Meaning and Argument: An Introduction to Logic Through Language (Philosophy: The Big Questions)

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Is free will a necessary condition for holding people morally responsible for their actions? Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary philosophers. This course introduces students to problems in metaphysics and epistemology through close reading of several classical texts of Western Philosophy.

Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality. We will focus on the following metaphysical questions: What are we? Are we immaterial things, bodily things, some combination? What happens to us when we die? Do we have free will? Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How could we ever come to know the answers to these metaphysical questions?

What is knowledge and how do we get it? Is knowledge even attainable? Throughout our examination of these questions, we will also consider questions about values and what we should do. For example, what attitude should we take toward death? If we can't be certain that some of our most fundamental beliefs are true, would it matter? If we don't have free will, does that mean that everything that we do is pointless? Great philosophers have proposed sophisticated answers to these questions. We will read their works, consider their theories, and analyze and evaluate their arguments, with the objective of coming closer to our own answers, however tentative, to some of life's biggest questions.

The readings for the course come from ancient, modern, and contemporary sources. Although we will look at these in their approximate chronological order, the approach in this course will be problem-centered rather than historical; we will concentrate on live philosophical problems rather than studying intellectual history.

The focus will be on four sets of issues: the mind-body problem and the nature of a person; the nature and existence of God; knowledge and skepticism; and the problem of free will and determinism. Other issues will also arise. The aims of this course are fourfold. First, to develop a sense of how puzzling, fascinating, and problematic some of these traditional issues in philosophy really are. Second, to gain some acquaintance with and understanding of the various positions taken and the methods employed by some of the great philosophers.

Third, to develop the ability to think rigorously and critically both in philosophy and beyond. Finally something that is often thought to be impossible in introductory courses: to do some real philosophy ourselves. Philosophy is an introduction to the major problems of contemporary philosophy. Our knowledge of the external world, for example, seems to have its source in our perceptual experience.

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But consider that what we are given in subjective experience--an experience, say, that seems to be of a room, other people, etc. It could have been caused, for example, by a dream, by an evil genius, by our being in a virtual reality setup, etc. What, then, justifies our belief that we are in touch with a "real" external world? Again, consider the relation between subjective experience and the brain. It seems that we could know everything there is to know about the brain from a scientific perspective, but that if we had never tasted chocolate, there is something we would learn on tasting it for the first time.

Does this mean there are subjective facts in addition to the facts we discover through ordinary scientific inquiry? Besides the problem of skepticism and the mind-body problem, we will discuss the alleged paradoxes of time travel: Could you go back in time and give your younger self information necessary for you to become what you are now? What would happen if you tried to kill one of your parents before you were conceived? The problem of personal identity arises when we ask what it is in virtue of which you are the same person today that you were a decade ago.

Is it conceivable that you could come to have a different physical body from the one you have now? Human agency becomes puzzling when we consider that from the objective point of view everything seems to be a mere happening--there seems to be no room for anything that would constitute our doing something. This is not because everything is determined, but because randomness is no more a basis for our genuinely doing something--for our being the authors of our actions--than is causal determination.

Finally, are values something we discover, or do we make them up?

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If we make them up, could we have made up murder, theft, arson, and fraud as values? The text used to introduce the basic issues is Thought Probes: Philosophy through Science Fiction Literature, which pairs classic and contemporary philosophical texts with relevant pieces of science-fiction literature. Philosophy is an English equivalent and involves a strong emphasis on writing.

There will be several short paper assignments, some of which may be rewrites of earlier drafts. The class is discussion oriented and requires very active participation. Attendance is extremely important and will be counted toward the grade. This introductory course will emphasize one of the great philosophical questions: "How should I live? Readings will be selected from both classic and contemporary philosophers and from many parts of the world.

This course deals with both classical and contemporary works by philosophers on questions about the nature of justice, morality, knowledge, and freedom. For instance, we will ask, Can we know of the world or other people that they exist? The skeptic claims we cannot. Can the skeptic be answered?

We will also investigate the following: What do morality and justice require of us in our interactions with one another? What are the source and limits of political authority? What might justify the use of political violence? Are there moral constraints on the conduct of war? Do combatants bear moral responsibility for whether and how they fight? Class time will be devoted largely to discussion, including discussion in small groups.

There will be several short writing assignments which aim to help you to develop your analytical skills and to learn how to construct a philosophical argument. Readings from Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Mill and several contemporary philosophers. What is the difference between appearance and reality? What is the relation between mind and body? Who am I, and how should I live? Answering these questions means joining an ongoing conversation about several fundamental areas of human concern, including knowledge, the self, the existence of God, morality, freedom, and fulfillment.

Are we the only species with minds? Do animals — dolphins, chimpanzees, birds, spiders — have minds, or do they just have brains? We are the only species with language.

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Some animals have what might be called proto-languages, much simpler signaling systems, but these do not seem to give those species the spectacular boost in intelligence that language gives us. It is generally agreed that language makes our minds very different from animal minds, but how, and why?

Are we the only conscious species? Are we the only self-conscious species? What is it like to be a bat? Is it like anything to be a spider? In the first half of the course we will explore fundamental questions about the nature of minds. What does it take for something to have a mind? We will discuss the empirical research that has recently shed new light on the questions about animal minds, while sharpening philosophical questions about the nature of minds in general. In the second half of the course, we will look at human language, its structure and evolution, and the effects it has on our minds.

We will also explore "linguistic relativity": do people in other cultures think differently than we do? Is there a relation between the language we speak and how we think? The course has no prerequisites, and it is particularly appropriate for students who are not likely to major in philosophy but want to get a substantial introduction to the specific philosophical issues surrounding the mind-body problem and its relation to language. Readings will include classic philosophical essays by Turing, Nagel, Putnam, Jackendoff, Dennett, and others.

At this moment, like every other, you're faced with a question: What should I do? People often say that, in general, what you should do is help others. But then they would, wouldn't they? Perhaps what you really should do is always act in your own self-interest. Perhaps that is what everyone else is already doing anyway despite what they say. Some people say that you should promote the values of your community or society. But some societies have vile values. Indeed, don't the values of our society need at least a little adjustment?

Anyway, why should the fact that a society is yours mean that you should promote its values, especially if doing so is contrary to your self-interest? Some people say that you should act according to God's will. But what does God will, exactly? And surely we should obey Him only if He is good and commands us to do what is right. Yet that seems to mean that morality is independent of Him. Some philosophers have argued that whether you should do an action depends entirely on its consequences compared to those of its alternatives.

But should you really ignore the past? Doesn't just punishment, for instance, depend on whether the person is actually guilty -- a fact about the past? Other philosophers have focused instead on the motives behind an action, in particular on whether you're acting out of respect for others and yourself. Still others have argued that whether you should do an action depends on a combination of these and perhaps other factors. But each of these suggestions faces problems: What on earth is "respecting others"?

What is it to "combine" the various factors? Self-interest then? Maybe, but even self-interest is a tricky notion. Something is not in your self-interest simply because you want it, as every smoker knows. And maybe our interests, or at least the best means for achieving them, are mutually interdependent: perhaps the best way for you to get what you want depends on what I do and vice versa.

We will discuss all this in this course. After a brief introductory discussion of logic and the nature of ethical theory we will spend most of the semester critically evaluating a number of normative ethical theories. These will include various forms of Relativism, religiously-based theories, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Egoism and Social Contract theories. We will also discuss self-interest, values, and other matters. Finally, we will discuss how to apply what we've learned to an issue of contemporary moral concern — probably abortion.

How can one tell whether a deductive argument succeeds in establishing its conclusion?

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What distinguishes good deductive arguments from bad ones? Questions such as these will be addressed in this course. We will discuss what a formal language is, how arguments in English are to be expressed in various formal languages, and what is gained from so expressing them. In the jargon of the field, we will cover sentential logic, first-order predicate logic, identity theory, definite descriptions, and topics in metatheory. The course requires no specific background and no special ability in mathematics.

Decision making and strategic interaction are activities we engage in everyday. But do we make the right decisions? Do we adopt the most advantageous strategies? This course will approach these questions by using a set of formal methods for analyzing decisions and strategies: decision theory and game theory. We will cover the basic formal frameworks of probability and game theory and their application to problems in decision making and strategic thinking, tackling a number of troublesome paradoxes that emerge.

We will also look at promising applications of game theory to understanding evolution in both biological and cultural domains. There are no prerequisites. Course requirements include problem sets, short papers, and a final exam.


philosophy of logic | Definition, Problems, & Facts |

Paradoxes and dilemmas are problematic cases, conundrums or puzzles that force us to accept counterintuitive conclusions from apparently acceptable premises or to choose among equally undesirable outcomes without an apparent justification. They are often associated with moments of crisis and revolutionary developments in the history of philosophy and beyond.

The course will introduce students to an array of famous cases in the history of Western thought from Antiquity to the present. Themes under discussion will include - but not be limited to - Zeno's paradoxes the infinite , the liar paradox truth , the heap vagueness , the ship of Theseus identity , Russell's paradox sets , the Gettier problem knowledge , moral luck, nuclear deterrence, the lottery paradox, the voting paradox and the prisoner's dilemma.

The course indirectly provides an introduction to various fundamental themes in metaphysics, logic, epistemology and moral philosophy and offers analytical tools that can be useful for students in any area of the humanities, social sciences and international relations. This course explores important questions about the self, and about the self living in the world, from the vantage point of various Chinese, Indian and Japanese classical schools of thought.

In particular, we will consider questions such as: What makes for a truly free life? What does it mean to try to be a "not self" and to "not-think"? How should we navigate the mind-body relationship? What is natural and what is unnatural? How are order and change both important? What, if anything, is permanent? How should we view and manage suffering?

What is the value and practice of meditation? What is the function of rituals? How can we live free but engaged lives? In addressing these questions, we will see how the thinkers from these Eastern traditions use historical anecdotes, legend, dialogue, metaphor, and meditation. Hence, we will also observe and discuss what it means do philosophy in ways that depart from the Western analytic tradition.

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is a debate-style competition in which teams of undergraduates argue against each other to resolve cases of actual ethical dilemmas.

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The Ethics Bowl gives students a chance to enter an academic competition that combines excitement and fun with an educationally valuable experience in the areas of practical and professional ethics. These sessions will help students think through ethical questions and issues and prepare them to construct arguments to support their positions on the cases written for the Ethics Bowl.

Questions like these will be addressed in this course. The principal text will be Richard Jeffrey's Formal Logic, though it will be supplemented by other texts and by notes from the instructor. The accent will be as much on coming to understand what the word 'formal' means in the title of Jeffrey's book as on what 'logic' means.

In the jargon of the field, we will cover sentential logic, first order predicate logic, identity theory, and definite descriptions. We will also look briefly at the history of logic. Understanding why formal methods work will be as important as manipulating them. The course will require six written homework assignments and an open-book final exam. The homework assignments, which students are expected to work on in groups, form the core of the course.

Students should anticipate spending an average of eight hours per week outside of class in this course. This course will focus on the nature of conscious experience, its relation to the subjective point of view, and the implications of both for the mind-body problem. We will also consider carefully the nature of the subjective point of view as it is involved in seeing a world that contains opportunities for genuine action, states of affairs worth striving for, and agents like ourselves.

We will begin by examining the Cartesian conception of consciousness, which holds that the intrinsic features of conscious experience are fully manifest and completely given at the time the experience takes place. The intuition behind this conception is that conscious experience has no hidden sides and no unnoticed features.

This intuition supports the sense-data theories of consciousness and experience held by the major figures from Descartes to Kant and implicit in many contemporary arguments that there cannot be a materialistic account of "qualia. We will then look at some of the contemporary alternatives to the Cartesian conception, including behaviorism, physicalism, and functionalism.

Despite the success of some of these theories in handling a number of the problems, the objection remains that such theories fail to explain the depth and significance of the distinction between those entities that do and those entities that do not enjoy consciousness. An important distinction in the philosophy of mind is the distinction between intentional states such as beliefs and perceptual states, which represent the world as being a certain way, and sensational states, such as pains, which allegedly do not. Much of the work in philosophy of mind on consciousness has focused on such sensational or qualitative states, but more recently the emphasis has shifted toward perceptual experience.

Work on perceptual experience raises important questions about the nature of the concepts that figure in our intentional states in general, the relation of those concepts to experience, and the assumption of the normative nature of intentional states. This leads to Kripke's work on Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox, important in its own right and as an objection to functionalism. Objections such as Jackson's objection based on the knowledge argument focus on the alleged inadequacies of functionalism as a theory of qualia.

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The rule-following argument focuses on functionalism's alleged inadequacies as a theory of content--usually thought to be its strong suit. We will then consider whether Kripke's own so-called "skeptical solution" to the rule-following paradox is tenable. The threat of meaning skepticism leads to a number of transcendental arguments, which have implications both for the concept of agency and for causal theories across a range of philosophical subdisciplines.

And the requirement that we do justice to agency leads to an alternative to the usual conception of science--one in which the priority of theory to practice is reversed. With these points in place, we will examine the relation between consciousness and the justification of our perceptual beliefs about the external world. Recent work on the "phenomenology" of perception has centered on the thesis of disjunctivism--that as between veridical perception and a matching hallucination there is no "highest common mental factor" in virtue of which we are given the world only indirectly.

Disjunctivism provides an attractive anti-skeptical position in epistemology, but in its apparent denial of the reality of full-blown subjective experience in cases of hallucination, it raises seemingly intractable problems in the philosophy of mind. Finally, we will draw on our earlier discussion of concepts when we examine the notion of nonconceptual content. Here, the fundamental question is whether we can make sense of a kind of content that is radically different from the kind we normally suppose our mental states have in virtue of our having a natural language.

We will examine the conceptual foundations of evolution, ecology, and genetics, with special attention to outstanding philosophical problems. The course begins with Darwin, and his original presentation of natural selection in the Origin of Species. We will then look at two very different "big picture" views on evolutionary biology and the importance of natural selection, the first defended by Richard Dawkins and the second, by Richard Lewontin.

The course continues by discussing specific philosophical and theoretical controversies, such as those over the units of selection, the nature of fitness, altruism and spite, biological function, causation, individuals, and what natural selection explains. Students require some exposure to philosophy or biological science, preferably both. Course requirements include regular attendance and participation in discussion, short essay exams, and a final term paper. The dummy letter x is here called a bound individual variable. Its values are supposed to be members of some fixed class of entities, called individuals, a class that is variously known as the universe of discourse, the universe presupposed in an interpretation, or the domain of individuals.

The forms that the study of these logical constants take are described in greater detail in the article logic, in which the different kinds of logical notation are also explained. Here, only a delineation of the field of logic is given. When the terms in 1 alone are studied, the field is called propositional logic.

When 1 , 2 , and 4 are considered, the field is the central area of logic that is variously known as first-order logic, quantification theory, lower predicate calculus , lower functional calculus, or elementary logic. Borderline cases between logical and nonlogical constants are the following among others : 1 Higher order quantification, which means quantification not over the individuals belonging to a given universe of discourse, as in first-order logic, but also over sets of individuals and sets of n -tuples of individuals.

Alternatively, the properties and relations that specify these sets may be quantified over. This gives rise to second-order logic. The process can be repeated. Quantification over sets of such sets or of n -tuples of such sets or over properties and relations of such sets as are considered in second-order logic gives rise to third-order logic; and all logics of finite order form together the simple theory of finite types.

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This narrower sense of logic is related to the influential idea of logical form. In any given sentence, all of the nonlogical terms may be replaced by variables of the appropriate type, keeping only the logical constants intact. The result is a formula exhibiting the logical form of the sentence. If the formula results in a true sentence for any substitution of interpreted terms of the appropriate logical type for the variables, the formula and the sentence are said to be logically true in the narrower sense of the expression.

Philosophy of logic. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Logic as a discipline Nature and varieties of logic Features and problems of logic Logical semantics Limitations of logic Logic and computability Issues and developments in the philosophy of logic Meaning and truth Logical semantics of modal concepts Intensional logic Logic and information Problems of ontology Individuation Existence and ontology Alternative logics Logic and other disciplines Technical disciplines Mathematics Computers Methodology of the empirical sciences Human disciplines Linguistics Psychology Law Education.

Written By: Jaakko J. See Article History.