This assignment consists of two short essay questions. The main intent of these questions is to ensure that you have a sound grasp of the fundamentals of the material presented in this unit. To that end, there is a 3 to 4 page (1000 words) limit for this question. The quality of your answer is based on your exposition of the competing positions, your comparative analysis of those positions and, lastly, your argument in support of the position you defend.
As with all the assignments in this course, these questions are not designed to be a “research” questions. There is no requirement to get material from external sources such as websites like Wikipedia. In fact, doing so can count against you. The point of your essays is to formulate the course material and develop your critical response. You can do this by working with the course material and developing your own ideas about the issue. The essay is simply your opportunity to set that out in paper.
So, the material you need to successfully complete this assignment can be found in the online course materials available through the course website. There may also be some reading material that is part of the hard copy course readings package. You can find this information on the course materials section of the course website.
Questions: (The total possible mark for this assignment is 100 marks.)
1. In the Meditations, Descartes makes a clean sweep of his beliefs and begins again. Explain Descartes’ critical application of his method of doubt and the way he builds knowledge on a new foundation. Can Descartes’ rationalist account of knowledge of external objects withstand the criticisms of Locke’s empiricism? In the end, which epistemological account is more plausible, Descartes’ rationalism or Locke’s empiricist account? Explain. (70 marks)
2. In your own words, concisely state the problem of induction as formulated in our course readings by either David Hume or Bertrand Russell. Explain why it is especially problematic for empiricist accounts of knowledge. Should it be considered a serious problem? Explain why or why not. (30 marks)