Suggested topics

  In what sense can our authors be called “empiricists”? (Here, as in the other topics below, you should most likely select two of them to compare, not necessarily all three together). To what extent would “empiricism” mean the same thing applied to each, and in what ways would the meaning of the term have to differ? For example: what is “experience” for each of them, and in what way does it form the sole basis for our knowledge? As opposed to what? What makes anyone so much as suppose there might be some other basis (i.e., against what opponent is the empiricist arguing)? What else is there to our knowledge besides experience? What is the difference between sensation, imagination, and thought (if the last two are different)? What role is played by space, time, body (solid extended substance), spirit (incorporeal substance), or causation, in making experience possible and/or how does experience form the basis for the knowledge we have (if any) about those things?
 In what ways do our authors take themselves to be, or present themselves as, partisans of common sense? What is common sense, and what is good about it? What opposes it (e.g. absurd, wrangling philosophy, “superstition”) and why? What forces tend to corrupt healthy common sense? How can we tell the difference between what is really common sense and what is merely received opinion or entrenched superstition? When, if at all, is it possible or necessary for correct philosophy to depart from common sense? By adding to it? By outright opposing it?
 What does or would it mean, according to our authors, for “God” to “exist”? How could we know, or how do we know, whether he exists? What possible role is there, for example, for revelation, for tradition, for common sense, or for philosophical argument, in establishing the right conclusion? How do our moral failings (e.g., greed, ambition, desire for power, laziness, desire to escape responsibility) tend to distort our thought about this subject in particular? Why should we care about getting the correct answer?
 What, according to our authors, is or should be the relationship between our theoretical concerns (our concerns qua wanting to know the truth) and our practical concerns (our concerns qua wanting to act correctly)? What can or should or must we be satisfied as agents (doers), and how is that different from what we could be satisfied with as knowers? Is there a kind of knowledge or justified faith that is based on practical principles (i.e., moral principles)? Or must it always be the other way around (practical conclusions must be based on theoretical principles)? Or could it go both ways? Consider relating these questions specifically to our knowledge of and/or reliance on the existence of external world, the predictability of the future, the existence of others (other minds = finite spirits), or the existence of God.
 What, according to our authors, is the meaning of personal identity: in what sense can we say that the same person exists at different times? (Remember that “identity” means “sameness.”) Why do we or should we think that there are such continuing, self-identical persons (including ourselves)? Do we know that there are? What, if any, is the role of experience (including “inner sense”) in establishing that conclusion, if there is such a conclusion? Why, if at all, does it matter whether the conclusion is correct? What would be the epistemological and/or moral implications of deciding that there are no such continuing, identical persons (persons who are the same person at different times)? Or is that supposition (the supposition that there are no continuing persons) just absurd?
 What, according to our authors, is the basis of, and the content of, mathematics (i.e., arithmetic and geometry — though you might want to focus on just one of the two)? In what sense, if at all, is mathematical knowledge better (more certain, more precise, more universal, more reliable, more useful) than other types of knowledge, and why? What are the limits of mathematical knowledge? In what ways do mathematicians tend to claim more than they are really justified in claiming, and why? What, if anything, makes mathematics especially important in physical science? In “mechanics” (or say, roughly, in engineering)? How is moral knowledge similar to or different from mathematics?