Chemin repris

What a lovely day.

A select few of us (Harriet, Ethan, Savannah and I) turned up for some Philosophy, and I had the pleasing impression that lots of revision had already been done.

We did quite a lot on possible content for the Mackie self-adjusting R&E essay in particular, which I thought went well and seemed to be appreciated – to the extent that if you were not one of the select few it might well be worth your while now to be considering what assets (financial, sexual, or other…) you might be able to offer to one of the select few in order to obtain copies of the relevant notes – at least before the real-real deadline.

We also talked a bit about very general things like possible terminological areas for the 15-markers. Also the merits of various smartphones, trouser choices and funeral options. And we had a pleasant lunch, rendered only slightly harrowing by excessive choice – such are the perils of the capitalist paradise in which we live. Anyway: thank you to those who were able to make it. I enjoyed it, and it was a nice gentle return to harness, unlike the usual shocking Monday-morning fuck-what-happened-to-the-holidays jolt.

I can confirm that tomorrow’s mock paper is a Unit 1 (R&E plus IofG). When term proper begins I will be inflicting a U2 (FW&D plus KEW) on you as well.

Clinique de Philo

I am still up for this if any of you are.

I have, of course, failed to check availability of rooms etc (I was forgetting this thing called Easter). But I think it is safe to assume that there will be at least one suitable room where we can do some work.

Please bring along any particular issues with which you feel you need help.

Shall we aim to start at 10am?

Question 2


In under the same subsection of the document previously mentioned, there is a sentence that reads as such ‘Essay questions [on reasons and causes] tend to invite you to expand on the various grounds for distinguishing reasons-explanations from mechanistic causal explanations’. This implies that we will be required to know reasons for differentiating reasons-explanations from mechanistic causal explanations. You have not included any such reasons on the document. Therefore we cannot fulfil our requirements. In order that we might fulfil our requirements, please may you post said reasons.


Hello David,

On the sheet of long notes for free will and determinism, under the section titled Reasons and causes, the question ‘Are reasons causes?’ is asked. Does this question mean ‘Are reasons causes in such a way that they fulfil the commitments of causes in the theories of Universal Causation and Causal Necessitation?’.

The Mackie Self-Adjusting R&E essay

I think (no, I’m sure) that I have said this before; but you will probably have forgotten so I am going to say it again.

We have had this A-level specification since 2009. The 30-mark answer under the Reason & Experience topic (Q2 in the Unit 1 paper) is essentially the same every single time. Here’s a list of past questions.

Jan 2009 How convincing is the view that we are born with at least some (innate) knowledge?

June 2009 Critically discuss the view that all knowledge comes from, and is justified by, sense experience.

Jan 2010 How convincing is the view that sense experience is the source of all knowledge?

June 2010 ‘Without a predetermined conceptual scheme our sense experiences would be unintelligible.’ Discuss the implications of this for empiricism.

Jan 2011 At birth the mind is a tabula rasa.’ Discuss.

June 2011 Assess the claim that all knowledge and ideas derive from experience.

Jan 2012 Assess the view that we have no innate knowledge.

June 2012 Assess the view that no significant claims about what exists are known a priori.

Jan 2013 How convincing is the claim that at birth the mind is a tabula rasa?


What do you notice?

I hope you notice that on every single occasion they are asking you to evaluate empiricism.

What differs from paper to paper is the aspect, or the version, of empiricism that they ask you to evaluate.


Sometimes they focus on the claim that the mind is a tabula rasa.
Sometimes it is the claim that all synthetic knowledge is a posteriori/derived from experience.
Sometimes it is the claim that no knowledge is innate.
Sometimes it is the claim that all knowledge AND all ideas (concepts) derive from experience.

But that’s it. It’s always one or another of these things.

What are the implications for you?

Obvious, I hope: you should be aiming to have a pre-prepared formulaic essay rather like the Molesworth Self-Adjusting Thank-You letter (see image, if you are unfamiliar with this. (Or in fact, if you are unfamiliar with this, go now and ask your parents in outraged tones what the bloody hell they were thinking. How DID you spend your childhood?)).

Molesworth-S-A letter-how-to-be-topp_london-max-parrish-1954_p105


Obviously the pre-prepared essay has to cover all relevant arguments relating to all relevant aspects of empiricism. And equally obviously you have to deploy some intelligence in the exam room in order to select the relevant arguments and to phrase things in a manner that demonstrates that you are answering the particular question set, rather than simply writing out something that you have memorised.

But all the same, the possible advantages here (and peace of mind) have to be priceless. You’d be mad not to, is my view…

Who, if anyone, wants me to talk about how such an all-purpose essay might go?


I’m sorry I’ve been a bit useless and slow for several days. If you have recently sent me something, I will try to reply properly in the next 24 hours.

I have successfully completed yet another orbit round the Sun, and the postman brought me the exciting items pictured, for Phoenix’s timing belt and tensioner change. For some reason there was no giant cake containing an under-dressed Judith Holofernes or any other girl. Perhaps someone could explain this lapse.


Volvo tool 9995284 (a crankshaft pulley counterhold tool) is expected to arrive from Sweden on Monday, which should enable me to get down to business with that job.

Then I am off to Paris on Wednesday, which I confess is making me feel oddly like this. (Betcha didn’t know I liked this kind of shit. Ha!)