Introduction to Philosophy

First Summer Semester, 2018

Jacksonville University

Dr. Scott Kimbrough

Topics for Second Paper


Write a maximum three page paper on one of the topics below. There is no minimum length. Papers are to be typed and double-spaced, with reasonable margins. Papers are due Tuesday, June 19th. Late papers will be penalized 5 points per week-day late.

The goal of this paper is to evaluate objections to a philosophical theory. This involves three basic tasks:

  1. Set up the debate. Using textual evidence, describe the relevant claims made by the philosopher. Then explain the objection to those claims. You must discuss the specific examples provided in the paper topic below.
  2. Provide the philosopher’s reply to the objection. This involves using textual evidence to infer how the philosopher would or should respond to the objection.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the philosopher’s reply. Give reasons for your own conclusion about whether the philosopher succeeds or fails in fending off the objection.

Note that your task is to evaluate a particular objection, not the philosopher’s theory as a whole. It is possible that you might disagree with the philosopher’s overall view, yet still conclude that the philosopher has an effective reply to the specific objection under consideration.

Give textual evidence for any quotations and whenever you attribute a specific view. Papers without textual evidence will receive no higher than a D. Since this is not a formal research paper, you may simply provide page numbers from the textbook in parentheses. For example: “According to Aristotle, moral virtue is a product of habit (p.509).” However, if you use sources other than the textbook (which is not recommended), full bibliographical information must be provided.

Grading: The paper is worth a total of 125 points. You will receive a letter grade that will be converted to a numerical score. The main criteria for grading are:

Use of textual evidence

Accuracy of interpretation

Depth of analysis/defense of conclusion


Choose one of the topics below:

  1. According to Nielsen, to be free is “to act in accordance with one’s own rational deliberations, without constraint and compulsion” (p.341). Briefly explicate this definition. Against Nielsen, it has been objected that some people fail to have free will despite acting on their own rational deliberations. For example, consider David, a child born to drug-addicted parents who from a young age teach him to steal in order to get the money to fuel their drug habit. Through beatings, withholding food, and other abusive techniques, David’s parents turn him into a remorseless thief. Once he grows up, he continues down the same path, stealing whatever he can when the opportunity arises. But according to the objector, when David decides to steal something, it’s not really an exercise of free will because he was conditioned to behave that way and doesn’t know any better. How would Nielsen respond to this objection? Is his response effective? Why or why not?


  1. According to Frankfurt, a person has free will when “he is free to will what he wants to will, or to have the will he wants” (p.363). Briefly explain this definition of free will, introducing Frankfurt’s distinction between will and second order volition. Against Frankfurt, it has been objected that his definition of free will does not sufficiently account for external sources of compulsion, such as threats. For example, suppose a burglar breaks into your house and demands your money or he’ll kill your family. In that situation, you want your will be to be hand over the money because you want to save your family. So you have the will you want when you hand over your money to the burglar. But according to the objector, it is wrong to say that you gave the burglar your money of your own free will. How would Frankfurt respond to this objection? Is his response effective? Why or why not?

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