Some initial suggestions for discussion on April 2:

I. Choose a philosophical question that has "life" beyond academic philosophy, that may have implications for public policy. Write an essay, advocacy piece, a dialogue… a philosophical work that explores at least two incompatible answers to the question and that addresses the further question, "So what?":

a. “Are animals conscious?”
b. “Does language determine the way we think?”
c. “Are computers intelligent?” (“The Chinese Room Argument”)
d. “Could computers have feelings?”
e. “Are minds just brains?”
f. “Can reason alone establish that God exists?”
g. “Is common sense the best response to skepticism?”
h. “Are emotions subject to norms?”
i. “Do facts (material things) exist independently of our ‘knowledge’ (perception) of them?”

II. Choose a major essay (or a shorter book) by a 20th c. philosopher. Give this work a close study, present the controversies that surround it, and assess the value of the work and its influence:

a. G.E. Moore, “Refutation of Idealism”
b. J.L Austin,“A Pleas for Excuses” or How to Do Things with Words
c. Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind
d. Gustav Bergmann on “ideal language”
e. John Searle, “Minds, Brains and Programs” [Chinese Room Argument]
f. Hilary Putnam, “The Analytic and the Synthetic”
g. Donald Davidson, “Three Varieties of Knowledge”
h. D. M. Armstrong, A Materialist Theory of Mind
i. Roderick Chisholm, “Is There a Mind-Body Problem?”
j. Nicholas Rescher, “The Ontological Proof Revisted”
k. A. Hazen, “On Gödel’s Ontological Proof”
l. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
m. Annette Baier, “What Emotions are About”
n. Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?”

III. Wittgenstein “sociology of knowledge” group. Wittgenstein’s work has been widely influential and remains so. A group might explore this. This group could examine the “extent and original” of Wittgenstein’s “celebrity” and why his influence seems to have extended far beyond those who read his works. Derek Jarman’s film Wittgenstein reached beyond philosophical circles. Ray Monk’s biography aimed at a wide audience. Novels have played off Wittgenstein’s celebrity: Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernard; Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson…

The Evergreen State College
Last Updated: 06/02/2004