Write a 6-8 page (typed, double-spaced) paper on one of the topics to be listed. Papers are due December 2, at the start of lecture. Successful papers will clearly explain the issues involved and the key argumentative moves made in the readings and/or discussed in class and sections, and will also advance the discussion/argument in significant ways with new considerations or lines of argument of your own.
There will eventually be several (at least 5) topics to choose from. But to get things started, here is the first topic:
1. Explain and critically discuss a) the “social construct” argument for anti-Realism that van Inwagen considers (on pp. 78-79 of Metaphysics) and van Inwagen’s response to that argument and b) the argument that van Inwagen calls a “very strong argument against anti-Realism” (p. 81). At least with respect to these two lines of argument, which position — Realism or anti-Realism — seems to you most defensible? Explain and defend your answer.
2. Explain Descartes’s “dream argument” of Meditation I. What skeptical conclusion is he trying to support, and how does he argue for it? Does this argument depend on claims about various facts about Descartes’s dreaming life – like that Descartes does often dream, that in dreaming he often has very vivid experiences, etc. – or could it proceed just as well on a “bare” possibility that Descartes might be dreaming: a possibility that would have been present even if Descartes had never dreamt? Explain and defend your answer.
3. In Meditation III, Descartes gives an argument for the existence of God whose main premise is that Descartes has an idea of God. Explain that argument. What other premises does Descartes employ to reach his conclusion? Could Descartes use reasoning parallel to this argument to just as well establish the existence of things other than God from the mere fact that he has ideas of these other things, or does the argument apply only to God? Explain. At what point do you think this argument is most vulnerable to criticism? Critically evaluate the argument in light of that criticism.
4. In sections 34-84 of the Principles, Berkeley presents and answers a series of possible objections to his views. Explain one of the objections Berkeley deals with and Berkely’s answer to it. Then evaluate Berkeley’s response. Does he successfully answer the objection, or is there still a problem here that Berkeley has failed to adequately solve? Explain and defend your answer.