GenEd Resources

Philosophy BA Program Learning Outcomes

Every philosophy course must use at least one of the program learning outcomes.

  • Outcome 1: Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

General Education Refresh Course Learning Outcomes & Other Requirements

 

Catalog Description:
Students will explore the nature of morality in general and examine opposing sides of particular moral debates. Topics may include: abortion, animal rights, the ethics of immigration, genetic enhancement, and euthanasia. This course aims to help students become more reflective and open-minded about morality, while also providing them with the skills to successfully defend their own moral beliefs.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP Humanist)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Being able to describe and discuss the various moral perspectives featured in the course, including perspectives on specific and on general moral issues.

Being able to apply these theories to various moral issues.

Being able to compare the theories and assess their relative merits according to relevant philosophical standards.

Being able to compose a clear and well-structured essay, suitable for the discipline of philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):

Here is an example of a Signature Assignment.

The assignment is to write a paper on one of the following topics:

  1. During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers and administrators have faced this type of question: How should scarce medical resources (such as vaccines, drugs, ICU beds, and ventilators) be allocated? That is, which patients should be given priority, and on what basis? Think about this question from the perspective of what you have learned in this class in the unit on moral theories (Utilitarianism and Deontology). How would Utilitarians approach this question? How would Deontologists (in particular, those who believe in DDE or DDA) approach it? Would Utilitarians and Deontologists agree or disagree about the answer to this question? Why? [EXTRA-CREDIT: Finally, conclude with your own assessment: What can we learn (if anything) from views like Utilitarianism or Deontology about what we should do in these challenging cases? Do you see yourself better positioned to answer this question after having taken this class? Why?]
  2. Pick your own example of a moral disagreement across different cultures (it could be an example that involves cultures that exist at the same time—such as now—or at different times). Explain how Cultural Relativism and Objectivism are different perspectives about the nature of morality, and illustrate the two views with that example. Next, explain how each perspective could account for or explain that particular example of moral disagreement. Which explanation do you think is right, the relativist or the objectivist? Why? [EXTRA-CREDIT: Finally, conclude with a reflection on what you have learned on this topic from having taken this class: Has your perspective on the nature of morality (in particular, on its objectivity/relativity) changed or evolved in any way from having taken this class? How?]

Guidelines for the students: The paper should be around 5 pages long, double-spaced, using 1”margins throughout. It should have a clear structure that follows the different parts of the chosen prompt, preferably in the order suggested. It should be structured into different paragraphs separating the different parts of the prompt. The ideas need to be explained as if you were writing for a peer who’s introduced to the topic for the first time. You should start with a rough outline and draft and then edit it until you reach a polished version. The recommendation is not to quote from the readings or from the class notes, but, instead, to set out the ideas in your own words as much as possible, and to illustrate them with your own examples when appropriate. You should demonstrate in your writing that you are applying the concepts and skills learned in this class. As with other assignments in this class, you won’t be graded on the basis of the views that you defend, but on how well you apply the concepts learned in class, and on how you structure and express your reasoning using the analytic tools learned and applied in class.

Catalog Description: Did you know that killing innocent children is morally wrong? I hope so. But arguably, you can only know things that are true. What kind of truth do moral statements have? Are moral truths universal and necessary like mathematical truths? Or are they contingent and relative to different societies like truths about rules of etiquette? What makes a moral statement true or false? Society? God? Evolution? Rationality?

In this course, we study some of the most ambitious answers in the history of Western philosophy to questions about the relationship between knowledge, truth, and morality. We approach these texts by thinking about two kinds of cases:

1.      How do we explain our knowledge of moral issues that look obvious, for example, our knowledge that genocide is wrong?

2.      And then, how, if at all, can our analysis of the obvious cases help us think about the more controversial cases, for example whether it is permissible to tell a lie to help a friend?  

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

Upon the completion of the course students can think, argue, and write from the perspectives of two distinct and influential approaches to the study of human values and norms:

  1. The rationalist approach (in the tradition of Plato and Kant): on this view, the proper method of thinking about human values and norms is rational reflection. In a sense, this is a top-down method: we first analyze the basic concepts of good, right, just, etc., and then we apply them to concrete situations. Students will construct arguments and write philosophical pieces that reflect this way of theorizing about human values.
  2. That naturalist approach (in the tradition of Aristotle and Mill): on this view, human values and norms are best studied via empirical methods. In a sense, this is a bottom-up method: we first analyze the current condition of humanity, and then generalize to derive more general principles.Students will construct arguments and write philosophical pieces that reflect this way of theorizing about human values.
  3. Additionally, we will apply these two broad approaches to questions about race, gender, and class in contemporary moral philosophy.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Signature Assignment(s):

PHIL160D1 contains a series of signature assignments (4 argument maps) that are distributed throughout the semester. These assignments align well with the EP Writing Attribute for the following reasons.

First, students learn how to identify interesting passages and argumentative paragraphs from their reading that are worth writing about.

Second, students are asked to write an outline of the main argument in their selected passages. They are instructed to show “charity of interpretation”. In this way, they learn the basics of writing an expository piece.

Third, students are asked to write a counter-argument against the original passage that they have selected. The assignment is designed in such a way that forces students to think about focused and creative ways of engaging in a dialogue. They are asked to narrow their focus and object to one and only one premise from the original passage. They are then asked to develop an argument on their own which would entail the rejection of the targeted premise.

Fourth, students are asked to write a possible objection to their own counter-argument. This is something that will become very important when they turn to writing papers since they will be asked to anticipate objections against their own preferred view, and address some of them.

Finally: the four argument maps culminate with a paper proposal (which is the paper proposal for their final paper). The paper proposal has the same structure as an argument map: (1) a charitable exposition of the view they are talking about; (2) their own original argument; and (3) possible objections and replies. After receiving feedback from the instructor on their paper proposal, students write their final paper by turning the argument map 4 into a complete paper.

I believe that by going through these steps they both learn the analytic style of writing that is very useful for many sub disciplines in the humanities. But perhaps more importantly, they learn how various philosophical dialogue between rival viewpoints should take the stages of offering a charitable interpretation one’s rival, careful and modest counter-argumentation, and then an honest and frank acknowledgment of the shortcomings of one’s own viewpoint.     

Catalog Description: We will study the ethics and the economics of such phenomena as market competition, institutions of private and public property, trade restrictions, globalization, and corporate welfare. How do people create wealth? How do societies enable people to create wealth? Are some ways more ethical than others? Why do some societies grow rich while neighboring societies remain poor? People have various ways of creating wealth. Which are ethical and which are not?  Why?

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate competency in analyzing a philosophical text, critical thinking, and writing a sound philosophy paper. (Philosophy program outcome)

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Utilize prior knowledge and experience to reflect on what wealth is, its normative significance, the individual and social processes that create wealth, and the institutions that facilitate the creation of wealth.

Reflect on writing as tool for utilizing and creating knowledge, on writing skills, and on writing goals and areas for writing improvement.

Describe the history, measurement, causes, and consequences of wealth creation.

Relate economic, social, and political institutions to wealth creation.

Compare centralized and decentralized actions, practices, and institutions relevant to wealth creation in terms of ethics, knowledge, incentives, efficiency, and opportunity costs.

Evaluate social policies and institutions using major ethical theories.

Consider the perspective of economically marginalized groups in critically evaluating arguments regarding institutions that impact the creation of wealth.

Discuss, evaluate, and construct ethical and economic arguments regarding social institutions and actions that impact the creation of wealth.

Collaborate with other students to recommend policies for controversial markets based on incentives, consequences, and moral rights and moral duties.

Draft and revise a substantial paper that reconciles ethical and economic values in critically evaluating aspects of a capitalist political economic order and/or proposals for reforming this order.

Draft and revise essays that conform to the genre conventions of academic philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):
In the first part of course students will have written 3 shorter papers on aspects of capitalist economic order:  on property, on markets, and the hierarchical firm.   The normative focus in this part of the course will be economic values of efficiency and preference satisfaction.

In the second part of the course students will completed 2 shorter papers (and one presentation) that critically evaluate proposals for reforming some aspect of a capitalist economic order.  The normative focus in this part of the course will be ethical values of rights, liberty, justice, and virtue.

Catalog Description: It is important "to do the right thing." But how can anyone tell what "the right thing" is? What makes some actions right and some wrong? This course is an overview of ethics, which is the field of philosophy that examines these questions. We examine three main ways of thinking about ethics: those that focus one the outcomes of actions, those that focus on the nature of the actions themselves, and those that focus on the character of the one who acts. Students will gain a foundational knowledge that will serve as a solid background for more advanced work in ethics, as a resource for thinking about moral issues, and as a piece of general education valuable for understanding practical aspects of human life.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Signature Assignment(s):

The assignment is to compare and critically assess how Classical Act Utilitarianism and Rule Consequentialism would apply to the following case:

Janice is suffering greatly from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. This disease causes the death of neurons which control voluntary muscles. Here is a quote about the disease from the ALS Association:

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.

Because there is no effective treatment at present, ALS is fatal. It is also progressive. Janice’s ALS has progressed to the point where she has lost her ability to speak, eat, and move. Soon the disease will cause her death. Janice understands this and has requested she be given a painless life-ending drug. (This would be a case of physician-assisted suicide.)

Let us suppose Janice lives in a country where there are no laws against such actions. Still, the moral question is whether it is morally right for a physician to administer a fatal dose of the drug to Janice, upon her request.

Length: to adequately address the assignment, your paper should be 7-8 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins.

Suggested Paper Outline
1. Write a short introductory paragraph explaining to your readers what you will do in your paper. Explain that you plan to compare the implications of classical Act Utilitarianism and Rule Consequentialism to a difficult moral to compare and evaluate these theories as they apply to the case.

2. Next, describe in your own words the case of Janice.

3.  Next, begin with classical Act Utilitarianism (AU) and explain to your reader the elements of this theory in question.

4. Then, once you’ve explained AU, take the position of a judge, and proceed to explain whether it would be morally permissible for the physician to administer the life-ending drug to Janice.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 now focusing on Rule Consequentialism (RC).

Catalog Description: In this course, students will considers a wide range of moral or ethical controversies and positions involved in contemporary life. Topics covered will vary but may include, among others, famine relief; euthanasia and physician assisted suicide; the morality of warfare, often known as Just War Theory; sexual morality; racism; sexism; the ethics of immigration; the morality of genetic engineering, as well as the related topic of human cloning; the restriction of liberties pertaining to recreational drug use, prostitution, pornography, and free speech; environmental damage and moral obligations to future generations; the moral status of nonhuman animals; and abortion.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

Signature Assignment(s):

Two different signature assignments involve two different goals. One is more general as part of a quality education in any humanities course another is more focused upon excelling in the discipline of philosophy.

The first is a 1000-word essay requiring each student to write a critical assessment of an article or articles (or specific arguments in an article or articles). Each of these assigned articles takes a position on some particular moral controversy. What is distinctive about the assignment is in part the lead up to it. Students in the course are divided into groups, and each group is assigned a specific week and topic. (For example, week one is the topic of famine relief, and students in Group 1 are then required to write their essay on tha topic. In week 2, when the topic is famine relief, students in Group 2 are required to write on that topic.) Students in each group are required to write individual (not group) essays, but prior to writing their essay, they are treated as accountable for being “experts” for that week. To that end, prior to class meeting for that week, each student in the group has to write and submit a “shorty” that summarizes in one paragraph one of the two or three assigned readings. (This shorty is “low stakes” in that there is no grade assigned. It is just a simple requirement that each student do this and submit it prior to a class meeting on this topic.)  This insures that these students have carefully invested in the topic ahead of time. Then in attending lectures on the topic, these students are asked to take on a leadership role in asking critical questions and just being prepared to answer hard questions from their professor in helping to explain the material. The students are then also asked to prepare for the second class meeting that week at least one discussion question to help structure a seminar-style discussion. They also prepare these ahead of time and send them to the professor to help plan a class session that engages them. (Note this is also another low-stakes assignment.)

With this as background, after the completion of the topic in class lecture and discussion, students are given a week to write an essay, based on an (optional) prompt. Having invested deeply in the week’s topic, they then submit a 1000-word essay wherein they are required to express in their words, and not based on further research, their views. The instructor then grades that essay focusing both on mastery of philosophical content but also on quality of written arguments. The student is then required to revise in specific response to the feedback to earn full credit. In getting feedback, students are encouraged to take on a professional tone. In doing so, they often produce something that has the respectable appearance of a position piece that could appear in the op-ed section of a good newspaper.

A key aim of this signature assignment is to infuse carefully reading, class lecture, peer discussion, and feedback from both peers (in the class discussion) and from the professor into a writing assignment. In this way, it just cannot be that writing something is one little step, and other aspects of the class are other little steps, reading, shared discussion, reflection, feedback, and revisiting one’s ideas are all enmeshed. This is just what good writers and thinkers do.

Below, I will past an example of a prompt for one of these essay assignments.

Before doing so, here is a second Signature Assignment, and this is far easier to explain. It instead is aimed at drilling down into the disciplinary practice to craft a quality piece of work unique to philosophy as a distinctive area of the humanities. In the last third of the course, we shift from focus on one topic each week to intensive focus on two topics for two weeks each. The final assignment is a final paper that asks the students to write a proper philosophy paper that incorporates the many (4-6) assigned readings. These papers should be of a quality that, at the upper end, could be submitted in application to a graduate program as a writing sample. The two topics most recently used are the moral status of nonhuman animals and the moral permissibility or impermissibility of abortion. Students often produce astoundingly mature and well-crafted essays.

Catalog Description:
Happiness matters to us; and now it is in the news. There are large numbers of self-help books telling us how to be happy. Some nations are planning to measure the happiness of their citizens to find out how it can be increased. There is a huge new field of “happiness studies,” and new focus on happiness in positive psychology as well as fields like politics and law. Much of this material is confusing, since often it is not clear what the authors think that happiness is. Is it feeling good? Is it having a positive attitude to the way you are now? Is it having a positive attitude to your life as a whole? Is it having a happy life? Can some people advise others on how to be happy?

Philosophers have been engaged with the search for happiness for two thousand years. They have asked what happiness is, and have explored different answers to the question, including some of the answers now being rediscovered in other fields.

In this course we will ask what happiness is, and examine critically the major answers to this question. We’ll look at the rich philosophical tradition of thinking about happiness, at contemporary answers, and also at some recent work in the social sciences. We’ll examine the contributions being made to the ongoing search to find out what happiness is, and how we can live happy lives.

This course has two primary objectives:
* To introduce students to the theoretical nature of the question of the nature of happiness by presenting a representative sample of the primary historical and contemporary literature
* To enable students to think and write critically, logically and objectively about the philosophical issues pertaining to happiness.

These objectives will be approached through lectures, discussions and writing assignments informed by the assigned readings. Course outcomes will be assessed through substantial writing assignments, some of which will feature opportunities for students to revise their work in light of advice from the professor.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspectives (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): World Cultures and Societies, Writing

Learning Outcomes:

REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of Humanists, using evidence to critically analyze questions and arguments, and consider contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges. (EP Humanist)

Students will describe, from one or multiple perspectives, the values, practices, and/or cultural products of at least one non-US culture/society; relate how these values, practices and/or cultural products have shaped their social, historical, political, environmental and/or geographic contexts; and reflect on how the student's own background has influenced their perceptions of other societies and their sense of place in the global community. (World Cultures & Societies)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Apply a variety of disciplinary lenses—from Philosophy, Social Science, and Humanities—to identify the scope, achievements, limitations, and concerns of research on human quality of life.

Interpret texts from different times, places, peoples, and disciplines about human quality of life, in terms of the concerns and methodologies of their authors and audience.

Appreciate some of the challenges of merging different disciplinary perspectives and methodologies to construct a more unified understanding of human quality of life.

Critically analyze diverse theories of the nature of human happiness and well-being, and understand the concerns and methodologies that often drive the development of those theories.

Gain proficiency in reading complex texts on happiness and well-being, from different disciplines and historical periods, that require a high degree of analytical reasoning.

Compose written texts that carefully, accurately, and precisely reconstruct complex perspectives on human quality of life that both represent the reasoning and concerns of their creators and make them intelligible and compelling for capable but uninformed readers.

Signature Assignment(s):

The overarching assignment for the semester is to learn to produce concise, accurate, and clear secondary texts on the nature of human well-being. This, one finds, is a struggle for even the best-prepared students, often to their surprise. However, with practice and guidance every student can improve, often dramatically. The skills involved in reconstructing complex viewpoints of others and communicating complex viewpoints to others, are skills that students can apply throughout their lives.

Several times during the semester, students compose a written text in which they identify an idea, problem, question, or challenge arising in a recent reading on human quality of life, reconstruct it in a way that demonstrates deep understanding of the author’s concerns and methods, and present it in a clear and engaging manner for a capable but uninformed reader.

Each individual assignment includes multiple components. Students produce and exchange rough drafts of their work. Students then review and provide feedback on each other’s drafts. Lastly, students revise their work in light of advice received from their instructor and in-class colleagues, in preparation to submit final drafts.

The individual assignments work towards a cumulative, semester-long effect. Students’ final drafts of one text become the basis for new recommendations for skill development on subsequent texts. Over the course of the semester, students are expected to show substantial progress in their development of this foundational skill of reconstructing and communicating complex ideas.

Catalog Description: Survey of major 17th and 18th century British and European philosophers, chosen from Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.

Curriculum Category: Exploring Perspective (EP) - Humanist

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will identify the approaches and methodologies of the disciplinary perspective, use evidence and/or knowledge generated within the disciplinary perspective to critically analyze questions, ideas, and/or arguments, and describe contributions of this perspective to finding solutions to global and/or local challenges.

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development.

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Being able to describe and discuss the various theories featured in the course (empiricism vs. rationalism, realism vs. idealism, the nature of scientific knowledge and its foundations). Each of these represents a particular perspective for thinking about ourselves, and of our place in a world that we take to be governed by the universal laws of nature that form the subject matter of the most foundational natural sciences.

Being able to compare the theories and assess their relative merits according to pertinent standards for evaluating philosophical theories.

Being able to compose a clear well-structured essay, suitable for the discipline of philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):

Your assignment is to compare and critically assess Hume’s and Kant’s competing accounts of inductive inferences.  These are inferences are ones we make from cases of causal interaction that we have observed to obtain in the past to as yet unobserved cases in the future.  What distinguishes these philosophers is, in large part, what they have to say regarding the question of whether we have any rational entitlement to draw inductive inferences.  Attending to the relevant texts from these philosophers’ writings, explain the answer each philosopher provides to this question, and the considerations each adduces in support of his answer.  In your estimation, which philosopher provides the better answer?   Why? 

Consider, for example, why, when you get on a place, you do so believing that it will fly. You might think that an argument of the following form is one to which you could appeal to justify this belief:

A) Whenever I have observed an airplane roar down a runway, it has subsequently flown.

B)  This airplane has started and is now roaring down the runway.

C)  Therefore, this airplane will subsequently fly.

In Section IV of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume argues that this form of inference necessarily relies on the assumption that the future will resemble the past (that nature is uniform) and that, given the nature of our cognitive capacities, there is no good argument that we can provide in defence of our reliance on this assumption.  On these grounds, he concludes that we cannot provide any grounds on the basis of which we are entitled to draw inferences of this kind.  In your own words, explain this argument, making clear how it relies on Hume’s account of our cognitive capacities.  Notice that Hume does not deny – indeed, he insists – that it belongs to the nature of the human mind that, once we’ve observed regularites like A), we will in fact develop the disposition to draw inductive inferences in which we project these regularitis into the future.  Moreover, Hume holds that it is a good thing that we rely on nature’s being uniform in the way we anticipate it to be. But he insists that it is not our reason, but rather these habits, that determines our inductive inferences.

In the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant develops an account of our capacities of cognition that is very different from Hume’s, and on which each of us is, as a subject of our capacity to understand, entitled to subsume certain regularities in kind that objects exhibit to her in her perception of them under the category of the relation of cause and effect.  This entitlement amounts to an entitlement to draw inductive inference, from the instances of regularities that one has observed from which one derives one’s empirical concept of a natural kind, that these regulaties will hold in the future, as yet unobserved, cases.  Explain Kant’s account of this entitlement.  Be sure to explain how this account is one we have as subjects of a capacity of understanding the operation of which must yield empirical concepts that have a use in making what he calls ‘judgments of experience’.

LENGTH
to adequately address the assignment, your paper should be 7-8 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins.

SUGGESTED PAPER OUTLINE

1. Write a short introductory paragraph explaining to your readers what you will do in your paper. Explain that you plan to compare the competing accounts of inductive inference offered by Hume and Kant.

2. Next, describe in your own words the question about the nature of inductive inference to which Hume and Kant offer competing answers.

3.  Next, explain to your reader the main elements of Hume’s answer to this question.  What, according to Hume, happens when we draw an inductive inference?  What does he mean when he says that these inferences are a product of habit, and not reason? 

4. Then, explain to your reader the main elements of Kant’s competing account of what our capacity to draw inductive inferences consists in. What, on this account, entitles us to rely on the assumption that nature is uniform in the way we rely it to in drawing inductive inferences?

5. Finally, conclude by critically evaluating the answers Hume and Kant offer. Be sure to attend to the competing accounts of our capacity of cognition to which they, respectively, appeal.  What sorts of considerations tell for and against each of these accounts?

AUDIENCE
Write the paper as if you were writing it for a student at this university who is not familiar with philosophy. So, this means that you should strive to explain clearly and in just enough detail the answers that Hume and Kant offer to the question about the nature of our inductive inferences so that such a peer could follow the paper.

RULE TO FOLLOW
Avoid quoting and do not paraphrase text. Remember, you need to describe and explain the answers Hume and Kant are offering in your own words. It will not do simply to write down what Hume and/or Kant say, or repeat exactly what I say about their answers.

EVALUATION
This paper assignment is worth 100.

  • Spelling and grammar                  10
  • Clarity and organization              15
  • Accuracy in describing the
    positions Hume and Kant take     30 (15 + 15)
  • Accuracy in laying out their            
    arguments for their positions        30 (15 + 15)                             
  • Quality of critical evaluation
    (step 5 above)                            15

Catalog Description: We will investigate and seriously consider how and why we should live as morally responsible members of an ecological community. Students will explore philosophical responses to questions such as: What makes something natural? What value is there to non-human entities? What obligations do we have to each other regarding the environment?   Students will investigate social scientific responses to questions such as:  How should wilderness be preserved?  How should we respond to climate change?  How should water resources be allocated?  Students will build connections between and reconcile philosophical and social scientific approaches to issues of environmental concern. 

Curriculum Category: Building Connections (BC)

Attribute(s): Writing

Learning Outcomes:
REQUIRED GenEd learning outcomes:

Students will demonstrate competency in analyzing a philosophical text, critical thinking, and writing a sound philosophy paper. (Program outcome)

Students will demonstrate the ability to utilize multiple perspectives and make meaningful connections across disciplines and social positions, think conceptually and critically, and solve problems. (BC)

Students will demonstrate rhetorical awareness and writing proficiency by writing for a variety of contexts and executing disciplinary genre conventions of organization, design, style, mechanics and citation format while reflecting on their writing development. (Writing)

REQUIRED Philosophy program learning outcomes (must include one):

  • Outcome 1: Write a sound philosophy paper. Write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Outcome 2: Analyze a philosophical text.
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrate critical thinking. 

OPTIONAL:

Utilize prior knowledge and experience to reflect on what nature is, our relation to nature, the value of nature, and how societies should respond to contemporary issues of environmental concern.

Reflect on writing as tool for utilizing and creating knowledge, on writing skills, and on writing goals and areas for writing improvement.

Describe environmental challenges contemporary societies face and the history of these challenges.

Explore conceptions of nature and the place of human beings in nature.

Critically assess anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric conceptions of environmental value, and draw out the implications of these conceptions.

Discuss and evaluate institutional proposals for responding to contemporary issues of environmental based on incentives, information constraints, feasibility, and cultural fit.

Consider the perspective of marginalized groups and environmental justice in critically assessing institutional proposals.

Collaborate with other students to present and defend an institutional proposal that addresses a contemporary issue of environmental concern.

Draft and revise a substantial paper that reconciles social scientific and philosophical perspectives in defending an institutional proposal for a contemporary issue of environmental concern.

Draft and revise essays that conform to the genre conventions of academic philosophy.

Signature Assignment(s):
In the first part of course students will have written 3 shorter papers on philosophical conceptions of nature, our place in nature, and its value.

In the second part of the course students will have drawn on the perspective of the social scientist in composing 2 shorter papers that critically evaluate institutional proposals for responding to issues of contemporary environmental concern and in collaborating on 1 group presentation recommending an institutional response to one such issue.