Introduction to Philosophy

Spring, 2012
Curtis Brown


This schedule is tentative and will be filled in and modified as the semester progresses.
If you are consulting a hard copy, be sure to check the online version for changes.

Written assignments are indicated in red and will be added and/or modified as the semester progresses.
Assignments are due at the beginning of the class period on the date indicated.

You are responsible for knowing and understanding the material in the readings regardless of whether it is explicitly discussed in class or not.
The "Review Info" column on the schedule below is intended to be a rough guide to the most important ideas in the readings
that you should be sure you can answer questions about on quizzes or exams.

Date Topic Assignment Review Info

Introductory Material

Wed, Jan 11 Introduction to the course none be able to define, and give examples of issues in, epistemology, metaphysics, and axiology (value theory).
Fri, Jan 13 Deductive Arguments reading: Elliott Sober, Core Questions in Philosophy, Chapter 2: "Deductive Arguments" (on TLEARN)

Post a message to the TLEARN  Introductions forum

know definitions of: argument, deductive argument, validity, soundness. Be able to recognize valid and invalid deductive arguments, and show that an argument is invalid by giving a counterexample.
Mon, Jan 16

No class: Martin Luther King Day

Tues, Jan 17 recommended lecture: Ilyasah Shabazz, "Growing Up X" 7:00 PM, Laurie Auditorium  
Wed, Jan 18 Inductive and Abductive Arguments reading: Elliott Sober, Core Questions in Philosophy, Chapter 3: "Inductive and Abductive Arguments" (on TLEARN) Know definitions of: conditional, antecedent, consequent, converse, contrapositive. Know the basic forms of inductive and abductive arguments, and know the criteria that need to be met for them to be good arguments. Be able to look at an informally described argument, identify which type of argument it is, and determine whether it satisfies the criteria for being a good argument of that type. Be able to define (and apply!) Surprise Principle, Only Game in Town Fallacy.

Metaphysics: Arguments Concerning the Existence of God

Thurs, Jan 19 recommended lecture: Robert Wicks, "Photographic Perception and the Present Sense of the Past: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida " 8:00 PM, Stieren Theater  
Fri, Jan 20

More on arguments; introduction to the first-cause (cosmological) argument

Carefully study one paragraph from Aquinas: the paragraph on p. 41 which begins "The second way is from the nature of efficient cause." Try to figure out exactly what Aquinas's argument is: what is his conclusion? What are his premises? How is the conclusion supposed to follow from the premises? (Note that there is one overall argument, but there are also subsidiary arguments for some of the premises. He packs a lot into one paragraph!)  
Fri, Jan 20 recommended lecture: Robert Wicks, "The Divine Inspiration for Kant's Theory of Beauty" 1:30, Northrup Hall, Room 40  
Mon, Jan 23 Aquinas: the first four ways (our emphasis will be on the "Second Way" (i.e. the first-cause or cosmological argument) Aquinas, selection from Summa Theologiae (Bailey 32-42)
Write out your best interpretation of the structure of Aquinas's main argument in his paragraph on the Second Way. Distinguish between premises and conclusion. Try to make the argument deductively valid, even if you need to add missing premises or rephrase premises.
Be able to explain the structure of the cosmological argument (what are premises, what is conclusion, how is conclusion supposed to follow). Know what Aristotle's "four causes" are and mean: material, formal, efficient, final.
Wed, Jan 25 The Cosmological Argument, continued; the Design Argument No new reading, but reread and think about Aquinas's paragraphs on the Second Way and the Fifth Way. Be able to explain and critically assess the main criticisms of the cosmological argument. Be able to explain the structure of the argument from design. Contrast Aquinas's version with the argument as an abductive argument.
Fri, Jan 27 The Design Argument, continued reading from William Paley (on TLEARN)  
Mon, Jan 30 The Ontological Argument Anselm and Guanilo (Bailey, 15-32)
Write out your best interpretation of the structure of Anselm's main argument on p.22. Distinguish between premises and conclusion. Try to make the argument deductively valid, even if you need to add missing premises or rephrase premises.
Be able to explain the structure of the ontological argument. What is Anselm's distinction between "existing in the mind" and "existing in reality"? What is Guanilo's "Lost Island" objection? What does it mean to say that God is "something than which nothing greater can be thought"?
Mon, Jan 30 recommended lecture: Thomas Cech, "RNA Enzymes and the Origins of Life” 7:30 PM, Laurie Auditorium  
Wed, Feb 1 The Problem of Evil Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence," Bailey 95-105 Be able to explain the structure of the problem of evil. Understand the main attempts to reconcile religious belief with the existence of evil, and how Mackie responds to them.
Fri, Feb 3 Faith and Reason no new reading and nothing to turn in.
Please think about the following questions: (1) Are there things that science can't explain? (2) If so, can religion fill the gaps? (3)Can religious claims have empirical implications? Can scientific claims have religious implications? (4) What is the relation between faith and reason? Is it OK to believe things that there is no rational reason to believe or disbelieve? How about things that there is positive rational reason to disbelieve?
Mon, Feb 6 Discussion of paper; transition to epistemological issues no new reading  


Wed, Feb 8 Descartes: Meditation 1 (and introductory material) Bailey 135-146 foundations metaphor; sceptical arguments: fallibility of the senses, dreaming argument, evil genius argument
Fri, Feb 10

Descartes: Meditation 2

Bailey 146-150 be able to explain why Descartes thinks knowledge of one's own existence passes the skeptical test; cogito ergo sum; Descartes' analysis of what he can be certain of with regard to his own nature; the piece of was as an argument that our clearest ideas of material substances do not come from the senses or the imagination
Mon, Feb 13 class canceled due to power outage    
Wed, Feb 15 Descartes: Meditation 3 Bailey 150-157 clear and distinct ideas; formal vs. objective reality; substances vs. modes; be able to explain D's first argument for God's existence (the argument that God must exist to explain my possession of the idea of God)
Fri, Feb 17

review for first exam

note: exam rescheduled due to the canceled class on Monday Feb 13  
Mon, Feb 20


Wed, Feb 22 Descartes: Meditation 4 Bailey 157-161 problem of error: how can I ever be wrong?; relation between the understanding and the will; How D uses this distinction to reply to the problem of error; comparison between problem of error and problem of evil
Fri, Feb 24 Descartes: Meditation 5 Bailey 161-164 essence vs. existence; what the essence of material objects is; D's version of the ontological argument; Cartesian Circle and D's reply
Mon, Feb 27 Descartes: Meditation 6 Bailey 164-172 imagination vs. intellection (= conception); arguments for mind-body dualism: (1) from distinct essences of mind and body (167); (2) from divisibility (170); argument for the existence of material things (167-168); how to avoid error by using multiple senses and memory and by understanding causes of error (171); final response to dreaming argument (171)
Wed, Feb 29 Wrap-up day on the Meditations no new reading (in class I said we'd start reading Locke, but on reflection I think we should take a day to finish up some issues about Descartes and get an overview of his position) Some key themes in Descartes: (1) mind-body dualism; (2) free will; (3) religion & science as having separate domains; (4) skepticism; (5) rationalism; (6) subjective/objective
Fri, Mar 2 an empiricist approach to knowledge: John Locke: Editorial material and "Some Farther Considerations Concerning Our Simple Ideas" Bailey 172-183  
Mon, Mar 5 Locke, continued: "Of Our Complex Ideas of Substances" and "Of Our Knowledge of the Existence of Other Things" Bailey 183-189

Writing Assignment for Monday: As you know from the reading and from Friday's class, Locke thinks that there is an important distinction between primary and secondary qualities. He thinks that secondary qualities "are nothing in the objects themselves, but powers to produce sensations in us" (p. 180, section 10). (The primary qualities, apparently, are not merely "powers.") Relatedly, he thinks that the ideas of primary qualities "resemble" the qualities themselves, while ideas of secondary qualities do not (p. 180, section 15). Why does he think there are these differences? There are at least three different but related lines of thought on pp. 180-182. (1) An analogy between warmth (and other secondary qualities) and pain. Fire causes sensations of warmth and sensations of pain in us. We don't think that the pain is in the fire. So why should we think the warmth is? See sections 16-17. (2) Locke seems to suggest that if you change the conditions of observation, the secondary qualities change or disappear, whereas the primary qualities do not. See sections 18-19. (3) Locke has an argument that because the same water can feel cold to one hand and warm to the other, the coolness and warmth cannot be in the water (section 21). Please take any one of these three arguments and write a short (1-2 page) assessment of it. Interpret Locke's argument as clearly and carefully as you can. Then try to think of at least one criticism of the argument, and assess whether you think Locke could or could not reply convincingly to the criticism.

Some reading questions on today's reading:

1. Why does Locke think that we have only an "obscure and relative" idea of substance (argued for in section 2; the phrase is from the beginning of section 3)?

2. Would Descartes agree with Locke about the idea of substance? Why or why not?

The second section (pp 185-189) concerns what we can (and can't) know, in Locke's view.

One of Locke's main points is that we can know on the basis of experience that objects we currently appear to be sensing actually exist.

3. What are his four main reasons for this (pp. 186-7, sections 4-7)? Do they suffice to overcome the kinds of skeptical doubts Descartes offered in Meditation One?

4. After those four arguments, Locke offers a final response to arguments like Descartes's dreaming argument (p. 187, section 8). Note how similar it is to a point that some students raised in class last Wednesday! Is it convincing?

5. Although Locke thinks we can know some things, he also thinks that the scope of our knowledge is quite limited. What are those limits, and is he correct about them? (p. 189, Sections 11-12.)

Wed, Mar 7 Berkeley, "Three Dialogues" (first dialogue) Bailey 190-215 notes and reading questions
Fri, Mar 9 Defining Knowledge: Gettier Bailey 263-268  
Mar 10 - 18

No Class: Spring Break

Metaphysics: The Mind-Body Problem

Mon, Mar 19 Dualism Short Writing Assignment:
(which you probably remember from Descartes's defense of it) is the view that mental states and properties are states and properties of a nonphysical substance distinct from the physical body. Physicalism is the view that mental states and properties are states and properties of a biological organism, not of a nonphysical substance. Write out one argument either for dualism (and against physicalism), or for physicalism (and against dualism). It's not essential that you agree with the argument you present, but it should be an argument that you think is worth taking seriously.
no reading assignment
Wed, Mar 21 more on dualism Paul Churchland, "Dualism," from Matter and Consciousness (on TLEARN)
substance dualism vs. property dualism; dualist interactionism, epiphenomenalism, and parallelism; arguments for dualism and criticisms of dualism
Fri, Mar 23 Behaviorism paper proposal due!
Paul Churchland, "Philosophical Behaviorism," from Matter and Consciousness (on TLEARN)
philosophical vs. methodological behaviorism; arguments for and against behaviorism
Mon, Mar 26

review for exam

no new reading  
Wed, Mar 28


Fri, Mar 30 The Identity Theory Paul Churchland, "Reductive Materialism (the Identity Theory)," from Matter and Consciousness (on TLEARN) arguments for and against the identity theory
Mon, April 2 identity theory, continued no new reading be familiar with: distinction between phenomenal and intentional states and properties; examples of mental states with different combinations of the two; problem of "species chauvinism" for the identity theory
Wed, April 4 Functionalism Paul Churchland, "Functionalism," from Matter and Consciousness (on TLEARN) terms to be familiar with: type vs. token; type-type identity theory vs. token-token identity theory; multiple realizability; functional state; functionalism
Fri, April 6

No Class: Good Friday

Mon, April 9 Artificial Intelligence John R. Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Programs," Bailey 455-473 strong vs. weak AI; Chinese Room Argument; Systems Reply, Robot Reply
Wed, April 11 Problems for Materialism? Nagel, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?" Bailey 493-505  

Metaphysics: Free Will and Determinism

Fri, April 13 Freedom and Determinism I
[note: actually, today will be a catch-up day. We will finish discussing Searle, and also discuss Nagel. Time permitting, I will also introduce the free will issue.]
Paul Ree, "The Illusion of Free Will," Bailey 527-542
note: I am demoting the Paul Ree reading from required to suggested.
Mon, April 16 Freedom and Determinism II  A. J. Ayer, "Freedom and Necessity," Bailey 556-563 determinism, indeterminism, hard determinism, soft determinism, compatibilism, incompatibilism


Wed, April 18


Mill, "Utilitarianism," Chapter 2, Bailey 683-695
final paper due
consequentialism, ethical egoism, utilitarianism, hedonistic vs. preferential utilitarianism
Fri, April 20 Utilitarianism, continued no new reading criticisms of utilitarianism: promises, relationships, problem of dirty hands; act vs. rule utilitarianism
Mon, April 23 Kantianism Kant, Groundwork, Bailey 657 (start with last paragraph) - 670 hypothetical vs. categorical imperatives; universal law formulation of the categorical imperative; maxim; ends-in-themselves formulation of the categorical imperative
Wed, April 25 Kantianism, continued    
Fri, April 27 review for final exam; class evaluations
note: this class session will be in Library 103, not in our usual classroom
Friday, May 4



Last update: April 20, 2012.
Curtis Brown  |  Introduction to Philosophy  |  Philosophy Department  |  Trinity University