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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2003

T C PHL • PHL 610QA: Problems of Knowledge and Valuation

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39905 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
GAR 311

Course Description

First semester: Skepticism and Dualism. Writing in the 17th Century, Descartes is responsible for two ideas which have been, and continue to be, very influential. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. In the light of this possibility, Descartes thought that what ordinarily passes for knowledge of the world is not knowledge (unless we appeal to the existence of a benevolent deity). Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris. We will consider the power of skepticism not only in Descartes’ work but in the work of David Hume (18th Century) and more recent philosophers. Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will. In the second part of the semester we will discuss dualism and also alternative views on the mind-body problem. The course will be available on Blackboard.

About the Professor Mark Sainsbury has taught at the University of Essex, Bedford College London, and King's College London. He has written four books (Russell, Paradoxes, Logical Forms, Departing from Frege) and is currently working on a fifth entitled Reference without Referents.

Grading Policy

Five 300-500 word “Responses” commenting on some aspect of the course, each attracting 5%. Two in-class tests. The first will carry 15%, the second 20% of the total mark. Class presentation: 10% Final exam: 30% A term paper of 2,500-5,000 words on a topic agreed upon by lecturer or TA may be substituted for the final exam.


Descartes, René, Meditations on First Philosophy Hume, David: Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding DeRose, Keith and Ted A. Warfield (ed,), Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader Chalmers, David J.(ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings Further reading will be made available free of charge electronically (or students may purchase hard copy).


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