Phil 513 Fall 2011


Instructions: Answer TWO of the following questions. Your answers should be in the form of well-constructed essays. Each answer should be no longer than 5 pages (typed, double-spaced).

DUE: November 18th. Please submit by email to as WORD DOC attachment.


(1)    Briefly contrast the different conceptions of the human being offered by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Locke. Does Locke have any arguments against these competing positions? If so, what are they and do you find them successful? Of these views, is there a conception that you prefer philosophically? If so, why? If not, why not?


(2)    Contrast the “Wave” and “Pin Cushion” models of substance by discussing Descartes’ views about thinking substance (mind) and extended substance (matter) and Locke’s views about spirit and body. How does Locke argue against the Cartesian account of mind? Do you think Locke’s arguments are successful? Why or why not? What (apparently) religiously problematic consequences of the view does Locke countenance?


(3)    Locke argues that something cannot have two beginnings. What does he mean by this, and what is the argument? What problem does this present for the doctrine of Judgment Day resurrection? (Make sure you discuss the relevance of Locke’s views about the immateriality of the soul). What are two different ways of understanding Locke’s theory of personal identity (‘person’ as a moral concept, ‘person’ as psychological concept)? How does each address (or fail to address) the problem of resurrection? Are there other problems for Locke's theory? Discuss.


(4)    Explain Locke’s account of our complex ideas of sorts of substances (e.g., gold, man, etc.). Discuss Locke’s appeal to “powers” and their relevance to his metaphysics. In particular, discuss (A) his views about the possibility of thinking matter; (B) his claim that an animal organism etc. can survive a change in matter; and (C) his acceptance of the view that two things of different kinds can exist in the same time and place. How does Locke’s view depart from traditional substance/accident metaphysics? Do you find Locke’s view metaphysically palatable? Why or why not?


(5)    What does Locke mean when he says that we have only a relative idea of substance in general? How does Locke think that we obtain this idea? What is a bare particular account of substance and why might one think that Locke holds such an account? What are some reasons for doubting that this is the correct interpretation of Locke? Discuss some other interpretations of Locke’s account and their relative merits.