Paradoxes & Skepticism:

Syllabus: Paradoxes & Skepticism

How To Contact Professor Korcz:
My office is in H. L. Griffin Hall, rm. 563. My office hours are MW 12:00 – 1:00 and 2:15 - 4:15, Th 12:00 – 3:00, and F 12:00 – 1:00. We can also meet at other times by arrangement - just ask. The best way to contact me (or ask questions) is by e-mail at My office phone number is 482-6806.

Required Texts:
1. R. M. Sainsbury, Paradoxes, Third Ed., (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

2. Sextus Empiricus, Selections From The Major Writings on Scepticism, Man and God, ed. by Philip P. Hallie, (Hackett, 1985).

3. Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Third Edition, tr. by Donald A. Cress, (Hackett, 1993).

4. Course Pack

The course pack is available via Moodle.



There will be two exams, each worth 20% of your course grade, and a cumulative final exam worth 25% of your course grade. The in-class exams will consist primarily of short answer and multiple-choice questions. However, all make-up exams will be primarily short-answer. The exams will cover both lectures and assigned readings (material in lectures and assigned readings will not always overlap). All exams are closed book/closed note.

Paper Assignment:

The paper will be 10-12 pages long and completed in two drafts, the first draft being worth 10% of your course grade and the final draft being worth 25% of your course grade. Each draft will consist of two parts. The first part will consist of a critique of an instructor-approved, published article on your topic. For the second part, you will present and defend an original argument on your topic. Complete information about the paper assignment, suggested topics, etc., will be provided later on a separate handout.


The course grades will initially be determined according to the standard scale, i.e., 90-100% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 60-69% = D, 59% and below = F, and then may be modified as follows:  Course grades might be curved, but, if so, the curve would not be such that any student's grade is lowered. Such factors as improvement over the length of the course, class participation, etc., may be taken into consideration, especially where doing so may improve a borderline grade. You must complete all course assignments (including all exams and both drafts of the paper) to receive a passing grade (i.e., a grade other than F, NC or U).

Class Policies:

If you miss class, for whatever reason, it is your responsibility to get class notes from another student. Missed assignments can be made up, and absences excused, only if an appropriate excuse, e.g., illness requiring medical attention, participation in certain university-sponsored events, dangerous weather, etc., is provided. If you miss an assignment due date, you must notify me within one week of either the due date or the cessation of a medically documented persistent vegetative state in order to make up the assignment. An unexcused late assignment will be dropped 2/3 of a letter grade per day it is late. For every five unexcused absences or partial absences, your course grade will be dropped by a letter grade. Finally, be sure you are familiar with all university policies described in the UL Lafayette Undergraduate Bulletin and Code of Student Conduct. All assignments for this class must be completed individually, and any instance of academic dishonesty on any assignment will be sufficient to fail the course.

Disability Accommodations:

Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first be registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) to verify the disability and to establish eligibility for accommodations. Students may call 337-482-5252 or visit the ODS office in the Conference Center/Agnes Edwards Hall, room 126. Once registered, students should then schedule an appointment with the professor to make appropriate arrangements.

Internet Resources:

The course home page ( contains links to useful sites regarding the subject matter of the course, study aids, the on-line syllabus, and other resources. A Moodle page will also be activated for this course.
You are also encouraged to visit my home page, which contains a link to the home page for this class as well as hundreds of organized links to research and philosophy oriented web sites and a section on how to survive your first philosophy course, among other things, that you may find interesting and useful. The address for my home page is

Emergency Evacuation Procedures:

A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and the Designated Rescue Area. This is an area where emergency service personnel will go first to look for individuals who need assistance in exiting the building. Students who may need assistance should identify themselves to the teaching faculty.


Assignment due dates, topics, readings and procedures are tentative and may change at the discretion of the instructor. You should complete each of the readings before they are discussed in class. Some of the readings are difficult, and you may find that you need to re-read them after they have been discussed in class in order to fully understand them.

P = Paradoxes        CP = Course Packet (available via Moodle)         DES = Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy
SE = Selections from the Major Writings on Scepticism, Man and God

Topic 1. The Ancient Paradoxes (5th - 4th Century BCE)

a. Paradoxes: An Overview

Monday, Jan. 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - No Classes.

b. Zeno's Paradoxes (P: Chapter 1).
c. Epicurus & The Paradox of Death (CP: “Letter to Menoeceus” by Epicurus, “Death is Not to be Feared” by Lucretius).
d. The Sorites (P: chapter 3)
e. The Ship of Theseus (CP: “Identity Through Time” by Roderick Chisholm).

Topic 2. Early Skepticism (4th Century BCE - 2nd Century CE)

a. Overview (SE: Introduction).
b. Pyrrho & Timon (CP: "Selections from Lives of Eminent Philosophers" by Diogenes Laertius).
c. The Academics (CP: "Selections from Academica" by Cicero).
d. Sextus Empiricus (SE: p. 29-128).

Monday, Feb. 12 -  Wednesday, Feb. 14 – Mardi Gras - No Classes.


Topic 3. Skepticism and the Modern Era (16th Century CE - 18th Century CE)

a. The Enlightenment Revival (CP: "Man Can Have No Knowledge" by Michel De Montaigne).
b. A Rationalist Response (CP: "Skepticism, Morality and The Matrix" by Gerald Erion and Barry Smith; DES: "Meditations I - III" by Rene Descartes).

Monday, March 12– Advising for FA18 begins.


c. An Empiricist Response (CP: "Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion" and “Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy” by David Hume).

Topic 4. Recent Reactions to Skeptical Arguments

a. The Commonsense Thread (CP: "Hume's Theory Examined" by G. E. Moore).
b. Various Internalist Responses (CP: “Skepticism and Justification” by Richard Fumerton).
c. Contextualism (CP: “Ascriber Contextualism” by Stewart Cohen).


Friday, March 30 Sunday, April 8 – Spring Break - No Classes.

Topic 5. Some Paradoxes of Contemporary Interest

a. A Paradox About Inference (CP: “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” by Lewis Carroll).
b. The Problem of Induction (CP: “The New Riddle of Induction” by Nelson Goodman).
c. Russell’s Paradox (P: Chapter 6, Section 6.1).
d. The Liar Paradox (P: Chapter 6, Sections 6.2 – 6.8).
e. The Problem of the Criterion (CP: "The Problem of the Criterion" by Roderick Chisholm).
f. Personal Identity (CP: “Of Identity and Diversity” by John Locke, “Of Identity” and “Of Mr. Locke’s Account of Our Personal Identity” by Thomas Reid, “Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons” by Derek Parfit, “Brain-bisection and the Unity of Consciousness” by Thomas Nagel).


Some Helpful Tips:

1. On class evaluations, students often state that they would tell friends planning to take this class that good class attendance and good class notes are essential to doing well on the exams.
2. Keep up with the readings - they further explain and help you to remember test material.
3. If you're having trouble understanding course material, do not hesitate to discuss it with the instructor!

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