Writing 109HU--Topics for the Philosophy Essay
Due date: Thursday, April 20
General Instructions: The essay should be a four- to five-page
interpretation of one of the philosophical works we have studied, and should
incorporate at least two secondary sources. As for all essays, you should
have a single, unified thesis that you prove logically and thoroughly.
Your own experience and response to the work can guide your interpretation,
but make sure that everything you claim is demonstrable, that is, supported
by the text or a reliable secondary source. If you decide to use one of
the suggested topics, keep in mind that you will need to narrow their focus
considerably to make a strong thesis.
Glennan's Guide to Writing Philosophy Papers
In the Discourse on Method, Descartes states, "…my purpose here
is not to teach the method that everyone ought to follow in order to conduct
his reason well, but merely to show how I have tried to conduct my own"
(2). Is the Discourse on Method therefore idiosyncratic, universal,
or some combination of the two? What relation to other texts and belief
systems does Descartes claim for his text?
Both the Discourse on Method and the Meditations on First Philosophy
rely on what is known as "Cartesian doubt," that is, a skepticism of everything
except the mind’s capacity to think as the starting point for making truth
claims. How does the text proceed from this doubt to any kind of certainty?
What relation does this procedure have to claims for empiricism, that is,
truth claims inferred from concrete, sensory evidence?
In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke claims, "Our
observation employed either about external, sensible objects, or about
the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves,
is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking."
How does Locke support this claim, and what consequences does it have for
our understanding of the mind? What structure for the development of the
mind does this imply?
David Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature (2644), contradicted Locke’s
theory of identity, claiming, "The mind is a kind of theater, where several
perceptions successively make their appearance: pass, re-pass, glide away,
and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is
properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in
different…" What proof does he offer that Locke (and Descartes) are wrong?
How does he expect us to live our lives without a notion of continuous,
Under what conditions does Kant believe one can have intellectual or religious
freedom? What limitations does he allow on these freedoms, and how does
he argue for their necessity?
Any topic on Descartes, Locke, Kant, or Hume, on which you can write a