Phil 101: Announcements, Readings, and Lecture Notes

The front webpage for the course is at

Here are Zoom links for the course meetings and for Professor Pryor’s office hours.

The Sakai webpage for the course is at Currently, that mostly contains pointers back to this website.

Prof Pryor’s office hours are on Mondays starting at 3 pm, and Wednesdays starting at 1 pm. His email is


Here are some guidelines about philosophical writing. See the front webpage for information about extensions and how you’ll be graded.


These are in reverse-order, so the newest posts will always be at the top. The dates are when the post was first made.

Readings are in a restricted part of this site. The username and password for these were emailed to you, and will also be announced at the start of class.

Wed May 4

Here is the recording of today’s review session.

Thu Apr 28

Here is the recording of today’s review session.

Reminders: Next review session is on Wed May 4, at 1 pm. Link on the page of Zoom links for the course.

Reminders: Final is on Fri May 6, starting at noon, in our normal classroom, Chapman 211. Remember to bring your own exam booklets and pens/pencils. No devices or books permitted during the exam. You can have one printed page of notes, printing allowed on both sides, standard size paper, whatever font size you want.

Mon Apr 25

It looks like I can now confirm that our exam will take place in the normal classroom, Chapman 211.

After class, someone asked whether we can record the Zoom review sessions and make those available afterwards. Sounds like a good idea to us. You’ll need to login using your Onyen to view the recordings though.

On Wednesday we’ll discuss Feldman’s Chapter 9.

Here’s the third and last review sheet for the course. For reference, here is the first and here is the second.

Sun Apr 24

Tomorrow’s lecture will be in person again (and also Zoomed from the classroom, as normal). In this week’s lectures, we’ll discuss the remaining material from Feldman (and Kagan) on the disvalue of death.

On Thursday Apr 28 (the reading day after classes end), and then again on Wed May 4 (the reading day in the middle of finals), we’ll hold Zoom review sessions, starting at 1 pm. The links for these sessions will be posted to the page of Zoom links for the course. We have a bit of flexibility about the scheduling of these, so if a bunch of you write to us in the next day or two saying “Please could you reschedule the review session on day so-and-so earlier/later…” we may be able to adjust these times. But 1 pm on both days is what we’re proposing now.

Some have asked what size font and/or paper you could use for the notes you use during the exam. The paper should be either 8.5x11 or A4, standard printer size. You can print on both sides. You can make the font as small as you want. Someone asked if they could bring a magnifying glass. That’s ok with us, though if you’re going to put that much time into cramming so much information onto your review sheet, it’s not obvious you’ll be using your study time most efficiently, or that it won’t slow you down during the exam.

Wed Apr 20

Just emailed the class: going to have to cancel today’s lecture because I’m losing my voice. Sorry for the short notice. Sections still meet this week, and we’ll meet again for lecture, and continue discussing Feldman, on Monday.

Mon Apr 18

Here are scans of the presentation notes I used today. They won’t be understandable on their own: you definitely should read the Feldman if you haven’t already, because it’s very clear and well-written. (Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments, the writing is excellent.) But if you were following today’s Zoom session, and wanted the presentation notes to refer back to, I thought I’d make them available.

As I said during the Zoom session, next class we’ll start discussing Feldman Chapters 8 and 9. See also the Kagan lectures linked below on death and value theory.

I’m sure you’re aware that papers due tomorrow. See also the sample final and other information about the final posted below.

Sun Apr 17

As I just emailed the class, am feeling somewhat sick and will teach tomorrow’s lecture remotely.

Here is a sample final. The layout and instructions of the real final will match this.

Wed Apr 13

Repeating announcements from the start of today’s class (and expanding on some of them):

Mon Apr 11

As I said at the start of class, if you’re planning to submit an accommodation request for the final, or to submit a request to take the exam on a different day/time (through the Office of Dean of Students, see the front syllabus page of this site), but haven’t done so yet, please let us know you’ll be doing this as soon as possible.

Here are lecture notes for today, on Feldman’s discussion of analyses of life.

Continue with the readings listed below: on Wednesday we’ll be discussing Feldman’s Chapter 4.

Wed Apr 6

Here is a review sheet for the personal identity part of the class.

Readings for next week posted below.

Mon Apr 4

Here are notes about responding to the fission objection. Here are notes about Perry’s Third Night and some other moves that get made in the personal identity debate. Today’s lecture was drawn from both of these; and on Wednesday I’ll discuss the other parts that we didn’t get to today.

Here are the prompts for your second substantial paper, which is due Tuesday April 19.

On Wednesday, we will wrap up our discussion of personal identity. Be sure you’re caught up with reading through the end of the Perry dialogue, if you haven’t already.

Next week, we’ll discuss issues about life and death: mostly about how to define these notions, but also to some degree about why/how death can be bad for the person who dies. Our readings will all be from the Feldman book, Confrontations with the Reaper. Here is the reading schedule:

Wed Mar 30

Here are lecture notes on Fission Cases and Teletransportation. We didn’t get through all the material summarized there in today’s class, but will finish up with it on Monday. On Monday, we’ll also discuss some issues that arise in Perry’s Third Night, so read that for next week.

Relevant to today’s discussion of teletransportation and the movie The Prestige (which you all should have watched before this week’s sections), have a look at this 10 min video.

We’ll distribute the second paper topics next week.

For Mon Apr 11 (the week after next), read Chapter 1–3 of Feldman’s book Confrontations with the Reaper. Each chapter is short and easy to read.

In sections and after class, we continue to get questions about the final exam. I’ve already posted a review sheet for the first half of the class, and will post more of the same later. To be prepared for the exam, be sure you know what the different entries on the review sheet mean, and what bearing they have on issues we discussed in class. Near the end of the semester, we will also arrange for a review session to give you more opportunities to ask questions about things you’re still hazy on. We’ll also give you a sample of what the final will look like.

There may be some straightforward questions on the final, like “What does a compatibilist about free will think?” (answer: that it’s compatible with determinism) or “Does quasi-remembering something entail that you’re not the person it happened to?” (answer: no).

But most of the questions won’t be quite that direct. Still, we won’t ask trick/sneaky questions: just ones that probe your basic understanding of the positions and arguments we’ve discussed.

For example: one question might say, “If you’re a dualist, and so think that thinking feeling persons with real mental lives have to have souls, do you have to say that the person is identical to their soul?” If we just ask for a true/false response, the answer would be false. We’ve mentioned several times in class and the webnotes that dualists don’t have to say this. One alternative they could take is to say the person is identical to a combination of the soul and a body. Another view they could take is a version of the psychological continuity theories we’re discussing in class now: maybe a soul is needed to have experiences and (quasi-)memories in the first place, but you can have a single persisting person without its remaining the same soul. If we ask you for more than a true/false response, we might expect you to provide one or the other of those justifications for denying that a dualist has to identify persons with souls.

This should be something you’d be comfortable answering, if you’ve been understanding the positions and arguments we’ve discussed.

Another question might say, “If you’re a dualist, do you have to say that machines/AIs can’t have thoughts/feelings/real mental lives? Briefly justify your answer.” If you wrote, “No a dualist doesn’t have to say this, they’re allowed to think that it’s possible for machines to have souls,” that would be an acceptable answer. If you wrote, “Yes a dualist has to say this, because machines can’t have souls,” that wouldn’t be acceptable, because it’s not obvious why dualists are forced to agree with you that machines can’t have souls. If you wrote “Yes a dualist has to say this, because … is a reason why dualists can’t allow machines to have souls,” that may on the other hand be an acceptable answer. Depends on if you can come up with something at least halfway reasonable to put in the “…” The point is: we’re not going to expect that you hold the same philosophical positions we do, but we are going to expect that you don’t treat things as obvious or as things that a dualist has to say when our class discussions have amply testified to their being unobvious and intelligibly disputable.

Mon Mar 28

Here is an expanded version of the lecture notes on Perry’s Second Night.

Sun Mar 27

Here is a summary of the midterm feedback you gave us.

Wed Mar 23

Here are lecture notes on (the first part of) Perry’s Second Night.

Tue Mar 22

As I emailed the class, tomorrow’s meeting will be remote.

Mon Mar 21

I emailed the class a link to the midterm evaluation form.

See posts below about your rewrites (due Tuesday Mar 29, a week from tomorrow); watching The Prestige; the review sheet for the first half of the course; and sample philosophy papers with our feedback.

In today’s class we discussed The First Night of Perry’s Dialogue. For Wednesday, read The Second Night of the Dialogue; we will be discussing that material for several classes.

As I also posted at the end of January, the UNC Learning Center offers Peer Tutoring for various courses, including this one. Our course is supported by drop-in in-person tutoring at Dey Hall from 6-8 pm Wednesday evenings. There aren’t appointments, just show up to the main floor of Dey Hall. Here is a Peer Tutoring FAQ

As I also posted on the main/front syllabus page for this course, you can get free feedback on course writing projects at the UNC Writing Center. Visit their website to schedule a 45-minute appointment, review quick tips, or request written feedback. You can work with them at any stage of the writing process; you don’t even need a draft. (Though of course for your present writing in this class, you do have one.)

For your rewrites, be sure you understand your TA’s feedback and what the most important things will be for you to address in your rewrites. If anything is unclear, find a way to explore it with them further and understand better what would help. You are also welcome to come talk to me during my own office hours (Mondays starting at 3, and Wednesdays starting at 1, in both cases generally lasting more than an hour). If you can’t come in person, you can also Zoom in (office hours link on the zoom links page for this course); but I don’t always remember to turn Zoom on or notice that someone is there, especially if people have come to office hours in person. So if that happens, send me an email that you’re waiting to chat on Zoom; I usually notice these.

Wed Mar 9

Today’s lecture notes:

For our next meeting after spring break (Mon Mar 21), read the First Night in Perry’s Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

You’ll be getting your first papers back in the next few days. As noted before, your rewrites will be due by the end of the day (midnight) on Tuesday Mar 29. The rewrites are permitted to be a page or two longer. But from past experience and consulting with the TAs, it sounds like the most fundamental issues with many of your drafts wouldn’t directly be addressed by your just writing more. Some of you already tried to include too much material (at the expense of adequately developing the central and most promising parts of your response); so you’ll need to think harder about how to organize and focus your paper. But if you do end up needing a bit of extra space to develop the best parts of your paper, you are permitted to take it.

Don’t be discouraged by your grades on these first papers. 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. In case it helps, I got a B- on my own first philosophy paper! For many of us, it takes practice and feedback to learn how to do this well.

We expect everyone to make a serious effort at improving their paper in the rewrite — even if you’re already satisfied with the grade you got on the first version. Turning in a rewrite showing only minimal efforts to improve may earn you a lower grade instead.

Around the last week of March (so the second week after we return from spring break), you should watch the movie The Prestige (2006). Probably the easiest way to do this is with Amazon Video. It doesn’t seem to be available currently on Netflix.

Optional: Wikipedia on The Ship of Theseus (see the link discussing the USS Constellation).

Tue Mar 8

Some of you have started to express anxiety about the final exam. I prepared a review sheet of the important notions and issues we’ve discussed in the first half of the course. I encourage you to go through this now, and see whether you’ve got a solid grasp of what each entry on there means, and how it came up in our discussion and/or readings. If you do, you’ll be ready for the final (as far as this first part of the course goes). If you don’t, you’ll probably want to re-read some of the earlier webnotes and/or readings we’ve gone through. (In general, as we said at the start of the course, you should expect to have to read the philosophy texts we assign multiple times to be able to track everything that’s going on.)

Mon Mar 7

Today’s lecture notes:

If you haven’t yet read the Dennett and Doctorow readings posted last week, get caught up with them. No additional readings for Wednesday.

Here are some sample philosophy papers from other iterations of this course, with discussion of what problems they had, how they could be improved, and so on. You may see some issues in these samples that also come up in your own papers. Also, learning how to identify and explain these flaws in other people’s work is an important step towards learning how to overcome the same flaws (and others) in your own work.

We’re aiming to get you feedback on your own papers this week. Rewrites (which will also be graded) will be due on Tuesday Mar 29.

We won’t be holding recitations/sections this Friday.

In class over last two weeks, I sometimes mentioned surprising results about the apparent mental sophistication of some spiders. Here are some links about that if you’re interested:

Wed Mar 2

Some review notes:

We’ve been asking questions like: Would a computer be able to have thoughts and/or feelings, at least if it ran the very same program/software that your brain does? Or would the hardware difference between humans and machines mean that it had no mental life, no matter how flexible and apparently intelligent it behaved?

Now we’re going to turn to questions like Would it in fact be you, if it was running your brain’s software? Could you “upload” your mind to a computer as a way to survive the death of your human body? Or if that’s too risky, how about copying your brain’s software into a new organic body? (Let’s ignore what happens to the previous occupant of that body — not because that’s not important, but just so that we can focus on one philosophical issue at a time.)

For next week, read these two selections:

After spring break, we’ll continue our discussion of these issues by reading Perry’s Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

Mon Feb 28

As I emailed the class, no lecture today due to me (and my family) recovering from being sick. Good luck with your papers, due tomorrow night. No additional readings for Wednesday, when I expect us to meet again in person.

As evidence of animal mentality, you may enjoy watching this brief clip.

Wed Feb 23

For next class, read this selection:

That selection (and other readings we’ve done recently) refers to the “Turing Test.” If you want to read the article where Turing first described and proposed this test, it’s pretty accessible reading for students at your stage. Here is a copy. But because our time is limited, I’ll leave this as only optional reading.

Here is some more optional reading, mostly sci-fi media exploring the kinds of issues we’re discussing:

Mon Feb 21

For next class, read these three selections:

Wed Feb 16

Here are notes on today’s lecture, Marks of the Mental.

For Monday, read the materials I mentioned last week: pp. 60 – 86 of the Gennaro dialogue, and all of the Leiber dialogue.

As I said at the end of class, we expect to be meeting in-person again for lectures next week.

Tue Feb 15

Tomorrow’s lecture will also be by Zoom.

Mon Feb 14

Here are the prompts for your first substantial paper, which is due Tuesday Mar 1.

Here are notes on different varieties of mental states, which we began discussing at the end of class today.

new This coming Friday, Feb 18, our department is hosting the event Philosophy in 15 Minutes from 3–5 pm in Memorial Hall. (updated: It just came to my attention that there is conflicting information on our department’s website about where this event is happening. I’m not sure whether it’s in Memorial Hall or Gerrard Hall.) After the talks and presentations, people can grab a wrapped snack, water/soda, and congregate outside of Memorial Hall in the courtyard for further friendly conversation. Everyone is welcome, not only philosophy majors! Feel free to bring friends who may be curious about philosophy.

Sun Feb 13

As I emailed the class, our lecture on Monday (and probably Wednesday too) will have to be held by Zoom.

Wed Feb 9

Here are notes on Causal Arguments against the Dualist. We didn’t yet get to the material discussed there about “too many causes”; we’ll talk about that on Monday.

There’s no new reading for our next meeting. Make sure that you’re on top of all the reading we have gone through up until this point. If you have time and want to start reading ahead, the next chunk of material we’ll be reading are pp. 60 – 86 of the Gennaro dialogue, and all of the Leiber dialogue Can Animals and Machines Be Persons?. But it will be a few classes before we’re ready to get into those issues. I’ll remind you again then of these reading assignments, and further ones we’ll take up then.

Mon Feb 7

Here are some webnotes:

Our main topic for Wednesday will be to start talking about the materialist’s reasons for thinking dualism can’t be right.

Readings for Wednesday:

It seems that last week someone left a copy of their Gennaro dialogue behind in the Chapman classroom. It’s still there, up front on the teaching table.

Thu Feb 3

Here are prompts for your fourth brief writing exercise, due on Tuesday.

Wed Feb 2

Here are some webnotes:

In class today, we reviewed what philosophers are arguing about when they debate what substances exist, and what positions the substance dualist and the materialist/physicalist about the mind in particular take. Then we talked through the first of the above webnotes, and the central content of the second. Some of the details in the second webnotes we didn’t get to, but you should be in a position now to follow the explanation of those details I give. Have a look at the third webnotes about attempts to apply Leibniz’s Law to argue for dualism. One example of such attempts is in part of the Gennaro dialogue I asked you to read (the argument starting on p. 14 about divisibility). These dualist strategies might be ones you discuss further in sections.

In any case, on Monday I will (only briefly) review the parts of those later webnotes that weren’t yet presented in class, and then we will talk more carefully about ways the dualist might be tempted to apply Leibniz’s Law where it seems they’re doing something illegitimate.

The readings for Monday explore that. They are:

I will post the prompts for your fourth (and last) brief writing exercise in the next day or so.

Mon Jan 31

Here is a summary of today’s lecture on Substances and the Dualism/Materialism debate.

For Wednesday, read up to the bottom of p. 21 of the Gennaro dialogue Mind and Brain (page references are to the 2020 edition).

Fri Jan 28

Peer Tutoring: The UNC Learning Center offers peer tutoring for various courses, including this one. Our course is supported by drop-in in-person tutoring at Dey Hall from 6-8 pm Wednesday evenings. There aren’t appointments, just show up to the main floor of Dey Hall. Here is a Peer Tutoring FAQ

Wed Jan 26

I’m sorry about the audio issues during today’s lecture for those on Zoom. I’ll try to find workarounds and fixes to lessen these issues going forward. But do also have realistic expectations. We haven’t had the time/resources to develop a polished hybrid experience for this course. All we’re in a position to try for is a seat-of-our-pants, do the best we can for those who can’t be in the classroom. When it does work out, I’m grateful for our good luck. To help compensate for that, I’ll try as much as possible to make up for missed lectures on this website. The classroom discussions are to help get you acquainted with the material, and help explain it. I hope you get the most value from them that you can. But when things go wrong and you have to Zoom in but the Zooming is messed up, what you’re missing is just one of the several, mutually supplementing parts of the course.

Here are summaries of today’s lecture and the readings assigned Monday:

Here are the prompts for your third brief writing exercise, due on Tuesday.

See Tuesday’s post for our final readings on free will. On Monday we’ll introduce a new debate, namely whether having a mind requires having a non-physical soul. This will draw on some of the concepts we introduced when talking about Agent-Causation Theories. There’s no additional reading yet for this.

Tue Jan 25

Sorry that the website was down overnight. As I emailed you this morning, it’s fine if you want to take an extra day to turn in this week’s writing exercise.

The readings I posted Monday evening (see below) discuss material that we’ll be exploring in class on Wednesday. Here is some more reading on free will:

If you want to read more about Free Will on your own, this new book in the form of a debate between Kane and the Compatibilist Carolina Sartorio looks like it’d be a great way to continue.

Mon Jan 24

For most of today’s class we discussed a case of an addict and someone who was threatened/coerced into stealing resources (whiskey bottles) that our group needed to be comfortable and better our chance of survival. The point was to see what kinds of considerations made us think of the addict and the victim of coercion as more or less blameworthy.

The basic incompatibilist picture is: the more we think of their actions as forced, the less blameworthy we’ll find them. And then they’ll argue we should think of Determinism as making all our actions maximally forced. So if Determinism is true, all the distinctions we make between different levels and kinds of blameworthiness will be eroded. (So too with distinctions we make between different levels and kinds of credit/praiseworthiness.)

Some of the things we discussed in class today fit with that picture. But other ideas about how blameworthy these subjects are were also voiced, that didn’t (or didn’t directly) concern how strongly the addict or victim of coercion was “forced.” So some of our thinking about these cases harmonizes with the Compatibilist idea that we’re going to want to make distinctions between better and worse behavior, between different levels and kinds of blameworthiness, even if Determinism implies that all our actions are in some sense “forced.” This is the kind of perspective that Carolyn in the Williams dialogue, and Helen Beebee in the reading for today, aim to develop.

Here are some webnotes, expanding on ideas that I quickly summarized at the end of today’s lecture meeting. Instead of developing those ideas further in class, I’ll just allow the webnotes to explain them. On Wednesday, we’ll start instead to think about how we should think of the world if the Incompatibilist is right. Some Incompatibilists will be Libertarians, and think we do have free will (so on their view Determinism must be false); others will think we don’t have free will. We want to consider how bad that would be if it were true.

Readings for next class:

Thu Jan 20

Here is the prompt for your second writing exercise.

updated Given the University’s announcement this evening that classes are canceled tomorrow, that applies to our recitation sections as well. To be explicit: the sections will be outright canceled, instead of moving to all remote-only.

Wed Jan 19

Sections will meet in-person this week, and assume going forward that lectures and sections will be meeting in person, unless/until we announce otherwise. We will try to always make it possible for those who can’t attend to Zoom in, but this might not always work so well, as in today’s lecture. It’s easier when we’re all Zooming. But we’ll do what we can.

updated Actually, Jackson’s sections this week need to be remote, again.

Here is a summary of today’s lecture.

Readings for Monday:

I will post some optional further readings later; but these will be the only assigned readings for Monday. I will also post the prompt for the next brief writing assignment (due next Tuesday Jan 25) in the next few days.

Thu Jan 13

Here are the additional readings for next week, which also give brief introductions to and surveys of the free will debate:

Also continue reading the dialogue, up to p. 41, as posted yesterday.

Wed Jan 12

Early in the morning, I updated some of the links on Monday’s entry below. That includes the prompt for your first writing exercise.

updated Here is a summary of today’s lecture.

For our meeting next Wednesday, read the part of the Free Will dialogue where Carolyn makes her case that determinism is compatible with free will. This starts around p. 26 and goes to halfway down p. 41.

In the next few days I’ll post some more readings introducing the free will debate, and the compatibilist’s approach to it. They’ll be presentations that cover some of the same ground as in the dialogue we’re reading, and my lectures and notes on this website. It’s often very helpful in philosophy to read multiple presentations of the same ideas. Often the best way to say something to help one student understand it will be different than the best way for another. Or when you hear one person present familiar ideas again, you may notice things you missed earlier.

Tue Jan 11
Still owe you some links promised below and the prompt for the writing exercise. Will get these to you as soon as I can, in any case by Thursday morning.

As I just emailed the class, have decided to conduct tomorrow’s lecture by Zoom. The links are at the top of this page or in that email.

In that email I wrote that it’s still up in the air how we’d be holding recitations this week. But the TAs have since let me know that it looks like it will be best to hold them remotely this week too. Your TAs will let you know what link to use for Zooming into sections.

We’re proceeding on the assumption we’ll be back in person for all meetings next week, and will update you if that changes.

Mon Jan 10 updated

Sorry for the imperfect Zooming, but I hope we’ll get this ironed out and working better as the semester proceeds. For the time being, I’ll keep bringing my laptop to class to use as a backup if there’s an issue with Zooming with the room equipment (or an audio issue, as happened today). Note that a record of the group chats do get saved for me when I’m logged in using my laptop, but when I’m logged in only with the room equipment I don’t know where they go. So I won’t be able to review those chat transcripts. If there are delivery/presentation issues I should know about, better to email about them for the time being.

For those present in the classroom, if it’s difficult to hear me from the back of the room, or to read the chalkboard, please try to make sure I know about it. Same goes if there are problems with the course website.

Our initial readings for the class will be (1) a group of pages and texts about the philosophical method and basic tools in the philosopher’s toolbox:

The selections cover a lot of the same ground. Seeing it exposited in different ways should help make it easier to understand.

Those don’t need to be mastered all at once; you can work through them at a pace that works for you. But do aim to go through them in the next week or so.

We’ll also (2) start reading about free will and its relation to determinism (and also what both of those notions mean). For this, read pages 1 – the top of 30 of the Williams dialogue. If you haven’t yet secured a physical copy of this text, here is a scanned PDF. Additionally:

Class meets again on Wednesday, and then your sections meet on Friday (presumptively in-person, but let your TAs know if you can’t be there, and we’ll let you know if we need to adjust how sections work this week). Then next Monday Jan 17 there’s no class (MLK Day). Your first brief writing exercises for the course will be due on Tuesday Jan 18. new Here is the prompt and instructions for this exercise..