Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli
You are to critically respond to one of the following topics. Such a critical examination should: (1) indicate the nature of the position being examined; (2) clarify the argument for and/or against the position; (3) examine the strength of the argument by considering possible responses, counter-arguments, or counter-examples; and (4) offer your own critical assessment of where the arguments for and against the position being considered leave us—should we accept, reject, or remain neutral regarding this orientation, view, or position?
As the first paper assignment indicated, one of my purposes in requiring you to write these papers is to offer you the opportunity to perfect your ability to describe carefully a complex position and argument to others. Another of my purposes is to provide you with the opportunity to push beyond the level of reading and mastering the required material for the course. It is also my goal is to provide you with an opportunity to engage in critical reflection upon the readings (or upon related readings and issues), and to provide you with feed-back on your critical scrutinies.
One of my vehicles for accomplishing these goals is to require that you write more than one paper. While your next paper will be on a different topic, many of the comments I have made could be helpful to you in perfecting your expository and critical abilities. These comments will only be useful, however, if you give them some serious scrutiny. I strongly encourage you to look over both the typed comments and the marginal comments throughout the paper. Few students have such an exceptional ability that they can not benefit from such an examination, and to encourage you to take the comments seriously I want you to know that before I read your next paper I will be reviewing my file with these comments on your first paper. I will expect that your editing of your drafts of your next paper will be done in light of these comments. You should seriously endeavor to avoid any of the sorts of compositional errors I have identified, and to the extent that it is called for, I also encourage you to work to make your next exposition and critique yet clearer and more forceful.
The papers should:
address an assigned topic in a manner that clearly displays its purpose, thesis, or controlling idea,
clarify the relevant elements of the philosopher’s theory so that they can be understood by other students taking such philosophy courses,
support the thesis with adequate reasons and evidence,
show sustained analysis and critical thought,
be organized clearly and logically, and
show knowledge of conventions of standard written English.
1. You may write a paper on any of the first paper topics which you did not write your first paper on. Those topics are available on the course web-site.
2. Read Stuart Hampshire’s “Spinoza and the Idea of Freedom” (which is on reserve in the Library in Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Marjorie Grene—the essay originally appeared in The Monist v. 55 (1971), pp. 554-566). Clarify and critically consider the criticism(s) made of Spinoza’s theories, and indicate whether they are could pose either minor or major problems for his philosophical system. An earlier version of Hampshire’s criticism is developed in his Spinoza (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951) on pp. 100-115.
3. Explore the relationship (similarities and differences) between Spinoza’s philosophy and that of the Stoics. No particular secondary source seems to me to be ideal, but this is an important opportunity to explore a core aspect of his thought.
4. Read Jon Miller’s “Spinoza and the Stoics on Substance Monism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza’s Ethics which is on reserve in the Library and consider critically Miller’s comparison of the views.
5. Use any of the critiques of Spinoza’s philosophy mentioned at the end of the Lecture Supplement on Spinoza’s The Ethics on the course website as a jumping off point to consider whether or not Spinoza has the problem(s) indicated.
6. Read Charles Jarrett’s “Spinoza on Necessity,” and critically consider his view of Spinoza’s notion of necessity. The essay is available in The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza’s Ethics which is on reserve in the Library.
7. Read Robert M. Adams, “Is Leibniz’ Conception of God Spinozistic” (in his Leibniz: Determinist, Theist, Idealist, pp. 123-134, which is on reserve in the Library). Indicate what the consequences of an affirmative or negative answer to this question are for Leibniz. Which answer do you think is correct, and why?
8. Read Robert Adams, “Must God Create the Best?” in The Philosophical Review v. 81 (1972), pp. 317-332. Clarify and critically consider the criticism(s) made of Leibinz’s theories, and indicate whether they are could pose either minor or major problems for his philosophical system.
9. Critically consider Leibniz’ views on perfection and the best possible world in light of David Blumenfeld, “Perfection and Happiness in the Best Possible World” in The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. Nicholas Jolley, pp. 382-410 which is on reserve in the Library. Clarify and critically consider the criticism(s) made of Leibniz’s theories, and indicate whether they are could pose either minor or major problems for his philosophical system.
10. Read Damaris Cudworth’s criticisms of Leibniz (they appear in the reading selection in the Atherton text). Clarify and critically consider the criticism(s) made of Leibniz, and indicate whether they are could pose either minor or major problems for his philosophical system.
If you would like to write on another topic, you must clear such a choice with me first.
In preparing to write your paper please review the supplement on writing philosophy papers. Your papers should be approximately 2000 words long (eight double-spaced typewritten pages of 250 words per page). This indication of length is meant as a guide to the student—papers much shorter than the indicated length are unlikely to have adequately addressed one of the assigned topics. Papers may, of course, be longer than the indicated length. I will be happy to read rough drafts and to discuss your ideas for your papers with you provided you give them prior to 3:30 P.M. on Friday, November 21. The papers should be typed and are due in my office by 4:15 P.M. on Monday, November 24. I am giving you the paper topics now so that you have at least two weekends to work on the paper. If you plan to wait till the last moment to write your paper, I recommend you review the Course Syllabus regarding penalties for late papers. Please review my policy on extensions, late papers, and plagiarism (contained in the course syllabus). Please also review my supplement Guide to Writing Philosophy Papers which is available on the class web-site.
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Last revised on: 11/04/2014.