PHIL 2511 Paradoxes 2017

PHIL 2511: Paradoxes

Course Instructor: Dr. Michael Johnson
Meeting Location: CPD 2.14
Meeting Times: Fridays 9:30am to 11:20am

Course Description:

A paradox is an absurd proposition that we are invited to accept on the basis of (a) our accepting other propositions that seem clearly true and (b) logical reasoning that seems clearly correct. A paradox thus pushes us to do something radical: abandon propositions we thought were clearly true, abandon logical reasoning we thought was clearly correct, or accept the absurd. Many things have been called paradoxes in the history of philosophy. In this class, we will examine some of the most persistent paradoxes, ones that challenge our natural conceptions of knowledge, self, truth, and morality.


Four short essays, each 25% of the final grade.

Course Schedule:

20 Jan

27 Jan
Paradoxes of Knowledge
Timothy Chow, “The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox”

3 Feb
NO CLASS: Lunar New Year

10 Feb
The Ravens Paradox
Today’s slides
Fitelson & Hawthorne, “How Bayesian Confirmation Theory Handles the Paradox of the Ravens” (read only pp. 247-258)
Sample Essay

17 Feb
Hume’s Problem of Induction
Today’s Slides
Assignment #1
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (excerpt)
Wesley Salmon, An Encounter with Hume

24 Feb
The New Riddle of Induction
Today’s slides
Nelson Goodman, “The New Riddle of Induction”

3 Mar
Personal Identity: Fission and Fusion
Today’s slides
Derek Parfit, “Personal Identity”

10 Mar
NO CLASS: Reading Week

17 Mar
Paradoxes of Material Constitution
Today’s slides
L.A. Paul, “The Puzzles of Material Constitution”
Essay #2

24 Mar
The Paradox of the Heap
Today’s slides
Dominic Hyde, “Sorites Paradox” (SEP)

31 Mar
Paradoxes of Truth
Today’s slides
Bradley Dowden, “The Liar Paradox” (IEP)

7 Apr
Paradoxes of Time Travel
Today’s slides
David Lewis, “Paradoxes of Time Travel”

14 Apr
NO CLASS: Good Friday

21 Apr
Moral Luck
Thomas Nagel, “Moral Luck”

28 Apr
Paradoxes in the School of Names
Today’s slides
Chris Fraser, “Paradoxes in the School of Names”
Final Assignment