Central Problems Paper Topics
Course web page: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/centralproblems/
(Entries marked **are either harder than the others or require previous background knowledge)
- ** Does quantum mechanics falsify determinism? (read Cushing’s Philosophical Concepts of Physics)
- Discussion of F. Schiffer, Of Two Minds
- Are reasons causes? (read Davidson’s first article in his Essays on Actions and Events)
- ** Descartes on his essence (Read Schiffer’s paper in The Philosophical Review, 1975).
- Personal Identity and what matters (do we have any rational basis for caring about identity?) – read Derek Parfit, "Personal Identity", repr. in Perry’s anthology by the same title.
- Necessarily, for any agent x and any proposition p, x knows p iff .... [Paper topic on the completion of this schema: see the entries, and their bibliographies, for "The Gettier Problem" and "Propositional Knowledge" in J. Dancy and E. Sosa (eds.), A Companion to Epistemology (Blackwell, 1992). an introductory source is J. Dancy, Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology, Blackwell chs. 1-2,]
- ** Paper topic on the status of the Cartesian skeptical argument: Keith DeRose, "Solving the Skeptical Problem", The Philosophical Review, 104 (January 1995): 1-52, and Stephen Schiffer, "Contextualist Solutions to Scepticism," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1995-96: 317-333.
- ** Failure of closure under known entailment: denying the second step in the BIV argument -- relevant readings: Nozick, Phil. Expl. is the main source - an introductory source is J. Dancy, Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology, chs. 1-3, esp. ch. 3):
- Philip Kitcher (Abusing Science) vs. creationism (and the argument from design)
- Can Faith support Reason (and the existence of God): see entry on ‘Fideism’ in Taliaferro’s Blackwell Companion to Phil. Religion (suggested: R. Audi: "Faith, Belief and Rationality", in vol. V of the journal Philosophical Perspectives: Philosophy of Religion and the articles he cites in the bibliography therein).
- The problem of Evil, and is Evil necessary?: (readings: relevant entry(ies) in the Taliaferro volume. I came across, but haven’t read, the following -- all in vol. V of the journal Philosophical Perspectives: Philosophy of Religion: (a) W. P. Alston, "The Inductive Argument From Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition", (b) W. Rowe, "Ruminations About Evil", (c) M. Tooley(d) P. van Inwagen, "The Problem of Evil, The Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence"
- Paper topic on Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (among other things, you might want to see the following entries from the Stanford Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu:
"Original Position": http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/
"Distributive Justice": http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-distributive/ (on Rawls and Nozick
Unger on Nihilism and Vagueness (see his article "There are no Ordinary Things" in Synthese 1979, pp. 117-54). On vagueness, see M. Sainsbury, Paradoxes, 1995 (be sure that it’s the 2nd edition), Cambridge UP, chapter 2.
** Vagueness: see special issue of The Monist. As intro, look at Sainsbury, quoted above.
- the volumes in the Blackwell Companions to Philosophy series are all very good and useful: see esp. the Dancy and Sosa one for Epistemology, the Taliaferro for Phil. of Religion, Pettit for Political philosophy, Guttenplan for Phil. of Mind.
- the new Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy is an excellent, up-to-date source for all topics
- General dictionaries that might be useful to glance at when dealing with technical terms whose meaning you’re uncertain of, or about which you want to know more, in addition to the Blackwell Companions, are the one by Simon Blackburn and the somewhat more comprehensive one edited by Robert Audi.
N.b.: these are all available for consultation in Bobst Library’s Reference room (Ground floor)
An excellent site (i. e. source of material) for Philosophy of mind-related topics is to be found at Neb Block’s "Mind and Machines" course’s webpage:
- A rough and ready glossary is available on the web at
which contains Block’s handouts, course notes, a useful intro text (‘The Mind as the Software of the Brain") and lots of other stuff.
I recommend you read the two guides to writing a Philosophy paper I posted under Additional Links in the Central Problems web page:http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/centralproblems/links.html
Any other topic must be previously approved by either prof. Schiffer or Bernardino Sassoli. Schiffer’s e-mail is email@example.com and Sassoli’s is firstname.lastname@example.org