Philosophy | philosophy | Houston Community College


Intro to Philosophy

Essay Prompts:

Please note the number of the question you are answering: only answer ONE of these questions:

  1. In the Apology, Socrates speaks of being unafraid to die, and believes it would be worse for him to avoid death if he has to abandon his principles. Discuss Socrates’ views and principles, and what he means by “the care of the soul”.
  2. Discuss Socrates’ method of questioning his fellow Athenians: what was he trying to achieve?
  3. Empiricism and Rationalism are two theoretical approaches to human knowledge. Discuss their points of difference.
  4. There appears to be different kinds of knowledge: for example, I can know that a triangle has only 3 sides without having to ever perceive a single triangle with the senses. On the other hand, to know that some traffic signs are shaped like triangles in the USA, I would have to go out and observe some actual traffic signs. Does this apparent distinction in kinds of knowledge make it plausible that I have some knowledge innately – i.e. that I have some knowledge that I was born with, or at least some concepts that I was born with, such that I did not have to have any empirical experience whatsoever to know that, e.g. triangles have three sides?
  5. Can Descartes prove that he is not dreaming or under the power of an Evil Deceiver? Must we be skeptical about the existence of the external world?
  6. Descartes aims to find ‘foundations’ for human knowledge; to find a way to set in on certain ground. In the process, he arrives at the view that knowledge gained by the senses is dubitable (open to doubt), whilst knowledge gained by reason is certain. How does he arrive at this epistemological view? Is it correct, in your view?
  7. According to Locke, the only way to acquire knowledge is via sense perception. This means that everyone is born as a “blank slate” upon which the world makes its impressions on our minds via the senses. Therefore, according to Locke, there is no “innate knowledge” or knowledge we are born with, contrary to Descartes. Discuss the pros and cons of this view.
  8. What is ‘fallacious’ reasoning? Describe it, and give some examples of fallacious arguments – invented, or perhaps some you know of in real life.
  9. Describe and analyze Descartes arguments for why he believes the Mind and Body are distinct.
  10. Is there a problem about how the Mind and Body can interact, if Dualism is true?
  11. What is Turing’s ‘Imitation Game’, and what is it supposed to show?
  12. Is it possible for a machine to ‘think’? To be ‘conscious’? To ‘understand’? Explain with reference to your readings in the Philosophy of Mind module.
  13. Describe and analyze Searle’s ‘Chinese Room’ argument. Does it show what Searle claims it does? 
  14. What is a ‘brain in a vat’? What is the thought experiment supposed to show? Can one prove that one is NOT a brain in a vat?
  15. Do we have free will? Does our physical and psychological history/past determine our future?
  16. Compare and contrast Compatibilism and Incompatibilism about free will.
  17. What is Aristotle’s idea of ‘Eudaimonia’? How is one to achieve it?
  18. Is Virtue Ethics a realistic ethical theory to follow in one’s life? Why/why not?

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