Problems of Philosophy Philosophy 1, Fall 2010


Students taking this course will become familiar with problems of philosophy that meet the following criteria. First, studying them gives insight into questions about how to live and our place in the universe. Second, the written material is exceptionally good. Third, the materials and questions are representative of the discipline of philosophy. This last point means that this course serves as an introduction to the discipline of academic philosophy. The first two points mean that the course should be valuable even to those who will pursue other academic interests.

The course emphasizes arguments and writing. Students who successfully complete this course will learn how to construct arguments, how to interpret analytical writing, how to raise objections to arguments, and how to write extended analytical essays of their own.

Class notes

  1. September 1. Singer’s argument :: handout: Singer’s argument
  2. September 6. Singer’s principle :: Singer outline
  3. September 8. Cohen on responsibility :: Cohen outline :: handout: What is Cohen’s argument here?
  4. September 13. Thomson’s argument :: Thomson outline
  5. September 15. Criticisms of Thomson
  6. September 20. Moral realism
  7. September 22. Harman’s moral relativism
  8. September 27. Relativism and tolerance
  9. September 29. Moral subjectivism and moral knowledge
  10. October 4. Descartes on knowledge
  11. October 6. Descartes’s answer to skepticism (updated October 10) :: handout: Descartes’s Third Meditation
  12. October 11. The problem of induction :: handout: Background for Hume
  13. October 13. Defenses of induction
  14. October 20. Cause and correlation :: handout: Necessary Connections
  15. October 25. Miracles part 1 :: handout: Background on Miracles
  16. October 27. Miracles, part 2 :: handout: Rutherford’s incredible event
  17. November 1. A defense of miracles :: handout: Many miracles
  18. November 3. Natural religion :: handout: Natural Religion
  19. November 8. Locke on identity :: handout: Background for Locke
  20. November 10. Locke’s cases
  21. November 17. Williams on body switching :: handout: The Self and the Future
  22. November 22. Are people special? :: handout: Intransitivity and criteria of personal identity
  23. November 29. The combined spectrum
  24. December 1. Death
  25. December 6. Immortality :: handout: Unamuno
  26. December 8. Handout: Goals of the class
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Problems of Philosophy