Problem Sets

Problem Sets


Answers (instructions below) to each problem set are due in class as designated below. I do not mind students working on the problem sets in groups--it is, in fact, encouraged--but your answers must be your own. Be sure that each answer is as complete, well-expressed, clear, and precise as you can make it. The value of each problem is given in parentheses after the question. If you have any question, puzzle, or require clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me (; 3976, 944-2756). Finally, the following maximums and minimums must be scrupulously observed:

  • No less than 10pt font.
  • No less than 1.5 line spacing.
  • No less than 1 inch margins on all sides.
  • No more than one-half page for a Short Essay answer.
  • No more than one page for a Long Essay answer.

Note that these are maximums and minimums only. You may, for instance, write less than one page for a Long Essay or use greater than a 10pt font. Finally, these minimums and maximums do not apply, for instance, to flow graphs or other charts, which may be handwritten and attached as need be.

In light of these admittedly serious constraints on the space available for answers, it is extremely important that you excise any and all extraneous or redundant material. For example, the phrases "It can be argued that", "I claim that", "I think that", or their kin preceding a sentence add absolutely nothing to the sentence, take up valuable space, and are in fact wholly redundant. Of course it can be argued that, claimed that, or thought that, or you would never have written it!

Every word must count for answering the question. Philosophical writing is thus austere, but terribly precise. Such is its virtue. That said, writing philosophy can be jarring at first, especially for those who have labored and suffered under the delusional five-paragraph essay regime.

Please note that it is not permitted to quote from the text, or to plagiarize from the text, or to plagiarize from anything, or even to revise a sentence from the text by replacing key phrases.

To be sure, we have a plethora of special terminology we employ throughout the course--'physicalism', 'functionalism', etc. You cannot avoid using special terminology, but be careful to explain it in your own terms where appropriate. As silly as it may sound coming from a philosopher, never hide behind a wall of terminology.

One last but very important note: Students sometimes cling very tightly to my notes and handouts, almost to the point of plagiarism--not, of course, that you can plagiarize me. The point is rather that by merely regurgitating my notes you fail to demonstrate your own comprehension of the arguments. Indeed, people who employ that strategy may sound better insofar as their phrasing is better, but they tend to get much poorer grades than those who work out their own answer--however halting, incomplete, or unclear it may be.

For additional advice on writing philosophy, I encourage you to study some of the advice linked from the Writing Philosophy page. Not all of the advice applies directly to these problems, as even in philosophy they are atypical. Nevertheless, there is much sound and helpful advice to be had about writing in general and writing philosophy in particular.

Problem Set 01: Assigned Thursday 1/27; Due Thursday 2/3

Problem Set 02: Assigned Tuesday 2/15; Due Tuesday 2/22

Problem Set 03: Assigned Tuesday 2/22; Due Thursday 3/3

Problem Set 04: Assigned Thursday 3/3; Due Thursday 3/10

Problem Set 05: Assigned Thursday 3/10; Due Tuesday 3/22

Problem Set 06: Assigned Tuesday 3/22; Due Thursday 3/31

Problem Set 07: Assigned Thursday 3/31; Due Thursday 4/7

Problem Set 08: Assigned Thursday 4/7; Due Thursday 4/14

Problem Set 09: Assigned Thursday 4/14; Due Tuesday 4/26

Problem Set 10: Assigned Tuesday 4/26; Due Tuesday 5/3