Monday, December 5, 2016


Study questions are at the tab above.
The final is on Tuesday Dec 13, 11:30 - 2:30.
I'll have extra office hours next week--Thursday 12-2 and Friday 1-3.
Come review with me but first do your best to find and understand the material.  I will give you feedback on what you've got and help you do better.

Are you ready for the final?  (diagnosis)

  1. Setting up and assessing arguments--what are the key concepts?  (Definitions are not arguments!)
  2. Soft determinism--all choices are determined (and the person couldn't do otherwise) but some are also free and responsible.  They try to reconcile these seemingly conflicting things.  
  3. How does Wolf try to reconcile? How about Frankfurt?
  4. Does a free will libertarian think every choice in The Manchurian Candidate is free? Which are the free ones?  Why?
  5. Three versions of the Cosmological are they alike?  How are they different from the Teleological Argument?  
  6. What is a theodicy?  What are the main theodicies? (four)
  7. The Kantian astronaut--what is the "categorical imperative"?  The Utilitarian astronaut.  What ethical principle do they follow?
  8.  We looked at four approaches to distributive justice (when a distribution of wealth is just).  Which are "historical" and which are "end state" (using Nozick's terminology)?
  9. The Original Position--what is it, what's the point of it?
  10. Libertarianism (free will)  and libertarianism (money)--two theories, unrelated!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Study questions are at the tab above.
The final is on Tuesday Dec 13, 11:30 - 2:30. 
We will finish talking about Nozick on Monday and also review.
I'll have extra office hours next week--Thursday and Friday 1-3.

More Inequality Videos

The Wealth Gap (John Oliver)

Wealth Inequality in America

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Our final topic is economic inequality.  Is economic inequality something to worry about? Is equality ideal?  We will be looking at three different answers (Frankfurt, Rawls, Nozick).  But first we'll get some background.



(1)  How much economic inequality is there in the US?

Inequality for All (movie)

Watch 0-21 and then 45-49.

(2) How does economic inequality in the US compare to the economic inequality within other countries?
2014 Gini Index World Map, income inequality distribution by country per World Bank
WIKIPEDIA.  The map shows the Gini Index (in %) of income worldwide, according to latest published data by World Bank in July 2014. Data Source: Table 2.9 of World Development Indicators: Distribution of income or consumption The World Bank (2014) Gini index is a measure of income inequality. A nation where every individual's income is equal would have a gini index of 0. A nation where one individual gets all income, while everyone else gets nothing would have a gini index of 100. Higher gini index for a nation means more income difference between its people. The average of Gini index scores in this map is about 40. All countries color coded in green have gini index scores less than 40, while those in shades of red have gini index above 40.

(3) How does GDP per capita vary between countries?

GDP per capita (nominal) 2015


Harry Frankfurt, "Equality as a Moral Ideal"

Economic Egalitarianism:  "the doctrine that it is desirable for everyone to have the same amounts of income and of wealth (for short, 'money')." (p. 1027)

The Doctrine of Sufficiency: "what is important from the point of view of morality is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough. If everyone had enough, it would be of no moral consequence whether some had more than others." (p. 1028)

He argues that Economic Egalitarianism is not only false but harmful.  He argues for the Doctrine of Sufficiency.


Why does Frankfurt think Economic Egalitarianism is harmful?

Frankfurt tries to show that Economic Egalitarianism is false by rebutting various arguments for it.

  1. Fraternity argument: with more equality, there is more brotherly/sisterly love.  Frankfurt's rebuttal:____________
  2. Diminishing utility argument: redistributing wealth more equally increases aggregate happiness because a poorer person gets more benefit from $1 than a richer person.  Frankfurt's rebuttal:___________
Can you think of any better arguments for Economic Egalitarianism?  Why does it matter for wealth to be fairly equally distributed?  Does it matter?


The Doctrine of Sufficiency--when is enough enough?  
  1. Having enough doesn't mean having an amount such that any more would be too much.
  2. Having enough does mean being contented, so that having more money doesn't "arouse ... any particularly eager or restless concern." (p. 1033)  

Monday, November 21, 2016


We'll read some passages from Nietzsche today and try to imagine a Nietzschean Hermes crew.  See post from Nov. 18.

Our final topic is economic inequality.  When is it unjust?  When is it just?  We will be looking at three different answers (Frankfurt, Rawls, Nozick).  But first, just how much economic inequality is there in the US?

Inequality for All (movie)

Watch 0-21 and then 45-49.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Philosophy Department Statement on Civility and Decency

Solidarity at Baylor -- read the inspiring story here.
We in the philosophy department have been very disturbed by recent divisive and racist incidents at SMU. Let's be a campus where we respect and support each other, regardless of our differences!  I enthusiastically support the statement below.  -- Professor Kazez


His life

Some of the main ideas in these passages--

  1. Nietzsche challenges traditional morality, but proposes a new set of values--so he's not a complete amoralist.
  2. At different stages, a society esteems different virtues--think of the virtues of the explorers who came to the Americas.
  3. Master morality vs. Slave morality.  Not a racial distinction.  Master morality is superior, but not for everyone.  Slave morality is inferior.
  4. Master morality is powerful, overflowing, exuberant
  5. Slave morality is meek, driven by pity, egalitarian, kind
We'll read some passages--annotated reading is here.

Who would Nietzsche admire?  Who would he disapprove of?
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Kanye West, Bill Gates, the crew of the Hermes, Mark Watney in the Martian, Oprah Winfrey, Bob Dylan, Beyonce, Thomas Jefferson, himself.... 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Take more philosophy!


Like logic?
PHIL 1301 Elementary Logic
PHIL 3312 Introduction to Philosophy of Language

Like philosophy of mind?
PHIL 3316 Minds, Brains, and Robotics
PHIL 3317 Philosophy of Perception

Like history of philosophy?
PHIL 3370 History of Modern Philosophy

Like philosophy of religion?
PHIL 5599 Problems in the Philosophy of Religion

Like ethics and political philosophy?
PHIL 1316 Contemporary Moral Problems
PHIL 1319 Technology, Society, and Value
PHIL 3377 Animal Rights
PHIL 3372 Liberty
PHIL 3373 Philosophy of Criminal Law


Why study philosophy? (brochure)
Major and minor requirements
Minor in ethics
Philosophy department website

Friday, November 11, 2016


  • Final draft deadline was changed to Sunday, 11:59 pm
  • Also bring a hard copy on Monday
  • We are talking about ethics, starting on Monday.  We'll have a movie quiz on Monday. The movie is The Martian.
  • My office hours today will be 2-4.  Come talk to me if you're having trouble writing the paper.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Papers/The Problem of Evil

  • Drafts are due by 11:59 tonight.
  • Final version is due at Canvas by 11:59 Friday night.  Bring a hard copy to class on Friday or Monday.
  • Do you have questions about the paper?
  • Today we will talk about the problem of evil.
  • Let's start with a little comedy.  

Friday, November 4, 2016


  • Paper is due in a week.
  • I've added one more topic--on the fine tuning argument.
  • Read the instructions very carefully!
  • Get started early!  At the very least, pick a topic NOW and start thinking about it.
  • Best way for me to look at rough drafts is if you give me a hard copy (by Monday).  I can also look at rough drafts at Canvas. I've created a rough draft "assignment" (without credit).  Deadline for uploading drafts is Wed Nov 9 at 11:59 pm.
  • Today we'll continue using the "God" pdf above.  We'll be discussing the fine tuning argument.
  • We'll probably have to talk about Pascal's Wager Monday.  Here's a great article about it recently published by Prof. Fisher (who was my "substitute" in October).  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Ontological Argument

Concepts we'll need for the next few weeks


  • Perfect
  • Omnibenevolent (all-good)
  • Omniscient (all-knowing)
  • Omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • Omnipresent
  • Infinite
  • Eternal
  • An immaterial mind
  • Loving and caring
  • Creator of the universe
  • Ruler of the universe
  • Self-caused
  • A posteriori -- an argument that relies on empirical evidence--based on experience
  • A priori -- an argument that doesn't rely on empirical evidence--based on concepts 
  • Theism
  • Atheism
  • Agnosticism
Arguments for the existence of God

  • The Ontological Argument (see God tab above)
  • ETC

Monday, October 24, 2016

What does "God" mean?


  • If your grade on the midterm is below the C-range, you should come talk to me during my office hours or by making an appointment.
  • Today we'll discuss the paper assignment (see tab above).


Friday, October 21, 2016

Frankfurt and the Manchurian Candidate


  • I will put the paper assignment here by Monday.
  • We'll watch Monday's movie in class.  There's no movie quiz and no homework. However, there's assigned reading.  Please read!

Free Will, continued:

  • Powerpoint (on Frankfurt)
  • Galen Strawson's argument....from his own mouth.  Strawson says there's no free will and no responsibility, but does he argue for that in the manner of a hard determinist?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Free Will


  • I'm returning the midterms today.  The majority of the class did very well (As or high Bs). There are also quite a few very low grades.
  • You should come talk to me if your grade is under 70.  Before doing so, look at your exam carefully, using the Midterm rubric (above).
  • I can talk to people after class today (until 2:30).

HARD DETERMINISM (e.g. Galen Strawson)
  1. All choices are determined.
  2. Determined --> couldn't do otherwise --> not free --> not responsible --> not blameworthy/praiseworthy (incompatibilism)

LIBERTARIANISM (e.g. Roderick Chisholm)
  1. Some choices are determined, some are not determined; the not-determined aren't simply indeterministic (random) but rather agents have control over them.
  2. Determined --> couldn't do otherwise --> not free --> not responsible --> not blameworthy/praiseworthy (incompatibilism)

    How can a choice be "under the agent's control" and not determined?  See Chisholm for one account.

    SOFT DETERMINISM (e.g. Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt)
    Note: some Soft Determinists say that when people make free choices, in some sense they could do otherwise.  

    1. All choices are determined
    2. Some determined choices are free, responsible, blameworthy/praiseworthy (compatibilism)
    The Big Question:  How can a choice be determined and "couldn't do otherwise" yet free, so the agent is responsible and blameworthy/praiseworthy?
    1. Couldn't have done otherwise, yet responsible--you save the child who's about to jump out the window; you refrain from pushing friend out the window; you keep a promise to your mother.  Intuitively, you couldn't do otherwise simply because nothing else was right!  That doesn't seem to rule out responsibility.
    2. Psychologically determined to make a certain choice, yet responsible for it--grew up developing generosity as a character trait, so now must give to the homeless person at Lover's and Central.
    Question:  do Wolf's examples help us vindicate common sense judgments?  For example, common sense says Marco was free when he shot the Shaws, at the end of The Manchurian Candidate.  Has Wolf said anything that would back this up?
    Couldn't have done otherwise, yet responsible*--Black wants Jones4 to do X; he's on standby to make him do X, using hypnosis or a brain implant, just in case he doesn't do X; but he never has to exercise his power to force Jones4 to do X because Jones4 does it of his own accord.  In that case, Jones4 couldn't have done otherwise. Yet doesn't he seem responsible?
    1.  Suppose Marco's chip is programmed to make him shoot Shaw, if he doesn't choose to.  (That German psychologist in New yOrk reprogrammed the chip when Marco was unconscious.)  Then he couldn't have done otherwise, yet he seems responsible!
    2. Suppose you have just learned to drive, and your mother is sitting in the passenger seat.  If you don't see the red light, she will shout "red light!"  But she doesn't have to, because you see the red light. You couldn't have done otherwise but stop, but you are responsible!
    3. Suppose bad guys have invaded Trump Tower.  They have implanted a chip in Melania Trump's brain.  They think she will vote for her husband on November 8, but they're on standby, waiting for the slightest sign of a different vote.  They don't exercise their powers, because she immediately fills in the Trump bubble. Melania couldn't have done otherwise but vote for Trump, but she is responsible!
    Question:  Frankfurt is saying that in principle, it can be true that someone couldn't do otherwise, but is still responsible (and free, and blameworthy/praiseworthy).  But when is this the case?  What about Marco when he shot the Shaws?  Does Frankfurt back up the common sense judgment that Marco was free?
    * If there are examples like this, this would refute what Frankfurt calls The Principle of Alternative Possibilities, which says "a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise." (Frankfurt p. 612)

    Sunday, October 16, 2016

    Week 9 Homework Help

    There are three chances to get homework credit this week.  (Hurray?) There are some "assists" below to help with this.  If you really need credit, it's advisable to attempt the first homework.  Then you can do more as a replacement (if needed) or for bonus points.

    Challenge:  can 100% of you get homework credit this week?  I bet you can!

    M 10/17 Compatibilism. Wolf, 621-630. (HW15: 630 TYU 2) 
    Yes, this is a hard one. You can get her main point and do the homework if you just read from p. 623 (starting with the fourth paragraph--"When we try....") to p. 625 (ending with the third paragraph--last words are "for a bad action").   
    In class we're going to talk about one of the good acts in The Manchurian Candidate--specifically, Marco shooting Shaw and his mother.  Wolf says he can be responsible for it even he was psychologically determined to perform it. She thinks differently about bad acts, like Dr. Noyle ordering Marco to kill a fellow soldier, as we'll discuss.
    W 10/19 Compatibilism. Frankfurt, 612-619. At least read the first two paragraphs and section IV. (HW16: 619 TYU 1. Also tell the Black and Jones4 story.) 
    Another difficult article, but you don't have to read the whole thing.  Also, the homework is straightforward.  Just state the principle of alternate possibilities (one sentence!) and tell the Black and Jones4 story.  You don't need to understand the point of it to tell the story.
    In class we're going to look for a Black and Jones4 type story in The Manchurian Candidate.  Maybe there's already one in there?  (Think about it....)  If not, we'll make one up, using the chips that were implanted in Shaw and Marco's heads.
    F 10/21 Living with determinism. Strawson, 588-597. (HW17 597 TYU 2)
    This is quite a bit more readable.  The homework is just about the first two pages, though reading more will help you understand what Strawson is saying.  

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Homework 14 Help

    There's just one homework this week.  Here's some assistance, to make it more doable.

    For purposes of the homework, you can just focus on sections 1, 5, 6, and 7.  

    Chisholm is rejecting Hard Determinism and arguing for Libertarianism.  See the last post for what Hard Determinists think and also for a glossary (at the bottom).

    Chisholm argues that our choices are not determined, but also not indeterministic. They aren't caused by past events over which we have no control.  They also don't occur randomly.  He's offering us a third possibility.  The third possibility is that when an agent decides to do something, that initial decision is not like the subsequent chain of events.  He illustrates with the example of a man grabbing a staff and hitting a stone.
    Decision:  Man decides to move his hand
    Event 1: Hand grasps staff (= stick or cane)
    Event 2: Staff moves
    Event 3: Stone moves
    Chisholm is claiming that the decision is not an event at all.  So it causes Event 1, but it doesn't have a cause.  Thus, it's not determined but also not indeterministic.  To describe the way the decision causes Event 1, Chisholm uses the term "immanent causation."  To describe the way Event1 causes Event 2, and Event 2 causes Event 3, he uses the term "transeunt causation."

    The homework (TYU3 on p. 604) asks you to "pick an ordinary free action and tell its story in Chisholm's way." So use the model above, but pick something more interesting. You might like to pick one of the (seemingly) free actions in The Manchurian Candidate.

    First, read the relevant sections of the article--again, those are 1, 5, 6, and 7.  If they sound like gibberish to you, you should still be able to do the homework, using the explanation above.

    The Manchurian Candidate and Free Will

    Movie link

    Free vs. Not Free

    1. Major Marco shoots a fellow soldier, under orders from Dr. Atticus Noyle (1:15:30 - 1:17:27)
    2. Sergeant Shaw suffocates a fellow soldier, under orders from Dr. Atticus Noyle (1:15:30 - 1:17:27)
    3. Sergeant Shaw kills Senator Jordan (1:31 - 1:35)
    4. Sergeant Shaw kills Senator Jordan's daughter (1:31 - 1:35)
    5. Sergeant Shaw gets himself and his mother killed (1:56 - 1:58)
    6. Major Marco shoots Shaw and his mother (1:56 - 1:58)
    7. Senator Elly Shaw manipulates her son (throughout movie)
    8. Dr. Atticus Noyle orders Marco and Shaw to kill people

    Hard Determinism 
    1. All choices are determined by past events over which people have no control. 
    2. If all choices are determined by past events over which people have no control, then nobody can ever do otherwise.
    3. If people can never do otherwise, then people are never free.
    4. People are never free.  (conclusion from 1, 2, 3)
    5. If people are never free, then they are never responsible and can't be blamed or praised.
    6. People are never responsible and can't be blamed or praised. (conclusion from 4, 5)

    Free Will Glossary
    1. Determinism--All events are caused by past events.  
    2. Fatalism--Certain things are destined to happened, no matter what prior events occur.
    3. Indeterminism--Some events are random and inexplicable.  
    4. Hard Determinism--Determinism is true; therefore people are never free or responsible.
    5. Libertarianism--Determinism is false; people are at least sometimes free and responsible.
    6. Soft Determinism--Determinism is true; but they are also at least sometimes free and responsible.

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Next movie: Manchurian Candidate (2004)

    Next up is The Manchurian Candidate, a movie about a US election.  This will be timely and I think you'll enjoy the movie.   It relates to our next topic -- free will.

    The quiz on the movie is on October 12, the first day after fall break.  

    Make sure you watch the 2004 remake, with Denzel Washington.  The 1962 original, starring Frank Sinatra, has a significantly different plot.
    • The library only has the old version, but they're ordering the new one.  
    • It's available at Hulu (7 day free trial!) with the Showtime add-on.  
    • You can watch it at Amazon with a Showtime subscription (7 day free trial!). 
    • You can pay $2.99 to watch at YouTube. 
    • It's also available on iTunes to rent at $2.99, if you use iTunes.
    • You can order the DVD at Amazon for just $4.99.  
    While watching, ask yourself when the characters act freely and when they don't. What are they responsible for?  What are they not responsible for?

    Wednesday, October 5, 2016

    Parfit plus Review


    • I will have office hours today (1-2:30) and tomorrow (1-2:30).  Stop by if you have questions about the mid-term.  If those times don't work, make an appointment.
    • Homework tips above, at the tab.

    Parfit Powerpoint

    Study Questions (above)

    Monday, October 3, 2016


    • I will have different office hours this week.  My Monday and Friday office hours are cancelled.  I'll have office hours Wednesday (1-2:30) and Thursday (1-2:30).  Come by if you have questions about the midterm.
    • We will discuss the study questions on Wednesday. Make sure you look at them carefully before then.
    • There is no homework for Wednesday.  
    First we'll hear from groups about Alice...

    Parfit and Teletransportation

    Real world non-magical teletransportation--
    1. Scan A on earth
    2. Send scan to Mars
    3. Folks on Mars use scan to build individual B on Mars
    4. Folks on earth destroy A
    5. If A = B, A made it to Mars!
    But does A=B???

    Qualitative identity--like two white billiard balls (they are not one and the same thing)
    Quantitative (or numerical) identity--like how Superman is Clark Kent (they are one and the same person)

    Parfit creates extra perplexity by telling three stories

    Story 1 - Everything functions normally
    Story 2 - Malfunction.  The teletransporter fails to destroy A after A is scanned.  A continues to exist.
    Story 3 - Double malfunction.  The scanner damages A's heart.  The teletransporter fails to destroy A after A is scanned.  A continues to exist but will die soon after B is on Mars.

    What do the various theories of personal identity say about whether A=B in each story?

    Substance theories

    1. Soul
    2. Whole Body
    3. Brain
    Psychological theories

    1. Locke
    2. Parfit

    Parfit Powerpoint

    Friday, September 30, 2016


    • Midterm study questions are at the tab above.  Look at them before next Wednesday, when we'll review.
    • I gave you an easier option for HW13.  Check it out at the syllabus.
    • There's just one homework for next week.
    • See next post for info about the next movie.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2016


    (1) Turning in bonus/replacement homework.  The old system wasn't working well. I now have week-specific assignments.  So if you turn in bonus/replacement homework this week, upload to WEEK 6 B/R, which is right next to WEEK 6 in Canvas.

    (2) First annual Philosophy Department fall semester pizza party. Everyone welcome.

    (3) Earthlings

    Theories of Personal Identity

    The Problem of Personal Identity
    • What makes a human being remain the same individual, over time?  
    •  For example, are you the same individual as the baby your mother gave birth to?  Will you continue to exist as a 90 year old?
    • What is a human being essentially?
    • Criterion of personal identity-- A = B if and only if __________________
    • Could you go on existing, as the very same human being, after the death of your body?

    The Still Alice problem
    • Alice1 makes a video telling Alice2 to kill herself  (movie clip-- :39 - :40  and 1:23 - 1:27)
    • "I'm you" that true?
    • If Alice1 = Alice2, Alice1 is planning a suicide
    • If Alice1 =/ Alice2 , then Alice1 is planning a homicide!  
    • Is Alice1 planning a suicide or a homicide?

    The Soul Theory (Richard Swinburne)
    • We are essentially souls (attached to bodies for now)
    • You will continue to exist as long as you have the same soul
    • Fun fact: you weigh nothing
    • Swinburne's "what else?" argument.  You could find yourself (a) in control of another body, or (b) with no body, or (c) with no memory of the past.  So what else could make you you besides an immaterial soul?
    • Homework: is he arguing that the soul is immortal?
    • p.s.  We talked about Christianity and the afterlife a bit.  More on that topic is here.
    Movies Consistent with Soul Theory
    • Freaky Friday
    • Nine Lives

    The Body Theory
    • We are essentially bodies (in a comprehensive sense, where the body includes the brain)
    • You will continue to exist as long as you have the same body (which is possible despite some degree of change)
    • Fun fact: you weigh 150 pounds (or whatever)

    The Brain Theory
    • We are essentially brains.
    • You will continue to exist as long as you have the same brain (which is possible despite some degree of change)
    • Fun fact: you weigh about 2 pounds
    • Brain transfer argument: if you had an accident and your brain were transferred to a new body, you would survive the accident.

    Movies Consistent with the Brain Theory

    The Still Alice Problem (in groups, if we have time)
    • What does each theory say about whether Alice1=Alice2?
    • Which of these three theories is most plausible?
    • What's the bottom line (on the theory of personal identity you prefer): is Alice1 plotting a suicide or a homicide?
    • What do you really think it is, suicide or homicide?

    Monday, September 26, 2016

    Philosophy of Mind Review

    (1) Substance Dualism (Rene Descartes)
    • There are two substances, soul and body
    • The body is extended (takes up space), the soul is unextended (doesn't take up space)
    • To have mental states (like seeing red), you need a soul.  It's the soul that sees red.
    • Descartes thought soul and brain interacted through the pineal gland
    • Ava, in Ex Machina, couldn't have mental states unless she has a soul.

    (2) Physicalism-1 (JJC Smart)
    • Also known as the Mind/Brain Identity Theory or simply the Identity Theory.
    • To have mental states (like seeing red), you must have a brain, and don't need a soul.  It's the brain itself that sees red. Mental states are identical to brain states.
    • The biological science of the brain will eventually explain each and every type of mental state.  We will understand that feeling hot is this particular brain state, seeing red is that brain state, etc.
    • Ava, in Ex Machina, doesn't have a biological brain, so couldn't have mental states.
    (3) Functionalism 
    • To have mental states, you don't need a soul. Mental states are functional states, likes being an alarm is a functional state.  Any system can have mental states if it functions in the right way.
    • The science that explains mental states will be computer science, not brain science.
    • An AI like Ava in Ex Machina, could (in principle) function so as to have mental states.

    (4) Naturalistic Dualism (David Chalmers, next week)
    • Easy problems about consciousness
    • The hard problem
    • Qualia
    • Consciousness as a fundamental property
    • Panpsychism
    • Ava could be conscious--even your gas gauge could be conscious, to a very low degree
    • Why this is called "naturalistic dualism"

    (5) Epiphenomenalism (Frank Jackson)

    • Jackson says that qualia are not physical
    • He thinks they're caused by the physical brain they don't cause anything--your red qualia don't cause you to stop at a redlight (epiphenomenalism)
    • The knowledge argument has generated many different responses (see Prof. Fisher's notes below)
    • Here's an excerpt from Patricia Smith Churchland's article
    • Churchland's argument: pregnancy gives the obstetrician a new window onto the same old thing--pregnancy.  Likewise, leaving the black and white room gives Mary a new window onto color vision.  However, she doesn't discover any new, non-physical feature of color vision.
    • Using the typology below, which type of response is this?


    Responses to the Knowledge Argument (Prof. Fisher's notes)

    Type A physicalists (like Dennett, mentioned in the Chalmers video) deny P2, and hold that Mary's textbook knowledge about color vision actually would put her in position to fully anticipate what would happen in the tomato scenario, so she wouldn't be surprised at all.  If you think she would be surprised, then Dennett thinks you probably haven't really imagined what it would be like to know *all* the physical info about color vision.

    Type B physicalists deny P3, holding that whatever it is that Mary gains, it isn't completely new information about color vision.  E.g., David Lewis thinks that all Mary gains is the *ability* to recognize red when she sees it again as the same color as she saw on the tomato.  Paul Churchland thinks that Mary gains info in a new part of her brain -- the visual cortex -- info which was already present in a different part of her brain -- the part which held textbook knowledge.  Since this isn't completely new info, it is no counterexample to physicalism.  These Type B physicalists think we have two different windows onto the physical events happening in our brains:  one window involves learning about our brains using third-person science; the other provides an introspective window upon the same brain events.  The fact that Mary can add info to her list of things she's seen through the second window does not in any way show that her view through the first window wasn't complete.

    Type C reply is Mysterianism (advocated by Colin McGinn).  This view basically denies P1, and says that our minds are incapable of fully understanding conscious experience.  We evolved to solve certain sorts of problems that our ancestors faced, but fully understanding our brains and consciousness would involve far more brainpower than that, so we're simply incapable of doing it.  Kind of like it would be completely hopeless to for your dog to try to understand algebra, McGinn thinks it's completely hopeless for humans to try to understand consciousness.  This view may turn out to be right, but it's premature to give up hope at this early point.  Our ancestors also had no need to understand rocket ships or relativity, but we still managed to wrap our heads around those things.  Maybe we'll be able to wrap our heads around consciousness too.

    Tangent.  I mentioned that, on McGinn's view, perhaps our best hope of understanding this stuff would be to build AI's that surpass our own cognitive limitations.  This led students to ask questions about (i) whether the relevant computational power is possible, (ii) about whether such a computer would have a mind, (iii) about whether we could transfer our own minds into a computer, and (iv) about whether the resulting computer would be *me* or just something with a mind a lot like mine.  I noted how question (iv) is very similar to questions that come up in the personal identity over time literature, e.g., in cases of tele-transportation.

    Type D response is interactive dualism (advocated by Descartes, for example).  If minds involve non-physical stuff or properties, then this would explain why there is more info for Mary to learn about color vision, beyond the physical info.  However, David Lewis pointed out, dualism doesn't really help.  We could imagine Mary also reading textbooks about dual substances and how they interact with physical substances.  Still, the intuitions are just as strong that, until she sees red for herself, she won't know what it's like to see red.

    Type E response is "epiphenomenalism" which is dualism with the interaction going only in one direction, body to mind.  This was the conclusion Jackson drew from the Mary argument.  Jackson thought that the Mary argument showed that there is something non-physical, and he was confident that conscious events (like pain) were caused by physical events (like getting hit with a hammer).  However, since physicists couldn't find any evidence of any physical events being caused in weird ways, Jackson concluded that the interaction didn't go in the other direction.  This means that whatever behavior people produce (including every single claim they utter about consciousness), this is produced by their *brains*, not by their separate conscious minds.  It's a lucky coincidence that the same time as our minds decide to do things, our brains also just happen to send out the right motor commands to do them. 

    Type F response is Chalmers own preferred view, "pan-psychism", which holds that even the most basic physical elements have, as part of their nature, some limited form of consciousness, and that these limited forms of consciousness can lead to higher forms of consciousness when physical elements get arranged into brains.  Mary's black-and-white education would leave out these conscious aspects of the basic physical elements, so that's why there's more info for her to gain when she sees her first tomato.  The Jackson-style argument that Lewis used against dualism (imagine Mary learns all about dual substances in her room -- that still wouldn't tell her what red would look like) arguably doesn't work against pan-psychism -- if Mary were to learn all about the conscious aspects of physical stuff, and how these combine to form higher forms of cons, this really would tell her what it feels like to see red.  However, this view is faced with many of the same problems as the two dualisms, explaining how these psychic properties interact with ordinary physical properties and why they seem to interact if they don't, and explaining why we should believe in all these weird properties without any physical evidence of their existence.

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Can Consciousness Be Explained?

    You'll be watching two videos today (we'll discuss them Wednesday).  Please turn in the worksheet at the end of class, to get credit for attendance.

    First video--Nancy Kanwisher--Neuroscientist at MIT

    Second video--David Chalmers--Philosopher at NYU
    Note: he's the author of today's reading

    Thursday, September 15, 2016

    Ex Machina Discussion


    Ex Machina

    Get into groups.  Discuss all of the mind questions.  Then discuss one of the Ethics/Gender/Sexuality questions.  Pick a spokesperson.

    Mind Questions

    1. Is the Original Turing Test (are Ava's answers distinguishable from a human's?) a good test for consciousness and mind?
    2. Is the New Turing Test (can Ava get Caleb to help her escape?) a better test for consciousness and mind?
    3.  Does Ava appear to lack any capacity that's crucial for real consciousness and mind?

    Ethics/Gender/Sexuality Questions

    1. Is it wrong for Nathan to turn off Ava when he develops a new model?
    2. Do the AIs in the movie have rights?
    3. Could AIs really have genders?
    4. Is it wrong for Nathan to use the AIs for sex?



    (1) Substance Dualism (Rene Descartes)
    • To have mental states (like seeing red), you need a soul.  It's the soul that sees red.
    • Descartes thought soul and brain interacted through the pineal gland
    • Ava, in Ex Machina, couldn't have mental states unless she has a soul.

    (2) Physicalism (JJC Smart)
    • To have mental states (like seeing red), you must have a brain, and don't need a soul.  It's the brain itself that sees red. Mental states are identical to brain states.
    • The biological science of the brain will eventually explain each and every type of mental state.  We will understand that feeling hot is this particular brain state, seeing red is that brain state, etc.
    • Ava, in Ex Machina, doesn't have a biological brain, so couldn't have mental states.
    (3) Functionalism 
    • To have mental states, you don't need a brain or a soul. Mental states are functional states, likes braking is a functional state.  Any system can have mental states if it functions in the right way.
    • The science that explains mental states will be computer science, not brain science.
    • An AI like Ava in Ex Machina, could (in principle) function so as to have mental states.

    (4) Naturalistic Dualism (David Chalmers, next week)

    (5) Epiphenomenalism (Frank Jackson, next week)

    Wednesday, September 14, 2016

    Mental Events and Physical Events

    JJC Smart's favorite example of a mental event: seeing an after image.

    Stare at the white cross for 35 seconds. Then look at the white board.


    1. Quantitatively identical--like Superman is identical to Clark Kent.  There's one person, not two.
    2. Qualitatively identical--like identical twins are identical to each other. There are two people, but they are very much alike.
    Mental events are NOT identical to physical events, but rather, occur in a non-physical soul. (Descartes's view)
    Mental events ARE identical to physical events, and occur in the brain. (JJC Smart's view)
    On the board.... 

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Submitting Homework

    (1)  Required--one per week (lowest score dropped).

    • Please upload to the right week at Canvas!  I've made it clearer by listing the homeworks for each week. 
    • Please write the week and homework at the top of your homework.  For example:  Week 5, HW8.

    (2) Replacement--you got a zero on Monday's homework (for example), so submit more homework Wednesday.

    • Submit this at the first available Bonus/Replacement assignment. 
    • At the top of the assignment, write the week and homework assignment, and say that what you're trying to replace.  For example:  Week 5, HW9, replacing HW8.
    • If you get credit, you will see the credit at Week 5. It will say 0 here, to avoid giving you double credit!
    (3) Bonus--you turned in the required homework and got credit, but want to do more for extra points.  
    • You'll submit this at the first available Bonus/Replacement assignment.
    • At the top of the assignment, write the week and homework assignment, and say "bonus." For example: Week 5, HW9, bonus
    • If you get credit, you'll see 100 here.  If you don't, you'll see 0.
    • You'll get an extra homework point at the end of the semester, for each bonus assignment you do (up to 10).  Canvas can't add these points automatically--I'll do it manually at the end of the semester.

    Saturday, September 10, 2016

    Ex Machina plus Syllabus Revision

    We'll have a quiz on the movie Ex Machina on Friday.  More info and links here.

    This coming week is week 4. The syllabus for next week, week 5, has been revised.  It's a good idea to use the online syllabus to find out the reading assignment and homework.  It will always be current.

    Friday, September 9, 2016


    1. A student in this class needs copies of two classmates' notes. If you take good notes and are willing to share a copy of them with a classmate, please meet me after class to make arrangements.
    2. Our next movie is Ex Machina--we'll have a quiz on it on Friday September 16.
    3. Read all the homework rules on the syllabus and bear in mind that you just have to do a conscientious job to get credit. That means (a) answering the whole question (all parts), (b) using the reading to the extent relevant to the question, (c) writing enough words to cover the topic (usually 100-200), (d) writing thoughtfully.  The point of the homework is to incentivize you to do the readings with reasonable care and to prepare you to contribute to class discussion. 

    Thursday, September 8, 2016

    Solution #5: Reliabilism

    JTB Definition of Knowledge
    x knows that p if and only if
    1. x believes that p
    2. p is true
    3. x is justified in believing that p
    Is this definition right?  Would a different definition help us overcome our evil deceiver worries?
    Edmund Gettier--definition is not right because the three conditions are not jointly sufficient
    Before looking at counterexamples--
    1. Forget about the evil deceiver, make common sense judgments.
    2. Justification is one thing, truth is another.
    3. Justification spreads through logical reasoning.  If you're justified in believing that p, and you know that p logically entails q, then you're justified in believing that q.

    Gettier Case I, in cartoon form:
    Credit: this is a modified version of an SMBC cartoon by Jack Weinersmith.

    Credit: this is a modified version of an SMBC cartoon by Jack Weinersmith.

    Henry and the Barns

    1. Henry believes he's looking at a barn
    2. He is in fact looking at a barn.
    3. He's justified in believing he's looking at a barn.
    But because of all the fake barns in the area, Henry doesn't know he's looking at a barn! So the JTB definition is not right!

    Broken Clock Counterexample (more realistic!)

    The clocks in Hyer Hall were broken all last year.  Imagine Sally doesn't know this. She comes into Hyer Hall, looks at the clock, and sees it says 12:00.  She thus believes that it's 12:00.  But note: she would have believed the same thing had it actually been 11:00 or 1:00.

    1. Sally believes it's 12:00
    2. It is in fact 12:00
    3. Sally is justified in believing it's 12:00
    Sally meets all three conditions but she doesn't know it's 12:00!  So the JTB definition is not right!

    New "reliabilist" definition of knowledge:

    x believes that p if and only if
    1. x believes that p
    2. p is true
    3. under the relevant circumstances x is reliably correct on the topic of p
    Being reliably correct in the relevant circumstances vs. having justification
    • Having justification is having reasons, evidence, being able to explain why you believe that p
    • Being reliably correct is just getting it right, under the circumstances
    On this definition, why doesn't Smith know? Why doesn't Henry know? Why doesn't Sally know?

    How is this going to help us with the evil deceiver?  Stay tuned!
    • Monday we'll talk about this
    • We will also talk about how Descartes thought he'd solved the evil deceiver problem

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    Solving Descartes's Problem

    • Week 2 homework grades and comments will be in Canvas this afternoon.
    • We'll discuss homework expectations on Friday.

    Descartes's Problem

    Truman's Problem

    Solution #1 -- No Solution

    Skepticism about knowledge of the external world.  Descartes can't know there's a fire. He can't know anything about matters outside of his own mind.

    Solution #2 -- Doing Experiments


    Truman's reasoning:  
    (1) Either my world is natural or it's fabricated by strange forces 
    (2) If it were natural, and I did X (e.g. drove in an atypical direction), then I would observe Y (e.g. the usual cars). 
    (3) But when I do X (e.g. drive in an atypical direction), I don't observe Y (e.g. the usual cars). 
    So (4) My world is fabricated by strange forces.
    What experiment could Descartes do to prove that either there is or isn't an evil deceiver?  If this sort of solution could work for Truman, could it work for Descartes?

    Could Descartes experiment and reason in a similar way?
    (1) Either the fire image in my mind is caused by a real fire or it's caused by an evil deceiver. 
    (2) If if were caused by an evil deceiver and I did X, I would observe Y. 
    (3) But when I do X, I don't observe Y. 
    So (4) The fire image in my mind is caused by a real fire.


    Solution #3: Jonathan Vogel's "Explanationist" Solution

    The Deceiver Argument.  (This is the argument that disturbs Descartes in Meditation I.  The skeptic thinks it's a sound argument.)

    Vogel says The Deceiver Argument is unsound.  Why is it unsound?  Because (he says) premise (2) is false.  He talks about a couple of other accounts of why it's false and then presents Explanationism as his own reason.  

    Explanationism. Descartes has two competing hypotheses to explain his mental image of the fire, but Vogel says they are not equal.  One is a better hypothesis than the other. So Descartes has reason to choose the better of the two. This is known as "inference to the best explanation" and we use this sort of reasoning all the time. If Vogel is right here, then premise (2) of the Deceiver Argument is false.

    Vogel uses the examples below to convince us that there are better and worse hypotheses:

    Ex. 1.  Dr. G sees his patient Roger and has two hypotheses about what's causing his symptoms.  
    1. allergy hypothesis (better because generalizes to other cases)
    2. something else hypothesis (worse because ad hoc)

    Ex. 2.  Two people are debating why you reach the same location, if you keep traveling in the same direction
    1. round earth hypothesis (better because simple)
    2. flat earth hypothesis--you'll be drugged and abducted by aliens to get from one edge to the opposite edge (worse because needlessly complicated)

    Back to Descartes! Why is the fire dying down?   Descartes will struggle between two hypotheses--

    1. real world hypothesis--log is being consumed (Vogel says: better because simpler)
    2. evil deceiver hypothesis--ED is generating a sequence of flame images, each smaller than the previous one (Vogel says: worse because needlessly complicated)

    Since the real world hypothesis is superior, premise (2) of the Deceiver Argument is false.

    Solution #4: Descartes's Very Own Solution 

    We will talk about this solution more on Monday 9/12.  Friday we will go on to the next reading.  

    Solution #5: Reliabilist Approach

    We'll talk about this solution Friday 9/9.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016

    HW1 Feedback

    If you turned in HW1, you got credit.  In the future, you'll only get credit if the homework can be called "conscientious."  That means--
    1. It's responsive to the question.
    2. The reading was used, to the extent it was relevant.
    3. The answer is thoughtful.
    4. The answer is the right length.

    Truman Show Clips

    IMDB Synopsis
    Amazon link

    Friday, August 26, 2016

    Counterexamples to JTB Definition of Knowledge

    X believes that p if and only (1) X believes that p, (2) p is true, and (3) x is justified in believing that p.

    Counterexample to (1): someone who knows that p but doesn't believe it.

    • Blind person who says the sky is blue--it's true and they have justification, but they don't believe it (because they don't fully have the concept of blueness).  Nevertheless they do know it.
    • Someone has evidence of evolution, and evolution is real, but the person doesn't believe in evolution for religious reasons. Nevertheless they know that evolution occurred.
    • Someone's relative was convicted of a crime. It's true they were convicted and the person has justification for believing it, but they don't believe it, because it's too painful.  Nevertheless, they do know it.
    Counterexample to (2): someone who knows that p, where p is not true.
    • Child believes that Santa Claus exists and they're justified in believing it, but it isn't true. Nevertheless, they do know that Santa Claus exists.
    Counterexample to (3): someone who knows that p, but lacks justification.
    • Person believes someone is from Missouri based on a fake ID.  They are in fact from Missouri. Despite the lack of justification, they know the person is from Missouri.
    • Person believes the earth is flat.  Despite lack of justification, they could know it.

    Are any of these successful counterexamples?

    What have we learned through the search for counterexamples?

    • It's very hard to think of any good ones.  In each case, it's questionable that the person really does know that p, despite lacking belief, truth, or justification.  
    • But it might be possible to challenge this definition.  We'll come back to this next week.
    • For now, we'll assume knowledge is justified true belief.  
    • Next question: what can we know?