1 Learning from Arguments An Introduction to Philosophy Daniel Z. Korman Winter 2022 Edition 2 Table of Contents Preface for Students Preface for Instructors Introduction 1. Can God Allow Suffering? 2. Why You Should Bet on God 3. No Freedom 4. You Know Nothing 5. What Makes You You 6. Don t Fear the Reaper 7. Taxation is Immoral 8. abortion is Immoral 9. Eating Animals is Immoral 10. What Makes Things Right Appendix A: Logic Appendix B: Writing Appendix C: Theses and Arguments 3 Preface for Students I m going to argue that you have no free will. I m going to argue for some other surprising things too, for instance that death isn t bad for you, taxation is immoral, and you can t know anything whatsoever about the world around you.
2 I m also going to argue for some things you re probably not going to like: that abortion is immoral, you shouldn t eat meat, and God doesn t exist. The Arguments aren t my own. I didn t come up with them. I don t even accept all of them: there are two chapters whose conclusions I accept, three I m undecided about, and five I m certain can t be right. (I ll let you guess which are which.) This isn t merely for the sake of playing devil s advocate. Rather, the idea is that the best way to appreciate what s at stake in philosophical disagreements is to study and engage with serious Arguments against the views you d like to hold. Each chapter offers a sustained argument for some controversial thesis, specifically written for an audience of beginners.
3 The aim is to introduce newcomers to the dynamics of philosophical argumentation, using some of the Arguments standardly covered in an introductory philosophy course, but without the additional hurdles one encounters when reading the primary sources of the Arguments : challenging writing, obscure jargon, and references to unfamiliar books, philosophers, or schools of thought. The different chapters aren t all written from the same perspective. This is obvious from a quick glance at the opening chapters: the first chapter argues that you shouldn t believe in God, while the second argues that you should. You ll also find that chapters 5 and 6 contain Arguments pointing to different conclusions about the relationship between people and their bodies, and chapter 7 contains Arguments against the very theory of morality that s defended in chapter 10.
4 So, you will be exposed to a variety of different philosophical perspectives, and you should be on the lookout for ways in which the Arguments in one chapter provide the resources for resisting Arguments in other chapters. And while there are chapters arguing both for and against belief in God, that isn t the case for other topics we ll cover. For instance, there s a chapter arguing that you don t have free will, but no chapter arguing that you do have free will. That doesn t mean that you ll only get to hear one side of the argument. Along the way you will be exposed to many of the standard objections to the views and Arguments I m advancing, and you can decide for yourself whether those objections are convincing.
5 Those who need help finding the flaws in the reasoning (or ideas for paper topics) can look to the reflection questions at the end of each chapter for some clues. 4 As I said, the Arguments advanced in the book are not my own, and at the end of each chapter I point out the original sources of the Arguments . In some chapters, the central Arguments have a long history, and the formulations I use can t be credited to any one philosopher in particular. Other chapters, however, are more directly indebted to the work of specific contemporary philosophers, reproducing the contents of their books and articles (though often with some modifications and simplifications).
6 In particular, chapter 7 closely follows the opening chapters of Michael Huemer s The Problem of Political Authority; chapter 8 reproduces the central Arguments of judith Jarvis thomson s a defense of abortion and Don Marquis s Why abortion is Immoral ; and chapter 9 draws heavily from Dan Lowe s Common Arguments for the Moral Acceptability of Eating Meat and Alastair Norcross s Puppies, Pigs, and People . I m grateful to Jeff Bagwell, Matt Davidson, Nikki Evans, Jason Fishbein, Bill Hartmann, Colton Heiberg, rem Kurtsal, Jeonggyu Lee, Clayton Littlejohn, David Mokriski, Se n Pierce, and Neil Sinhababu for helpful suggestions, and to the Facebook Hivemind for help selecting the further readings for the various chapters.
7 Special thanks are due to Chad Carmichael, Jonathan Livengood, and Daniel Story for extensive feedback on a previous draft of the book, and to the students in my 2019 Freshman Seminar: Shreya Acharya, Maile Buckman, Andrea Chavez, Dylan Choi, Lucas Goefft, Mino Han, PK Kottapalli, Mollie Kraus, Mia Lombardo, Dean Mantelzak, Sam Min, Vivian Nguyen, Ariana Pacheco Lara, Kaelen Perrochet, Rijul Singhal, Austin Tam, Jennifer Vargas, Kerry Wang, and Lilly Witonsky. Finally, thanks to Ren e Jorgensen for permission to use her portrait of the great 20th century philosopher and logician Ruth Barcan Marcus on the cover. You can see some more of her portraits of philosophers here: 5 Preface for Instructors Learning from Arguments is a novel approach to teaching Introduction to Philosophy.
8 It presents accessible versions of key philosophical Arguments , in a form that students can emulate in their own writing, and with the primary aim of cultivating an understanding of the dynamics of philosophical argumentation. The book contains ten core chapters, covering: 1. The problem of evil 2. Pascal s wager 3. Free will and determinism 4. Cartesian skepticism and the problem of induction 5. Personal identity 6. Death 7. Taxes 8. abortion (covering the violinist and future-like-ours Arguments ) 9. The morality of meat-eating 10. Ethical theory (with a focus on utilitarianism) Additionally, there is an introductory chapter explaining what Arguments are and surveying some common argumentative strategies, an appendix on logic explaining the mechanics and varieties of valid Arguments , and an appendix providing detailed advice for writing philosophy papers.
9 Each of the ten core chapters offers a sustained argument for some controversial thesis, specifically written for an audience of beginners. The aim is to introduce newcomers to the dynamics of philosophical argumentation, using some of the Arguments standardly covered in an introductory philosophy course, but without the additional hurdles one encounters when reading the primary sources of the Arguments : challenging writing, specialized jargon, and references to unfamiliar books, philosophers, or schools of thought. Since the book is aimed at absolute beginners, I often address objections that would only ever occur to a beginner and ignore objections and nuances that would only ever occur to someone already well-versed in these issues.
10 Theses defended in the chapters often are not ones that I myself accept. Instead, decisions about which position is defended in the chapter were made with an eye to pedagogical effectiveness. Instructors will find the book easy to teach from. The chapters are self-standing with no cross-referencing, and may be taught in any order. The central Arguments of each chapter are already extracted in valid, premise/conclusion form , ready to be put up on the board or screen and debated. The chapters also contain plenty of Arguments that haven t been extracted in this way, but that are self-contained in a single paragraph, making for moderately challenging but not too challenging argument reconstruction exercises.