Monday, February 27, 2017

Topics for exam #2 (MINITERM)

Chapter 7: Epistemology
belief: a mental state of acceptance
justification: reason for holding your belief
suspension: neither belief nor disbelief

truth by correspondence: truth is a fact
pragmatic theory of truth: truth is whatever does the best job at hand
coherence theory of truth: truth is whatever best coheres with the rest of our knowledge
standard theory of knowledge: knowledge is true belief

you should be familiar with the definitional boxes on chapter 7, pages 537 & 539.

Idealism (Plato): 

Reality is always changing, senses are limited. Knowledge is acquired through an exercise of Reason. These are the Forms. Reason is used to discover unchanging forms through the dialectical method, a process of question and answer designed to elicit a "real definition". These are the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept to apply. Example: a chair is a form, "this blue chair in my office" is an example of the form. the actual chair is but a manifestation of the "real" chair in the forms.

Skepticism: An attitude of suspension to the possibility of knowledge or absolute knowledge. The skeptics use suspension as a method. The he goal of ancient skepticism is to produce a state of "ataraxia" or "freedom of mind" in the souls of its practitioners. It is not about eliminating doubt, but eliminating the cause of the mental distress people experience when doubts assail their minds.

Faith and reason:  A fundamental discussion throughout the Middle Ages is the dichotomy between faith and reason. Faith takes St. Paul's definition: "... faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see." There are three moments: 1- Emphasis on faith over reason in the early patristic theology  2- both faith and reason become complementary in St. Thomas Aquinas, 3- with William of Ockham faith and reason are not related.

Rationalism:  (Spinoza, Leibniz, Descartes) In epistemology, rationalism is the view that regards reason, la Raison in Descartes, as the chief source and test of knowledge. How does reason operates. Take the idea of a priori or knowledge independent of experience. You don't need to know that it's actually raining to know that the proposition "it's either raining or not raining" is true. The proposition is true a priori. 1=1 is a priori, "all triangles have three sides" is a priori, etc. 

The arguments used in Rationalism are generally deductive arguments.

That's why Descartes believed that scientific knowledge can be derived a priori from "innate ideas" through deductive reasoning.

Empiricism:  Empiricism is the idea that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. It emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas. Instead of Cartesian "innate ideas," humans have a posteriori knowledge (i.e. based on experience).

Empiricists believe in inductive reasoning (making generalizations based on individual instances) in order to build a more complex body of knowledge from these direct observations. This is the basis of modern science, and the scientific method.

Kantianism: Kant provide a synthesis between Empiricism and Rationalism.

Kant acknowledges both reason and sense experience. This is how he does it:

We have a sort of "hardware" of a priori knowledge. He calls them "pure intuitions" which make experience possible. These pure intuitions are space, time and causality. 

Chapter 3


Causal Determinism (C-->E + LN) and Hard determinism (the doctrine that there are no free actions). 

Hard determinism assumes that: if CD is true ---> -Fw  

As our bodies made up of matter, we must be subjects to the same laws of causation which apply to all matter.

In addition, if HD is true ---> -HR (there's no human responsibility) if we are not free, we cannot be responsible for our actions (since one is responsible if and only if one can make choices). 

Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive.
Soft determinism: Determined actions can nevertheless be free. 

1- Traditional Compatibilism (Free actions are 1- caused by one's will and 2- not externally constrained). The reasoning is this:

Principle of alternative possibilities: one can be held responsible for doing something only if one could have done otherwise. "could have done otherwise." 

I suggested this formula. 

f(b) iff -f(a)  (you are free at b if you could have taken a but didn't)

which means "if you had chosen otherwise, then you would have done otherwise." 

Think of our "fork-example" of a student being late for class. He chooses ( A) "having coffee with lots of traffic," instead of (B) "not having coffee and no traffic." For Traditional Compatibilism the student is responsible for being late since "if he had choosen (B) instead of (A), he would have been on time for class. 

C/E "Taylor's Ingenious Physiologist. Here the phisiologies plants desires in the subject and he acts on these desires. But the desires are not his. 

2- "Hierarchical Compatibilism

Harry Frankfurt postulates first and second order desires; then there are second order volitions. 

Remember: A first order desire is directed to an object or state of affairs; a second order desire is a desire about a desire; a second order volition is a second order desire on which wants to act. 

Then Harry Frankfurt's three drug addicts: Let's call a first order desire: FOD, a second order desire: SOD, a second order volition: SOV. So we get the following:  

Wanton addict: FOD, not SOD, not SOV, not free. 
Happy Addict: FOD, SOD, SOV, free.
Unwilling Addict: FOD, SOD (only this desire is against his taking the drug), SOV, but now he cannot act on these SOV, so he's not free). Remember, to be free one has to either formulate a SOV or be able to act on it. 

Punishment: How do compatibilists see punishment? look at p. 203. Punishment cannot be  retributive (eye-for-an-eye). The only legitimate way of punishment is rehabilitation and deterrence. Criminal actions are dictated by genes and habits (nature and nurture). Retributive punishment makes sense if it's deserved. But nothing people do is up to them.

3.3 Libertarianism
You should know the difference between "event causation" and "agent causation." 

synaptic activity is event causation. mental states causing synaptic activity is agent causation. 

Libertarianism holds that agents can cause events. How? Well, this is how the mind causes actions. There are two arguments here:

Argument from Experience. Argument from deliberation. In class I called it argument from experience, because you experience it from the inside. You feel you wanted to come to class, you got ready, drove through rush hour and got to the class on time. You feel you chose that. You are responsible for that action. 

Read pages 216 and 217! For the libertarian if the wants you act on are not yours, you are not free and therefore not responsible. If you declared nursing as a major because it's the dream of your parents that doesn't automatically make you free.That may not be your desire. In fact you may not even know what you really want!

Libet's Neurophysiological challenge: it seems to show that consciousness of a decision arises only after the decision has already been made (the 300 millisecond gap between the decision to press the button and the brain signal). Rebuttal by libertarians: There's a difference between making a "conscious decision" and a "meta-conscious decision" (meta-conscious awareness is second order). For the libertarian, the subject in Libet's report is not having a "conscious" but a "meta-conscious" decision. So it's no surprise that it happens "after" the conscious decision was made.

How to research for arguments for your Philosophy Paper

I know some of you have asked me where to find reliable arguments in favor and against our topics.

I cannot do this for you. It's part of the effort to find it yourself. So, I'm going to help you help yourself:

1- Make a PHI Paper Folder with FOR and AGAINST points

2- Type: "Fast food, arguments in favor" and then "fast food, arguments against" in your google search bar.

3- Narrow the search by typing "fast food, .org" and "fast food, .edu" you get a more specialized more reliable kind of aggregation.

After you look for  .org and .edu articles, look for magazines like The Economist, The Atlantic, National Review, The New Yorker, Scientific American, or reputed newspapers like New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, CNN, etc.

So, in the FOR subfolder I find:

this (from The New Yorker),
this (from The Atlantic, discussing the issues)
this (with the best 7 Fast Food restaurants)
this, (at

Now you would do the same now with the AGAINST subfolder.

Another option is google scholar

If you have three article in each file, you have plenty to start, then as your discussion gets more interesting, you may want to search in more detail. For example, suppose you are talking about a particular issue, like obesity. I typed for a more specific search: "fast food, obesity, .edu". I got 15 M articles!

this Princeton study on the effects of Fast Food on obesity.

If you don't find the topics it's because you are not doing a good search. Believe me, the topics are out there!

Determinism vs. Free will vs Compatibilism (videos)

This is an interesting video on determinism & free will. 

This one about compatibilism.

Thanks to Ryan LaPointe

Sunday, February 26, 2017

second assignment, philosophy paper (T,R classes)

This assignment takes care of four paragraphs. The first two are the most important in your paper. They are theses paragraphs. These are the program you will follow. They are a thesis and a counter-thesis. Each thesis and counter should contain two points. See that each point is explained. Suppose this is a paper against the prohibition of marijuana.


P. 1 In this paper I argue against the prohibition of marijuana. First, prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Our laws should respect individual free will and the right of self-determination. There are lots of people who choose to use drugs for recreational purposes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as they are choosing to use them out of their own free will, they should have the right to do so. As long as they do not endanger anybody, why should it be anyone else’s business?

P. 2 Prohibitionists disagree. They believe that marijuana is addictive and may help create new consumers rather than rescuing current ones. Addiction is a real problem which lies in the power of the drug to induce dependency. The harmless world that abolitionists present is not the real world of drug use. There is ample evidence that a drug user harms not only himself, but also many others. The association between drug use and social and economic failure, domestic violence, pernicious parenting and criminal acts while under the influence is grounds for prohibition even if we accept no responsibility for what the drug user does to himself. 

Now, comes the discussion of these points. In Paragraph 3 you go back to your thesis, but now you're going to take the first point, only now you flesh it out. Bring outside experts and relevant data. The counter  (Paragraph 4) is going to do the same. 

P. 3 Abolitionists believe that prohibition must be weighed against our personal freedoms.
They argue that persons should be able to choose what they want with their bodies, including the recreational use of drugs, as long as they do not harm others. Such arguments often cite John Stuart Mill's harm principle, which urged that "the state had no right to intervene to prevent individuals from doing something that harmed them, if no harm was thereby done to the rest of society." (Mill, Liberty, 75).

P. 4 Prohibitionists reject this idea. dependent on or abused illicit drugs. In 2007 one in every nine children under the age of 18 in the United States lived with at least one drug dependent or drug abusing parent. There is no point in having criminal laws unless those caught breaking them will at least face prosecution. Dr. John Samaras, professor of psychology at Penn Sate University argues that parental substance dependence and abuse can have profound effects on children, including child abuse and neglect. (Samaras, Drug Addiction in America, 44).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MINDWORK: let's find likes and dislikes by tracing back their causal series

write down the following:

1. 3 foods you hate, dislike, or love,
2. 3 genres of music you hate, dislike or love,
3. 3 movies you hate, dislike or love,
4. 3 individuals you hate, dislike, or love,
5. your actual major (why not your second choice of major),
6. your present boyfriend & your previous boyfriend,

next, find in each case try to put together a tentative series, think of what triggered the series and how did it become a behavioral disposition. you may have to go back to your infancy (ages 4-8), look for events, picture your parents or family members, or a teacher, or a friend or admired peer, whether they play as reward or aversives,

remember for the determinist, no disposition happens on its own. it must have a cause, we only have to find it!

for you foodies or chocolate or avocado haters, we've talked about this in class already (scroll down the oxford academic article.

student assistants TR classes

TR 8:25am

Maria Trinidad Guerra

TR 11:15am

Federico Colombo
Tamara Jean
Daniela Silva

Saturday, February 18, 2017

brain causing our minds

see how brain causes mind states. this is a good introduction to brain function (read the whole thing)

which you need to know when we discuss hard determinism, because it all happens inside the brain.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Proposal for phi 2010 paper Spring 2018

Page, Betrice Philosophy Paper Proposal T,R 8:15am

Why animals should be protected against abuse

          In this paper, I will try to prove that animals being raised in factory farms in America deserve a better treatment. My main argument will show the public and environmental health risks associated with unregulated factory farming, while stressing that animal cruelty is ethically wrong.

Monday, February 13, 2017

something i wrote about roaches 4 u

click here.

can a computer think, fall in love, understand? (Triff's movie list)

conceivably, yes!(you don't need brains to think)

Her (Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson)

Blade Runner (Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young)

ExMachina (Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson )

tHE maTRIX (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss)

and the best of all:

2001 A Space Odyssey (directed by Stanley Kubrick)

PHI 2010 HONORS philosophy paper (second assignment)

How to argue your thesis and a counter thesis (in four paragraphs)

Phi 2010 Student Assistants (Honors Classes)


Rose Norton
Sebastian Gallo
Sebastian Espina
Kiana Vidal


Mia Marotta
Marcos Perez
Nicole Rodriguez
Karina Rivadeneira


Darlin Gonzalez
Alejandro Fortes
Ana Suarez
Maria Guirado

Philosophy Club Constitution

We have our Philosophy Club Constitution, furnished by Sebastian Gallo!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is this question ambiguous?

Alice decides to invest in a mutual fund recommended by her best friend Nancy, which has shown solid gains for the past three quarters. Alice's investment in the fund is then a _______________ condition for her to make a gain in the next quarter.

(...) in a mutual fund recommended by Nancy (call it F), which has shown gains in the last 9 months.
the punch comes now: "Alice investment in the fund (F, that is) is a necessary condition for her to make a gain in the next quarter."

Couple of students claim that there is ambiguity here. First let's apply the def. of necessity between f and G

f  n→ G iff "G cannot exist without f," or if "there's no f, there is no G"

She can invest in other funds for sure (I was referring to Nancy's particular fund). It doesn't matter which fund it is! If Alice wants to make a gain in ANY funds she has to invest in them (which is precisely what a necessary condition stipulates).

(investment in this fund, or ANY, it's a necessary condition for it (this one, ANY) to make a gain in the market)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Amanda Corbo's Notes for Exam #1

If you have a special need for testing let me know ASAP

Dear students: I know some of you have given me letters regarding arrangements for taking the exam. But I need to have which group you belong to.

So, could you send me an email to with your name and group (days of the week) you belong to so I can go ahead and have these tests ready for you for test next week? Understandably, the people at testing require detailed information for these accommodations.

Example, Angel Vicario, MWF 10am HONORS, or Julia Smith, T,R 8:25am.