Second Paper

Choose one of the following topics:
  1. Explain the difference between orthodox versions of functionalism and Lewis' theory of the mind. How would each of these views characterize Lewis' madman? How would each of them characterize Lewis' Martian? In your opinion, which view is more plausible? Defend your answer.

  2. Does the Chinese room understand Chinese (or have any intentional states)? Suppose the guy inside the Chinese room "internalizes" all the instructions for how to manipulate Chinese symbols, and does so perfectly, though he continues to have no "experience of understanding" when he manipulates the symbols. In such a case, does the guy understand Chinese? Defend your answers to these questions, and explain what bearing your answers have to the debate about functionalism.

  3. Explain what an "inverted spectrum" is. What does the inverted spectrum argument purport to show? What role do assumptions about externalism play in the argument? Consider three kinds of externalism:
    • externalism about the meaning of words like "water"
    • externalism about the meaning of our color words
    • externalism about the representational content of our color experiences
    Are the second and third kinds of externalism less plausible than the first, or are they all equally plausible? How does your answer to that question bear on the inverted spectrum argument?

  4. Recall Smart's reasons for identifying sensations with brain states. Compare this to Mackie's argument that there are no colors, conceived of as physical properties of objects in the world (Mackie pp. 18-19). Are these the same sort of argument? Or are they importantly different? Does the one argument seem more plausible to you than the other?

Papers are due at the start of class on Monday, April 22. Please double-space your papers and use wide margins.

Your papers should be approximately 1500-2000 words (5-7 standard pages). Your grade will suffer if your paper is too long. So ask yourself: What are the most important things you have to say? What can be left out?

As before, answer the specific questions asked in the assignment. Write as clearly and straightforwardly as possible. Don't use technical vocabulary without explaining it or giving an illustration of what it means.

You may profit from going back and re-reading the Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper, on the course web site. There's probably a lot of advice there which you're now in a better position to appreciate.

It should now be clear to you that, to write a good philosophy paper, you must have a clear outline in mind of how you want your discussion to go. And you must write several drafts. We encourage you to talk to each other about your papers, and to solicit comments on drafts from your classmates and friends.

If you wait until the last few days before the paper is due to begin work, you won't have time to do all of this, and your paper will show it. So start right away.


Last Modified: 
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College