Introduction to Philosophy: Nature of Reality
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30p-1:50p
Where: CSB 002
email: joncohenREMOVETHIS@aardvark.ucsd.edu (omit text in caps,
which reduces automated spam)
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11:30 and by appointment, in H&SS 7010
TAs: Anncy Thresher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Matt Braich (email@example.com)
Office hours: F 2-4 in H&SS 7093
Office hours: M 1-2 in H&SS 8089
As its title suggests, this course will be an introduction to some of
the Big Questions about the nature of reality, what kinds of things
there are in the world, and how they are related to one another.
These are some of the most exciting and enduring issues in the history
of thought, and I hope this brief exposure to them will inspire you
and whet your intellectual appetite.
Besides exposing you to classic philosophical puzzles, the
course will provide you with plenty of opportunities to hone your
critical argumentative skills.
Because philosophical texts are sometimes difficult for beginning
students (and for their professors!), the course will be relatively
challenging for an introductory level class.
But if you put in the effort, I know you will learn much, and hope you
will find it rewarding.
I won't be presupposing prior knowledge of the subject matter or
exposure to philosophical reading/writing/arguing.
I will be presupposing that you are intellectually curious and eager
to delve into these fascinating issues together.
Course requirements and grading
The course requirements include an in-class midterm (normal class time
on Thursday 9 February), a final exam (at the registrar assigned time
of Tuesday 21 March, 11:30-2:29), and a final essay which will be due
on the last day of class (i.e., beginning of class on Thursday 16
You'll need to bring your own bluebooks for the midterm and
final; please mark these in your calendars and plan accordingly.
Prompts for the final essay will be distributed in advance.
Grades will be calculated by the following breakdown:
- Attendance and participation: 15%
- Midterm: 25%
- Essay: 30%
- Final exam: 30%
Lectures and discussion sections
My job in lectures is to explain some of the main issues and stimulate
discussion in ways that go beyond what you could learn from the
Therefore, it will be impossible to do well in the course with
anything less than very regular attendance at the lectures.
Discussion sections are your opportunity to get into the nitty gritty
of the arguments, and to engage in the philosophical back and forth we
typically won't have enough time for in lectures; in short, this is
where much of the real learning will happen.
Attendance will be taken.
There will be no make-up examinations except in cases of serious illness or
emergency (supported by proper documentation).
Texting, surfing the web, emailing, etc., during lecture/section is
It's distracting to other students and the lecturer.
Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated in this
course; violators will receive an F on at least the relevant
assignment and possibly the course, and will be subjected to UCSD's
disciplinary procedures (which could result in penalties including
permanent explusion from the university).
You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the UCSD
Policy on Integrity in all respects.
In particular, you may not cause or allow your work for this course to
resemble that of any other person, and all use of the ideas or words
of anyone other than a paper's author must be acknowledged properly.
I don't care a huge amount about specific citation formats; I do care
a huge amount that sources are acknowledged.
As far as collaboration goes, it's fine (it's encouraged) to talk
about the philosophical issues with other students or anyone
else you like; but when it is time to write up an essay you should do
so entirely by yourself.
If you have any questions about the Policy on Integrity or how to
follow it (e.g., if you are unsure how to cite ideas from other
sources) please ask me!
I am very happy to help prevent real or apparent violations of
academic integrity before they occur, and very unhappy to discover
that they have occured.
(As you may have noticed, I feel very strongly about this issue.)
To ensure standards of academic integrity are met, I'll
ask you, as a condition on taking this course, to run all of your
assigned work for the course through turnitin.com,
which checks your paper for textual similarity to all of the other
papers in its databases.
(Your submitted papers will also be included as source documents in
the Turnitin.com reference database, solely for the purpose of
To get started with the system, please see the instructions at
You'll need the class name (Nature of Reality, Winter 2017), class ID
(14195442) and the password (reality).
I'm making all readings for the course available at the UCSD
reserves. There are no books to buy.
Reserves are available from off-campus; for instructions, see http://libraries.ucsd.edu/services/computing/remote-access/index.html.
I'll announce reading assignments for each class in the prior one,
adjusting our reading schedule to the pace at which we're moving
through the material.
It is essential that you keep up; you won't get much out of
the class (and won't do well in it) if you don't stay on top of the
(This schedule is a bit optimistic; I may change things up on the fly
depending on how we're progressing through things.)
||Does God exist?
||Anselm, Proslogion, chapters II, III, IV
Gaunilo, A Reply to the Foregoing by a Certain Writer on Behalf of the Fool
Rowe, "The Cosmological Argument", ch II
Reichenbach, "Cosmological Argument", sections 3 and 5
Paley, Natural Theology, chapters I-II
Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, parts 5 and 7
*Sober, "The Design Argument" pp1-12
||Paradoxes of motion
||Huggett, "Zeno's Paradoxes"
Black, "Achilles and the Tortoise"
*Benacerraf, "Tasks, Super-Tasks, and Modern Eleatics"
||What makes you you?
||Locke: "Of Identity and Diversity," chapter 27, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Parfit, "Personal Identity"
Williams, "Personal identity and individuation"
||Minds, bodies, and computers
||Block,"The Mind as the Software of the Brain"
Turing, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence"
Searle, "Minds, Brains and Programs"
||Thinking (somewhat) precisely about vagueness
Keefe and Smith, "Introduction: Theories of Vagueness" p2-26
Fine, "Vagueness, Truth, and Logic"