Remarks on Papers
- You are encouraged to read
James Pryor’s "Guidelines
on Writing a Philosophy Paper." This
will be useful for those of you with less philosophy experience
(and perhaps even for those with more).
- Also, please
take the time to review the Guidelines on
Plagiarism and Academic Integrity.
- Keep in mind: you
are writing a philosophical essay, not a "research paper." You
expected to look at any texts outside of the required readings. If
you do look
at outside sources,
careful to attribute ideas you have taken from them, even if you are
only paraphrasing and not quoting.
- For each of your two papers,
you are to write a well-argued essay on
one of the given topics (see below for
the two sets of topics – once they are announced). Each paper should
be about 5 pages, double-spaced, 12-point type.
Give papers to your GSI in class, or make other arrangements
ahead of time.
- Writing short analytical philosophy papers is a something of an art.
There is a journal that specializes in such papers (and covers all areas
of contemporary analytic philosophy). That journal is called ANALYSIS.
This is a good place to look for paradigmatic (and usually high quality)
examples of this art form.
- Due Dates:
- First set
(announced below by 09/18/03) due 10/16/03
- Second set
(announced below by 11/13/03) due 12/11/03 (at final)
- Paper topics
- Paper Topics Set
#1 (choose one)
- Describe Austere Nominalism (the strongest rendition of it you
can muster), giving one argument for it (the best one you can think
of). Critically evaluate this argument. If you ultimately find it persuasive,
then defend it against potential objections (the best ones you can
think of); if you don't, criticize it. Your answer
contain some discussion of the issues of simplicity and explanatory
primitives, discussed by Loux in connection with Austere Nominalism.
- What is the relation of exemplification? How must it be restricted
for Metaphysical Realism to have a chance, and why? Is this view
defensible, in your view? Defend your view.
- Describe Bradley's regress. Do you agree with Loux when he suggests
that Bradley's regress is really no more troublesome for the realist
than the Parmenidean regress(es)? Why or why not? What, ultimately,
do you think realists should conclude from Bradley's regress (i.e.,
how should they respond to it), and why?
- Develop and analyze one of the arguments (the one you think
is strongest) adduced by Loux in support of Metaphysical Realism
chapter 1. (That is, select either an instance of the Attribute
the Predication Argument or the Abstract Reference Argument,
depending on which one you think is strongest.) Is this argument
in your opinion? Explain why or why not.
- How does Sellars' metalinguistic nominalism represent an
improvement over Carnap's. What problems are there with Sellars'
according to Loux? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
- Paper Topics Set
#2 (choose one)
- Compare and contrast Lewis' realist, non-actualist Counterpart Theory of de re modality and Plantinga's realist, actualist account of de re modality. In particular, compare and contrast the ways in which each of these accounts reconciles the indiscernibility of identicals with the naive possible world semantics rendition of "Socrates contingently has five fingers on his right hand". Your discussion should cover what you take to be the most important ways in which Lewis and Plantinga disagree about modality generally and de re modality in particular, as well as those objections the each account that you think are most important and worrisome. In the end, which account of de re modality do you think is more plausible, and why?
- Pick your favorite account of concrete particulars (e.g., some version of bundle theory, or substratum theory, or the Aristotelian theory of particulars, etc.), and explain the conception of concrete particulars that it endorses. Your discussion should (at least) include an explanation of where your favorite theory comes down on: (i) the identity of indiscernibles, (ii) whether particulars have any attributes necessarily, (iii) whether particulars are complexes or simples. Also, you should describe what you take to be the most compelling objection to your favorite theory, and explain how you think the objection can (or should) be answered. [If you're really ambitious, you might also want to consider what consequences your favorite theory of particulars has for DE RE modal claims about particulars (e.g., as in question (1)).]
- Describe the realist account of propositions, its motivation, and at least one of its applications (preferably, the application of proposition-realism that you think is most important or compelling). Then, describe your favorite version of nominalism about propositions (e.g., Quine's, or Sellars', or Prior's). Can your favorite nominalistic theory of propositions do the work that the realist theory is supposed to do (in the central application you discussed above)? What's the strongest objection against your favorite nominalistic theory of propositions, and how is it best handled?
- What is the slingshot argument, and how do the Russellian theory of descriptions and facts provide a way to avoid its conclusion? More precisely: briefly outline the slingshot argument (your favorite version of it), and explain what it's key assumptions are. Then, briefly describe Russell's theory of descriptions and facts and show how this Russellian combination can provide us with a way to avoid the undesirable conclusion of the slingshot argument.