Phil 89: 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 Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2–3 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.

Fri Dec 2

Here is the list of movies and stories some of you suggested in today’s discussion as having interesting connections to the topics of our course. If you think of any more suggetions, feel free to email them to me and I’ll add them here:

Thu Nov 10

Today we finished discussing Parfit, and started to talk about the questions: (Q1) Are psychological properties and relations part of our essence, and if so, which ones? (Q2) Are facts about our biological/animal properties — for example that we have a body at all, or that we occupy a particular body — part of our essence? This will be the debate we explore further next session. As a preliminary, we started to talk about a hierarchy of simpler and more complex/sophisticated psychological properties, and noted that many philosophers tend to reserve the term “person” only for creatures at the more complex/sophisticated end of the scale. So they might agree that, say, frogs can feel pain, but say their mental organization isn’t yet up to the level of being a “person.”

The reading for Tuesday (Nov 15) is Chapters 1-3 of David Shoemaker’s book. (We read the Introduction to this book back in mid-August.) That’s a chunk of reading, but Chapter 1 will just be a review of the Perry dialogue, and the second half of Chapter 3 will be a review of Parfit. The new material we’ll be drawing from on Tuesday is in Chapter 2. The material in the first half of Chapter 3 about “narrative identity” will be our topic for the remaining classes after that. Presentation group J should introduce us on Tuesday to what’s discussed in Shoemaker’s Chapter 2.

For Thursday of next week (Nov 17), read this paper by Jeanine Weekes Schroer and Robert Schroer, continuing to explore the notion of narrative identity. Presentation group K should introduce us to that article. Drafts of your final papers should also be submitted to Sakai by that evening.

For Tuesday of the following week (Nov 22, just before Thanksgiving), read Chapter 3 of David DeGrazia’s book, which digs further into issues about narrative identity, and also discusses some views about free will. That reading will occupy us through the next and last regular meeting (Tuesday Nov 29).

Sakai should randomly assign you two or three other papers to give feedback on. As I’ve said, I won’t grade your drafts or the feedback you give, but where I see that someone has been extraordinarily helpful with their feedback — has put a lot of work and care into it, and given especially useful advice — I’ll award some extra credit for the course.

We’ll also have a Zoom meeting on Fri Dec 2 at noon. Your final revisions of the final papers will be due (in Sakai) at the start of that meeting. The meeting will be an opportunity to review the issues we’ve explored over the semester, ask questions about how they relate to other parts of philosophy, talk about ideas that you had while writing your papers, and so on.

Tue Nov 8

Here are your second paper topics. As I said in class, try to decide by the next time we meet which topic you’ll work on. Also come prepared to vote for: (a) prefer to give feedback to people working on the same topic as you, (b) prefer to give feedback to people working on different topics from you, (c) no preference. Your drafts will have to be submitted to Sakai by end of day on Thursday Nov 17 (next week). Your feedback to each other will have to be submitted by end of day on the following Tuesday, Nov 22 (just before Thanksgiving). I won’t be reading and giving feedback on these drafts myself, but I will be glad to discuss your ideas and overall paper structure with you in office hours. Your final versions of these papers will be due on Fri Dec 2 at noon, which is our scheduled exam period. We won’t meet for a final exam, but we will instead have a review/discussion meeting at that time on Zoom.

I’ll try to write up some more Parfit notes covering what we discussed today, and will post them here later.

I’ll also post here later today our readings for the next few meetings, and the schedule for the last two presentation groups.

Thu Nov 3

Here are some notes on Parfit.

Papers due Sunday night. On Tuesday , we’ll discuss the 1995 paper by Parfit. Presentation group I should introduce it and offer some questions about it.

Watch Memento if you haven’t yet done so. Compare to Parfit’s discussion of Methuselah.

Tue Nov 1

Reminders of announcements made in class: read the 1995 paper from Parfit for Thursday, but we still have lots of the 1971 paper (Chapter 14 in the Perry collection) to discuss, so presentation group H won’t go until next Tuesday, Nov 8. Also, if you have others you’d especially like to be paired with for the exchange of feedback on paper 2 drafts, email me (ideally cc’ing the other people you want to be paired with) about that over the next week. After that, I will randomly group you into clusters of four or so.

The revisions of the first paper are due this Sunday evening (at midnight). new When you submit the new paper, do so in the new submission slot for that in Sakai. Also, for these revisions, put your name on the paper instead of your PID.

I mentioned that the final papers will be due a bit later than stated on the syllabus. But you’ll still exchange your initial drafts on them, and give each other feedback, on the originally proposed dates for those steps. new When you exchange drafts with each other, I expect it will be easiest for you to have your names on the papers. (I’ll still ask you to anonymize the final versions you submit to me.) But maybe Sakai has the capability for you to share drafts anonymously, so you won’t know whose paper you’re giving feedback on. I don’t have a view about whether that’s valuable or not. If you have opinions about which way you’d prefer to do it (if Sakai really does have that capability), please let me know.

If you haven’t done so yet, watch the movie Memento. It’s available to stream from Amazon and from YouTube. This connects to some of the cases Parfit wants us to consider. In addition to that Wikipedia link, this analysis of the movie might also be helpful.

Here’s a video excerpt from a documentary interview of Parfit.

Wed Oct 26

Here is the link to general feedback on the first papers.

Here is our schedule for the next few classes:

Sun Oct 23

Here are some notes to help you with the Hume reading.

Tue Oct 18

Here are some sample philosophy papers from other intro courses I’ve taught, 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. (The “Paper 1” at that link is the one we discussed in class. Have a look at the comments compiled there, and some steps towards improving the paper.)

For next Tue Oct 25, read the three selections from Hume in the Perry collection (Chapters 10, 11, and 12), and also read the few pages in Perry’s Chapter 1 where he discusses Hume (pp. 26-30). No presentation group this day. (I’ll try to post some notes assisting you with the Hume reading, so check back here. But I may not be able to accomplish that and also grade the papers.)

Sometime before that class, I’ll post some signup sheets for office hours to discuss your papers and revisions (both in person and by Zoom).

(I moved the other items that were here about readings for future classes into more recent entries.)

Sat Oct 15

Here are lecture notes about Responding to the Fission Objection and Perry’s Third Night. new

Here are lecture notes about the Williams article.

As I said in class, this coming Tuesday (Oct 18), we’ll discuss Chapter 19 in the Perry collection, where Perry discusses some of Williams’s papers on personal identity. This includes two articles we haven’t read, but the issues raised in those articles are ones we’ve talked about, so you should be able to follow Perry’s discussion. (I expect page 332 is where it might get most confusing, but just keep going.)

The last part of Perry’s article dicusses the Williams article that we just read. Perry doesn’t think we should agree with the lessons Williams draws from his cases. What do you think? We’ll discuss on Tuesday.

Perhaps on Tuesday we’ll also be able to start talking in a general way about your papers, and how you should approach the project of revising them.

Next Thursday (Nov 20) the University is closed. Our meetings will resume on Tuesday Oct 25.

Tue Oct 11

Here are some general remarks about your third writing exercises. I’ll post individual feedback to Sakai.

For the drafts you’re submitting on Thursday, please follow these instructions:

These are simple instructions, but past experience suggests that some of you will fail to follow them. Please don’t make me chase after you to do so.

Mon Oct 10

Our reading for Thursday Oct 13 will be the article “The Self and the Future” by Williams that is Chapter 13 in the Perry collection. Presentation group G will introduce this reading for us.

Our reading for the following class, Tue Oct 18 will be the Perry article that is Chapter 19 in the Perry collection. No presentation group that day.

On Thu Oct 20 we have no class (Fall break). Presentation group H will go on Tue Oct 25 or Thu Oct 27. I will post the readings for those classes later.

Here is an interisting link I came across about the unreliability of memory.

As you know, your papers are due this Thursday evening. I will be available most of Tuesday afternoon (tomorrow) to discuss your ideas with you and help you move forward if you’re finding yourself “stuck” on your papers. I’ll bring a sign-up sheet to class with 20 min slots so you can be sure I’ll be available to talk to you when your schedule permits.

Tue Oct 4

Here are notes on the kinds of cases we discussed today.

For Thursday’s class, when presentation group F will go, the readings are:

Presentation group G will go on Thursday Oct 13 (your drafts of your first substantial papers are due that evening). I will post the readings for that class later.

Presentation groups: Summarizing the main ideas in the reading will continue to be useful, but try to shift more than you have been doing towards presenting questions to the class to consider/possibly discuss about the reading.

Mon Oct 3

This class has no final exam. However the University still requires us to meet during our scheduled exam slot (Fri Dec 2 at noon). I had not understood that this applied to first-year seminars until now, so I hadn’t advertised it earlier on the syllabus. But now you know our class will meet then (and also on our last regular-scheduled meeting time, Tue Nov 29 at 12:30). On Dec 2, we’ll have a review discussion of issues that we explored during the semester, issues we encountered but didn’t have time to explore, and for further discussion of ideas you had while writing your papers but weren’t able to think all the way through, and want to talk about with the group.

Thu Sept 29

I haven’t written up notes on Reid, but here are notes on Butler’s circularity objection. The later parts of those notes we didn’t get to yet, but will pick up with next class.

Here are prompts for your first substantial papers (due on Thursday Oct 13).

Before next class, watch the movie The Prestige. It seems to be available at this Youtube link. If for some reason that breaks, it’s also available on Amazon streaming.

Also read/watch for next class (Tuesday Oct 4):

No presentation group will go on this day.

Tue Sept 27

Here are notes on the Locke reading that we discussed today.

Readings for next class:

On Thursday, your third brief writing exercises are also due.

Sometime around the end of the month — ideally between Thursday Sept 29 and Tue Oct 4, you should arrange to watch the movie The Prestige. It seems not to be available right now on Netflix, but it is available on Amazon streaming. Let me know if you find other good streaming options. If a group of you want to watch together and have access to a DVD player, I can lend you a DVD.

Sun Sept 25

Here are lecture notes on the material I presented in the recorded lecture.

The Locke selection for Tuesday isn’t especially long, but it will probably be more challenging philosophical reading than you’ve dealt with before. So presentation group D will have a harder task introducing this reading than previous groups had. (The same holds for presentation group E, who will introduce Reid on Thursday; but not to as great a degree.)

To help, let me do two things.

  1. First, some more general advice about these presentations.

    • It’s natural when first learning to give these presentations (and generally the previous groups have done this) to think you need to talk through all the details, in order, like a movie plot synposis.

    • But that’s really not the best approach, even when it can work. And sometimes, if the reading is complex enough like this week’s readings are, it would just be overwhelming. The presenters are not going to be able to prepare and deliver that kind of summary in the time they have available — and even if they could, you couldn’t expect the rest of the class to pay attention that long.

    • What you should aim to do instead is notice and remind the class of a few of what seemed to you to be the main ideas or themes in the reading. And also to pose some questions about the reading. Generally a good presentation will do some amount of both. The balance between them is up to you. Some good presentations might lean more towards reminding the class of what the reading does (its main ideas or themes). Others might lean more towards asking questions.

    • What kinds of questions make sense to be asking in these presentations? If the reading itself poses some argument or puzzle or question, and it seems clear how to understand it, you could just ask the class what their reaction is. For example, “Did you guys find this argument convincing? I had some doubts.” Or you could ask a question like, “I didn’t understand why the author’s opponents weren’t allowed to say XYZ. Are any of you guys able to explain that?”

    • But often parts of the reading won’t be super-clear. And then it’s perfectly appropriate to ask questions like “What is going on in this part?” or “How is this argument supposed to work, I didn’t get it?”

    Of course, it won’t be an interesting or useful presentation if group D comes in and just says, “I didn’t understand anything, what is going on?” Or if they go through paragraph by paragraph and say of each one, “What is happening here?” We all need to wrestle with the text to get as much out of it as we can. Oftentimes in philosophy that will only give us partial understanding; that’s okay. The presenters just have the extra job of thinking more explicitly and speaking out first about what seem to be the most important ideas they do understand, and what seem to be the most important confusing things about the text.

  2. updated The second thing I’ll do to help is link to this outline of the selection to help you keep track of what’s happening. Like the author of that outline, I recommend you focus on sections 3-4, 6-7, 9-12, 14-16, 19-20, and 22.

    You may also find helpful section 1 of the Stanford Encyclopedia entry about Locke on Personal Identity.

Sat Sept 24

I posted the recorded lecture below.

Here are some general remarks about your second writing exercises. I’ll work on getting individual feedback to you as soon as I can.

Fri Sept 23

updated Here is a recorded lecture you should watch before our next meeting. If it prompts you for a password, use “G!H5Vg&d”.

For this coming Tuesday, when presentation group D will go, our readings are:

The presenters should focus on the Locke readings, though they are welcome to mention connections to the other texts too. I recommend (for everyone) that you read both the original Locke text (which is what is in the Perry collection) and the “translation” of it by Bennett’s team. But if you only have time for one, it’ll be easier for you to read the “translations.” Here are some explanations of what the Bennett “translations” aim to do.

(I moved the other items that were here about readings for future classes into more recent entries.)

Tue Sept 20

The reading for Thursday is to catch up in the Second Night to the point I mentioned before: up to where they begin discussing the difference between actually remembering things and only seeming to. In my copy this is about halfway down p. 29. You can stop where Weirob says “I am trying to get you to say what that further condition is.”

Also read the first few pages of Chapter 1 of the collection edited by Perry. You can stop when you get to the section titled “Locke’s Theory.”

Presentation Group D will go next week, on Tue Sept 27. I’ll post the readings for that session shortly.

Here’s some further reading about the soul theory of personal identity: Swinburne. We’re not going to discuss this reading in class, but it may help you understand better the kind of view Sam Miller is defending in Perry’s First Night. Unfortunately, Swinburne doesn’t (in this selection) respond to the kinds of challenges Gretchen Weirob raises for these theories.

You’ll be turning in your second brief writing assignment tonight or (if you coordinated with me about it) later this week. Your third brief writing assignments are due next week. I originally said on Tuesday, but let’s make them due on Thursday Sept 29 instead.

Here are initial notes on Perry’s Second Night.

Thu Sept 15

Here are notes on Perry’s First Night.

On Tuesday, we’ll continue discussing whether there are reasonable responses Sam Miller might give to the challenges Gretchen Weirob raises for him in the First Night.

We’ll also begin discussing the Second Night. Read at least the first four or so pages of the Second Night, up to the point where Sam Miller claims to have refuted Gretchen Weirob’s proposal about what personal identity consists in. To prepare for later, you can continue reading in the Second Night, up to where they begin discussing the difference between actually remembering things and only seeming to. But we’ll take a few meetings to introduce what’s happening there, and in the rest of the Second Night.

Tue Sept 13

Here are notes on today’s continued discussion of Leibniz’s Law.

For our next class, read the First Night in the Perry Dialog. Presentation group C will start us off with an overview of the reading and/or some questions about it.

As I said in class, you should all go to the Wiki in Sakai and sign up for more presentations later in the semester. Do it by the end of this week if you want to choose for yourself; after that I’ll start assigning people randomly.

Your second brief writing assignment is due Tuesday Sept 20. The third will be due a week after that.

The Philosophy Department has a Philosophy at the Movies night every other Thursday at 6:30 pm in Caldwell 105. They provide pizza with vegan/gluten-free options. This week they’re showing A Serious Man.

The Philosophy Department is also accepting applications for its Balter Undergraduate Diversity Fellowships.

Fri Sept 9

If you haven’t read the van Inwagen yet (or only read it once, and not especially carefully) be warned that this is going to take some work for you to be able to adequately understand and engage with. Partly this is just because you’re (relatively) new to reading philosophy texts (even ones aimed at introductory audiences). Partly it’s just because the debate he’s discussing is difficult in itself. But one further challenge you’ll encounter is that the organizational structure of the selection is a bit unusual.

After a few pages introducing the debate between physicalists and dualists, and saying what kind of dualist he wants to focus on, van Inwagen says he will discuss “five arguments” for dualism. As I said below, our selection only covers three of those arguments. His discussion of the first and third argument are relatively short, only a few pages each. But his discussion of the second argument is long and complex. It begins on p. 233 and continues all the way to p. 240. Part of what you need to do to understand this selection is to follow the backs and forths of that complex discussion. I shouldn’t do too much to help you, because if you don’t put the work into wrestling with the text and trying to be a careful reader, you’re not going to reap the benefits. But perhaps it’d be useful if I gave you a bit of help. van Inwagen’s discussion of his second argument breaks naturally into a few segments. In each segment, he’s pursuing a different goal. For example, the first segment presents the dualist’s argument. The second segment presents a reply the physicalist can give to the dualist. And so on. Here is a pdf which has all the same pages as the original link, but adds in some lines marking the different segments of this second argument. This may help you work out and understand the structure of van Inwagen’s discussion.

Thu Sept 8

Here are notes summarizing today’s continued discussion of Leibniz’s Law.

For our next meeting (Tuesday Sept 13), you should have read the van Inwagen article linked below. Presentation group B will introduce it.

new For Thursday Sept 15, read The First Night in the Perry Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (one of the two books assigned for the course). Presentation group C will introduce that reading.

Thu Sept 1

Here are notes summarizing today’s discussion of Leibniz’s Law.

At the end of class, we considered materialists who think that you and/or your mind or self is one individual object m, and your body (or maybe just your brain) is an individual object b, and that m and b are numerically identical. Dualists on the other hand think there’s an individual object s, your immaterial soul, that could in principle exist without your body. Many (but as we’ll see not all) dualists will say that m = s. All dualists will say that m ≠ b. That is, they’ll think that m and b are not numerically identical. We asked whether there are properties that m and b seem to differ with respect to, so that dualists could appeal to Leibniz’s Law to show this. The examples we came up with are:

Next class (that’s Thu Sept 8, there is no class this coming Tuesday) we’ll explore how persuasive these and other arguments for dualism should be.

In the meantime, keep working on the readings posted below. Presentation group B will talk about the van Inwagen article on Tue Sept 13.

new The First-Year Seminars office asks you to complete this 5-minute survey about your experience in this course so far. They ask for your PID but your answers will only be reported anonymously.

Tue Aug 30

I’m posting feedback on your first writing assignments to Sakai. If you can’t find the feedback there, let me know.

updated Here are some brief remarks calling out important questions that came out in today’s class.

As I said in class, for our next meeting or two we won’t have readings directly on the topic we’ll be developing. Only after we’ve built up the ideas a certain amount will we go through a reading that engages with them. So this is a good time for you to work through some general background introductory reading about philosophy.

Read those over the next week. Our next assigned reading for the main plotline of the course will be:

I won’t expect you to have read that until we meet on Tue Sept 13, two weeks from today. But you are welcome to get a head start on it as soon as you have the time to do so. The discussion should already be accessible to you; we don’t need to introduce any new concepts before you should be able to understand it.

I’m giving you a selection where van Inwagen discusses (a) the difference between dualism and physicalism; (b) several options a dualist has for what to say about how souls are causally related to the physical world (the views he labels “interactionism,” “occasionalism,” “epiphenomenalism,” and so on); (c) and three arguments in support of dualism. In later parts of the book from which this selection is drawn, van Inwagen goes on to discuss two more arguments in support of dualism, and then four arguments against dualism. (Most of them specifically against “interactionist” forms of dualism.) But we don’t need to read those sections. For our purposes, what’s most important will be (a) and van Inwagen’s discussion of the first argument in (c).

Thu Aug 25

Here is a page talking more about the “Conventionalist” view of “same ship,” and how (un)satisfying that would be as a view about persons.

Here are the two readings for Tuesday:

Tue Aug 23

I added a “Wiki” section to our course Sakai page. There’s a page there for signing up for presentations. I added the names and approximate dates that we did at the start of today’s class. You should go and add an email after your name so that your group can communicate. Use whatever email address you’re comfortable with sharing with others in the class.

I am writing up some pages that review the issues we discussed in class today. I’ll post them here later.

For Thursday, the assigned reading are the two new web pages that follow. I won’t try to talk through them in detail in class. Instead I’ll expect you have read them and will come to class with questions. The material in these pages will be especially dry and “abstract” and super-conceptual. I hope some of the distinctions proposed there will seem intuitive, even if the philosophical vocabulary for talking about it is unfamiliar. Other distinctions proposed there may be challenging to wrap your head around. That’s why I want us to talk through them in an informal Q&A way. In addition to their being especially “abstract,” another difficulty here is that the issues are controversial among philosophers, so there’s widespread disagreement about how to draw the maps, which divisions we need and which we don’t, and what counts as examples of the different places on the map.

So let me assure you that I’m not understanding this material to be established doctrine that you have to master. Instead, it’s offered as a quick impressionistic survey, so that you can get an initial feel for some distinctions that philosophers might want to draw (even if other philosophers argue against them), and get a feel for what vocabulary philosophers use to talk about these different categories, and what might naturally be offered or argued to be examples of each category.

Mon Aug 22
  1. The University requires a presentation component for courses like ours. The way we’ll implement this is that several of you will be designated to summarize the readings for some of our class meetings, and start discussion. I said on the syllabus that you should expect to have that role about four times during the semester, and that 3–4 of you will share the role each time. But now that I’m looking into the details, I think it will work better to have each of you sign up for just three sessions over the semester, and that six of you will sign up for each session.

    We’ll do the sign-ups this week. Each of you should sign up for one of sessions A through D; each of you should sign up for one of sessions D through H; and each of you should sign up for one of sessions H through K. I’ll put rough expected dates for each session on the sign-up sheet, but you should expect that there will be some slippage. If you’re signed up for session B, then you’ll be up when we do in fact get to the readings that I say are our “Session B.”

    If you turn out to be sick or have to miss the class you’re signed up for (for example, sports commitments you don’t have scheduled yet), we should still be okay with a smaller group of presenters. You should then try to make up the presentation you missed at another opportunity. If it doesn’t work out for you to do three presentations because of scheduling issues, that’ll be okay. But I will expect everyone to do at least two presentations minimum, one way or another.

    When you sign up, you are free to leave your email on the sheet (or not). I will put the finished sign-up sheet on Sakai, so that you’ll be free to talk in advance to others signed up for the same day as you. You might all collaborate as a single group, or as a few smaller groups, or some of you might contribute individually. Whatever works for you.

    I can imagine that some of you might over-prepare for these presentations (and try to do too much in the classroom), and others might under-prepare. We’ll talk about these roles in class so that you can try to find a good balance.

  2. On the forms I had you complete on Thursday, I asked what questions you may have about the course. Here are answers to some of them.

    • Some of you asked about seeing more web resources and/or example essays. First, let me assure you that our three brief writing exercises at the start of the term are expected to be informal writing and learning exercises. I’m not at all expecting these to be polished essays. Second, when it does come time for you to put together polished essays (the two “substantial papers” you’ll write for the course, in more than one revision each), I will point you to resources talking about how to write papers, and show you some sample philosophy writing, in the form of imperfect/realistic papers that we then overlay with feedback and discuss how to improve.

    • Some of you asked if we’ll be doing any small-group work/splitting up the class. Yes, I will be looking for opportunities for you to break up into smaller discussion circles, talk about a question or issue for ten minutes or so, and then come back together and share the results of your discussion with the whole class.

    • A few of you expressed anxiety about speaking up in class, and asked about how that would interact with the “participation” parts of our course requirements. First, let me assure you that I know people have a range of comfort levels with talking to large-ish audiences. I won’t be expecting everyone to do this to the same degree, or measure everyone’s contributions against the standard of those who talk most freely. The presentation/discussion-leading component of the class discussed in point #1 above is not optional, though you may collaborate on these, and some of you can be spokespeople for your group. As I mentioned in the previous bullet point, we’ll also have small-group discussions in class (groups of 3–5). Other input to my assessment of how much you’ve participated in and been engaged with the course doesn’t necessarily have to be your speaking to the whole class. You are welcome to ask me questions in office hours or by email, if it’s difficult for you to do so in the classroom.

      I do aim though to make our classroom as comfortable a place to talk as it can be. I or other students may sometimes ask questions about, or resist, something you’ve offered. But I hope you will see from the readings, and from our classroom discussion of other philosopher’s views, and how other students’ contributions are handled, that this can be done respectfully and is just part of the philosopher’s normal investigative method.

  3. Two announcements:

    • The UNC Philosophy Club will meet starting this coming Wednesday, 24 Aug, from 6–7 pm in Caldwell 213. There will be free food, and the meetings are open to everyone. No prior background in philosophy is assumed. They ask only that you bring your own experience and come ready to listen and discuss with an open mind. You can join the club’s GroupMe or email for more info.

    • Philosophy in 15 Minutes is an event our department will host this coming Friday, 26 Aug, from 3–5 pm in Gerrard Hall. Through a number of brief sessions, you can learn more about some philosophical issues, and about some of our department’s programs. There will be free food, and you’re welcome to bring friends who may be curious about philosophy. Here is more info. Note that this event does qualify for Campus Life Experience credit.

Sun Aug 21

I thought it’d be helpful for you to have a list of (what I take to be) the important ideas brought up in our class discussion and readings last week. (updated I moved this review to a separate page.)

Fri Aug 19

I set up our course Sakai page to accept your first writing assignments, which are due this coming Tuesday. For a while I had written on the page “this coming Tuesday Aug 27,” but Tuesday is in fact Aug 23. Nobody asked about this confusion, so I hope it didn’t give you any problems.

For next class, read:

Over the course of the semester, we’ll be hearing about, and sometimes reading texts from, a number of authors. I thought it might help you to have a map of some of the most influential people writing on our topic, who we’ll be encountering a number of times. (updated I moved this timeline to a separate page.)

Tue Aug 16

Spider-Man in a dark place

Read for next class:

In Perry’s article, he contrasts “numerical identity” — the sense in which Abe and Alicia in our example from class have one and the same mother — with “being very similar or very much alike” — the sense in which Abe and Alicia have the same (kind of) bicycle. We’ll use the label “qualitative sameness or identity” to talk about this second notion. Our interest in this course will be in numerical identity for persons, rather than questions about when people are qualitatively the same/different. We’ll also be interested in contrasting situations where one person has ceased existing (perhaps a numerically different person took their place) to situations where a single person has existed from beginning to end, they’ve just undergone some qualitative changes.

Another issue Perry discusses is one’s “sense of identity,” whether that be one’s “public identity” or one’s private self-conception (which may change in different situations). These are philosophically interesting and important issues, but they won’t be ones we directly engage with in this course. If you go on to think about those issues later, your thinking may be helpfully informed by what we explore and discuss this semester. But they raise different questions and challanges, and the connections between them and the material we’ll be studying are complex.

The first writing assignment, due next Tuesday Aug 27 Aug 23, is to pick some example from fiction (whatever media you like) where you think a reasonable case could be made that there are multiple people who inhabited a single body — either over time, or at the same time. I said in class that Spider-Man and Saul Goodman don’t provide especially compelling cases of that, but if you disagree, you’re welcome to take them as your examples. Whatever examples you choose, tell us enough about the example to make it clear why there’s a reasonable case to be made for counting them as really being two (numerically different) people. A half-page or page should be enough.

I won’t expect you to be committing yourself to the claim that there are two (or more) people in your example. Just that a plausible case could be made for that. (Maybe you think a better case could be made for saying something else.)