Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Self - first assignment – Week 3
I. Read James Pryor’s ‘Guidelines on Reading Philosophy’ at
http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/reading.html
II. Read Chapter 2, ‘Self’, in Reading Philosophy, and try to answer the following questions:
1. What is the main claim Descartes attempts to establish in the extract from the second
Meditation?
2. How does Descartes argue for this claim? Describe the stages he goes through in his
reasoning. Make sure you mention only what is relevant to establishing the final
claim, and that you make clear what the relevance is. For any claim you mention,
clarify what Descartes’ basis for accepting it is (if he provides an argument for it,
present the argument; if you think he just assumes it without providing an argument,
say this and try to speculate on what his reason to accept it could have been).
3. Consider each of the stages of Descartes’ reasoning and say whether it seems to you
acceptable. If not, explain what is wrong with it.
Further reading
G. Hatfield, Descartes and the Meditations, pp.99-125. (Ch 4& Ch 8, esp. pp. 237-58)
B. Williams, Descartes: The Project of Pure Inquiry, Ch 3 & Ch 4 pp.102-115.
M. Wilson: Descartes, ch. 2 pp. 50-76, chapter 6 pp. 185-200.
Some general resources:
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online, access via the library’s e-resources)
Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (online)
James Pryor, Philosophical Terms and Methods
http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/vocab/index.html
OED online: http://dictionary.oed.com/entrance.dtl
The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Can be accessed via:
http://www.oxfordreference.com/
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Self – second assignment – Week 4
Read Chapter 2, ‘The Self’, pp.27-40, in Reading Philosophy, and try to answer the
following questions:
1. How does Strawson describe the view he is arguing against.
2. What is Strawson’s main argument against this view? (The main argument would be
the one which Strawson takes to be powerful; that is, it cannot be the argument to
which he admits that the opponent has an acceptable reply).
3. On p. 33 Strawson summarizes the argument in the form of a dilemma. Include in
your answer a general definition of what a dilemma is, and clarify how (if at all)
Strawson’s argument fits this general definition of a dilemma.
4. At the last paragraph on p.33, after summarizing his main argument, Strawson turns
to providing an explanation of what he calls ‘the Cartesians delusion’. How does this
explanation contribute to the point Strawson is trying to make, if at all?
5. Go back to your answer to question 1. Is this the same view as the one Descartes
defends in the extract you read? If not, is there any way in which Strawson’s
argument is relevant to a criticism of the view Descartes tries to establish in the
extract?
6. Sketch an essay plan on the following topic.
Is your belief that you are a material thing (that you occupy space, have mass, etc.)
less certain (that is, more open to doubt) than your belief that you are a thinking
thing (that you are a thing that deliberates, doubts, imagines, etc.)?
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Self - third assignment – Week 5
I. Read James Pryor’s ‘Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper’ at
http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html
II. On the basis of Ch. 2, ‘Self’, write an essay on the following topic.
Is your belief that you are a material thing (that you occupy space, have mass, etc.) less
certain (that is, more open to doubt) than your belief that you are a thinking thing (that you
are a thing that deliberates, doubts, imagines, etc.)?
Your essay should be between 1,500 and 1,800 words long.
The first paragraph of your essay should state the main thesis for which you wish to argue
in the essay.
• The last paragraph of the essay should restate the main thesis, summarise the way in which
you have argued for it, and indicate any outstanding problems.
•
•
If you are reading out your essay in the tutorial, you should also prepare a handout.
The aim of the handout is to help the audience to follow the essay while they are listening. It
should include a clear presentation of the structure of the essay. In particular, it should
include, for each stage, a clear statement of the claim(s) argued for at that stage, and an
outline of the main arguments. It should also include things like definitions that are central to
the essay.
Remember that for a handout to be helpful it shouldn’t be cluttered. Headings, sub-headings
and numbers can be very helpful.
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Identity - second assignment – Week 7
Reading
Williams, B., ‘The Self and its Future’ and ‘commentary on Williams’ in S. Guttenplan, J.
Hornsby, C. Janaway (eds.) Reading philosophy: selected texts with a method for beginners
(Blackwell, 2003), pp.150-171.
Questions
1. How would you summarize in one or two sentences what Williams wishes to show in ‘The
Self and its Future’?
2. Williams speaks about question-begging and non-question-begging descriptions of a
possible situation (or terms used in such a description). What exactly does he mean by this?
3. a. What are the main thought experiments Williams presents in the paper?
b. How does each of them contribute (or supposed to contribute) to establishing the view
you identified in your answer to question 1?
Try to identify aspects of the thought experiments that are central to their making this
contribution. (For example, Williams points out that a difference in perspective plays an
important role - explain what exactly he means by this, and evaluate this claim. Try, in
addition, to think of other important aspects).
c. Try to raise objections to Williams’s use of these thought experiments.
Note that there are two different types of objections you might wish to raise:
(i) objections to the use of thought experiments in general;
(ii) objections which relate to the specific details of a given thought experiment and to
how well it serves Williams aim.
Make sure you try to come up with objection of type (ii). If you also have objection of
type (i), discuss them separately to the type-(ii) ones.
d. How could Williams answer these objections, if at all?
4. Answer the four questions appearing (on grey background) on pp.169-171.
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Identity - third assignment – Week 8
Write an essay on the following question.
Is it possible for persons to change bodies?
Your essay should be between 1,500 and 1,800 words long.
The first paragraph of your essay should state the main thesis for which you wish to
argue in the essay.
• The last paragraph of the essay should restate the main thesis, summarise the way in
which you have argued for it, and indicate any outstanding problems.
•
•
Reading
S. Guttenplan, J. Hornsby, C. Janaway (eds.) Reading philosophy: selected texts with a
method for beginners (Blackwell, 2003), Ch. 6 ‘Identity’.
Mackie J.L., Problems from Locke (OUP, 1976), Ch. 6 sections 1 & 2, pp. 173-189.
Lowe, E.J., Locke on the understanding of human nature (Routledge, 1995), Ch. 5 sections
1&2, pp. 93-108. (Available on-line).
Points to watch for
‘John is not the same person since he took up jogging’, does not make a claim of nonidentity; it was John (one and the same person) who took up jogging. Distinguish between
numerical identity (one thing not two) and qualitative identity (exact similarity).
• ‘What makes x=y?’ is not the same question as ‘How do we know that x=y?’.
•
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Freedom – Week 9
Reading
S. Guttenplan, J. Hornsby, C. Janaway (eds.) Reading philosophy: selected texts with a
method for beginners (Blackwell, 2003), Ch. 7 ‘Freedom’, P. F. Strawson ‘Freedom and
Resentment’ (extract), together with commentary.
Questions
1. What is the question that Strawson seeks to address?
a. How does Strawson characterise the positions he refers to as ‘optimist’ and
‘pessimist’?
b. What is Strawson’s view concerning the dispute between optimists and pessimists?
2. What is Strawson’s answer to the question that he seeks to address?
3. What argument, or arguments, does Strawson offer in favour of his answer?
4. Are Strawson’s arguments compelling?
a. What might an opponent say in response to Strawson?
b. How, if at all, might Strawson respond to the opponent?
5. Construct a detailed essay plan on the following question:
Is determinism compatible with moral responsibility?
Guy Longworth
[email protected]
Doing Philosophy
Freedom – second assignment – Week 10
Write an essay on the following question.
Is determinism compatible with moral responsibility?
Your essay should be between 1,500 and 1,800 words long.
The first paragraph of your essay should state the main thesis for which you wish to
argue in the essay.
• The last paragraph of the essay should restate the main thesis, summarise the way in
which you have argued for it, and indicate any outstanding problems.
•
•
Reading
S. Guttenplan, J. Hornsby, C. Janaway (eds.) Reading philosophy: selected texts with a
method for beginners (Blackwell, 2003), Ch. 7 ‘Freedom’.
A. Eshleman, ‘Moral Responsibility’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009), URL:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-responsibility/
P. Russell, ‘Strawson’s way of naturalizing responsibility’, Ethics (1992), available through
the Library’s journal resources page.
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Doing Philosophy Self - first assignment – Week 3