Evaluation conferences will begin on June 4 and continue through June 10. All will be held in Sem II E 4102.
Please bring your self-evaluation and faculty evaluation to the conference.

Conference Schedule

I. Independent Projects - details

II. Assignments:
You will find all assignments below. The list is organized by the date the assignment is due.

Writing due dates - by seminar group

June 1:

Remaining presentations, in the morning, starting at 9

Wrap-up discussion in the afternoon, starting at 12:30

May 31:

Further presentations at the potluck

May 28:

Project presentations, starting at 10.

May 24-25:

Finish Sellars, "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind"

Essays (group B) and posted comments (group A) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topic:

In sections 48-63, Sellars presents the "Myth of Jones." Rorty, in the introduction, says this Is "...a story which explains why we can be naturalists without being behaviorists..." (p. 6 of the introduction) What's at stake here and how does Sellars' "myth" resolve anything? Give a clear explication of what Sellars is arguing.

May 18:

Read Sellars, "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," sections I - VI, pp.13-64. (You are likely to find Robert Brandom's study guide helpful.)

May 17:

Read Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part II

Essays (group A) and posted comments (group B) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topic:

Choose a passage from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations that has become critically important in your understanding of Wittgenstein’s position on the relationship between language and mind. First, explain what Wittgenstein means in this passage and why this is a central point. Second, contrast Wittgenstein’s position with the views of at least one other thinker we have studied. Third, take a stand on who you think is right, or more nearly right, and why you think so.

If I were choosing a passage right now, it would be:

202. And hence also ‘obeying a rule’ is a practice. And to think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule. Hence it is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’: otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it.

In spelling out the importance of this passage, I would show connections with other things Wittgenstein says about language, thought and meaning. I would spell out some of the respects in which both Descartes and Kant differ from Wittgenstein, and I would argue that Wittgenstein has offered important insight into how language becomes meaningful or, on other occasions, fails to make sense.

(This passage is still available.)

It’s also okay if you prefer to write about Wittgenstein’s “meta-philosophy,” using a parallel approach (passage, comparison, conclusion).

May 17:

Submit a draft of your self-evaluation, one that focuses on what you are learning. What place does this have in your undergraduate career? Make sense, to an outside reader, of your choice to study this particular curriculum.


Read Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part I. (The sooner you get started at this, the better.)

Essays (group B) and posted comments (group A) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Required topic (for purposes of synthesis and review):

Any account of what we know and how we know it must recognize that experience plays a key role. Review – compare and contrast – how the philosophers we have studied conceive what experience is and the role it plays in human knowledge. Support your work with specific citations from our reading.

May 3-4:

Read Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"

Essays (group A) and posted comments (group B) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topic:

When we began these studies, Descartes set us off looking for a “foundation” of knowledge, whether of the empirical or mathematical kind. Without such a foundation, he thought, all knowledge would fall into a heap of unwarranted, questionable opinion.

Some three centuries later, Quine wraps up his meditations in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” with a different metaphor. Instead of being like a building, something that had better rest on a solid foundation, Quine says, “The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual…to the profoundest…is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges.” [section 6, p. 43].

Explore these sharply contrasting metaphors by addressing the following questions:

• Has Quine simply given in to skepticism and the impossibility of human knowledge?

• Can Quine account for our confidence at some given moment that we are not dreaming?

•“Any statement can be held true come what may…” [p. 43] Really? Then why do we ever conclude we’re wrong in any of our beliefs?

•“Physical objects,” he says “… [are] comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer…in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind.” [p. 44] Is he nuts???

Descartes thought his view of knowledge was, in some respects, grounded in common sense. “…I have sometimes found that… [the] senses have played me false, and it is prudent never to trust entirely those who have once deceived us.” (First Meditation) Can you argue that Quine’s metaphorical view of knowledge (or firmly held opinion) also finds support in common sense? Does “so-called knowledge or belief” ever work the way his metaphor suggests?

Overall, make the best case you can for the plausibility of Quine’s “Empiricism without the Dogmas.”

April 26-27:

Read Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic

Essays (group B) and posted comments (group A) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topics:

We’ve read four philosophers, each of whom has offered his own idea about the philosophical enterprise. Ayer says philosophy, properly done, is a matter of the analysis of language, "...the philsophical elucidation of ...language..." (p. 62). What is your understanding of this, and what are the misunderstandings Ayer tries to prevent? Is he right in his critique of earlier philosophers? Do you think it’s for better or worse that he turns from “problems of knowledge” to “problems of statement,” i.e. from mind to language? (Examine examples of his "elucidations" -- of "material things," for example -- and take a stand.) OR

– and this is a good topic only if you haven’t yet read Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” – write a careful exposition and critique of Ayer’s chapter “The A Priori.” (This exercise will nicely prepare you for reading Quine.) OR

If you have a strong reaction to another of Ayer’s chapter, take him on: carry out an exposition and critique.

April 19-20:

Read Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

"Introduction to the Second Edition": B1- B30
" Transcendental Doctrine of Elements: Transcendental Aesthetic": A19/B33 – A49/B73
"Transcendental Logic": A50/B74 – A92/B129 and B130 – B169 *

*These selections, by headings are: " Part II, Transcendental Logic, Introduction, I through IV"; Division I, Book I "Analytic of Concepts, Chapter I (all), Chapter II, Section I"; then "...Chapter II, Section II, Second Edition."

Essays (group A) and posted comments (group B) are due on Monday at 9am (web -x responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topic:

How has the concept of “mind” changed as we’ve moved from Descartes’s thinking substance to Kant’s transcendental unity of apperception? Explore this question both from the standpoint of what the mind is and how the mind functions, behaves or acts. How does this bear on the concept of "self"?

April 12-13:

Read Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Complete your reading by Monday. We will devote Monday's seminars to everything through "The Second Part of the Main Transcendental Question" and Tuesday's to the rest of the book.

Essays (group B) are due on Monday at 10am and posted comments (group A) are due on Wednesday at 9am (responses on Thursday at 5 pm). Suggested topic for both groups:

Kant strives to clear a path through the thickets of “the problem of knowledge” that has the advantages of both rationalism and empiricism yet bypasses the skepticism he finds on both fronts. Complete at least two to the following thoughts, all in reference to Kant’s proposals outlined in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics:

Among the things that Descartes would admire are…
Among the things that Locke would admire are…
Among the things that Descartes would deplore are…
Among the things that Locke would deplore are…

Support you claims with specific passages from what you’ve been reading in the works of these philosophers and make your case clear enough that even an Imperial President couldn’t miss your points.

April 7:

(I've pushed this due date from the 5th to the 7th. Please post your comment or turn in your essay - there will be an envelope on my office door - by 9am). Post on web-x (group B) or submit an essay (group A) on one of the following topics (or...):

Topic 1: Descartes in his first meditation and Locke in his “Epistle to the Reader” and introduction explains why he sets out, as Locke put it, “…to inquire into the original, certainty and extent of human knowledge…” [Locke’s “Introduction,” section 2]. How do these two philosophers compare in their motivations and their methods of carrying out the inquiry?

Topic 2: Descartes in the third meditation makes a survey of “ideas” and how we might hope to arrive at valid conclusions about “extra-mental” reality. Compare Locke’s notion of “ideas” and their “original (origin)” in the first chapters of Book II.

Topic 3: In Book IV, chapter III, Locke speaks “Of the Extent of Human Knowledge.” How does Locke’s view of the scope and limits of human knowledge compare with Descartes’? Does Locke put Descartes’ doubts to rest?

April 6:

Read Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book III “Of Words” Chapters 1-3; Book IV “Of Knowledge and Probability”) chapters 1-2, 3 (sections 1-12), 5. [Added late: Ch. 11 of Book IV]

April 5:

Read Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “The Epistle to the Reader”; “Introduction”; Book I (“Neither Principles nor Ideas are Innate”), chapter 1 or 2*; Book II (“Of Ideas”), chapters 1-2, 8, 11-12, 23 [*The chapter title should be "No Innate Speculative Principles." There may be an inconsistency in the numbering between editions.]

March 29-31:

Explore the program web site

Read “Study Guide: Reading Philosophy Texts” found in Garth Kemerling’s “Philosophy Pages” web-site

March 29-April 2:

Read Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. Begin by reading through all six meditations. We will work through them carefully during the first week.

Exercise: Write a briefing paper on each of Descartes’ Meditations for someone who wants to know what Descartes has said but who does not or will not read the work himself. (Maybe you’re the philosophy coach in the west wing of some Imperial President. Perhaps this guy has to prepare for a meeting with another head of state whose first love is philosophy.)

For each meditation, organize your brief around the questions that Descartes raises and the answers he gives to them.

Your briefing paper for all six meditations is due on Friday, April 2.

Independent Project Assignments:

June 1:

Remaining presentations, in the morning

May 31:

Further presentations at the potluck

May 28:

Project presentations, starting at 10. Turn in your project essay (or other artifact) to Chuck.

May 25:

Distribute your project to two "commentators," who have agreed to read (or otherwise come to know what you have done) your work and raise questions, interest, points of emphasis... in your presentation.

In the "for further discussion" folder on our web-x site, Mike has intitiated a discussion site, "Available people to review..." Use this site to find, announce, keep track of commentators.

May 13:

Posting (due at 9pm) -- Two weeks to go and counting... Refine, revise, sharpen your focus... Let us know how this will be presented, to everyone. Post a summary, an abstract, that will catch the interest of those wondering what you've gotten done. How much time will you need?

May 6:

Posting (due at 9pm) -- You've got three weeks, or so, to wrap this up. What's now at the core of your apple? Let us know what defines the center and what sets the boundaries for what you will present. Pass along links or other references to the most important material you're using. If this seems redundant, just think of this as the next revision.

Tomorrow, we'll do more show and tell, work in small groups again, and make some plans for how to finish up and present what you've done.

April 29:

If you didn't do so last week, please post a question central to your project and a full statement, an outline (complete sentences), or a summary of one answer to this question. Again, the aim os to be persuasive,to convince your audience with strong evidence and sound arguments.

If you took one side of your question last week, take the opposite side this week. Or, if you have revised your question, work with the revision.

Come on Friday prepared to make your case, answer objections and questions…

April 22:

InBy 5 pm please post a question central to your project and a full statement, an outline (complete sentences), or a summary of one answer to this question. Be persuasive: your aim is to convince your audience with strong evidence and sound arguments. Ideally, this answer should be one you oppose, although strategically it might be useful not to reveal your own position.

Come on Friday prepared to make your case, answer objections and questions… We will work in small groups again

April 15:

By 9pm, please post an update on your project. What have you been focusing on, and what do you intend to talk about when we meet on Friday? You should be prepared on Friday to give a clear statement not only about what you've been doing but also about what you been learning.

April 9:

Bring four copies of your project plans to class at 10am. We will work in small groups, reading over what you have written, helping one another clarify what you plan, what you hope to learn, what the point of your work will be.

April 8:

By noon in the "Project - first thoughts" discussion on our web-x site, post what you have figured out about your independent project. In your posting identify the topical question or questions you will address, and if somone shares your interest, direct them to resources you have found that introduce or clarify your question(s). Later in the day, and before Friday, read over the postings of other students.

April 2:



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Last Updated: 06/02/2004