PHIL 255: Philosophy of Mind

Essay Topics, Winter, 2000


The essay is due March 30. Late essays will be downgraded at the rate of 10% per week. The topics below are suggestions. You can propose your own topic if you submit a 1-page outline by March 9. The essay should be typed, double spaced, and no longer than 3,000 words (approximately 10 pages). Essays should go beyond the textbooks and discuss articles and books you have found on your own. You should defend your conclusions with arguments. The penalty for plagiarism (passing another person's work off as your own) is a course grade of F.

NOTE: The essay may NOT be on the topic of consciousness, since the final exam will be largely concerned with that topic. If you wrote an essay for Phil/Psych 256, you may not write on the same topic.

Essays will be evaluated on the basis of:

1. Relevance: pose and try to answer an important question in the philosophy of mind.

2. Research: use resources beyond the textbooks.

3. Writing: write intelligibly.

4. Argument: make a compelling case for the answer you prefer, and consider alternative answers. Essays will be graded on the quality of the argument, not on the particular conclusion you reach.

Your essay must use the following outline:

1. The issue. State the question you are trying to answer.

2. Alternatives. State possible answers to your question.

3. Evidence. Describe whatever philosophical and psychological considerations are relevant to the different potential answers.

4. Conclusion. On the basis of the evidence for the different alernatives, argue for what you see as the best answer to the question.


1. Is computer intelligence possible? Critically discuss what you take to be the major objections to computer thought.

2. What solutions have philosophers offered to the problem of other minds? Defend what you think is the best solution.

3. Defend in depth what you take to be the best solution to the mind-body problem.

4. Critically discuss whether people have free will.

5. Is materialism incompatible with morality?

6. What is a person?

7. Do animals have minds?



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