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Philosophy 449: Metaphysics
Final Essay Topics
- Your paper may not exceed 1500 words. Footnotes/endnotes and bibliographical materials do not count towards the word limit, but should be used sparingly.
- Indicate your paper’s word count on its first page, along with your name and student number.
- Do not consult source material other than the reading selections associated with each question set out below (course lecture handouts are an exception to this rule).
- On a related note, it is essential to doing well on this (and at this level, any) paper that you cite primary texts. It is not enough to use the course handouts as your primary research tool. Do the reading, and demonstrate that you have by engaging with it in your paper.
- On this assignment, you are being asked to both explain and critique an argument, or cluster of arguments. Assume in writing your response that I have never read or considered the arguments at issue. Your job is therefore to explain the argument(s) and your critical response to those arguments in sufficient detail to someone familiar with the work of the relevant philosophers, but who has not considered these particular issues before.
- Clarify, don’t complexify!
- One way to sufficiently clarify a given dialectic is to ensure at all points that any technical terms that you are employing have been sufficiently defined.
- Another way to clarify a given dialectic is to represent the arguments involved as valid (Also, use premise 1, premise 2, (premise 3) and conclusion steps. Don’t need to indicate “premise” and “conclusion” for paragraph headings.)
2 Topics (Choose one of the following)
- Kit Fine argues in his article ‘What is Metaphysics?’ for a view according to which metaphysics is the field of enquiry of penultimate generality, in virtue of its distinctive subjectmatter being presupposed by all fields of enquiry except for logic. Explain Fine’s view in detail, and consider where in the “hierarchy” of enquiry that is naturally suggested by Fine’s remarks one might reasonably situate either (a) mathematics (on the assumption that mathematics does not reduce to logic), or (b) theology. Where does enquiry into the truths of mathematics, or into the nature and existence of god (or the principles of creation more generally) fit into Fine’s otherwise elegant framework?
- In his article ‘Tense and Reality’, Kit Fine develops a novel conception of the nature of temporal reality which he calls fragmentalism. Roughly, according to the fragmentalist, reality divides into a plurality of internally coherent temporal ‘fragments’ which are themselves mutually inconsistent. Fine takes the motivation for the fragementalist conception to derive primarily from a novel reading of J. M. E. McTaggart’s classic argument for the conclusion that time is unreal. One surprising upshot of the fragmentalist picture is that reality ‘as a whole’ is incoherent (or fundamentally inconsistent). Critically assess Fine’s argument for this view, and discuss the plausibility and implications of the fragmentalist conception of time.