History of Modern Philosophy Final Paper
write a 5-6 page paper on ONE of the following topics. All papers must be
typed. And all opinions must be backed up with textual support or philosophical
arguments. Due date: December 13.
In book I, chapters I-IV of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding,
Locke gives a detailed critique of the Rationalist theory of innate ideas. Give
a brief account of Descartes’ theory of innate ideas, and then spell out in
some detail what you take to be Locke’s two most important arguments against
the innatist theory. Then answer the following questions. Can the Cartesian
innatist respond to Locke? If so, how? In your opinion, do innate ideas exist?
In book II, chapter VIII of the Essay, Locke spells out his doctrine of
“primary qualities” (PQs) and “secondary qualities” (SQs)
(for our purposes you can ignore the doctrine of “tertiary
qualities”). Briefly describe the doctrine of PQs and SQs, making sure that
you relate it to the difference between ideas of PQs and ideas of
SQs. Then briefly spell out the essentials of Locke’s theory of corporeal
substances (=material bodies) in book II, chapter XXIII (READINGS: 152-63).
What is the relevance of the PQ/SQ distinction to the theory of corporeal
substances? In your opinion, given Locke’s account, can we know the
nature of a material body?
What is a person, and how does a person remain identical over time? In book II,
chapter XXIII of the Essav, Locke criticizes the Rationalist conception
of finite incorporeal substances (=souls); and then in chapter XXVII he
sketches his theory of identity with special reference to personal identity
over time. Briefly describe both Locke’s critique of souls and his positive
theory of personal identity (in these connections you may also want to have a
look at Locke’s remarks about souls and consciousness in book II, chapter I).
Then develop what you take to be the most important criticism of Locke’s
positive theory. Can Locke respond to this criticism? If so, how; if not why
Hume vigorously criticizes the Rationalist theory of causation, and then
develops his own “deflationary” or “skeptical” conception
of causation in sections IV-VII of the Enquirv Concerning Human
Understanding (Part III of A Treatise of Human Nature). Briefly
describe both the critique and the deflationary theory. Then formulate what you
take to be the two most important criticisms of Hume’s positive theory, and
describe how Hume might respond to those criticisms. If Hume is correct about causation, then is
scientific knowledge of nature possible?
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