Paper Topics

Here are some possible topics for papers. You are welcome to write on something else (or on some modified topic related to one of the options below), but please discuss this with me first. The first draft of the paper is due Friday, November 18th. The final draft is due Friday, December 8th.

  1. In what sense is it wrong to say that there is a single principle of sufficient reason? Explain how different forms of the principle might be different or related. In what sense to any of the historical figures we’ve discussed accept or reject various versions of “the” principle?
  2. Explain the sense in which Descartes thinks God is its own efficient cause. In what way is this controversial? Is Descartes’s position plausible?
  3. How is any version of the PSR related to Spinoza’s overall project in Ethics I-II?
  4. In what sense, if any, does Spinoza consider God/nature to be “self-caused”? How is his view of the causal-explanatory status of God different from that of Aquinas or Descartes?
  5. Explain Spinoza’s “parallelism” doctrine. Is his parallelism a result of his commitment to the intelligibility of nature, or part of what drives that position?
  6. What version of “the” PSR does Leibniz accept. Does Leibniz give a justification for the PSR? If so is it successful?
  7. Explain Leibniz’s conception of freedom. What is Arnauld’s objection? Does Leibniz offer a convincing reply? Why or why not?
  8. Explain Crusius’s conception of freedom and Kant’s objections. What role does the PSR play in each of their positions? Whose position is the more convincing one?
  9. Explain Kant’s argument that God is not its own cause or ground. Does Kant think there is an explanation of God’s existence, or the existence of anything at all? Explain and defend your answers.
  10. In what sense does Kant’s theory of phenomenal causality count as endorsing the PSR (or a version thereof)? Is this endorsement limited or qualified in any particular way? Is Kant’s position here plausible/well-grounded?
  11. Della Rocca contends that attempts to accept the PSR but limit it are always going to be unsuccessful. Explain his argument here. Does Dasgupta have any resources to reply? What about historical figures such as Kant? If Della Rocca is right what is the upshot of his view?