Phil 255: Essay Topics
Important essay information:
- Use a standard bibliographic
style. Valid 'external' citations must have been published in a journal
- Essays should not be a repeat of exam/quiz questions.
- Know what constitutes a good essay: see here and here.
- These essays are worth 35% of your final mark. Late essays lose three (of
35) marks per day.
These are suggested essay topics. You may come up with a topic of your
own, but it must be approved (email
me an outline). I will consider topics up until 1 week before the due date of the paper.
I expect the paper to be about 5-7 pages (2000 words) and to include at least
3 external bibliographic references (not to anything in the course texts,
and not to reference works (textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedia, etc.)). You
may assume that your audience has this course as background knowledge. Therefore,
your essay should not be mostly taken from the notes, and should also not be
an extended answer to similar questions on the midterms.
- Compare and contrast Introspectionism and Behaviorism. Provide specific examples of how the differences affected the kinds of experiments performed
or interpretation of results. Discuss their similarities as well.
- To what degree does William James' position cohere with that of present
day functionalists? What differences are most apparent? Be specific.
- Do you think consciousness is empirically accessible? Why or why not? How
would you respond to those who disagree with your position? What is the best argument for your view? Why?
- What relation do you see between behaviorism and functionalism? Examine
the role of the computer in supporting the switch from the former to the latter.
- Describe, and discuss
arguments for and against
Fodor's RTM. Are there changes you think could be made to the theory to make
What alternative do you think is most plausible, why?
- Present a brief history of the development of psychology from the time of
the Introspectionists through the cognitive revolution to the present day. Discuss the status
of the field as a science during this time.
- Is folk psychology a theory? Why or why not? What alternatives to an affirmative answer
do you find most appealing, if any (if none, critique the most plausible)?
- What is the most defensible understanding of the relation between psychology
and neuroscience (i.e. how are minds and brains related?)? Consider this question
both methodologically and theoretically.
- What role should language play in developing our understanding of minds?
Consider what role it has played in the past in various debates in psychology
and discuss whether that role was appropriate. If appropriate, describe and defend an alternative.
- Is it possible for a non-biological entity to have intentionality? What would Searle's position be on your answer? What would the consequences be of constructing such an entity, if possible? Waht are there interesting metaphysical consequences of your response?