Write a 6-10 page (typed, double-spaced) paper on one of the following topics. Papers are due November 29, 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.
The old topics for the first paper are also available as options (topics 1-4) for the second paper, but to ensure that your two papers for the course cover sufficiently different subjects, you cannot write on either topic 1 or topic 2 if your first paper was on one of those two topics, and you cannot write on topic 3 or 4 if your first paper was on one of those two topics. If you wish to write your second paper on one of the old topics that are still available to you, then submit to your TF, well in advance, a note such as the following: “I wish to write my second paper on topic 2. My first paper was on topic 3.” Bring along your first paper to verify the topic it was on, and the new proposal should be approved.
If you wish to write your paper on a topic of your own devising (“topic” 9), then you must submit a proposal in writing to your TF, and get that proposal approved. Be sure to do this well in advance of the due date of the paper, as you cannot presume that such a proposal will be approved.
Papers on topic 5-8, or on any new topics numbered greater than 9 that I might add later, need not be approved in advance.
There is room to fear that many of you will not have enough material to make a successful paper of this length on topics 5 or 6, so you should take stock of all you have to say about them before deciding on either of those topics.
1. [Note: Not available to those whose first paper was on either this topic or topic 2.] Explain the main line of argument that Edwards advances in Part II, section XII, of Freedom of Will. Explain the position Edwards there seeks to defend and the position he attacks, as well as reasoning that he utilizes. Then critically assess Edwards’s argument. What is the most threatening objection to Edwards’s argument and/or position? (This can be an objection he considers, one discussed in class or section, or one you come up with.) How might/does Edwards best try to answer the objection? In the end, how do you think Edwards’s argument/position fares in relation to the objection?
2. [Note: Not available to those whose first paper was on either this topic or topic 1.] Explain and critically assess the position that we have been calling “Open Theism,” making sure to discuss both the most important advantages and the biggest disadvantages of the view.
3. [Note: Not available to those whose first paper was on either this topic or topic 4.] What form of the problem of evil is Plantinga trying to solve in sections 1-8 (pp. 83- 106) of “God, Evil, and the Metaphysics of Freedom”? Explain the main line of argument that Plantinga there advances. In the course of this explanation, briefly explain what “middle knowledge” is, what position on the issue of middle knowledge is assumed by Plantinga’s treatment of the problem of evil (does God have middle knowledge or not, according to Plantinga?), and how that position affects Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. Then critically assess Plantinga’s defense. What is the most threatening objection to Plantinga’s defense? (This objection can be either to the effect that Plantinga doesn’t succeed at what he sets out to do, or that he doesn’t set out to do enough.) In the end, does Plantinga’s defense succeed, or not? Explain and defend your answer.
4. [Note: Not available to those whose first paper was on either this topic or topic 3.] How might a “Free Will Defense” be best employed to solve the problem of evil on the assumption that God does not have middle knowledge? Critically assess that Defense in light of at least one the most threatening objections that it faces. (The objection can be one discussed in the reading (perhaps by Lewis), in class or section, or can be of the student’s own devising.)
5. Explain and critically assess Plantinga’s modal ontological argument for the existence of God, making sure to discuss Plantinga’s own remarks, toward the end of our reading selection, about what his argument achieves. What is the most serious objection(s) to the argument? How might/does Plantinga best respond to the objection? In the end, is the argument successful?
6. Explain and critically assess Anselm’s ontological argument. Explain how this argument might be attacked by means of a “parallel” argument, and explain at least one other objection — one that you take to be the most serious. How might/does Anselm best respond to the objections? Evaluate the argument in light of the objections.
7. Explain and critically assess the “fine-tuning” argument that van Inwagen presents in Metaphysics. Explain and critically assess the one objection to the argument that van Inwagen takes to be “decisive”, and at least one other serious objection to the argument. (This will probably be one of the other objections that van Inwagen discusses, but can be an objection of your own devising.) Evaluate the argument in light of the objections you discuss.
8. What is (are) the main thesis (or theses) that Unger advances in “Free Will and Scientiphicalism”? Explain, discuss, and critically assess Unger’s arguments for his conclusion(s).
9. Propose your own topic. The topic must be directly relevant to the concerns of the course, must make significant enough contact with some of the assigned readings for the course, and must call for both explanation and argumentation from you. Topics must be pre-approved by your TF.