Essay Topics

Essay Instructions

If you haven't read Jim Pryor's advice on writing a philosophy paper before, read it. If you have read it before, read it again.

Important: Do not put your name anywhere on your paper. Do put your student number on the first page.

Your essay must be one to two pages, double-spaced, in 12-point font, with one-inch margins.

The essays are due in class on Tuesday. If there is a reason why you cannot complete your essay by that date, contact the instructor well in advance to make arrangements. If no arrangement is made, late essays may be submitted by email any time up to the beginning of Thursday's class, or in person at the beginning of Thursdays class. Any essay not received by this time will receive a grade of 0%. Late essays are subject to a penalty of 10%.

You may write any of your essays on topics not listed below, but you must discuss your topic with the instructor first.

First Essay Topics - Due Tuesday, May 21
Choose only one

1. Explain and assess Descartes' basis for believing he exists. You may want to consider the following question, but you need not. What, if anything, is the difference between "I think therefore I am" and "I walk therefore I am"?

2. Critically examine Descartes' "dreaming argument." You may want to consider some or all of the following questions, but you need not. Is it indeed the case that all of our experiences might be dreaming experiences? Is such a "deception" possible? Can you tell which state you are in, and does this ability allow one to avoid the sort of skepticism Descartes considers?

Second Essay Topics - Due Tuesday, June 4
Choose only one

1. Explain and assess one of Berkeley's arguments against the existence of primary qualities outside the mind. You must carefully explain Berkeley's argument, and then carefully present an objection to it.

2. Explain and assess Berkeley's response to the objection from unperceived objects.

Third Essay - CANCELLED
In place of the third essay, there was be an in-class test on Tuesday, June 11.

Fourth Essay Topics - Due Thursday, July 4
Note the extended due date. Late essays will NOT be accepted!

Choose only one

1. Explain the "Moore shift". Is it a satisfying or convincing response to skepticism? Why or why not?

2. Explain one of Gettier's counterexamples to the JTB analysis of knowledge. Then provide a plausible amendment to the JTB analysis that avoids your counterexample.

Fifth Essay Topics - Due Tuesday, July 23
Choose only one

1. Develop an account of an "anti-luck" amendment to the JTB analysis. Explain Zagzebski's argument about the inevitability of Gettier cases, and how your "anti-luck" amendment would avoid it.

2. Explain and assess Hume's general argument against belief in miracles.

3. Briefly explain the Reidian and Humean views of testimony, and argue for one over the other.

Sixth Essay - OPTIONAL
Speak with the instructor about your topic if you will be writing a sixth essay.