101 Philosophy Problems (3rd Edition)

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As with Philosophy , this course involves a mixture of lectures and tutorial sessions link and students are assessed on the basis of a mixture of written essay assignments, tests and a final examination. This course focuses on questions of knowledge and justification. On the one hand we develop the reasoning skills of students by teaching more about the logic of arguments, and how to distinguish good and bad arguments.

On the other, we look at some issues regarding the nature and possibility of knowledge. This course is required for students majoring in philosophy. This course is about ethical problems in the lives of ordinary people. These topics are not only engaging but also very important, affecting the way in which we lead or should lead our daily lives. This module, comprised of four sections, provides an introduction to the philosophy of law. In the first section we shall address questions relating to the nature of law including: What is law?

What is the relationship between law and morality? What should judges do when a legal rule mandates an unjust result? In the second section, we shall take up the question whether the law should enforce morality. In the third section, we shall ask whether judicial review is democratic, and to the extent that it is undemocratic, whether it could be changed to make it more democratic.

In the fourth and final section, we shall examine some rationales for criminal punishment and justifications advanced for certain types of punishment. This course will focus on three related topics in philosophy of mind. The first is innate knowledge and arguments for it. The second is the problem of dualism, or the separation of mind and body. The last is the possibility of artificial intelligence, and the related notion that minds are in some sense machines.

We will ask whether races are natural kinds, and what races, and racism could be if they are not. This is a course in classical modern epistemology focusing on Hume and Kant. Students will be expected to know these particular aspects of Hume and Kant well, and to be able to respond analytically and critically to them. Evidently even in cases of change in this category, however, something persists. To take an example favourable to Aristotle, in the case of the generation of a statue, the bronze persists, but it comes to acquire a new form, a substantial rather than accidental form.

In all cases, whether substantial or accidental, the two-factor analysis obtains: something remains the same and something is gained or lost. In its most rudimentary formulation, hylomorphism simply labels each of the two factors: what remains is matter and what is gained is form.

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Importantly, matter and form come to be paired with another fundamental distinction, that between potentiality and actuality. Again in the case of the generation of a statue, we may say that the bronze is potentially a statue, but that it is an actual statue when and only when it is informed with the form of a statue. Of course, before being made into a statue, the bronze was also in potentiality a fair number of other artefacts—a cannon, a steam-engine, or a goal on a football pitch.

Still, it was not in potentiality butter or a beach ball. This shows that potentiality is not the same as possibility: to say that x is potentially F is to say that x already has actual features in virtue of which it might be made to be F by the imposition of a F form upon it. So, given these various connections, it becomes possible to define form and matter generically as. Of course, these definitions are circular, but that is not in itself a problem: actuality and potentiality are, for Aristotle, fundamental concepts which admit of explication and description but do not admit of reductive analyses.

The second premise is a phainomenon ; so, if that is accepted without further defense, only the first requires justification. The first premise is justified by the thought that since there is no generation ex nihilo , in every instance of change something persists while something else is gained or lost.

In substantial generation or destruction, a substantial form is gained or lost; in mere accidental change, the form gained or lost is itself accidental. Since these two ways of changing exhaust the kinds of change there are, in every instance of change there are two factors present. These are matter and form. For these reasons, Aristotle intends his hylomorphism to be much more than a simple explanatory heuristic. On the contrary, he maintains, matter and form are mind-independent features of the world and must, therefore, be mentioned in any full explanation of its workings.

We may mainly pass over as uncontroversial the suggestion that there are efficient causes in favor of the most controversial and difficult of Aristotle four causes, the final cause. Since what is potential is always in potentiality relative to some range of actualities, and nothing becomes actual of its own accord—no pile of bricks, for instance, spontaneously organizes itself into a house or a wall—an actually operative agent is required for every instance of change.

This is the efficient cause. These sorts of considerations also incline Aristotle to speak of the priority of actuality over potentiality: potentialities are made actual by actualities, and indeed are always potentialities for some actuality or other.

The operation of some actuality upon some potentiality is an instance of efficient causation. By contrast, most think that Aristotle does need to provide a defense of final causation. It is natural and easy for us to recognize final causal activity in the products of human craft: computers and can-openers are devices dedicated to the execution of certain tasks, and both their formal and material features will be explained by appeal to their functions.

Nor is it a mystery where artefacts obtain their functions: we give them their functions. The ends of artefacts are the results of the designing activities of intentional agents. Aristotle recognizes these kinds of final causation, but also, and more problematically, envisages a much greater role for teleology in natural explanation: nature exhibits teleology without design. He thinks, for instance, that living organisms not only have parts which require teleological explanation—that, for instance, kidneys are for purifying the blood and teeth are for tearing and chewing food—but that whole organisms, human beings and other animals, also have final causes.

Crucially, Aristotle denies overtly that the causes operative in nature are intention-dependent. He thinks, that is, that organisms have final causes, but that they did not come to have them by dint of the designing activities of some intentional agent or other. Although he has been persistently criticized for his commitment to such natural ends, Aristotle is not susceptible to a fair number of the objections standardly made to his view. Indeed, it is evident that whatever the merits of the most penetrating of such criticisms, much of the contumely directed at Aristotle is stunningly illiterate.

To anyone who has actually read Aristotle, it is unsurprising that this ascription comes without an accompanying textual citation. For Aristotle, as Skinner would portray him, rocks are conscious beings having end states which they so delight in procuring that they accelerate themselves in exaltation as they grow ever closer to attaining them. In fact, Aristotle offers two sorts of defenses of non-intentional teleology in nature, the first of which is replete with difficulty.

He claims in Physics ii The argument here, which has been variously formulated by scholars, [ 21 ] seems doubly problematic. In this argument Aristotle seems to introduce as a phainomenon that nature exhibits regularity, so that the parts of nature come about in patterned and regular ways. Thus, for instance, humans tend to have teeth arranged in a predictable sort of way, with incisors in the front and molars in the back.

Hence, he concludes, whatever happens always or for the most part must happen for the sake of something, and so must admit of a teleological cause. Thus, teeth show up always or for the most part with incisors in the front and molars in the back; since this is a regular and predictable occurrence, it cannot be due to chance.

Given that whatever is not due to chance has a final cause, teeth have a final cause. The argument is problematic in the first instance because it assumes an exhaustive and exclusive disjunction between what is by chance and what is for the sake of something. But there are obviously other possibilities.

Hearts beat not in order to make noise, but they do so always and not by chance. Second, and this is perplexing if we have represented him correctly, Aristotle is himself aware of one sort of counterexample to this view and is indeed keen to point it out himself: although, he insists, bile is regularly and predictably yellow, its being yellow is neither due simply to chance nor for the sake of anything.

Aristotle in fact mentions many such counterexamples Part. It seems to follow, then, short of ascribing a straight contradiction to him, either that he is not correctly represented as we have interpreted this argument or that he simply changed his mind about the grounds of teleology. Taking up the first alternative, one possibility is that Aristotle is not really trying to argue for teleology from the ground up in Physics ii 8, but is taking it as already established that there are teleological causes, and restricting himself to observing that many natural phenomena, namely those which occur always or for the most part, are good candidates for admitting of teleological explanation.

That would leave open the possibility of a broader sort of motivation for teleology, perhaps of the sort Aristotle offers elsewhere in the Physics , when speaking about the impulse to find non-intention-dependent teleological causes at work in nature:. As Aristotle quite rightly observes in this passage, we find ourselves regularly and easily speaking in teleological terms when characterizing non-human animals and plants. It is consistent with our so speaking, of course, that all of our easy language in these contexts is lax and careless, because unwarrantedly anthropocentric.

We might yet demand that all such language be assiduously reduced to some non-teleological idiom when we are being scientifically strict and empirically serious, though we would first need to survey the explanatory costs and benefits of our attempting to do so. Aristotle considers and rejects some views hostile to teleology in Physics ii 8 and Generation and Corruption i. Once Aristotle has his four-causal explanatory schema fully on the scene, he relies upon it in virtually all of his most advanced philosophical investigation. As he deploys it in various frameworks, we find him augmenting and refining the schema even as he applies it, sometimes with surprising results.

One important question concerns how his hylomorphism intersects with the theory of substance advanced in the context of his theory of categories. As we have seen, Aristotle insists upon the primacy of primary substance in his Categories. According to that work, however, star instances of primary substance are familiar living beings like Socrates or an individual horse Cat.

Yet with the advent of hylomorphism, these primary substances are revealed to be metaphysical complexes: Socrates is a compound of matter and form. So, now we have not one but three potential candidates for primary substance: form, matter, and the compound of matter and form. The question thus arises: which among them is the primary substance? Is it the matter, the form, or the compound?

The compound corresponds to a basic object of experience and seems to be a basic subject of predication: we say that Socrates lives in Athens, not that his matter lives in Athens. Still, matter underlies the compound and in this way seems a more basic subject than the compound, at least in the sense that it can exist before and after it does. On the other hand, the matter is nothing definite at all until enformed; so, perhaps form, as determining what the compound is, has the best claim on substantiality.

In the middle books of his Metaphysics , which contain some of his most complex and engaging investigations into basic being, Aristotle settles on form Met. He expects a substance to be, as he says, some particular thing tode ti , but also to be something knowable, some essence or other. These criteria seem to pull in different directions, the first in favor of particular substances, as the primary substances of the Categories had been particulars, and the second in favor of universals as substances, because they alone are knowable.

In the lively controversy surrounding these matters, many scholars have concluded that Aristotle adopts a third way forward: form is both knowable and particular. This matter, however, remains very acutely disputed. Very briefly, and not engaging these controversies, it becomes clear that Aristotle prefers form in virtue of its role in generation and diachronic persistence.

When a statue is generated, or when a new animal comes into being, something persists, namely the matter, which comes to realize the substantial form in question. Even so, insists Aristotle, the matter does not by itself provide the identity conditions for the new substance. First, as we have seen, the matter is merely potentially some F until such time as it is made actually F by the presence of an F form. Further, the matter can be replenished, and is replenished in the case of all organisms, and so seems to be form-dependent for its own diachronic identity conditions.

For these reasons, Aristotle thinks of the form as prior to the matter, and thus more fundamental than the matter. This sort of matter, the form-dependent matter, Aristotle regards as proximate matter Met. Further, in Metaphysics vii 17 Aristotle offers a suggestive argument to the effect that matter alone cannot be substance. Let the various bits of matter belonging to Socrates be labeled as a , b , c , …, n. Consistent with the non-existence of Socrates is the existence of a , b , c , …, n , since these elements exist when they are spread from here to Alpha Centauri, but if that happens, of course, Socrates no longer exists.

Heading in the other direction, Socrates can exist without just these elements, since he may exist when some one of a , b , c , …, n is replaced or goes out of existence. So, in addition to his material elements, insists Aristotle, Socrates is also something else, something more heteron ti ; Met. Hence, concludes Aristotle, as the source of being and unity, form is substance. Even if this much is granted—and to repeat, much of what has just been said is unavoidably controversial—many questions remain. For example, is form best understood as universal or particular?

However that issue is to be resolved, what is the relation of form to the compound and to matter? If form is substance, then what is the fate of these other two candidates? Are they also substances, if to a lesser degree? It seems odd to conclude that they are nothing at all, or that the compound in particular is nothing in actuality; yet it is difficult to contend that they might belong to some category other than substance.

DA a13, a20—6; De Part. It is appropriate, then, to treat all ensouled bodies in hylomorphic terms:.

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Further, the soul, as the end of the compound organism, is also the final cause of the body. Minimally, this is to be understood as the view that any given body is the body that it is because it is organized around a function which serves to unify the entire organism. Aristotle contends that his hylomorphism provides an attractive middle way between what he sees as the mirroring excesses of his predecessors. In one direction, he means to reject Presocratic kinds of materialism; in the other, he opposes Platonic dualism. He gives the Presocratics credit for identifying the material causes of life, but then faults them for failing to grasp its formal cause.

By contrast, Plato earns praise for grasping the formal cause of life; unfortunately, he then proceeds to neglect the material cause, and comes to believe that the soul can exist without its material basis. In his view, to account for living organisms, one must attend to both matter and form.

Aristotle deploys hylomorphic analyses not only to the whole organism, but to the individual faculties of the soul as well. With each of these extensions, Aristotle both expands and taxes his basic hylomorphism, sometimes straining its basic framework almost beyond recognition. He takes it as given that most people wish to lead good lives; the question then becomes what the best life for human beings consists in.

Because he believes that the best life for a human being is not a matter of subjective preference, he also believes that people can and, sadly, often do choose to lead sub-optimal lives.

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In order to avoid such unhappy eventualities, Aristotle recommends reflection on the criteria any successful candidate for the best life must satisfy. He proceeds to propose one kind of life as meeting those criteria uniquely and therefore promotes it as the superior form of human life. This is a life lived in accordance with reason. When stating the general criteria for the final good for human beings, Aristotle invites his readers to review them EN a22— This is advisable, since much of the work of sorting through candidate lives is in fact accomplished during the higher-order task of determining the criteria appropriate to this task.

Once these are set, it becomes relatively straightforward for Aristotle to dismiss some contenders, including for instance the life of pleasure. Plainly some candidates for the best life fall down in the face of these criteria. According to Aristotle, neither the life of pleasure nor the life of honour satisfies them all.

What does satisfy them all is happiness eudaimonia. Still, as Aristotle frankly acknowledges, people will consent without hesitation to the suggestion that happiness is our best good—even while differing materially about how they understand what happiness is. So, while seeming to agree, people in fact disagree about the human good. Consequently, it is necessary to reflect on the nature of happiness eudaimonia :. In determining what eudaimonia consists in, Aristotle makes a crucial appeal to the human function ergon , and thus to his overarching teleological framework.

He thinks that he can identify the human function in terms of reason, which then provides ample grounds for characterizing the happy life as involving centrally the exercise of reason, whether practical or theoretical. Happiness turns out to be an activity of the rational soul, conducted in accordance with virtue or excellence, or, in what comes to the same thing, in rational activity executed excellently EN a— Strikingly, first, he insists that the good life is a life of activity; no state suffices, since we are commended and praised for living good lives, and we are rightly commended or praised only for things we do EN b20—a Further, given that we must not only act, but act excellently or virtuously, it falls to the ethical theorist to determine what virtue or excellence consists in with respect to the individual human virtues, including, for instance, courage and practical intelligence.

Aristotle concludes his discussion of human happiness in his Nicomachean Ethics by introducing political theory as a continuation and completion of ethical theory. Ethical theory characterizes the best form of human life; political theory characterizes the forms of social organization best suited to its realization EN b12— The basic political unit for Aristotle is the polis , which is both a state in the sense of being an authority-wielding monopoly and a civil society in the sense of being a series of organized communities with varying degrees of converging interest. Rather, he advances a form of political naturalism which treats human beings as by nature political animals, not only in the weak sense of being gregariously disposed, nor even in the sense of their merely benefiting from mutual commercial exchange, but in the strong sense of their flourishing as human beings at all only within the framework of an organized polis.

The polis is thus to be judged against the goal of promoting human happiness. A superior form of political organization enhances human life; an inferior form hampers and hinders it. Aristotle considers a fair number of differing forms of political organization, and sets most aside as inimical to the goal human happiness. For example, given his overarching framework, he has no difficulty rejecting contractarianism on the grounds that it treats as merely instrumental those forms of political activity which are in fact partially constitutive of human flourishing Pol.

In thinking about the possible kinds of political organization, Aristotle relies on the structural observations that rulers may be one, few, or many, and that their forms of rule may be legitimate or illegitimate, as measured against the goal of promoting human flourishing Pol. Taken together, these factors yield six possible forms of government, three correct and three deviant:. The correct are differentiated from the deviant by their relative abilities to realize the basic function of the polis : living well.

Given that we prize human happiness, we should, insists Aristotle, prefer forms of political association best suited to this goal. Necessary to the end of enhancing human flourishing, maintains Aristotle, is the maintenance of a suitable level of distributive justice. Accordingly, he arrives at his classification of better and worse governments partly by considerations of distributive justice. He contends, in a manner directly analogous to his attitude towards eudaimonia , that everyone will find it easy to agree to the proposition that we should prefer a just state to an unjust state, and even to the formal proposal that the distribution of justice requires treating equal claims similarly and unequal claims dissimilarly.

Still, here too people will differ about what constitutes an equal or an unequal claim or, more generally, an equal or an unequal person. A democrat will presume that all citizens are equal, whereas an aristocrat will maintain that the best citizens are, quite obviously, superior to the inferior.

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Accordingly, the democrat will expect the formal constraint of justice to yield equal distribution to all, whereas the aristocrat will take for granted that the best citizens are entitled to more than the worst. When sorting through these claims, Aristotle relies upon his own account of distributive justice, as advanced in Nicomachean Ethics v 3. That account is deeply meritocratic.

He accordingly disparages oligarchs, who suppose that justice requires preferential claims for the rich, but also democrats, who contend that the state must boost liberty across all citizens irrespective of merit. The best polis has neither function: its goal is to enhance human flourishing, an end to which liberty is at best instrumental, and not something to be pursued for its own sake. Still, we should also proceed with a sober eye on what is in fact possible for human beings, given our deep and abiding acquisitional propensities.

Given these tendencies, it turns out that although deviant, democracy may yet play a central role in the sort of mixed constitution which emerges as the best form of political organization available to us. Inferior though it is to polity that is, rule by the many serving the goal of human flourishing , and especially to aristocracy government by the best humans, the aristoi , also dedicated to the goal of human flourishing , democracy, as the best amongst the deviant forms of government, may also be the most we can realistically hope to achieve.

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Aristotle regards rhetoric and the arts as belonging to the productive sciences. As a family, these differ from the practical sciences of ethics and politics, which concern human conduct, and from the theoretical sciences, which aim at truth for its own sake. Because they are concerned with the creation of human products broadly conceived, the productive sciences include activities with obvious, artefactual products like ships and buildings, but also agriculture and medicine, and even, more nebulously, rhetoric, which aims at the production of persuasive speech Rhet.

If we bear in mind that Aristotle approaches all these activities within the broader context of his teleological explanatory framework, then at least some of the highly polemicized interpretative difficulties which have grown up around his works in this area, particularly the Poetics , may be sharply delimited. To some extent—but only to some extent—it may seem that he does.

There are, at any rate, clearly prescriptive elements in both these texts. Still, he does not arrive at these recommendations a priori. Rather, it is plain that Aristotle has collected the best works of forensic speech and tragedy available to him, and has studied them to discern their more and less successful features. In proceeding in this way, he aims to capture and codify what is best in both rhetorical practice and tragedy, in each case relative to its appropriate productive goal. The general goal of rhetoric is clear.

Different contexts, however, require different techniques. Thus, suggests Aristotle, speakers will usually find themselves in one of three contexts where persuasion is paramount: deliberative Rhet. In each of these contexts, speakers will have at their disposal three main avenues of persuasion: the character of the speaker, the emotional constitution of the audience, and the general argument logos of the speech itself Rhet.

Rhetoric thus examines techniques of persuasion pursuant to each of these areas. When discussing these techniques, Aristotle draws heavily upon topics treated in his logical, ethical, and psychological writings. Accordingly, rhetoric, again like dialectic, begins with credible opinions endoxa , though mainly of the popular variety rather than those endorsed most readily by the wise Top.

Finally, rhetoric proceeds from such opinions to conclusions which the audience will understand to follow by cogent patterns of inference Rhet. For this reason, too, the rhetorician will do well understand the patterns of human reasoning. By highlighting and refining techniques for successful speech, the Rhetoric is plainly prescriptive—but only relative to the goal of persuasion.

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It does not, however, select its own goal or in any way dictate the end of persuasive speech: rather, the end of rhetoric is given by the nature of the craft itself. The same holds true of the Poetics , but in this case the end is not easily or uncontroversially articulated. It is often assumed that the goal of tragedy is catharsis —the purification or purgation of the emotions aroused in a tragic performance. Despite its prevalence, as an interpretation of what Aristotle actually says in the Poetics this understanding is underdetermined at best.

When defining tragedy in a general way, Aristotle claims:. Although he has been represented in countless works of scholarship as contending that tragedy is for the sake of catharsis , Aristotle is in fact far more circumspect. While he does contend that tragedy will effect or accomplish catharsis, in so speaking he does not use language which clearly implies that catharsis is in itself the function of tragedy. Although a good blender will achieve a blade speed of 36, rotations per minute, this is not its function; rather, it achieves this speed in service of its function, namely blending.

Similarly, then, on one approach, tragedy achieves catharsis, though not because it is its function to do so. Unfortunately, Aristotle is not completely forthcoming on the question of the function of tragedy. One clue towards his attitude comes from a passage in which he differentiates tragedy from historical writing:.

In characterizing poetry as more philosophical, universal, and momentous than history, Aristotle praises poets for their ability to assay deep features of human character, to dissect the ways in which human fortune engages and tests character, and to display how human foibles may be amplified in uncommon circumstances. We do not, however, reflect on character primarily for entertainment value. By varying just these three possibilities, scholars have produced a variety of interpretations—that it is the actors or even the plot of the tragedy which are the subjects of catharsis, that the purification is cognitive or structural rather than emotional, and that catharsis is purification rather than purgation.

On this last contrast, just as we might purify blood by filtering it, rather than purging the body of blood by letting it, so we might refine our emotions, by cleansing them of their more unhealthy elements, rather than ridding ourselves of the emotions by purging them altogether.

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Each participant in the seminar will be expected to write an essay reflective of scholarly standards within the discipline on a question of their own choosing, within a collaborative and supportive environment. That would leave open the possibility of a broader sort of motivation for teleology, perhaps of the sort Aristotle offers elsewhere in the Physics , when speaking about the impulse to find non-intention-dependent teleological causes at work in nature:. Normative philosophies or theories of education may make use of the results of such analytical work and of factual inquiries about human beings and the psychology of learning, but in any case they propound views about what education should be, what dispositions it should cultivate, why it ought to cultivate them, how and in whom it should do so, and what forms it should take. More filters. Readers also enjoyed. I was however a bit frustrated with the page-numbers.

The difference is considerable, since on one view the emotions are regarded as in themselves destructive and so to be purged, while on the other, the emotions may be perfectly healthy, even though, like other psychological states, they may be improved by refinement. The immediate context of the Poetics does not by itself settle these disputes conclusively. We engage in imitation from an early age, already in language learning by aping competent speakers as we learn, and then also later, in the acquisition of character by treating others as role models.

In both these ways, we imitate because we learn and grow by imitation, and for humans, learning is both natural and a delight Poet. This same tendency, in more sophisticated and complex ways, leads us into the practice of drama. After his death, his school, the Lyceum, carried on for some period of time, though precisely how long is unclear.

They eventually came to form the backbone of some seven centuries of philosophy, in the form of the commentary tradition , much of it original philosophy carried on in a broadly Aristotelian framework. They also played a very significant, if subordinate role, in the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus and Porphyry.

These commentaries in turn proved exceedingly influential in the earliest reception of the Aristotelian corpus into the Latin West in the twelfth century. Some Aristotelians disdain Aquinas as bastardizing Aristotle, while some Christians disown Aquinas as pandering to pagan philosophy. Many others in both camps take a much more positive view, seeing Thomism as a brilliant synthesis of two towering traditions; arguably, the incisive commentaries written by Aquinas towards the end of his life aim not so much at synthesis as straightforward exegesis and exposition, and in these respects they have few equals in any period of philosophy.

Partly due to the attention of Aquinas, but for many other reasons as well, Aristotelian philosophy set the framework for the Christian philosophy of the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries, though, of course, that rich period contains a broad range of philosophical activity, some more and some less in sympathy with Aristotelian themes.

Interest in Aristotle continued unabated throughout the renaissance in the form of Renaissance Aristotelianism. From the end of late Scholasticism, the study of Aristotle has undergone various periods of relative neglect and intense interest, but has been carried forward uninterrupted down to the present day. Only Plato comes close.

Additionally, I thank the twenty or so undergraduates in Cornell and Oxford Universities who provided instructive feedback on earlier drafts. Shields nd. Phainomena and the Endoxic Method 4. Logic, Science, and Dialectic 4. Essentialism and Homonymy 6. Category Theory 7. Hylomorphism 9.

Aristotelian Teleology Substance Living Beings Happiness and Political Association Rhetoric and the Arts Translations B. Anselm, St. Thomas, Descartes, Berkeley and Hume are classics of world literature with which any educated person should be familiar. These topics are: the existence of God, the possibility of knowledge of reality 'external' to our own minds, the nature of the mind and its relation to the body, and freedom of the will. The last topic we will discuss, moral skepticism, isn't discussed by Descartes.

Each student will be expected to attend all lectures. Students with excessive unexcused absences more than three may be dropped from the course. Paper assignments and final exam questions will be based directly on the readings and the lectures. During class lets all treat each other with civility and respect. Turn your cell phone and ipod off during class. This is worth reading.