Student Honors Papers

The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in philosophy at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty and staff scholarship and creative activity.

Democracy in Crisis: An Examination of the Negative Effects of Political Parties on Democracy

by Alani L. Sweezy

Over the last decade, many political analyst’s multiple has observed what they perceive to be a crisis of democracy in advanced developed democracies. These analysts associate the crisis of democracy with declines in party membership, widespread distrust in representative government, and a lack of participation in electoral practices. However, although there is a large literature that maintains that political parties are the ‘gatekeepers’ of democracy, the critical role of political parties in intensifying the democratic crisis has not been adequately examined. This paper offers a theoretical account of party function for the electorate, the party organization, and the government to understand how the diminishment may undermine democratic norms. This paper focuses its empirical analysis on polarization in the United States and examines changes in co-sponsorship of congressional bills and circuit court judge confirmations.

A Thinker-Based Perspective on Free Speech and Fake News

by Geoffroi G. Castro

Since the 2016 US Presidential election, the topic of fake news has become extremely prevalent on a global scale. However, the recent issue of disinformation manufactured by malevolent agents has given rise to new potential problems that have led to harmful consequences. Such problematic consequences have led various government institutions to responds in a variety of ways. Given the problematic consequences of these types of actions, should governments intervene by regulating or prohibiting fake news? To answer this question, I present Seana Shiffrin’s unique theory regarding the value of free speech. Within this account, Shiffrin’s follows an autonomy type theory of freedom of speech that emphasizes the central role of participants in speech and cognition. From this theory, Shiffrin gives a clear unique account about the value of speech. In other words, Shiffrin argues that freedom of speech should focus on thinkers themselves and protecting their freedom of thought. Notably, I believe the benefits to this thinker-based theory rival those of other competing theories. More importantly, she able to draw a distinction between sincere and insincere speech. With the potential dangers that fake news poses to the free development and operations of the thinker’s mind, Shiffrin’s compelling view leaves open the possibility that fake news is regulable because insincere speech lacks the value that other speech encompasses.

Searle and the Nonderivability Thesis

by Rick Harrison

This paper contributes to the defense of the nonderivability thesis; that is, the thesis that no set of purely descriptive statements can entail an evaluative statement. Thus, it is impossible to give objective justification of any value judgment.

Can We Communicate Ultimate Reality?

by David M. Newcomer

This paper examines the function of communication, philosophy, and religion and moreover, their necessity to the awareness of being.

The Atonement in Modern Thought

by Martha Ellen Perry

This paper compares Rudolph Bultmann and Emil Brunner, and combines and analyzes existentialism, theology, and demythologizing.

Epistemology in western thought

by Richard Harold Higgs

This paper begins with a study of the philosophical thought preceding Platonism and Aristotlianism [sic], in order that we might have a clear understanding of the issues with which these two men dealt. It is essential for us to understand Platonism and Aristotlianism [sic] for two reasons: first, it is within the framework of thought of these two men that succeeding philosophy has largely worked; secondly, if one understands the issues with which these men struggled, he will understand the issues with which modern philosophy deals. Therefore, some space in the paper has been allotted to the thought of these men.

Physicalism and Phenomenal Experience

by Nicholas Timme '08

Within this paper a physicalist account of phenomenal experience is presented in a roughly four part process. First, Levine's "explanatory gap" and Kripke's argument against type-identity physicalism are presented as examples of anti-physicalist arguments to be countered. Kripke's arguments request an explanation for the felt contingency of the statement 'pain is C-fiber firing.' Levine's explanatory gap is the inability of statements like 'pain is C-fiber firing' to explain within physicalist theories why C-fiber firing feels like pain. In the second part a physicalist account ofphenomenal experience is presented. This account relies upon a formalization of the mereological structure of events. A relation between events called the 'observation relation' is introduced and used to formalize observations made in everyday life. In the third step this account of events is used to defeat Kripke's argument and Levine's explanatory gap. Kripke's argument is overcome by providing an explanation for the felt contingency ofthe statement 'pain is C-fiber firing.' Levine's explanatory gap is defeated by clarifying the question "Why do C-fiber firings feel like pain?" and showing that asking this question is essentially inappropriate. Thus, the physicalist's inability to explain why C-fiber firings feel like pain is not a failing of physicalism. In the fourth part the physicalist theory of phenomenal experience is compared to some classic views of phenomenal experience from Rosenthal, Nagel, and Dennett.

Demonstratives and Cognitive Significance

by Adam Simon '08

As interesting as it is, my aim in this paper, however, is not to mark the various trends that have come and gone in the history of semantics. Rather, I consider how semantics has treated a small portion of language that involving demonstrative expressions in order to flesh out how semantics simpliciter has fallen on a mistake; or more accurately, a misdiagnosis. This misdiagnosis has either led incorrect semantic treatments of demonstratives, or has created a "shadow-sickness"; which is bound to be left untreated b)' any account semantics can give, because those accounts process machinery ill-equipped to deal with such a sickness. To push the medical metaphor a bit further, the former result of the misdiagnosis is like the doctor who, after being mislead by one of a patient's symptoms, is led to offer the wrong method of treatment. The latter result of the misdiagnosis is like the specialized doctor who, upon encountering a patient with two distinct illnesses, is misled into trying to treat both illnesses; though one happens to be outside of her specialization.

How To Account For Externalist and Internalist Intuitions

by Denise Yehnert '91

In his book The Structure of Empirical Knowledge, Laurence Bonjour criticizes advocates of externalist versions of foundationalism. According to Bonjour, "externalism reflects an inadequate appreciation of the problem at which it is aimed."l With this in mind, Bonjour sets out to argue that externalism is not an acceptable theory for the foundationalist to appeal to in his attempt to solve the regress problem. In order to avoid a complete stalemate over doctrine, Bonjour's attempt to argue that externalism is unacceptable proceeds as an appeal to intuition. As such he allows that"although this intuition may not constitute a conclusive objection to the view, it is enough... to place the burden of proof squarely on the externalist." Bonjour's criticism is aimed at the externalist conception of justification. I contend that Bonjour's demand of proof can be met by the externalist. Moreover, as I shall argue, the proper conception of justification involves the use of both internalist and externalist requirements. To establish my contention I shall draw the internalist/externalist distinction with regard to justification and examine the intuitive strengths of each. Having completed these tasks we shall find that a proper epistemology incorporates a level distinction between non-epistemological claims on the first level and epistemological claims on the second level. Justification on the first level, I shall argue, warrants externalist requirements, while justification on the second level warrants internalist requirements.

The Role of Fault in Defensive Killing

by Adam Betz '06

This paper deals with the conditions of liability to self-defense. When I use the term liability, I mean moral liability. This is different from desert. If I am liable to be killed in self-defense, it does not follow that I deserve to be killed (say, as a means of punishment). In short, desert entails liability but liability does not entail desert. My use of the term in this paper may be stated succinctly as follows: if killing a person will neither wrong him nor violate his rights, he is morally liable to be killed. A person poses an unjust threat when he threatens harms that are neither justified nor excused. A person is culpable for an unjust threat if he intends the threat he poses, is a morally responsible agent, and there are no mitigating circumstances, such as duress, that excuse his actions. A person is at fault, but not culpable, for an unjust threat if he is a morally responsible agent, has acted unreflectively, recklessly, though not maliciously, in a way that poses risks to others. Though culpability entails fault, fault does not entail culpability; as I will explain later, a person does not have to be culpable in order to be at fault for an unjust threat.