Problems of Philosophy

Philosophy 1, Fall 2013

An overview of the course

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.

The class

Class picture


The syllabus (PDF) contains a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments. It also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class.


Assignments will be posted here and on Sakai.

The assignments for this course include:

  1. First paper topics (PDF)
  2. Second paper topics (PDF)
  3. Final exam preview (PDF)

You may want to consult my advice on writing philosophy papers.


The best way for registered students to access the site is through Sakai. The Sakai site has links to everything you see here but it also has announcements and pdf files of the readings. When the term ends, the Sakai site will no longer be published but this site will still be here.

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. My email address and office phone number are available from the Pomona College directory: select Faculty/Staff and enter my name.

My home page has links to websites for my other courses.

Michael Green


  1. September 3. Singer’s drowning child :: Singer’s argument (handout, PDF)
  2. September 5. Singer’s principle :: Singer outline :: Alternative principles (handout, PDF)
  3. September 10. Cohen on responsibility :: Cohen outline :: Cohen on responsibility (handout, PDF)
  4. September 12. Thomson’s argument :: Thomson outline
  5. September 17. Criticisms of Thomson
  6. September 19. Plato’s moral realism
  7. September 24. Moral relativism
  8. September 26. Relativism and tolerance
  9. October 1. Relativism and tolerance 2 :: Reactions to unfamiliar behavior (handout, PDF)
  10. October 3. Descartes on knowledge
  11. October 8. Descartes’s answer to skepticism :: Criticisms of Descartes (handout, PDF)
  12. October 10. The problem of induction
  13. October 15. Defenses of induction
  14. October 17. Cause and correlation :: Hume and the Image of God (handout, PDF)
  15. October 15. Fall break
  16. October 24. Miracles part 1 :: The Hazard of Being Saved in the Church of Rome (handout, PDF)
  17. October 29. Miracles part 2 :: Outline of Hume on miracles :: Rutherford’s incredible event (handout, PDF)
  18. October 31. Lewis on Miracles
  19. November 5. Natural Religion :: Natural Religion (handout, PDF)
  20. November 7. Identity
  21. November 12. Person, Man, and Substance :: Outline of Locke on Personal Identity
  22. November 14. Body Switching?
  23. November 19. Are People Special? :: The Ship of Theseus (handout, PDF)
  24. November 21. The Branch-line Case
  25. November 26. The Combined Spectrum
  26. December 3. Is Death Bad?
  27. December 5. Immortality :: Unamuno (handout, PDF)