Internal Code: IAH161
write an essay of no more than 1500 words, on one of the following topics. For each topic a list of references are provided. Key references must be addressed in the essay. Other references are optional. In no case are you required to seek sources external to the course readings and lectures. Any sources that you do use (including any course readings) must be appropriately acknowledged and referenced. For advice about how to use the popular author-date citation system, you can consult the Chicago Manual of Style, which is available as an e-resource from the library. And introductory guide written by us is also available on the course Moodle page.
Essays must be submitted in electronic form through Turnitin, by 4 pm 26 October.
1. Dualism is the view, defended by Descartes and Chalmers, that the mind or soul is fundamentally distinct from the body. Do you agree with this view? Present and assess the best (in your opinion) arguments both for and against this view.
Key Reference: Chalmers, M41. Other References: Descartes, Meditations II & VI; Princess Elisabeth’s letter to Descartes; Perry, Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.
2. Suppose that computer technology and neuroscience both advance to the point where it is possible to (1) perfectly copy the state of a human brain on a supercomputer, and (2) run a perfect (or even enhanced) simulation of that brain on the computer, indefinitely. The advantages of that procedure include immunity to all human diseases, and the possibility to experience the world via a huge variety of robot bodies. The catch: the process that copies the brain also destroys it (the brain has to be sliced up into sub-millimetre thin slices). The procedure has been shown to be extremely reliable; moreover, the company will keep several backup copies of your brain state, for extra security.
Would you agree to undergo this procedure? Do you think a person undergoing this procedure would survive, or would they be destroyed along with their brain? Drawing on the theories of personal identity discussed in this class, defend your answers.
Key Reference: Perry, Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality; Other References: Dennett, “The Origins of Selves”; Shoemaker, M36; Ismael “Saving the Baby: Dennett on Autobiography, Agency and the Self”.
3. What is one dimensional time travel into the past? Is it conceptually possible (i.e., is it consistent with the meanings of our concepts) or does it inevitably involve contradictions? Is one dimensional time travel committed to any particular metaphysical conception of time? NOTE: This is not a question about physics and what is physically possible. It is a more general question about whether one dimensional time travel into the past is conceptually possible.
Key Reference: Lewis M23; Other References: Williams M15; Prior M12; Prior M13; Gardner M17
4. Frankfurt distinguishes between acting freely and having a free will. Is that a coherent distinction? Are each of these compatible with determinism? How does our freedom relate to causation?
Key Reference: Frankfurt M50, M51, Other References: d’Holbach M43, Hobart M44, Hume M30; Anscombe M34; Armstrong M40; van Inwagen M47, M48.
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