If you submit the work late, it will be penalized, yes, but not submitting it at all will be much worse.
You should already have started on your second assignment! You should work on it in several chunks of time, with time off in between to think about what you're doing. Many of you saw substantial improvements in the second draft of your first paper. That gives you a clear hint for how to do well on your next assignment: write multiple drafts. We're not going to collect them and give you feedback on them, but you can realize many of the benefits by simply making a serious attempt at a draft, and then stepping away from it a day or two, then coming back and rewriting it from scratch. Or ask other students in the class to give you feedback on it---we highly recommend this. (Though give credit to anyone who helps you substantially.) Or come talk to us about your argument---we can do this with you, though we won't read drafts. Or talk to other students about your argument. All of these steps help you write a better paper.
Professor Pryor is sick right now, so won't be able to hold office hours at the moment. But he hopes he can be available next Monday late afternoon.
Both movies are available on Amazon streaming, and they seem to be available on NetFlix too. We also put copies on reserve in the Avery Fisher Center at Bobst Library; so it's possible for you to go watch the movies there. (You have to watch them in the library.) The call #s are: The Prestige (DVD 18467), Memento (DVD 10454 or 40112).
We're also looking to arrange times for you to watch these movies as a group, either at the library's screening room or elsewhere on campus. More details will be forthcoming.
Update: We've also arranged for the movies to be screened in the Immersion Room at Bobst / Avery Fisher. For the first movie, you can go at 7 pm on either Mon Nov 13 or Tue Nov 14. They can accommodate up to 35 people each evening. No food or drink is allowed in that room, except for bottled water.
Try to arrange to see the movies in one way or another. We'll expect you to have them fresh in your mind, and be ready to discuss them. We may also give you a short written assignment about them, comparable to the quizzes in lecture.
As I said in class, don't be discouraged by your grades on these first drafts. This is only a small contribution to your final grade for the course. It gives you feedback about the quality of the paper you've so far written. But you now have the opportunity to take that feedback and make a much better product.
Prof. Pryor and the TAs will all have extra office hours this week to discuss your plans for the rewrite. Prof Pryor still has some slots available on Tuesday between 12:50 and 2:30, and on Wednesday between 12:30 and 2. Email me if you want to reserve one of these slots.
We expect everyone to make a serious effort at improving these papers; even if you're already content with the grade you got on the first draft. Turning in a rewrite showing only minimal efforts to improve may earn you a lower grade as a penalty.
In this class, I’m aiming for a grade between B and A. Barring accidents, I’ll be making sure to do all of the reading for the dates it was assigned, taking my own notes and figuring out the main structure and arguments of the readings on my own ahead of time, and returning to the readings again while (and after) we’ve discussed them to study them again with fresh eyes. I’ll be plotting my papers out in advance, seeking feedback about my plans from multiple sources, then (inevitably) completely re-designing the paper in response to feedback, writing a draft, setting it aside, coming back to it and rewriting it (multiple times if I can). I’ll be actively participating in our section discussions, every week.In short, there are many reasons some of you might miss lectures and if you're sick I hope you'll recover quickly, and that the lecture notes and sections can help you catch up again quickly. But I also hope none of you will delude yourself into thinking you'll be able to get by with less work and engagement with the course than it really takes. We tried to make this clear from the beginning.
Finally, there seems to be an ongoing issue with ten or twenty of you trickling in after class has begun. You will miss announcements, the framing remarks at the start of lecture that might be important to understand what's going on, and when we give surprise quizzes where your answers are counted, you won't be able to take them. Also, it's distracting to me and other students and slightly slows down how much material we can get through. Each case of a student coming in late doesn't have that much effect, but ten to twenty students showing up late each time does make a noticeable difference. Cumulatively, it really is distracting, annoying, and discouraging. But I'll be gentle about this for now: please try harder.
First, it's essential when writing your papers that they be answers to the questions posed in the assignment. Over years of experience, we've found it important to give students specific structures to work inside in their early steps at philosophical writing. The assigned questions still give you plenty of latitude for doing a variety of things, and exercising your creativity. For example, for the first choice, you could articulate a reply on behalf of Feldman's opponents, and then explain why you think the reply is successful, or say how Feldman could undermine the reply, or argue that Feldman's argument succeeds in refuting one kind of opponent but doesn't establish as much as he thinks it does, and a different position that intuitively neighbors his declared opponent isn't challenged by his argument. And so on. There are many things you can do, and still structure as answers that start from and engage with the question prompt. What you shouldn't do is just free-associate about your own ideas about how we should/shouldn't define life, while making no attempt to fit them into the assigned prompt. We'll be delighted for you to display creativity in these papers, but if you do, you need to find a way to make it fit within the loose structure set by the specific questions asked in the prompt.
(Don't worry about it if you find that the papers you're writing don't seem to be creative enough. At this point, you're learning to walk in philosophical writing, and we mainly want to see that you can balance and move forward; for most, creativity only can be effectively deployed once you're more comfortable walking.)
The second thing I wanted to expand on is the argument from "causal overdetermination" or "too many causes/causal explanations." Some found the examples with the Mafia sending out multiple assassins, or the friends always choosing the same person to set you up on a blind date with, confusing. Here's another example we came up with during office hours discussion this week. Maybe it'll be clearer. Imagine that your friend Harry announces that he's got telekinesis, or the power to move things without touching them, just by concentrating his mind in a special way (or using his wand, or whatever). Now in the real world, perhaps we'd already find that announcement incredible (unbelievable). But let's make things easier for Harry and suppose that, in this scenario, we think some people actually are or might be telekinetic. But you never thought before that Harry was. He sees you have some doubts, and so offers to show his powers off. You say okay, why doesn't he make the metal ball in this pinball machine roll into the flashing cup in the middle. So he scrunches his forehead, and lo and behold, the metal ball rolls into the flashing cup. Amazing! Except it turns out that this pinball machine also has lots of sensors and video cameras on it (like the black box in an airplane), and you sift through all the recorded information and it turns out that the metal ball was going to roll into the flashing cup anyway, just because of the direction and speed it was going, and how it bounced off the bumper on the left side, and so on. So Harry tries again. He scrunches his forehead and the metal ball goes through a loop-the-loop on the right side of the machine. Except, it turns out, that's what it was going to do anyway, based on how it was already moving, and how the pinball machine is built, and so on. This keeps happening. Every time Harry tries to show off his telekinetic power, it turns out that the pinball was already on a course to do the same thing anyway, just because of the mechanics of the pinball machine. Harry says, Hey, that doesn't prove he doesn't have telekinesis, because maybe it just so happened that everything he made the pinball do, the machine also happened to make the ball do too. Some things have more than one cause. That's true, you acknowledge, remembering the discussions of multiple Mafia hitmen from philosophy class. But probably, you're going to be pretty doubtful at this point that Harry has the powers he claims to have. In the same way, the materialist is doubtful that the dualist's souls (which would be like Harry in the story) have the causal powers that the dualists claim they do, when all the movements of our bodies, our physical speech, and so on, can already be explained in physical terms (this would be like the pinball mechanics in the story with Harry).
There is no new reading assignment for Oct 11 or Oct 16, but if you want to read ahead, for Wednesday Oct 18 we'll be discussing Armstrong, The Nature of Mind and Lycan, Machine Consciousness. (Optional reading: Block, What is Functionalism?.)
The notes for Meditation 2 go on to discuss the stuff we didn't get to in lecture today (about "I am a thinking thing"). Do continue to read through that part of the summary. We'll review it in our next meeting. It is difficult and subtle material. I expect it will take some care and concentration to keep track of everything that's going on.
In this class, I’m aiming for a grade between B and A. Barring accidents, I’ll be making sure to do all of the reading for the dates it was assigned, taking my own notes and figuring out the main structure and arguments of the readings on my own ahead of time, and returning to the readings again while (and after) we’ve discussed them to study them again with fresh eyes. I’ll be plotting my papers out in advance, seeking feedback about my plans from multiple sources, then (inevitably) completely re-designing the paper in response to feedback, writing a draft, setting it aside, coming back to it and rewriting it (multiple times if I can). I’ll be actively participating in our section discussions, every week.
I hope none of you will delude yourself into thinking you'll be able to get by with less work and engagement with the course than it really takes. We tried to make this clear from the beginning.
Test your understanding: How many arguments does van Inwagen offer for dualism? Can you say in a sentence or two what is the main strategy of each of the arguments? Where does his discussion of the "second" argument for dualism begin, and where does it end? Which side (the dualist, or the physicalist) is "ahead" at the start of each paragraph in that discussion? What does van Inwagen mean by "interactionism" and "epiphenomenalism"? What question are these views competing answers to? Then: how many arguments does van Inwagen offer for physicalism? (these come after the blank page in the pdf).
It's to be expected that you'll have trouble answering some of these questions: after all, you've just started studying philosophy. We will be discussing most of them in more detail in the coming weeks. But to the extent that you can't answer the questions, it means you haven't fully understood that part of van Inwagen's discussion. When you find yourself in that position, you should work hard to improve your position. Reread the article several times, trying to keep track of the details. We can't gift you with understanding. We're more like personal trainers who can guide you ways that may help you learn more efficiently---but only if you're already seriously engaged in the attempt in the first place.
One thing you may notice, if you're alert, is that van Inwagen will define some terms a bit differently than I do, and also states some debates a bit differently than I will. As I've said in lecture, this is inevitable in philosophy. You need to learn how to work around it. The first step is noticing when different philosophers are using the same words in slightly different ways. I'm aware of at least one word I introduced during previous lectures that van Inwagen defines a bit differently: can you identify it?
Please make sure your name is on your paper (or if your TA wants the paper anonymized, you've followed their instructions), you've used wide margins and double-spacing to facilitate us giving you comments, you've stapled the pages if you're submitting a printed copy, and so on. These should be your normal expectations when submitting any written work. Your TAs will let you know if they prefer to be given printed or electronic submissions.
In addition to our course---that is, Phil UA 1 section 1 (the lecture) and sections 2-5 (the recitations)---this semester the department also offers:
For more details about these other courses, see the department course listings.
The primary aim of all of these courses is a common one: to teach you how to reason, argue, and write like a philosopher. Additionally, there is moderate overlap between the issues discussed in our course and each of the others. So it wouldn't be easy to choose between them based on what material the courses propose to cover.
Perhaps the focus of one of these courses appeals to you more than the others. Or perhaps one will fit your schedule best. Or if you're on the fence, perhaps you can arrange to sit in on a few sessions of two of the classes and see which you're more comfortable in. It's not obvious that will be feasible: most of these courses are now at their enrollment limits. But you might look into it if you genuinely can't decide. (And some students will drop/add over the next two weeks.) Note that it's far better to sit in from the beginning in a class you're hoping eventually to enroll in, even if you're not enrolled in it yet, than to try to drop in in the middle of things in the second week or so.