Riddles, Ch. 1. and the Introduction of Reading Metaphysics. Due Monday 8/27.
  • ASAP email the instructor at aphilosopher@gmail.com to let him know that you are going to be in this class. The email should say which class you are, your name, your major and ask a question or give a comment about the class so far. This will help the instructor make an email list for the class.

The tentative order of readings is below. The exact schedule of readings will be announced in class; our rate of progress depends on the nature of our discussions.

Additional materials and assignments will be announced or given out in class. Since this class will be conducted in seminar style using the Socratic Method, specific reading assignment dates will be adjusted throughout the semester to allow for discussion of issues that may take more class time. If you have any questions about your reading assignment, please do not hesitate to ask the instructor for clarification. Please bring your books to class since we will read important passages together and sometimes read selections that were not included in that day’s assignment.

RIDDLES: CH 1 PERSONAL IDENTITY

READING METAPHYSICS: Ch. 1 Personal Identity
Introduction
Derek Parfit, 'Personal Identity'
Commentary on Parfit
Marya Schechtman, 'Personhood and Personal Identity'
Commentary on Schechtman
Further Reading
Essay Questions

RIDDLES: CH. 2: FATALISM

RIDDLES: CH. 3: TIME

RIDDLES: CH. 4: GOD

RIDDLES: CH. 5: WHY NOT NOTHING?

RIDDLES: CH. 6: FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM

READING METAPHYSICS Ch. 2 Free Will
Introduction
Peter van Inwagen, 'The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism'
Commentary on van Inwagen
Daniel Dennett, 'Could Have Done Otherwise' (extract from Elbow Room)
Commentary on Dennett
Further Reading
Essay Questions
Appendix

RIDDLES CH. 7: CONSTITUTION

READING METAPHYSICS Ch. 6 Persistence over Time
Introduction
David Lewis, extract from On the Plurality of Worlds
Commentary on Lewis
Sally Haslanger, 'Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics'
Commentary on Haslanger
David Lewis, 'Tensing the Copula'
Commentary on Lewis
Further reading
Essay questions

RIDDLES CH. 8. UNIVERSALS

READING METAPHYSICS Ch. 4 Realism and Nominalism
Introduction
Michael Devitt, '"Ostrich Nominalism" or "Mirage Realism"?'
Commentary on Devitt
D. M. Armstrong, 'Against "Ostrich" Nominalism: A Reply to Michael Devitt'
Commentary on Armstrong
Further reading
Essay questions

RIDDLES CH. 9. POSSIBILITY AND NECESSITY

READING METAPHYSICS Ch. 5 Possible Worlds
Introduction
David Lewis, extract from Counterfactuals
Commentary on Lewis
Saul Kripke, extract from Naming and Necessity
Commentary on Kripke
Further reading
Essay questions

READING METAPHYSICS Ch. 3 Realism and Anti-realism
Introduction
Donald Davidson, 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme'
Commentary on Davidson
Thomas Nagel, 'Thought and Reality' (extract from The View from Nowhere)
Commentary on Nagel
Further reading
Essay questions

RIDDLES CH. 10. WHAT IS METAPHYSICS?

Next, revisit free will and related issues: A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, by Robert Kane (Oxford)

Next, revisit free will and related issues: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, by John Perry (Hackett)

Finally, investigate the possible relevance of metaphysics to ethics/bioethics: Bioethics and Human Identity by David DeGrazia (Cambridge).

Note: A syllabus is not a contract, but rather a guide to course procedures. The instructor reserves the right to alter the course requirements and/or assignments based on new materials, class discussions, or other legitimate pedagogical objectives.