Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For Friday, read Kane Ch. 2 on Compatiblism.
Also read Dennett on compatiblism in Reading Metaphysics. Discussion questions are due Monday.

If you'd like, do the discussion questions on van Inwagen also. And re-read Kane Ch. 3.

Start thinking about papers. I have much more to say about that, but the best plan is to do a "critical paper" on some article/chapter/ selection on some topic of interest. One ideal plan would be to find something by one of the authors discussed by Kane and critique their arguments/position. 3000 words, and you should consider submitting your paper to the local undergraduate philosophy conference in the spring. More later.

Another plan, of course, would be the same kind of thing on ANY of the topics we have covered (or will cover). I suspect arguments related to God's existence are another more accessible topic; some of the other topics are less easy to get into, I suspect.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For Friday, re-read the Sider chapter.
And please read Chapter 1 of the Kane book. We are going to do a free will blowout. If you don't have the book, I put copies of the chapter in my box in my office.

Tomorrow there's a good talk at Emory:
10/25/07

"One Person Doesn't Make a Difference ," Stuart Rachels, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Alabama. 205 White Hall, 4:15pm. William Edwards Lecture

If you are interested in going, let me know.

Start thinking about papers. I have plans so you can do something that will be suitable for submitting to this local conference in Feb.:


SOUTHEAST PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE AT CLAYTON STATE

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS

CLAYTON STATE UNIVERSITY

FEBRUARY 16, 2008

CALL FOR PAPERS

The inaugural meeting of the Southeast Philosophy Conference is scheduled for Saturday, February 16, 2008, at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. Papers in any area are welcome. There will be a $15 registration fee, payable at the conference.

Submissions must not exceed a length of 3000 words, and must include a cover letter stating the paper's title, author's name, university or college, mailing and email addresses, and telephone number. Either email submissions to toddjanke@clayton.edu or send two printed copies to:

Southeast Philosophy Conference

Department of Communicative Arts & Integrative Studies

Clayton State University

Morrow, Georgia 30260

Papers must be received by January 28, 2008. Notification of acceptance will be made via email by February 4, 2008. Papers will be published in a Proceedings of the Conference.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Metaphysics Take-Home Midterm

Due Friday, October 12. 2007 in class (not later in Dr. Nobis’s box, etc.)

Class Monday and Wednesday are optional:

come and discuss the questions and issues of the exam, if you’d like.

NO LATE PAPERS. LATE PAPER = 0

Read the materials on how to write a philosophy paper; see handout or blog.

Construct your answers so that someone who hasn’t read the material, has not ever discussed these issues, and is totally ignorant about them – but is very smart and is a careful and critical thinker – could understand your answers. That is, you must explain everything, give the relevant backstory, and provide everything else so that your reader is able to understand.

Response to all these writing prompts:

  1. Describe two different kinds of logically possible “splitting” cases, i.e., where a persons’s mind and/or body (i.e., brain, typically) are divided. Explain the implications of these kinds of cases for what we should think about the issue of personal identity. In light of these cases, explain Parfit’s proposal that personal identity does not matter; rather, what matters is survival. Thus, explain which (broad) view about the nature of person identity we should accept. Defend your answers from objections.

  1. Fully present and explain the strongest argument that you believe can be given in defense of fatalism (metaphysical or logical, or theological: you need to explain what fatalism is, of course). Explain whether this argument is sound or not and why and, thus, whether anyone should think that any kind of fatalism is true or not. Defend your answers from objections. \

  1. Is time travel logically possible? Explain what time travel is. Explain why one might think that it is logically possible (or, at least, why there is no reason to think that it is not possible) or why it is logically impossible. Explain which theory (or theories) or conception of time on which time travel might be possible. Which theory of time is moral plausible, all things considered, including the question of time travel.

  1. From an intellectual point of view, or a philosophical point of view, should people believe that God exists? To answer this question you must explain and critique at least two arguments for God’s existence (of course, you must also explain what is meant by ‘God’), and think about what role reasons and arguments should play for what people believe.
Anselms' argument, simplified.

He assumes that we (even "fool" atheists) have the concept of God, i.e., the idea of "the being who none greater can be conceived" i.e., thought. (Question: do we have such a concept? Is the concept coherent? Is a being like this possible? Perhaps not: perhaps

Here's the argument, simplified.

1. Either (a) "the being whom none greater can be conceived" exists only as a concept or an idea or (b) "the being whom none greater can be conceived" exists both as a concept and in reality.
2. To exist in reality is greater than to exist only as a concept or an idea. [see Anselm, end of 2nd paragraph, p. 71 of handout; Stairs premise 2, p. 82]
3. If (2) is true and if (a), the claim that "the being whom none greater can be conceived" exists only as a concept or an idea is true, then there exists a being greater than "the being whom none greater can be conceived."
4. But there cannot be a being greater than "the being whom none greater can be conceived," because that's a contraction.
5. So, (a) is not an option.
6. So, (b) "the being whom none greater can be conceived" exists both as a concept and in reality.
7. So, God exists, the being whom none greater can be conceived.

The basic logic:
1. Either A or B.
2. If B is true, then C is true.
3. But C is not true (because C is contradictory)
4. So, not B. (2, 3 Modus Tollens)
5. So, A. (1, 4, Disjunctive Syllogism).

Here's the argument from the Descartes' Fifth Meditation with a modifed translation:
If I can clearly and distinctly think the idea of something, then everything which I clearly and distinctly perceive to belong to that thing really does belong to it. "Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one that I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number. And my understanding that it belongs to his nature that he always exists is no less clear and distinct than is the case when I prove of any shape or number that some property belongs to its nature." (AT 7:65; CSM 2:45).
So here's the argument:
1. If we can clearly and distinctly think the idea of something, then everything which we clearly and distinctly perceive to belong to that thing really does belong to it.
2. We can clearly and distinctly perceive the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being.
3. We can clearly and distinctly perceive that he always exists.
4. Therefore, since (1), (2) and (3) are true, God exists.

Here's an ontological argument commonly attributed to Descartes (but perhaps without textual evidence, since this is a bit different than the argument above?):

1. God is an all-perfect being.
2. An all-perfect being has every perfection (i.e., a great-making quality).
3. Existence is a perfection (i.e., a great-making quality; for something to exist makes it greater than for it not to exist: recall Anselm's "To exist in reality is greater than to exist only as a concept or an idea").

For discussion on Descartes' ontological arguments, see here:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ontological/

Questions:
  • Are there reasons to think that any of the premises in these arguments are false?
  • Are there reasons to think that any of the premises in these arguments assume the conclusion they are supposed to support?
  • What about Gaunilo's objection that Anselm's argument can be used to "show" the existence of any "perfect" thing whatsoever (e.g., the island which none greater can be conceived, the tattoo needle which none greater can be conceived, etc.), and so is faulty? Are they any good?