Homework Journal

As explained in the course syllabus, you are responsible for keeping a journal of responses to questions about our reading assignments. You are expected to have this journal, up-to-date, at every class meeting. It doesn't matter to me whether the journal is typed or hand-written, so long as all entries are clearly identified, complete, and collected together. I will sporadically ask you to submit the journal throughout the quarter, and will check it for completeness and currency.

There should be an entry for each required reading assigned in this course (readings in brackets on the syllabus aren't required), formatted as follows:

A. The date of the reading assignment

B. Responses to the following three questions:

  • As best you can, summarize the key point that the author tries to establish/support in this reading. i.e. What is the central claim that he/she tries to convince you to believe?
  • Are there any questions that you have about this reading? Is there anything that you would like to have explained in our classroom discussions?

C. Response to the reading-specific question (if any) from the following list:

Reading-specific questions:

  • Descartes, First Meditation:
    • Descartes argues that he cannot be certain that his beliefs acquired through his senses are true. He proposes two different possible scenarios that explain why he could be wrong about these beliefs. What are the two skeptical scenarios he describes?
  • Descartes, Second Meditation:
    • Descartes decides that there is at least one thing he knows for certain. What is it, and how does he show that he knows it for certain?
  • Green, "You Perceive With Your Mind"
    • Greene claims that "the idea that you perceive with your mind actually contains two ideas inside it." What are these two ideas?
  • Moore, "Certainty":
    • Moore considers a common argument skeptical argument, and says that the "first part of the argument is a consideration which cuts both ways." Why does he say this? What does he mean when he says this?
  • Open Your Eyes (Film):
    • Please complete this film journal, and attach/include it with your reading responses.
  • Long, "Religious Pragmatism Through the Eyes of Luke Skywalker":
    • According to Long, in order to faith to be morally acceptable, two important conditions must be met. What are these two conditions?
  • Korcz, "Coke Into Pepsi":
    • As discussed in the Korcz article, the word 'possible' has multiple meanings. When we say that a miracle consists in God doing something "impossible", what exactly do we mean?
  • The Diamond Sutra
    • According to chapter 9 of the Diamond Sutra, there is "no such condition as that called 'perfective enlightenment'." Why is this, exactly?
    • In chapter 17, the Buddha states, "I must liberate all living beings; yet when all have been liberated, verily not anyone is liberated." What do you think he means by this?
  • Baur, "The Beatles and Idealistic Monism"
    • Why, according to Baur, doesn't it make sense to talk about anyone achieving "ocean consciousness"?
  • Searle, "Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?"
    • What, according to Searle, is "Strong AI"?
    • How does the 'Chinese room' thought experiment attempt to show that strong AI is false?
  • Chalmers, "The Puzzle of Conscious Experience"
    • What, according to Chalmers, is the the difference "easy" and "hard" problems when we think about consciousness?
  • Blade Runner (Film):
    • Please complete this film journal, and attach/include it with your reading responses.
  • Pike, "Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action"
    • Pike's central argument rests on three assumptions. What are they?
  • Frankfurt, "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility"
    • At the beginning of section 4, Frankfurt writes, "To the extent that the principle of alternate possibilities derives its plausibility from association with the doctrine that coercion excludes moral responsibility, a clear understanding of the latter diminishes the appeal of the former". Explain what Frankfurt means in this passage.
  • Kinghorn, "Is the Hulk the Same Person as Bruce Banner?"
    • How does Kinghorn argue against the causal criterion for personal identity?  
    • What is the alternative that he endorses? Do you find it convincing?
  • Parfit, "The Unimportance of Identity"
    • Parfit argues that neither of the persons resulting from the "My Division" case should be considered identical with the pre-operation person. Why is this, exactly?
  • Memento (Film):
    • Please complete this film journal, and attach/include it with your reading responses.
  • Taylor, "The Meaning of Life:
    • Taylor argues that the "nearest we may hope to get to heaven" consists in a "strange meaningfulness". What is so "strange" about this meaningfulness?
  • Nagel, "The Absurd"
    • Nagel argues that our sense of absurdity is the result of a collision between "two inescapable viewpoints". What are these two viewpoints?

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