First Major Paper Assignment
PHIL 303

Most recent alteration: February 18, 2008

Instructor: Jan Garrett

Due date: Wednesday, February 27, 2007, class time.

Semester Points Possible: 36

Length: at least 4.5 pages at 300 words per page, not counting in the total any quoted material, endnotes, bibliography, etc. Please give me an accurate word count (not including the excluded material) in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your paper.

Format: double-spaced (except for longer quotes and individual steps of formally reconstructed arguments), 10-12 point easily read font; paragraphs normally consisting of 7-10 lines.

References and Bibliography: use standard scholarly techniques for endnotes or embedded author-date references and, if needed, bibliography. I should be able to find without difficulty any text or passage you use as evidence for your claims about what is in your written sources, the views of thinkers discussed, etc.

If you consult translations other than those in the Ariew and Watkins Modern Philosophy anthology, please supply a corresponding bibliography entry giving translator, publisher, and publication date.

Subject: Explication of a philosopher's position and the reasoning behind it, on an important philosophical issue (or a couple linked issues). I will also permit a discussion of a debate between two positions.

The topics of the first papers will be limited to themes of Descartes' and Locke's philosophy or the Mind-Body Problem as it emerged from Descartes' Philosophy.

Special Expectations. Papers are expected to do some argument analysis (a real attempt to distinguish conclusions and premises, and where appropriate, intermediate steps) and evaluation of the arguments.

Strong papers will perform some close analysis of particular passages, including argument analysis. You may wish to do some formal reconstruction of parts of the reasoning under discussion. Formal reconstruction can follow its own format and depart from the normal paragraph style of the rest of the paper.

Parts of the texts discussed should be carefully referenced:

Texts in Modern Philosophy (MP) should be referenced in terms of
author, title, Meditation number (for Descartes' Meditations)

author, title, Book, Chapter, and Section Number (for Locke's Essay)

as well as the page and column number in MP, e.g.,
MP 37.1 for page 37, column 1
When you refer to works in MP other than these two, at least be sure to give me the MP page and column references.

You do not need to repeat the author, title, book or Meditation number in a reference if this information was the same as the information in the previous reference.

If you wish to depart somewhat from the topics listed below, please consult with me--it may be allowable. Also, if you let me know what topic you plan to discuss I may be able to suggest additional primary or secondary sources to help you.

Suggested topics:

1. Descartes on the Relative Knowability of Mind and Body. (Do not do this topic if you did your argument analysis on the first of the two options for that assignment.)

2. Descartes on the Cause and Nature of Error. (Do not do this topic if you did your argument analysis on the second of the two options for that assignment.)

3. Descartes' Foundationalist Conception of Knowledge and His Use of Skeptical Arguments (Dream Arguments, Evil Demon, etc.)

4. The role of the idea of God in Descartes' Theory of Knowledge.

5. Descartes' Passions of the Soul as an example of his views on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the use of "final causes" or the purposes of nature in physical and psychological explanation. (You should mine the Meditations for clues regarding Descartes' position on using final causes in explanation of physical phenomena. You can find Descartes' Passions of the Soul here. There may also be a copy in the Library.)

6. Descartes as Anti-Scholastic. (Don't do this unless you have considerable familiarity with Scholastic or Aristotelian Philosophy, esp. Thomas Aquinas.) How does Descartes differ in methods and conclusions from the Scholastics? What are the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches? (Note to those taking courses with Dr. Vos: it is not permissible to submit essentially the same paper in two distinct philosophy courses.)

7. Descartes vs. [choose one: Berkeley, Hobbes, Malebranche] on the Mind-Body Problem.

8. Locke on [one of the following]: the origin of our ideas (refine this topic); the problem of liberty and necessity; the limits of knowledge; faith and reason. (I have put a lecture of mine on the last topic on the website; if you choose this topic, you may use my references to guide yourself to relevant original passages in Locke, but construct your own account based on your own reading of the original.)

I strongly urge you to consult articles from the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (see links on this website), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Reference Section of Library), and other standard references if they are relevant to your topic.

If you have any questions or need elaboration of this assignment, please ask.