Philosophy 151:
Paper Assignment


Paper Assignment

ASSIGNMENT: (1) Select a topic. The topic should be some important issue in philosophy relevant to the issues discussed in class, but it is important that your paper not repeat material discussed in class or in the assigned readings. (2) You should read at least two articles or chapters of books, approved by the instructor, on your topic. (3) Both the topics and readings you select must be approved by the instructor no later than 2:30pm Thursday, March 22. (4) Be sure to hand in a copy of the articles you choose with each draft of your paper.

Part A: Present and then critique the view of at least one of the author's of your articles. Do not simply report the views of others, but critically evaluate each view you discuss. The presentation should be self-contained.
Part B: You should present and defend an original argument on the topic you choose. Your original argument should be put in the P1, P2 ... C format as done in text and in class. State whether the argument is inductive or deductive and explain why you think it is valid/invalid & sound/unsound or strong/weak, as appropriate. Then present at least one reason per premise for thinking that each premise in your argument is true. Your should try to make your argument sound or strong. Show that your own view does not fall prey to the same criticisms as the view you discuss in Part A or other likely objections.
Note: Be sure that every part of your paper is a philosophy paper, i.e., a paper which consists of little else besides arguments utilizing careful reasoning for or against clearly defined views.
Complete bibliographic information must be given for every source you use. Cite the source and page number after every sentence you paraphrase from it and after every passage you quote from it. Also, this assignment is to be completed without any assistance from anyone except the instructor.

GRADING: You will write two drafts of the paper. The first draft will be worth a maximum of 100 points and the second will be worth a maximum of 250 points (out of 1,000 points for the semester). Each draft must include both Parts A and B as described above. You should make the first draft of your paper as good as you can. You will be graded on the quality of your arguments, the fulfillment of the assignment requirements and the amount of improvement in the second draft.

FORMAT REQUIREMENTS: Papers must be typed, double-spaced, with ordinary margins and type size and should be approx. 6-7 pages long, although they may be longer. The pages should be numbered and stapled together by a single staple in the upper left hand corner (please do not use any kind of folder or covering).

DUE DATES: Topics and articles must be approved by 2:30pm Thursday, March 22. The first draft is due Thursday, April 3 at the beginning of class and the final draft is due Thursday, April 26, at the beginning of class.

INTERNET RESOURCES: See my page on writing philosophy papers and my page on doing research in philosophy in my How To Survive Your First Philosophy Class pages at These should be extremely helpful to you!

1. Descartes claims one can be certain one is correct when one says "I think, therefore I am". Is he right about that? Or is it possible that one is mistaken?
2. Is Cartesian dualism true? If so, how can the mind/body problem be solved? If not, is there any possibility of life after death?
3. Some contemporary philosophers, most notably Alvin Plantinga, have argued that a modified version of Descartes' ontological argument is sound. Are they correct?
4. Some contemporary philosophers, most notably Harry Frankfurt, have argued that Descartes avoids the Cartesian Circle objection. Are they correct?
5. Inspired by Hume, many early 20th century philosophers defended a verifiability criterion of meaning. How did such philosophers use this criterion? Is one version or another of this criterion ultimately workable?
6. A variety of objections have been raised against Hume's arguments regarding miracles. Does Hume's comparison of testimony argument ultimately work? Does one of his other arguments?
7. In Section VIII of the Enquiry, Hume argues for compatibilism. Is his argument for compatibilism consistent with his account of causation? Is compatibilism correct?
8. Some contemporary philosophers, most notably Nelson Goodman, have argued that Hume's Riddle of Induction can be solved, but that there are other problems with induction. Are they correct about Hume's Riddle? Is there a way to solve the other problem(s) with induction?
9. What, if anything, makes the average person the same person they were a year earlier?