Sample Writing Assignments
The following are possible topics for the third or fourth paper assignment:
- In the 2nd Meditation, Descartes suggests that the one thought he can always know to be true whenever he thinks it is "I exist." However, his argument for this view is not as explicit as one might like. In this paper, offer a reconstruction of Descartes' argument for this position and do so in explicit premise-conclusion form. Then, after explaining why Descartes might have believed the premises of such an argument, offer one possible line of criticism against his argument. That is, construct a strategy for challenging one of Descartes’ premises, or challenge in some way the validity of the argument. Then explain why you do or don't think such a criticism ultimately undermines Descartes' argument.
- Offer a defense of Descartes against the notorious "Cartesian Circle" criticism. First, explain Descartes' strategy for showing that our faculties and our senses can be trusted if we use them responsibly. Then explain the Cartesian Circle objection. Then offer a line of defense that Descartes could possibly use against this particular criticism – show how his reasoning is not circular after all, or if it is circular, it is not circular in a way that destroys his account.
- In your readings, John Locke presents us with an argument for the view that the hot or cold that we normally associate with a bucket of water is not really in the water itself, at least not in any way that resembles our experience. Carefully reconstruct Locke's argument for this position, putting it in explicit premise-conclusion form, and making evident whatever hidden assumptions and hidden premises you think are motivating Locke. Then, critically evaluate this argument. Do you think it is sound? If so, defend it from one major criticism. Do you think it is unsound? If so, then explain where Locke’s argument goes wrong.
This paper should be about 6 or 7 pages in length. You are being asked to do two things:
- explain the background arguments, debates and ideas of others, and
- contribute something of your own to the discussion.