PHL112: Survey of Modern Philosophy: Paper Topic Suggestions
Discussion of any other thesis from primary or secondary sources is welcome.

Mental Representation: What is it? Is there more than one kind (conceptual vs imaginative)? Do all representations involve imagery? Do thoughts resemble their objects – always or sometimes? -- or not?

Innate Ideas: Do they exist? Discuss Locke's arguments against. Consider Hume's challenge: provide an example of an idea that we clearly comprehend that does not derive from sense. Do our innate ideas correspond to mind-independent structures in the world (as traditional rationalists believed -- see, e.g., Spinoza, Part. II, D4) or are they the principles by which the mind imposes structure on the world (as Kant thought)?

Types of Knowledge: How is a priori knowledge possible? How is a posteriori knowledge possible? Is induction rationally justifiable? Does our knowledge of causal relations derive from experience and how so? Is all a priori knowledge analytic? What is the status of mathematical knowledge? (Do mathematicians make discoveries about figures and numbers or is mathematical truth a matter of stipulating or drawing out the meanings of mathematical terms?)  Is knowledge subjective (a la Kierkegaard) or all a matter of interpretation (a la Nietzsche)?

Substance: How this is viewed by different philosophers? Is it still useful notion? Was it ever?

Error and Theodicy: Why is there evil in the world if God is all knowing, all powerful, and perfectly goodt? Is this the best of all possible worlds?

Knowledge of the External World: Do we know that there is such? If so, is it certain or merely probable (and how probable is it?)? Do we (pace Berkeley) know, on the contrary, that there is no such thing? Do we have knowledge of things as they are in themselves or (pace Kant) only as they appear to us? Could life be nothing but a dream? Could we be continuously deceived by an evil demon or might we be brains-in-vats for all we know?

Perception: Is it a source of knowledge? The only source? Do we directly perceive things or do we directly perceive images ("sense-data", "ideas", "impressions") from which we then infer the existence and characteristics of things?

Liberty and Necessity: Are they compatible or not? If not, is the will free or is everything (including so-called voluntary human actions) determined by causal laws. Is free will reconcilable with a scientific world-view? Is determinism reconcilable with moral and legal responsibility?

Causality: Where do we get the idea of causality and how are causal claims justified? Are there final causes (determination by future circumstances) or is all causation efficient (determination by past circumstances)?

Mind and Body: What is mind? What is body? Do they causally interact & if so, how is this possible? If not, why are they correlated? Do minds have location? What things have minds? Animals? Computers? (see Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part 5) Do we each have direct and infallible knowledge of our own thoughts?

God: What is God like? Does God have free will and make choices? Are there arguments that prove God exists? Compare, contrast, and critique different versions of the ontological argument. Discuss the argument from design and Hume's criticism of it. Consider some other argument(s) for the existence of God: e.g., Berkeley's argument from the constancy of things; Leibniz's argument from preestablished harmony; Descartes "mark of the craftsman" argument.  Is God dead (as Nietzsche says)?: what might this mean?

Personal Identity: Locke's distinction -- persons v organisms v souls -- is it right and important? Is the concept of a person a "forensic" one and if so, how so? Is there an identifiable subject of thought -- an ‘I’ who thinks -- or not. Discuss Descartes' cogito proof in the light of skepticism about selves such as expressed by Hume’s claim  “that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement. (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. II, Part IV, Sec. VI).  Is there life after death and if so what survives (soul or person) and how (as a disembodied spirit?, by transmigration into or reincarnation as another material body?, at the last day through provision of a new body?); and why should I take comfort in the prospect of such survival, what would make the survivor me? "Beam me up Scotty": is personal identity preserved or lost when one is transported? (Descartes: Med. II&VI; Locke: II, xxvii; Berkeley: Three Dialogues, III (18); Hume: Treatise Bk. I, Part IV, Sec. VI; Kant : Chapt. II ''16-18).

Truth & Falsity: What is truth? Is it the agreement (correspondence) of thought with reality? Or is it just the agreement (coherence) of thoughts with each other? (Descartes: Med. III, Spinoza: Bk. I, A6; Locke: Bk. IV, Chapt. 1)  Or is truth subjective (a la Kierkegaard)?