Write a four- to five-page essay on one of the following topics (1500-word limit). To explain the text well and develop a critical point of your own will generally take at least 1000 words.
Papers should be easy to read, with 12pt Times New Roman (or similar) type, 1-inch margins, and double spacing.
1. In the postscript of a Letter to Basnage de Beauval concerning the â€œNew Systemâ€ (pp. 147-149 of Ariew and Garber) Leibniz argues for the superiority of his system of pre-established harmony over what he takes to be the two main rival theories. His argument depends on an analogy with the workings of clocks. Focus on the comparison Leibniz makes between his theory and â€œthe system of occasional causesâ€: how exactly is the analogy supposed to show his theory is superior? (For a good, brief account of occasionalism, you may wish to consult pp. xviii and xix of the editorâ€™s introduction to the edition of Berkeleyâ€™s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous ordered for the course.) Does the analogy point to some genuine philosophical advantage(s) that Leibnizâ€™s theory enjoys over occasionalism? Explain fully.
2. In the Third Dialogue, Hylas objects that it follows from immaterialism that two different perceivers never perceive the same thing (Adams, p. 79, near bottom). Explain clearly Hylasâ€™s objection and Philonousâ€™s response to it (the exchange continues through the top of p. 81). Is the response satisfactory? Why or why not?
3. On the top p. 32 of â€œPrimary Truthsâ€ (in Ariew and Garber) Leibniz claims that â€œthere cannot be in nature two individual things which differ in number aloneâ€ (this is sometimes called â€œthe identity of indiscerniblesâ€). He argues that this claim follows from considerations he advances earlier in the essay. Identify as best you can the considerations from which the claim is supposed to follow and state as clearly as you can what you take to be Leibnizâ€™s reasoning for the claim (Leibniz is not very explicit about either, so this will take some work on your part). Critically evaluate Leibnizâ€™s position.
As before, whichever topic you choose, you should divide your paper into two parts, and label them â€œPart Aâ€ and â€œPart B.â€
Part A should be your explanation of the specific text cited in the prompt. It will be evaluated on how well you explain Leibnizâ€™s or Berkeleyâ€™s position in an intuitive way (concrete illustrations often help). Close paraphrases are safe but often donâ€™t make clear what is going on. To do well on this part, you must ground your interpretation in the text, but you should also take us beyond the text, explaining its main idea, pointing out possible ambiguities and difficulties, etc. The text is difficult, and it is sometimes not clear exactly what Leibniz or Berkeleyâ€™s argument is. You should do your best to make clear what youthink the argument is and whyyou think this. (Please be sure to keep Part A limited to the task at handâ€”in particular, donâ€™t take it as an invitation to tell us everything you know about Leibniz or Berkeley.)
In Part B you should critically analyze what Leibniz or Berkeley is saying. How compelling is his argument? Is the argument unsatisfying in some way? Why? How might someone argue against his position?
Give equal attention (not necessarily equal space) to both parts. To do well on the paper, you will need to have both a good, clear explanation of what Leibniz or Berkeley is saying and an original, interesting analysis of his discussion.