Introduction to Philosophy
Due: May 18th, 2011 (MW) or May 19th (TTH) (Note that the deadline has been extended.)
The requirements for this paper are essentially the same as the previous two: you must have a thesis; you must argued for your thesis, and you must explain the opposing positions on a philosophical topic as developed by different philosophers.
Choose one of the following topics:
1. Do I have free will? Write an essay that tries to resolve this question through a close examination of Hospers, Stace, and James. Your essay should clearly explain ideas in such as determinism, incompatibilism, compatibilism, moral responsibility, pragmatism, judgments of regret, indeterminism, the Oxford-Divinity thought experiment, and the Chicken Sandwich thought experiment.
2. Compare and contrast the different theories of personal identity discussed in class this semester: body, soul, psychological and bundle. Which theory of personal identity is most convincing and why?
3. Søren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre offer us two similar but radically different approaches to the problem of modern existence. While Kierkegaard argues for three distinct spheres of existence and the supremacy of the religious life, Sartre agrees with Nietzsche’s dictum, “God is dead,” and affirms the freedom of the individual over against religious and ethical standards imposed by others. For Kierkegaard, we are most free when, like Abraham, we live an absurd faith, whereas Sartre claims that placing our reliance on the divine (or other persons or things) is the antithesis of authentic freedom; it is, to borrow Sartre’s own phrase, a form of bad faith.
Whose existential analysis of life is more accurate? Kierkegaard’s or Sartre’s?
To answer this question, write an essay in which you explain the philosophical approaches to existence developed by each thinker. Questions and concerns to raise and address in the paper should include
-How does Kierkegaard’s own life help us to understand his writings?
-What is indirect communication? How does Kierkegaard employ this form of communication in his writings? Why does he choose to communicate in this way?
-Describe the characters in the diary. Who wrote the diary? Is the diary we read in class a copy of the original or a copy of a copy? Explain the significance of this distinction in Kierkegaard’s thought.
-What is the aesthetic? How does Johannes exemplify this sphere?
-What is the ethical? How does the ethical differ from the aesthetic and the religious? What does it mean to “choose oneself in despair”? With which pseudonym is the ethical most closely associated?
-What is the religious? With what biblical figure is this sphere most closely associated? Fear and Trembling is attributed to Johannes de Silentio. What is the significance of this name?
-In what sense is the religious absurd?
-What the advantages and disadvantages to each of the spheres of existence Kierkegaard analyzes?
-What sphere did Kierkegaard personally believe was the best? Why?
-Who are the characters in No Exit? What are their individual backgrounds? Their likes and dislikes? Their motives and interests?
-Where is the play set? Why did Sartre set the play in this location?
-Why is the play called No Exit?
-Locate and discuss at least three examples from the play that illustrate the following existential themes:
alienation, existence precedes essence, despair, anxiety, death, free will
-Why do none of the characters leave the room when given the chance? In what sense are they “inseparables”?
-Why are there no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the room?
-What does the bronze statue on the mantelpiece likely represent?
-How do the characters in the play illustrate Sartre’s claim that we are condemned to be free? What does this expression mean?
-What is the significance of the characters’ shared ability to eavesdrop on the lives of others?