Topics for Second Paper
Write a two to three page paper on one of the topics below. Papers are to be typed and double-spaced, with reasonable margins. Turn in the paper on Blackboard by midnight Wednesday, November 10th. Late papers will be penalized 5 points per week-day late.
The goal of this paper is to evaluate objections to a philosophical theory. This involves three basic tasks:
Set up the debate. Using textual evidence, describe the relevant claims made by the philosopher. Then explain the objection to those claims. You must discuss the specific examples provided in the paper topic below.
Provide the philosopher’s reply to the objection. This involves using textual evidence to infer how the philosopher would or should respond to the objection.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the philosopher’s reply. Give reasons for your own conclusion about whether the philosopher succeeds or fails in fending off the objection.
Note that your task is to evaluate a particular objection, not the philosopher’s theory as a whole. It is possible that you might disagree with the philosopher’s overall view, yet still conclude that the philosopher has an effective reply to the specific objection under consideration.
Give textual evidence for any quotations and whenever you attribute a specific view. Papers without textual evidence will receive no higher than a D. Since this is not a formal research paper, you may simply provide page numbers from the textbook in parentheses. For example: “According to Aristotle, moral virtue is a product of habit (p.509).” However, if you use sources other than the textbook (which is not recommended), full bibliographical information must be provided.
Grading: The paper is worth a total of 100 points. You will receive a letter grade that will be converted to a numerical score. The main criteria for grading are:
Use of textual evidence
Accuracy of interpretation
Depth of analysis/defense of conclusion
Choose one of the topics below:
According to Frankfurt, free will is the ability to have the will you want. More technically, “It is in securing the conformity of his will to his second order volitions…that a person exercises freedom of the will.” (p.497) Briefly explain Frankfurt’s definition, defining key terms such as “will” and “second order volition.” Against Frankfurt, it may be objected that one can have free will even if one acts against one’s own second order volition. For example, suppose Henry is a married man whose second order volition is to want his will to be to stay faithful to his wife. Nevertheless, much to his disappointment the next day, Henry gives in to temptation and has an affair with an attractive coworker while at a business convention. He hadn’t planned to do it, but after a couple of cocktails at the open bar he just wasn’t able to stop himself. According to the objector (and, in all likelihood, Henry’s wife), Henry got himself into this situation as a result of his own choices, and it’s no excuse now to say that he lacked free will by Frankfurt’s definition. Whatever his second order volition was, he cheated on purpose and is thus to blame. Using textual evidence, explain how Frankfurt would respond to this objection. In particular, explain how Frankfurt would use his distinction between freedom of action and freedom of will to respond to the objector’s counterexample. Is his response effective? Why or why not?
According to Susan Wolf, to have free will, one must not only act in keeping with one’s “deep self,” but also be “sane.” Briefly introduce her main reasons for this claim, including her definition of sanity and why she thinks sanity is required for free will. Using her definition, explain why she says on p.517 that slave-owners of the 1850s lack free will. Against Wolf, it may be objected that if the slave-owners of 1850 lack free will because we find their values mistaken, future generations will predictably conclude that we lack free will as well. For example, suppose that American society becomes fully vegan in the year 2200, and eating meat is believed to be as clearly and obviously wrong as slavery. People using Wolf’s definition in the year 2200 would thus conclude that meat-eaters today are insane and lack free will. But according to the objector, those of us who do eat meat clearly choose to do so of our own free will, so Wolf’s definition must be incorrect. After all, there are quite a few vegans today who actively make the case against eating meat, but the majority just isn’t convinced by their arguments. This is a moral disagreement, not a sign that meat-eaters are insane and lack free will. Using textual evidence, explain how Wolf would respond to this objection. In particular, evaluate her reasons for saying that we can be confident of our own sanity. Is her response effective? Why or why not?
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