|METHOD, IMAGINATION, AND INQUIRY
SHORT PAPER ASSIGNMENTS
Updated, October 23, 2003
Updated, November 2, 2003
Updated, November 17, 2003
Updated November 30, 2003
CHID / ENGLISH 205, Autumn, 2003
Short Papers. Please note that specific paper topics can be found at the end of this document. I will add topics (for all authors and texts) as we go along, so consult this document frequently.
1. General instructions.
All short papers are to be prepared in standard document format: viz., your name, an address (email is fine), the course number, in the upper left hand corner of the first page. Everything is to be double spaced, with standard margins.
Each page after the first is to have your last name and the page number at the top right corner of the page.
Your paper must have a title that indicates what your paper is about.
Everything you use from another source is to be cited in the paper. You must cite anything you take from a published article or book, from any web site, or from any other written material that is not your own. If you use something from class discussion or lecture, the usual practice is to note it out of courtesy. The particular convention for footnoting or other citations is not an issue: you may use footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography or works cited, with page references in your text. But citing everything that is not yours so that it can be located precisely is. If there is something you remember but you can’t find it or can’t locate, do not use it. Make notes, but check yourself to be certain that you are not simply relying on your memory about what someone else said wrote. As I indicated on the first day, any paper submitted with material not properly cited will be forwarded with documentation to the UW Committee on Academic Conduct.
2. File naming conventions.
When you are writing your paper, you may name it whatever you want, but save the final version with a file name that follows these rules exactly. I save the files to a network server in my office that restricts file names to 8 letters for the file name and 3 for the file type.
The name of the file you save should bear the first 5 letters of your last name, followed by your first initial, a dash, and the number of the paper.
For example, if I were writing the paper, this would be the file name
Please note that the three characters after the period (.doc) are ordinarily supplied as a default by the word processor you are using. Do NOT put in extra periods or other punctuation marks.
The number included in the file name merely indicates the order in which you
submit the papers. When you receive the paper back from me, my comments
will be included in square brackets [in red]. I will change the file name to indicate that it has been graded by changing the number to the corresponding
alphabetical letter. For example, the file above would come back:
I archive all files, the unmarked and graded versions.
3. Electronic submission of papers.
All of your papers are to be submitted as attachments to an email message. If you are not familiar with the procedure, you may wish to get help, but it is very simple. After you have written your paper, start an email message to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, using the commands of your mail program for attaching a file, attach the file from your computer to the message and send it. NEVER send a paper without saving a copy of it where you can retrieve it easily.
Any paper submitted before the end of the 8th week can be revised. If you do want to revise, please take the notion of revising literally: a revised paper is re-seen, not just one in which you tinker with a few sentences or fix punctuation and grammatical mistakes.
CHID / ENGLISH 205
1. In Phaedo, in the midst of severe difficulties, facing death and finding all his arguments ending up in the ditch, Socrates has at least two moments that are quite peculiar and worth further consideration. The first (Stephanus 60) is when, near the beginning of the dialogue, his wife Xantippe, is sent away, as she is “weeping bitterly and beating her breast” while Socrates, having just been “released from his fetters” is quietly rubbing his leg, and reflects on how close pleasure is to pain. The second (Stephanus 89) is when the best of his arguments (so far) have unraveled, and he sits, stroking Phaedo’s “beautiful locks” and says that both of them will cut off their hair if “our argument be dead indeed, and we cannot bring it to life again.”
Write an essay in which you explore these two episodes in as much detail, and with as much tact, as a thousand words will allow. Let yourself be led by the exact language of the text: what, exactly, does it say, and how does it work?
2. In many ways, Cebes and Simmias are, in Phaedo, characters almost as important as Socrates. Write an essay in which you follow with precision one of the instances in which either (or both) question and complicate Socrates’s argument. Frame your discussion by considering who they are, and the circumstances in which they are speaking.
3. When Socrates expresses his disappointment with Anaxagoras’s principle (unused, at least as far as Socrates is concerned) that Mind is the cause of all things (Stephanus 97-98), he goes on to give a quite eloquent and vivid account of what this notion (that Mind is the cause of all things) to mean. For your essay, open up that account—explore it, consider what he says, what examples he uses—to indicate what he wants an argument to do. In this case, title your essay, “Concerning the Ends of Argument.”
4. When Socrates introduces the theory of Forms as a principle for guiding inquiry in Phaedo, he does so in ways that are likely to strike us, on close examination, as quite odd. Write an essay in which you examine Socrates’ “kind of cause” (Stephanus 100), and explain it as clearly as you can.
5. In the selections in the course reader from Republic Books VI and VII, Plato lays out the “double-divided line” . For your essay, go through section XXI carefully, and ask yourself what is there in the way of a new method for inquiry?
6. In the reader, I have reproduced the whole of Book X from Republic. First, read it, and then concentrate your attention on how it is that Plato here uses the “double-divided line” to justify his decision to throw the poets out of his ideal city-state. Consider using the title, “The Irony of Images”—but at the very least, consider the substance of that phrase as it applies here.
7. Select a passage from either the Parmenides or the Phaedrus that seems to you to be clearly connected to Phaedo—or to Republic. Being careful not to try to jump across the Snake River Canyon on your Schwinn bicycle, focus your attention on a single connection that seems to you important, and explain it.
NEXT: On Aristotle, Bruno, and combinations
8. [Not for the faint of heart] In Phaedo, Plato has Socrates run through two arguments concerning opposites, differentiating between them sufficiently to prevent a coarse misunderstanding of what may be for a thing to come from its opposite and the impossibility of something becoming opposite to itself. For your essay, take up this problem of opposites by starting from Aristotle’s account of it in Physics I¸ especially chapter 6. What is Aristotle adding here and how would it change what Plato thinks he has established?
9. Write an essay with the title, “Reason, Desire, Imagination” in which you start with Aristotle’s discussion of these three ideas in On the Soul, Book III, chapters 9& 10, but expand outward to a consideration of the implied question, ‘What does Reason Want?’, or the really wiry one, “How does Reason Imagine’?
10. Here’s a passage from Aristotle’s Physics, Book II, chapter 8:
It is absurd not to think that a thing comes to be for something unless the thing which effects the change is seen to have deliberated. Art too does not deliberate. If the art of shipbuilding were present in wood, it would act in the same way as nature; so if the ‘for something’ is present in art, it is present in nature too. The point is clearest when someone doctors himself: nature is like that.
This is, one might say, a treacherous passage, made downright slippery by the cross-handedness of the rhetoric of the first sentence, which might have been rendered, “It is absurd to think that a thing does not come to be for something just because we do not see the agent deliberating.”
But that’s not the strangest thing. It is (arguably) the second sentence: “Art too does not deliberate.” Work this out.
11. At the start of Categories, Aristotle throws almost everybody for a loop when he asserts, in that dry way of his, that some things “are said of a subject but are not in any subject.” He returns to the matter, however, in Chapter 5 (bottom of p. 8, beginning “It is a characteristic common to every substance not to be in a subject.”
For you paper, explain as clearly as you can what Aristotle does in Chapter 5 to clear this up, including some notice, as you go, of how he prepares the way for his own argument. You, of course, should do the same.
If you want a little more, you may consider relating this discussion back to Plato’s Parmenides.
12. Write an essay with the title, “Aristotle and the Inner Artificer,” in which you explore how it is that Aristotle anticipates Bruno, and how he nevertheless does not see what Bruno does.
13. In the writers we have read so far, it is becoming increasing clear that they are talking to each other, but more than that, they are taking each other on, so to speak. What is more interesting in this regard that the sign of intellectual respect does NOT lie in being complimentary, turning one’s predecessor into a saint, deferring or wiping your own forehead several times upon the doormat, but of entering into an argument by pointing out where, and exactly why, one’s predecessor got something wrong, or left something out. You might consider titling your essay, “Picking a fight with Plato,” or “Arguing with Aristotle,” or “Battling with Bruno,” not for the aggression and implied violence of these locutions, but in recognition that learning how to disagree, how to argue a different position, is precisely what all of them would have hoped for. If you pick this topic, make sure you read Socrates on “misology” first (in Phaedo).
14. Write an essay with the title, “The Real Power of Ideas,” in which you consider at least two of the writers we have read so far, and meditate as cogently as you can how their thought makes things in the world different.
NEXT: On Bruno, Bacon, combinations.
15. Write an essay with the title: “Bacon on Bruno.” Don’t do it as a dialogue or any cute Bill and Ted crap like that: specific details, precise arguments.
16. OR, write an essay with the title: “Bruno on Bacon.” Same deal.
17. It is not terribly difficult to show that Bacon, though he almost never passes up a chance to whack Aristotle along side the head, has a great deal in common with him. Write an essay in which you show what, precisely, that might be.
18. Does Bacon always follow his own advice? Do you find cases where he has not, evidently, done a sufficient critique of himself, or assertions that may in some way be the outgrowth of the effects of the 4 Idols upon him?
19. Pick one aphorism in The New Organon that seems to you to introduce a crucial theme to which Bacon returns again and again, to develop it? Explain how this works, and what it does to one’s understanding.
20. While Bacon does say a great deal about induction as the method never yet tried, how much induction is evident in The New Organon? Does this matter? Or is it the case, rather, that when Bacon talks about induction what is really on his mind is the conduct of experiments? Explain how this may be (or may not be).
21. While Bruno got himself into grave difficulty with the authorities by proposing both an infinite universe (how could Rome be the center of that?) and a truly omnipresent deity, Bacon did not. (As you will discover with even a tiny bit of research, Bacon’s problems with the law were of a different kind). What does he say that is germane to the problem of religious authority? Work this out.
NEXT: BACON, SHAKESPEARE, DESCARTES
22. Throughout the New Organon, Bacon builds a case for experimentalism, as the step a reasonable person should take to compensate for the liabilities disclosed in his discussion of the Four Idols of the Mind. First, read Bacon’s Aphorism L (about 7 or 8 times, say), to have clearly in mind how the experiment is what may touch the point in nature. Then write a paper on The Tempest in which you consider the presentation of the play as an experiment. Note the distinction between this, and what Prospero does that may be experimental. What point(s) in nature does this text potentially touch?
23. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (below: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”) can serve as a multifaceted epigraph to reflections on the love of Ferdinand and Miranda. Write a paper (with this poem as epigraph), in which you explore how it applies (or fails to apply) to this couple.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sicle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
(You will want to check the notes on this poem in any complete Shakespeare edition)
24. Write an essay with the title, “Madmen and Fools,” in which you work out in detail the kinds of madness and folly that appear in The Tempest. Stay focused.
25. On the website (Parent directory, Texts, Montaigne) you will find Montaigne’s essay, “On Cannibals.” Read this essay, and then write a paper in which you show how, precisely, the whole of The Tempest goes beyond the citation (borrowing) of Montaigne by Gonzalo, to provide a subtle critique of Montaigne’s entire position.
26. Throughout the play, Shakespeare presents situations in which the idea of one’s “proper self” is in play—either because it is not known, it is wrongly known, or is known altogether too well. For you essay, develop an analysis of the play that addresses the idea of “proper self”—not restricting yourself in the sense of “proper” to the sense of the term as meaning actual or real, but including some criteria of judgment.
27. Write an essay in which you analyze Shakespeare’s use of illusions, plays within the play, and so on. At least one of the following must come in for major treatment: The “tempest” in Scene 1; Ariel’s songs to Ferdinand; Prospero’s and Ariel’s actions in putting people to sleep and waking them up; the appearance of the phantom banquet; or the Masque. You may, of course, use more than one, but refine your topic so as to stay close to the examples you choose.
28. Write an essay with the title, “Knowledge, Power, and Contingency,” in which you explore how these problems (starting out from either Bruno or Bacon or both) are developed dramatically in The Tempest.
29. Find a passage (under 20 lines) in The Tempest that seems to you to pull the entire play together in some way, and proceed to explain exactly how it does so.
(Descartes: there will be more on the next round)
30. In the Discourse on Method, Descartes puts an enormous reliance on the quality of thoughts that are “clear and distinct,” though he says, in a remarkable sentence (possibly more remarkable than even he realizes), “So I judged that I could accept as a general rule that the things which we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are always true, but that there may well be some difficulty in deciding which are those which we conceive distinctly (Part Four, p. 21).” In your essay, concentrate on the clause that is underlined in the statement, and explain as clearly and comprehensively as you can what this difficulty is and what it implies for the certainty of Descartes’ undertaking.
31. While it is easy to see that Descartes four rules for his method and not consistent with his four rules for guiding his practical behavior, foreground at least one inconsistency (or a couple that are related) and trace the effect on the argument Descartes develops.
32. Suppose that Bacon had lived long enough to read Descartes. What kind of a critique do you think he would make of Discourse on Method.
33. Suppose that Descartes had been curious enough to find and read Bacon’s New Organon. What critique do you think he might make of Bacon—or how might he (Descartes) have been affected by what he found there.
34. Do you think that Descartes would regard Caliban’s great line, “I must eat my dinner” in any way as an “innate idea?” (Be watchful with this one: you must, before you launch into it, develop an interpretation of both Caliban’s line and what Descartes would count as an “innate idea.” If it doesn’t qualify, how would Descartes deal with the affective, appetitive aspect of human nature?)
DESCARTES, KANT, COLERIDGE, PEIRCE
35. While Descartes regarded his deduction, “I think, therefore I am” as a principle worthy to serve as the foundation for a new philosophy, one might suggest that for Kant, it was only the recognition that the thinker is always present to his or her predications. That means at least that our own constitution is always a factor in what we know, but not necessarily that Descartes’ single principle is sufficient for the foundation of anything at all. Write a paper in which you examine, from a more or less Kantian perspective, how Descartes might have overstated the importance of his deduction.
36. Descartes made much of his program of doubt, urging as the first principle of his method that he should “never accept anything as true unless I recognized it evidently to be such” and in Part 4, goes farther to assert that he determined to “reject as absolutely false anything of which I could have the least doubt. . . .” In this determination, it is therefore striking that the positions at which he arrives are largely the very ones he claims to have rejected (particularly on the idea of God or a “perfect being”). But in the first principle of his method, he makes the significant point (though evidently one that he promptly forgot) that he will accept into his conclusion only such clear and distinct thoughts “that there was no occasion to doubt” them. Write an essay with the title, “The Occasions of Doubt” that takes up this problem by addressing how it is that some things we never doubt because there is no “occasion” for doubting them.
37. In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, we witness an interesting return to Plato’s conception of four faculties or powers of mind, and an equally interesting return to Aristotle’s notion of “categories.” Furthermore, Kant begins the Critique with an epigraph from Francis Bacon, and addresses not only Hume’s skepticism but Descartes’ rationalism. Write an essay with the title, “Kant as Inheritor,” in which you explore one or more of these relations to previous thinkers.
38. Kant’s idea of the a priori as those conceptions which are universal, necessary, and incorrigible (i.e., incapable of being corrected, therefore already correct) is crucial for his development of the Critique. Write an essay in which you explore at least one of the headings in the Table of Categories (i. e., Quantity, Quality, Relation, Mode), to show how it is (or why it is) that the three concepts under a heading (or more than one heading) are universal, necessary, and incorrigible.
39. In Coleridge’s Essays on Method from The Friend, he foregrounds attention to relations as essential to method. Write an essay in which you explore how Coleridge shapes this question, in either (or both) of the contexts of the relation of Theory to Law, and Idea to both Theory and Law; or in the relation of the initiative or “leading idea” to his conception of method as “progressive transition.”
40. In the short excerpt in the course reader from The Statesman’s Manual, Coleridge introduces the idea of the tautegorical as including both sameness and difference. What is crucial here, however, is that Coleridge does NOT take a “concept” to be the same as an “Idea.” Concepts, given Coleridge’s definition, cannot be tautegorical, just as Ideas cannot not be tautegorical. Coleridge’s extremely provocative notion of an Idea, is further explored in the selection from On the Constitution of Church and State, also in the reader. Write an essay with the title, “Coleridge on Ideas” in which you work through this as thoroughly as you can.
41. Coleridge offers in Biographia Literaria, chapter 12 a most interesting maxim: “Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.” First, read Coleridge’s presentation of this maxim carefully, and they illustrate it using any author we have read.
42. If Coleridge takes as his point of departure from Kant the problem of relations, Charles Sanders Peirce goes much farther in exploring the metaphysical implications of a conception of logic that does NOT begin with the notions of the “subject” and “object” as primitive (i. e., terms that are self-evident and not in need—or not susceptible—of analysis or further definition—a distinction that Coleridge thought he could use until it more or less blew up in his face in Chapter 13 of Biographia Literaria). For Peirce, the point of departure is the process of reasoning in which one examines rigorously the principle Descartes employed (without analysis), conceptual dependency. Peirce, following Duns Scotus and the Scholastic philosophers, called this kind of reasoning “prescinding,” or “precission.” It is, in a certain sense, experimental (as a kind of experiment on diagrams or schemata of thoughts) wherein our ability to judge comes into play not directly by thought about ourselves (Kant) or things (Descartes), but by the way in which one conception necessarily depends on another conception. Write an essay on Peirce in which you explore how he uses the idea of prescinding in On a New List of Categories, with some attention to how this leads away from Kant.
43. For both Coleridge and Peirce, the idea of science is the idea of inquiry, and for both, the inquiry is not carried out by isolated individuals but by groups. For Coleridge, what permits the scientific group to cohere is their common reliance upon and pursuit of the trajectory of an Idea (in Coleridge’s sense, not Kant’s –and, very likely, yours); for Peirce, on the other hand, what enables collaborative research is a method (embodied in his categories of First, Second, Third) that on the one hand always preserves a pathway back to concrete evidence in experience, and on the other, never comes to a determinate end (without for all that being indefinite or undeterminable) because it can always, in principle, be expanded or taken farther. Write an essay in which you explore the idea of science as inquiry, taking Coleridge or Peirce (or both) as your guide.
44. In two of the selections in the reader by Peirce, “Lessons from the History of Philosophy” (erroneously under History of Science), and “Pragmaticism”, Peirce lays out his reasons for being what he sometimes called a “critical realist,” in the sense that he resolutely rejects Descartes’s rationalist idealism as deluded (not to put too fine a point on it), and Hume’s much more logically cogent skepticism. Throughout, the main problem for Peirce is nominalism—as the position which asserts that universals (whether they are viewed as necessary concepts, natural kinds, or laws of nature) are merely our convenient names for things, with nothing “real” corresponding to them in nature. In our own time, Peirce would probably have simply said of philosophical relativism that it is just nominalism in drag, so to speak. For your essay, however, give it your best shot at trying to describe why Peirce rejects nominalism on the one hand, and a kind of terminal view of the truth (i.e., that if something is “true” it is therefore unchangeable) on the other.
45. Though we will not discuss it in class, the reader includes a marvelous essay by Emerson, titled “Circles.” Using that essay as your starting point, apply Emerson’s conception of the development of ideas to another author we have read.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE WAITING FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE:
46. Look ahead to Kuhn or Faulkner, and relate either (or both) to either (or both) Coleridge and / or Peirce.