Due by noon on Monday March 17, 2003. N.B. This is Monday of spring break. You may want to hand in the paper on Friday March 14. Think of the deadline as giving you an automatic three-day extension until Monday if you want it.
Choose one of the topics below. Make sure to address all aspects of the question. If you would like to write on another topic that we have discussed, you should first make a proposal to your TA, who has the discretion to approve other topics.
The paper should be around 4-5 pages, typed, double-spaced. Include your name and your TA's name on the front. Late papers will be penalized at a rate of one letter-grade per day.
For instructions on how to write a philosophy paper, read the following carefully. This is important! Your grade will be significantly better if you follow these suggestions.
1. Present Descartes' skeptical challenge (for the conclusion that we cannot know about external reality) in the form of an argument. Critically assess this argument (validity and premises). If you think the argument fails and that you can know that external reality exists, say how you think this knowledge is possible. If you think the argument succeeds, what do you think the upshot is? Either way: what would an intelligent oppnent say to rebut your analysis, and how would you respond?
2. You are Keanu Reeves (Neo) in "The Matrix". Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) finds you and tells you that you are in the Matrix, and says he will help you return to the real world. Is there any way for you to truly know that you are in the Matrix to start with, or that you are in reality later? If yes, could the movie situation be modified so that you could not know these things? If you cannot truly know, is it rational for you to believe that you are in the Matrix at the beginning or that you are in the reality later? Give reasons in every case, present at least some aspect of your reasoning in the form of a formal argument, and answer objections from an intelligent opponent who would disagree with you. What does this situation teach us about knowledge and external reality, and why?
3. In "The Matrix as Metaphysics", Chalmers argues that the hypothesis that one is in the matrix is not a skeptical hypothesis but a metaphysical hypothesis. What does Chalmers mean by this? Briefly present and explain his argument. Critically assess the argument. Do you think Chalmers is correct that if we are in a matrix, most of our beliefs are true? If no, where does the argument go wrong? If yes, how does this bear on Descartes' reasoning about skepticism? Either way, present the strongest objections to your analysis that an opponent might make, and then rebut them.
4. Present and explain one of Descartes' arguments for his version of dualism. Critically assess the argument. Is it valid? Are the premises true? What would an intelligent opponent (say, Descartes if you are arguing against him, or a smart materialist if you agree with Descartes) say to rebut your analysis? Present their case as strongly as possible, then rebut it.
5. Smullyan's piece "An Unfortunate Dualist" is intended to cast doubt on dualism. Set out explicitly the argument that you think is underlying Smullyan's reasoning. Critically assess this argument (validity and premises). How would a (smart) interactionist respond? How would a (smart) epiphenomenalist respond? What do you think the upshot is?
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