PHILOSOPHY 1301 - Introduction to Philosophy

Assignments for Spring Term 2015

San Antonio College

CRN 23147

Link to syllabus
Detailed instructions for response papers
Worksheet for writing response papers
Example Response Part 1
Philosophical Guide to Argument Analysis

SAC Philosophy on facebook
Philosophy info page at San Antonio College

questions? email me: kslinker@alamo.edu

>> This site last updated 05-7-15 <<


January 24
Topic: What is Philosophy? The Major Branches of Philosophy. Logic and Critical Thinking. Logic and Reality.


Readings:
  1. Branches of Philosophy
  2. iLogic. Please review and take the quizzes at the end of each of the following sections:
  3. 1 Disagreements and Arguments
  1. 3.Logical Fallacy of the Week: Attacking the person /ad hominem.   Please note, a logical fallacy is an argument that seems to give good reasons for accepting its conclusion, but for various reasons it does not. In order to become a good reasoner, it is a good ideal to be familiar with some of the most common logical fallacies.
Assignment(s):
Response Paper 1. Part 1. (Due Friday Jan. 30, 11pm)
The Philosopher Credo asserts: Logic, and its applications  have accomplished more than any single intellectual tool for the advancement of human knowledge and well-being, hence it deserves a place in all High School Curriculums as a mandatory subject, and should be the basis for all decisions, not only in regards to scientific knowledge and gaining insights to nature, but as the source for moral decisions and religious ones as well! Those who argue contrary to this view are people of little or no education - probably because they believe education is evil or they always got bad grades, which is an indication that they are stupid, hence their views can be safely ignored.

Do you agree or disagree with Credo's assertion?  Make sure you argue for your position by providing reasons and paradigm examples that support your conclusions.

Your email answers should be sent to me by Friday Jan 30, 11pm. Credit will not be given for email responses after then.


January 31
Topic: Knowledge and Skepticism. Rationalism.

Readings:
Rene Descartes Meditation 1 (this link takes you to a Modern English version of our reading, the assignment is to read just Meditation 1, not all 6 Meditations)

Rationalism (just read up to History of Rationalism)

Skepticism (just read the introductory paragraph)

Logical fallacy of the week: Appeal to the people / ad populum


In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class.

Assignment(s):

Response Paper 1. Part 2.
Click here for chosen essays

Response Paper 2. Part 1.
The Philosopher Credo asserts: Knowledge is subjective, every one believes that! Here's why:  One person says they "know x  to be true" but someone else says they "know y to be true", when x and y can't both be true at the same time. For example, one doctor in Arizona says says he knows vaccinations are bad for children, whereas other doctors say this is completely false. This is just one example of countless many more, hence knowledge does not really exist, or to be more precise, one must be skeptical of all knowledge, since complete justification is impossible. To support this view even further, I assert that Descartes got it right when he imagined the evil demon hypothesis. As far as we know, there is such a being (or something similar) which causes us to perceive a world which is complete fabrication. Suppose one were to try to do an experiment to show this is not so, but the experimental results could be manipulated by the evil demon (to make you believe anything), hence all justification for knowledge falls short as soon as we consider the possibility of an evil demon (or something similar) existing.

Do you agree or disagree with Credo's assertion?  Make sure you argue for your position by providing reasons and paradigm examples that support your conclusions.

Your email answers should be sent to me by Friday Feb. 6, 11pm. Credit will not be given for email responses after then.

February 7
Topic: Empiricism. The tension between empiricism and rationalism.

Readings:
David Hume, Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Section 2, The Origin of Ideas. (This is a Modern English translation, please ignore the parts marked through in red, and recall this was written long before slavery was abolished or before people became culturally sensitive, hence the odd and clearly wrong comment about Negros and Laplanders)

Empiricism versus Rationalism

Logical Fallacy of the Week: The false dilemma/black - white thinking/ all or nothing
In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class

Assignment(s)
:

Response Paper 2. Part 2
Click here for chosen papers. 

Response Paper 3. Part 1. 
The Philosopher Credo asserts: The old saying that states that to understand someone you must walk in their shoes is true in Philosophy as well. You can't know something unless you have experienced it first or have learned from someone else who has experienced it. For example, to experience Angel Falls in Venezuela is very different than reading a travel brochure about it or seeing countless pictures, and you don't need to experience things like being terribly burned to know it will hurt, since others who have been terribly burned have reported this, and you can use the mental operation of augmentation to imagine a small burn over your entire body.  In this respect, Hume and the empiricists are  right, direct experience gives us knowledge, and from that direct experience we can form new ideas by putting the basic ingredients of different experiences together to form ideas of things which can't be experienced (like a mountain made of pure gold). One implication of this view is that the future can not be experienced (for when it is experienced, it becomes the present, and then slips into the past), so we can't know anything about the future, we can only state probabilities based on an assumption that the future will continue to resemble the past. Clearly either the future will resemble the past or it will be chaotic, the implications of Hume's philosophy tells us we can't know which it will be!


Do you agree or disagree with Credo's assertion?  Make sure you argue for your position by providing reasons and paradigm examples that support your conclusions.

Your email answers should be sent to me by Friday Feb. 13, 11pm. Credit will not be given for email responses after then.

February 14
Topic: Cartesian Dualism. The nature of consciousness
Readings:
Rene Descartes Meditation 2 (this link takes you to a Modern English version of our reading, the assignment is to read just Meditation 2, not all 6 Meditations)

The Mind-Body Problem  (Read as much as you want, but the assigned reading is: The Mind-Body Problem,  Mind-Body Dualism, General Objections to Dualism)

Logical fallacy of the week: Complex cause


In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class.

Assignment(s):

Response Paper 3. Part 2.
Click here for chosen responses.

Response Paper 4. Part 1.
The Philosopher Credo asserts: Consciousness (what we experience mentally) is not the same as brain functions. To see this, the Philosopher David Chalmers gave the following thought experiment:
 Imagine a world of beings (he calls them zombies, but that is a misleading term) who are identical to us in every way except one; they act like us, they speak like us, do what we do, look like us, and in all outward or testable respects behave just like we humans - except there is one difference, they don't really experience anything mentally. When they point to the sky and say, "see that dark cloud, it looks like it is going to storm", they make the motions, speak the words, express anxiety over an upcoming storm by sweating and acting afraid, but inside they see nothing, feel nothing, experience nothing.
Since such beings are conceivable (which means their existence entails no logical contradiction), this shows that our actions and what we do and the functions of the brain are separable from mental experience. This means mind is ontologically distinct from body (where ontologically distinct means different in its essential nature or being). To further support this conclusion, we know that mental experiences are not caused by electrical stimulation in the brain, since brain surgeons probe patient's brains with electrodes to evoke experiences all the time, and many times the electrical stimulation does not produce any experience in the person at all, hence the brain is not the same as the mind.

Your email answers should be sent to me by Friday Feb. 20, 11pm. Credit will not be given for email responses after then.


February 21
Topic: Monism in the form of materialism.

Readings:
The form of monism that we will examine today is the view that the ultimate nature of all things is material, in the sense of atoms (or the more modern view, particles and forces). Explanations of all phenomena ultimately can be reduced to some aspects of these material entities. For example, when we are thirsty, many times we drink water (sometimes because we prefer it, and chose to drink water rather than juice or soda). But water is really made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, the hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, the former two made up of quarks, etc. This division of particles eventually comes to an end, meaning there comes a point where the particles can no longer be said to be made up of other things, they are indivisible or atomos in Greek. At this point we say the resulting particles are fundamental. The view goes further than the make up of things which we already consider to be physical. The thirst we feel "in our minds" is also the result of causal interactions of complex brain processes - as the brain is organic, e.g. made of matter, hence ultimately "thirst" can be seen as the result of material interactions, in some versions, "thirst" is identical to these material interactions of the brain. The argument is extended even further, our preference for "water" and even our choice to drink water can be reduced to what is going on in the brain, which is again something made of material in the modern sense of the word. Compare this view to Mind-Body dualism from last week's reading. 

The Mind-Body Problem  (Read as much as you want, but the assigned reading is: Arguing for Materialism)

BBC Brain Story: The Mind's Eye (this is a 55 minute video  - we will watch this in class if we have time, otherwise please watch it. It is extremely fascinating)

Logical fallacy of the week: from ignorance / ad ignorantium


In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class.

Assignment(s):
Response Paper 4. Part 2.
Click here for chosen papers

Response Paper 5. Part 1.

This week you get to be Credo and argue for or against monism in the form of materialism. You need to purposely include some form of the argument from ignorance fallacy in your argument (underlined, so I can clearly see which part you intend to be the argument from ignorance). Other than the purposeful use of a fallacy, your argument should be sincere and try to convince others of your conclusion (for or against) monism in the form of materialism. Good papers will correctly and briefly summarize the claims of monism in the form of materialism (take class notes for this or refer to the definition given on our class webpage). After a brief summary, you should then present which part you will argue for or against.

 

If you have questions, or need help or advice, just email me. 

Hint: The argument from ignorance fallacy states that "X is true, because it has not been proven false", or "X is false, because it has not been proven true".

Your email answers or Canvas answers should be submitted before Feb. 28, noon. 


February 28
Topic: Determinism versus Free Will

Readings:
Determinism and the Problem of Free Will

Logical fallacy of the week: begging the question


In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class.

Assignment(s):
Response Paper 5. Part 2.
Click here for chosen answers

Response Paper 6. Part 1. The Philosopher Credo argues: Determinism is the view that all events are the necessary results of some prior causal law. This is clearly seen when the causal interactions are simple. Consider what happens when you drop something, or toss a baseball straight up into the air. The dropped thing must fall (if gravity is present) and the baseball must also eventually stop going up, slow down, reverse direction and come down. There is no difference when the causal laws are more complicated. Consider, for example, the game of Plinko played on the Price is Right. The series of bounces of the disc are too complicated for us to predict the final outcome, but that does not mean that at each bounce the disc must go where it goes. Hence, if we are purely physical beings, then we are also tied to the necessary laws that govern the universe. Free will (the view that we have a choice whether to do x or y), is the result of our inability to know the certain outcome because the interactions are too many and too complicated, In the end, free will turns out to be an illusion. This should come as no surprise. The earth appears to be flat, but upon examination it is spherical. The sun appears to move around a stationary earth, but upon a closer examination it is the earth that is turning on its axis. If these beliefs, which were once thought to be beyond reproach, turned out to be false, why not free will? So to recap, since nothing is outside the necessary laws of physics, then determinism is true.

Your email answers or Canvas answers should be submitted before March. 7, noon. 


March 7
Topic: Metaphysical Idealism

Readings:

The Principles of Human Knowledge (paragraphs 1 - 10) by G. Berkeley (Early Modern Translation)

Idealism (Read Introduction and Subjective Idealism)

Logical fallacy of the week: Non-Support (or more commonly, Biased sample)
In class quiz: There will be a quiz on the above readings at the beginning of class. In particular, for The Principles of Human Knowledge be prepared to know what is meant by Berkeley by the words, "mind", "soul", "myself" or "soul".

Response Paper 6. Part 2.
Click here for chosen answer(s).

Response Paper 7. Part 1. The Philosopher Credo asserts: Everything that exists is perceived by the mind. My argument for this view is simple, simply name something that does exist outside the mind! You can't - since the very act of "thinking it up" creates it in your mind, hence defeating your attempt to name something that exists outside the mind. NOTE: The logical fallacy of the week is not contained in this week's argument from Credo.


Your email answers or Canvas answers should be submitted before March. 21,  noon.

March 14 - Spring Break



March 21
Topic: Arguments for the Existence of God, part 1.
Readings:

Saint Anselm's Ontological Argument for the existence of God (1033 - 1109)
Thomas Aquinas' The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God (1224 - 1274)
William Paley's The Teleological Argument for the existence of God (1743 - 1805)

In class quiz: This quiz contains questions related to the concept of Validity and Invalidity as found in Guide to Argument Analysis, PLUS one applied fallacy question as explained below.

Listen to the following portion of the podcast from Radio Lab on Diagnosis (start the audio at 45:35, where one commentator says, "I want to tell you a story of just how wrong people can be").
Listen to the end of that segment (it is on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the Thymus, and the beginning of autopsies).
Be prepared to answer (with details) the following question,  "Which logical fallacy lead to the assumption that an enlarged thymus gland was the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?"
Your answer should:

a) name the fallacy
b) give the defining characteristics of the fallacy
c) justify why this fallacy was behind the false assumption that enlarged thymus glands were responsible for SIDS


The clear answer is one of the logical fallacies we have studied so far.

Response Paper assignments
will be changing. No more individual Response Part 1 papers. We will work on specific assignments in groups in class. This means class attendence will be more important than before.



March 28
Topic: Arguments for/against the Existence of God, part 2.

Readings:
The Problem of Evil (human suffering).  (Introducing the Problem is the required reading, but you may read as much as you like)
Video Assignment:
The Blind Watchmaker

Optional videos:
University of Arizona Public Lectures on Science - Evolution, click on the link entitled,  Biological Evolution, what it is and what it isn't.
PBS - God on Trial (concerns the problem of human suffering)

Logical fallacy of the week: un-testablility (inability to be falsified)


In class quiz: This week's quiz has one question only. What is the fallacy of un-testability and provide an example which is not the same as the ones given in the link and explain why your example is an example of the stated fallacy. So, to be clear: This week's quiz is short answer with two parts (a) define the fallacy (b) give an example different from what is given in the link and explain why your example is an example of the stated fallacy.


April 4 - Easter Holiday

April 11
The problem of human suffering and the teleological argument (continued)

Readings:  No new reading, we will continue our examination of last week's material, but please check your email for your assignment which will aid in group participation.

Logical fallacy of the week: post hoc

In class quiz: This week's quiz has one question only. Define the post hoc fallacy and provide an example which is not the same as the ones given in the link and explain why your example is an example of the stated fallacy.  

April 18
Topic: Ethics 1


Readings:  Please read these three sections taken from the BBC's Introduction to Ethics,What is ethics?, Are ethical statements objectively true?, Are there universal moral rules?

Logical fallacy of the week: slippery-slope

In class quiz: This week's quiz has one question only. Define the fallacy slippery-slope fallacy and provide an example which is not the same as the ones given in the link and explain why your example is an example of the stated fallacy. 

Before class assignment: Please fill out the following form and bring it to class.  Worksheet for group responses-Ethics 1.docx  or Worksheet for group responses-Ethics 1.pdf




April 25
Topic: Ethics 2


Readings:  Please read sections I, II and III from the following: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jbeebe2/relativ.htm

Logical fallacy of the week: straw-man fallacy

In class quiz: No quiz this week. I will spend the normal quiz time giving several examples of the straw man fallacy. You will need to take notes, as this information will be needed to answer questions related to the straw man fallacy given on the final quiz.

Before class assignment: After reading the assigned sections fill out the following worksheet and bring it to class.


May 2
Topic: Ethical Theories

Readings:  I will go over Chapters 1 and 2 of the famous work by J.S. Mill entitled "Utilitarianism"

Logical fallacy of the week: None

In class quiz: No quiz this week.



May 9
Topic: Ethical Theories 2

Readings:  We will discuss ethical theories based on duty rather than consequences and in particular look at an ethical system based on Ross' Rules (see here)


May 16

Final Quiz