Tuesday 12/11

Final Essay (Essay 14)

Following Russell's advice to always keep paradoxes close at hand, below is a list of 88 puzzles in philosophy. Some are quite general, some rather specific and narrow. Some are long-standing and quite old--even ancient, others relatively recent. Some are technically demanding and complicated to state correctly, while others may appeal more to shared intuitions. Some are very much related to others, either as instances are to generalities, or as illuminating some aspect of a larger problem. Even so, they range over almost all the areas that have traditionally or are currently of serious interest to philosophers.

What the puzzles all share in common is impact: Although any given philosopher may quibble about what precisely is or is not on the list, all would agree these are interesting and important puzzles, many of them gateways to entire regions of philosophical inquiries.

For Essay 14 (aka, the 'final essay' or the 'final examination'), I will select five puzzles from the list below. For each puzzle, you will write a succinct and clear explanation of the problem pitched to someone who has no experience in philosophy and which well conveys the importance--the surprise or shock, if you will--of the puzzle. Some of the puzzles require lengthy explanation, while others may be summarized and explained in just a few sentences.

How you prepare is, naturally, up to you. In class I suggested the class work together developing essays, divvying up the puzzles roughly by topic. You have to trust others to do their work in such a case, but maybe the back-and-forth required in refining the explanations will end up helping everyone to grasp the puzzles.

Please note that these are organized neither by area of philosophy nor by specific topic, but (approximately) alphabetically. At least some of your preparatory work should involve better ordering them. I leave it to you to determine how that might be.

Good luck!

Problems, Puzzles, Paradoxes, Arguments, and Thought Experiments

  1. The Paradox of Analysis
  2. Arrow's Theorem
  3. The Beetle in the Box Thought Experiment
  4. The Brain Fission/Fusion Thought Experiments
  5. Brains in a Vat Skepticism
  6. Buridan's Ass
  7. The Carnap/Bar-Hillel Paradox
  8. The Problem of Causation
  9. The Problem of Certainty
  10. The Chinese Room Thought Experiment
  11. The (Hard) Problem of Consciousness
  12. The Problem of Counterfactuals
  13. The Cosmological Argument
  14. The Demarcation Problem
  15. The Problem of Designation
  16. The Problem of Disjunctive Belief
  17. The Duck/Rabbit Puzzle
  18. The Epistemic Gap
  19. The Euthyphro Dilemma
  20. The Problem of Evil
  21. The Explanatory Gap
  22. The Case of the Famous Unconscious Violinist
  23. The Problem of Fictional Entities
  24. The Frame Problem
  25. The Problem of Freedom of Will
  26. The Frege Puzzle
  27. The Gettier Problem
  28. The Problem of God's Foreknowledge
  29. Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem's
  30. Hume's Missing Color Blue
  31. The Indeterminacy of Translation
  32. The Problem of Induction
  33. The (New) Problem of Induction
  34. The Case of the Inquiring Murderer
  35. The Problem of Intensional Entities
  36. The Problem of Intentionality
  37. The Problem of Intentions
  38. The Liar Paradox
  39. The Paradox of Machine Reasoning
  40. The Case of Mary
  41. The Problem of Mathematical Knowledge
  42. The Problem of Mathematical Truth
  43. The Meno Paradox
  44. The Mind-Body Problem
  45. The Modal Gap
  46. Moore's Paradox
  47. The Problem of Moral Luck
  48. The Problem of Moral Knowledge
  49. The Problem of Moral Motivation
  50. The Problem of Moral Truth
  51. Newcomb's Paradox
  52. The Problem of Negative Facts
  53. The Problem of Nomological Necessity
  54. The Problem of Other Minds
  55. The Ontological Argument
  56. The Problem of Personal Identity
  57. The Philosophical Zombies Thought Experiment
  58. The Prisoners' Dilemma
  59. The Case of the Prince and the Cobbler
  60. The Private Language Argument
  61. Quine's Paradox
  62. The Raven Paradox
  63. The Ring of Gyges Thought Experiment
  64. Rule-Following Skepticism
  65. Russell's Paradox
  66. Russellian Skepticism
  67. The Puzzle of Setting a Surprise Exam
  68. The Ship of Theseus Thought Experiment
  69. The Case of the Super-Super-Spartans
  70. The Case of the Swampman
  71. The Teleological Argument
  72. The Teletransporter Thought Experiment
  73. The Problem of Time's Arrow
  74. The Problem of Trans-World Identity
  75. Pascal's Wager
  76. The Problem of Perception
  77. The Problem of Psycho-Physical Laws
  78. The Paradox of Tolerance
  79. The Trolley Problems
  80. The Twin Earth Thought Experiment
  81. The Undecidability Theorem
  82. The Underdetermination Problem
  83. The Problem of Universals
  84. The Problem of Unobservables
  85. The Problem of the Utility Monster
  86. The Problems of Vagueness
  87. The Problem of Weakness of Will
  88. Zeno's Paradoxes