Second Paper

Write a clear, well-argued essay on one of the following topics. Your paper should be 5-6 pages, double-spaced, 12-point type. It is due Thursday, May 7. You will turn in your paper through bCourses. Your GSI may also want a paper copy. Your GSI will provide further details about the mechanics of turning in the paper.


  • We will be doing anonymous grading, so please do not put your name on the paper itself. If your GSI asks for a printed copy, write your student ID number on it.

  • The papers will be checked for originality using, which will detect most forms of plagiarism.

  • You may write on a topic other than one of the prompts below if, and only if, you clear it with your GSI first.

  • Please take the time to review the guidelines on Plagiarism and Academic Integrity on the website. Remember, you are writing a philosophical essay, not a “research paper.” You aren’t expected to look at any texts outside of the required readings. If you do look at outside sources, be very careful to attribute ideas you have taken from them, even if you are only paraphrasing, and not quoting.

  1. A common objection to Quine’s indeterminacy thesis is that even if a linguist could not, on the basis of behavioral evidence, choose between a translation of ‘gavagai’ as ‘rabbit’ and a translation of ‘gavagai’ as ‘undetached rabbit part’, there are further facts that would determine which translation is correct. Pick one kind of fact that might be thought to resolve the indeterminacy, and discuss whether it does. Be sure to consider how Quine might reply to the claim that such facts resolve the indeterminacy.

  2. Drawing on “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs,” explain what Davidson might say about Burge’s “arthritis” thought experiment (in “Individualism and the Mental”).

  3. In “If You Can’t Make One, You Don’t Know How it Works,” Dretske develops an account of thought according to which creatures without language or society can have thoughts. How might Davidson argue against Dretske’s account? (You should be sure to look at Davidson’s article “Rational Animals.”)

  4. What is the “disjunction problem”? Why does Fodor think that you can’t solve the disjunction problem by appealing to natural functions (whether underwritten by evolution or by learning)? Is his criticism successful against Dretske’s theory?

  5. Dretske and Millikan both offer naturalistic theories of representation. On Dretske’s account, in order for X to represent Y, Xs must have indicated Ys at some point in the past. Millikan thinks that any such theory will inevitably make incorrect predictions about what the content of various representational states is. Explain why Millikan thinks this and how her theory handles such cases better. Can Dretske respond to Millikan’s worry?

  6. A consequence of Davidson’s view is holism, the view that it is not possible for an individual to have a belief or desire without having many interconnected beliefs and desires. Explain why this follows from Davidson’s commitment to interpretationism. Is holism an attractive view? Why or why not?