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Part A should be your explanation of the text. It will be evaluated on how well you explain Leibniz’s or Berkeley’s position in an intuitive way (concrete illustrations often help). Close paraphrases are safe but often don’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 Berkeley’s argument is. You should do your best to make clear what you think the argument is and why you think this. (Please be sure to keep Part A limited to the task at hand—in particular, don’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.
Please note: The third topic concerns an issue not discussed in class. You should choose this topic only if you feel that you have a good sense of what is going on in “Primary Truths.”
1. In the postscript of a Letter to Basnage de Beauval concerning the “New System” (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 “the system of occasional causes”: 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 editor’s introduction to the edition of Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous ordered for the course.) Does the analogy point to some genuine philosophical advantage(s) that Leibniz’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 Hylas’s objection and Philonous’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 “Primary Truths” (in Ariew and Garber) Leibniz claims that “there cannot be in nature two individual things which differ in number alone” (this is sometimes called “the identity of indiscernibles”). 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 Leibniz’s reasoning for the claim (Leibniz is not very explicit about either, so this will take some work on your part). Critically evaluate Leibniz’s position.
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