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Michaelmas Term 2016
Essay Titles
Junior Sophister Single Honours Philosophy

Students are required to take a total of six modules, to be distributed over two terms. It is strongly recommended that they take three modules in the first 1st semester/Michaelmas Term and three modules in the second 2nd semester/Hilary Term.

Students are required to submit a total of twelve essays in the year, two for each of the six modules they are taking. There are four submission dates, two in each term. By each of these dates, students are required to submit one essay for each module they are currently taking.

Submission Dates

Michaelmas Term 2016/1st Semester

Week 8 Monday 14th November’16: each student submits one essay for each module taken in the first part of this term
Please Note: Submission date for PI3007 Moral Philosophy is Monday 16th Jan’17.

Hilary Term 2017/2nd Semester

Week 1 Monday 16th January’17: each student submits one essay for each module taken in the second part of Michaelmas Term.
Week 8 Monday 6th March’17: each student submits one essay for each module taken in the first part of Hilary term.
Week 13 Monday 10th April’17: each student submits one essay for each module taken in the second part of Hilary term.
Please Note:Submission date for PI3007 Moral Philosophy is Monday 10th Apr’17.
  • Essays must not exceed 2500 words in length.
  • It is important for students to complete ESSAY COVER SHEETS in FULL when submitting essays to the Department (including Student name, ID number, email address, module, component, and name of your Teaching Assistant). Essay Cover Sheets with these headings are available from the Dept. Office and on the Philosophy webpage.
  • Students are required to submit their essays via Blackboard with a hard copy handed into the Philosophy Department.  SUBMITTING ESSAYS INTO BLACKBOARD ONLY DOES NOT FULFILL THIS REQUIREMENT.
  • Students must not submit more than one essay for a given module component.
  • Students must identify the component for which the essay is being submitted.
  • Essays must be handed in at the philosophy department office (or placed in the essay box nearby) by 2.00 P.M. on the day specified.
  • An essay may be accepted up to one week late with the loss of 10 marks. It will not be accepted after the lapse of one week.
  • Essay extensions, may be requested on medical or ad misericordiam grounds from you programme coordinator but only via your College Tutor. A list of coordinators is available on the Philosophy webpage and on the Junior Freshmen notice board.  Extensions must be arranged prior to the submission date. 
  • Material already assessed in essays may not be used again in examinations.

PI3002: Political Philosophy (Dr. Ben Bramble)

  1. Many people think that the international community should take action on climate change. What is the problem posed for this proposal by the ‘non-identity’ problem? Can it be answered?
  2. Suppose it is inevitable that humanity will go extinct. Is it better that we go extinct later rather than sooner? If so, why? If not, why not?
  3. What is Scheffler’s ‘doomsday scenario’? What does Scheffler think reflection on it teaches us? Is he right?
  4. Critically evaluate Susan Wolf’s ‘fitting fulfillment’ theory of meaning in life.
  5. What are the most serious objections to retributivist theories of punishment? Can they be answered?
  6. Reconstruct and evaluate Boonin’s argument for abolitionism about punishment.
  7. What are the most serious objections to the effective altruism movement? Have they any weight?

Readings for the above titles are available on Blackboard.

PI3007: Moral Philosophy (Dr. Ben Bramble)

  1. What is additivism about lifetime well-being? Explain and evaluate David Velleman’s argument against it.
  2. What is the best argument for subjectivism about well-being? What is the best version of subjectivism?
  3. Explain the philosophy of ‘swine&rsquo objection to hedonism about well-being. Is it successful?
  4. Choose what you consider the most serious purported counterexample to welfarism about value. Explain the threat it poses. Does welfarism survive it?
  5. Thomas Scanlon argues that well-being is not “a master value”. What does he mean by this? Why does he believe it? Is he right?

Readings for the above titles are available on Blackboard.

PI3009: Logic and Philosophy (Dr. James Levine)

  1. Compare at least two of the following four philosophers on the status of “Sherlock Holmes”:  Frege, Russell, Graham Priest (a neo–Meinongian), Tim Crane (a neo Husserlian).  In particular, consider them with respect to such questions as:  Is “Sherlock Holmes” a name that refers?  Can we succeed in thinking about Sherlock Holmes?  What is the truth–value of the sentence “Sherlock Holmes was a detective”?  What is the truth–value of the sentence “Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any living detective”?  Which, if any, of the views that you consider do you think is the best?  Why?


          Frege, G.                                    “On Sense and Reference”
                                                             “Introduction to Logic”
          Russell, B.                                  “On Denoting”
                                                             Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, Chapter XVI (“Descriptions”)
          Parsons, T.                                  Towards Non-Being, especially Chapters 3-6
          Crane, T.                                     “What is the Problem of Non–Existence?”, Philosophia (2012)

  2. Explain and assess Quine’s view of the relation between the existential quantifier and ontology.


          Quine, W. V.                               “On What There Is” (1948)
                                                                Word and Object (1960), especially §§33, 34, 38, 47, 48, 49
          Routley, R.                                  “Some Things Do Not Exist” (1964)
                                                                “On What There Is Not” (1982)
          Crane, T.                                      “Existence and Quantification”
          Priest, G.                                      “On What There Isn’t” in Towards Non–Being (2005)

Topic II: Aristotelian Logic and contemporary predicate logic

  1. Examine the "technical" and philosophical considerations surrounding the issue of "existential import".  Of what philosophical significance is the issue?  Which logical system, if any, best resolves the issue?


          Keynes, J.N.                               Formal Logic, Chapter VIII
          Prior, A.N.                                    The Doctrine of Terms and Propositions, Chapter 5
          Strawson, P.F.                             Introduction to Logical Theory, Chapter 6
          Quine, W.V.                                “Mr. Strawson on Logical Theory” in his Ways of Paradox
          Brentano, F.                                 Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, Chapter VII, Appendix IX
          Thompson, M.                            “On Aristotle’s Square of Opposition”, Philosophical
                                                                Review, 1953, Vol. 62, 251–65
          Wedin, Michael                           “Negation and Quantification in Aristotle”, History and
                                                                Philosophy of Logic, 1990, Vol. 11, 131–50
          Mulder, D. H.                               "The Existential Assumptions of Traditional Logic", History and Philosophy of Logic, 1996, Vol. 17, pp. 141–154
          Parson, T.                                     “Things that are Right with the Traditional Square of Opposition”, Logica Universalis, (2008), Vol. 2, 3–11.

  2. Critically compare the distinction between “subject” and “predicate” as it appears in Aristotelian logic and in contemporary “predicate logic.  Which, if either, account of the distinction accords better with ordinary language?


          Sommers, F.                               The Logic of Natural Language (1982)   especially Introduction, Chapters 1–2
          Frege, G.                                     “On Concept and Object” (1892), translated in Mind, 1951, Vol. 60,168–80 (see especially 169–70)
          Geach, P.                                     “Subject and Predicate”, Mind, 1950, Vol. 59, 461–82
          Geach, P.                                     “History of the Corruptions of Logic” (1968), reprinted in his Logic Matters (1972)
          Quine, W. V.                               Word and Object (1960), §20 (Predication), §33 (Aims and Claims of Regimentation)
          Ben–Yami, H.                             Review of The Old New Logic, Mind, 2007, Vol. 116, 197–202 (see especially 199– 202)

PI3018: Philosophy of Mind (Dr. Kenneth Pearce)

  1. Critically evaluate the argument for functionalism in Lewis’s “An Argument for the Identity Theory.” Is the argument convincing?
  2. Critically evaluate the argument for panpsychism presented by Nagel in “Panpsychism.” In your view, should we endorse the conclusion of this argument? If not, which premise or premises should we reject?
  3. Can the intentional/representational nature of  thought be given a reductive explanation? If so, how? If not, why not? (Note: eliminativism is a possible answer to this question. If intentionality/representation does not really exist, that would be a reason why it can’t be reductively explained!)
  4. Is the representational content of thought fully determined by the intrinsic features of the mind/brain, or does it depend on the thinker’s physical environment?
  5. Can phenomenal consciousness be given a reductive explanation? If so, how? If not, why not? (Note: again, eliminativism is a possible answer.)
  6. Are mental states ever causally efficacious? If so, does this violate the causal closure of the physical?