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Consider writing the introductory section(s) after you have completed the rest of the paper, rather than before.

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11. What is a proposal anyway? A good proposal should consist of thefirst three chapters of the dissertation. It should begin with a statementof the problem/background information (typically Chapter I of the dissertation),then move on to a review of the literature (Chapter 2), and conclude witha defining of the research methodology (Chapter 3). Of course, it shouldbe written in a future tense since it is a proposal. To turn a good proposalinto the first three chapters of the dissertation consists of changingthe tense from future tense to past tense (from "This is what I wouldlike to do" to "This is what I did") and making any changesbased on the way you actually carried out the research when compared tohow you proposed to do it. Often the intentions we state in our proposalturn out different in reality and we then have to make appropriate editorialchanges to move it from proposal to dissertation.

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Usually a guide of this nature focuses on the actual implementationof the research. This is not the focus of this guide. Instead of examiningsuch aspects as identifying appropriate sample size, field testing theinstrument and selecting appropriate statistical tests, this guide looksat many of the quasi-political aspects of the process. Such topics as howto select a supportive committee, making a compelling presentation of yourresearch outcomes and strategies for actually getting the paper writtenare discussed.

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Skimming involves reading the abstract, and looking at the figures and figure captions.

It should be emphasized that these ways of delimiting metaphysicsdo not presuppose that all of the topics we've considered as examplesof metaphysics are substantive or important to the subject. Considerthe debate about modality. Quine (1953) and Sider (2012) both arguefrom their respective theories about the nature of metaphysics thataspects of the debate over the correct metaphysical theory ofmodality are misguided. Others are skeptical of the debates aboutcomposition or persistence through time. So theories about the natureof metaphysics might give us new resources for criticizing particularfirst-order debates that have historically been consideredmetaphysical, and it is common practice for metaphysicians to regardsome debates as substantive while adopting a deflationist attitudeabout others.

The weak form of the thesis that metaphysics is impossible isthis: there is something about the human mind (perhaps even the mindsof all rational agents or all finite rational agents) that unfits itfor reaching metaphysical conclusions in any reliable way. This ideais at least as old as Kant, but a version of it that is much moremodest than Kant's (and much easier to understand) has been carefullypresented in McGinn 1993. McGinn's argument for the conclusion thatthe human mind is (as a matter of evolutionary contingency, and notsimply because it is “a mind”) incapable of a satisfactorytreatment of a large range of philosophical questions (a range thatincludes all metaphysical questions), however, depends on speculativefactual theses about human cognitive capacities that are in principlesubject to empirical refutation and which are at present withoutsignificant empirical support. For a different defense of the weakthesis, see Thomasson 2009.

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Is there a unified methodology for metaphysics more broadlyunderstood? Some think the task of the metaphysician is to identifyand argue for explanatory relations of various kinds. According toFine (2001), metaphysicians are in the business of providing theoriesof which facts or propositions ground other facts or propositions, andwhich facts or propositions hold “in reality”. Forexample, a philosopher might hold that tables and other compositeobjects exist, but think that facts about tables are completelygrounded in facts about the arrangements of point particles or factsabout the state of a wave function. This metaphysician would hold thatthere are no facts about tables “in reality”; rather, there arefacts about arrangements of particles. Schaffer 2010 proposes asimilar view, but holds that metaphysical grounding relations hold notbetween facts but between entities. According to Schaffer, thefundamental entity/entities should be understood as theentity/entities that grounds/ground all others. On Schaffer'sconception we can meaningfully ask whether a table is grounded in itsparts or vice versa. We can even theorize (as Schaffer does) that theworld as a whole is the ultimate ground for everything.

A wide range of metaphysical theories have been generated by theattempts of dualists to answer these questions. Some have been lessthan successful for reasons that are not of much intrinsicphilosophical interest. C. D. Broad, for example, proposed (1925:103–113) that the mind affects the body by momentarily changingthe electrical resistance of certain synapses in the brain, (thusdiverting various current pulses, which literally follow thepath of least resistance into paths other than those theywould have taken). And this, he supposed, would not imply a violationof the principle of the conservation of energy. But it seemsimpossible to suppose that an agent could change the electricalresistance of a physical system without expending energy in theprocess, for to do this would necessitate changing the physicalstructure of the system, and that implies changing the positions ofbits of matter on which forces are acting (think of turning the knobon a rheostat or variable resistor: one must expend energy to dothis). If this example has any philosophical interest it is this: itillustrates the fact that it is impossible to imagine a way for anon-physical thing to affect the behavior of a (classical) physicalsystem without violating a conservation principle.

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    Do not repeat the abstract.

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    You will be able to use a large fraction of the material of the thesisproposal in your final senior thesis.

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    For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

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Contemporary metaphysicians have been attracted to other kinds ofreductive treatments of causation. Some—like Stalnaker andLewis—have argued that causal relations should be understood interms of counterfactual dependencies (Stalnaker 1968 and Lewis1973). For example, an iceberg's striking the ship caused its sinkingat time if and only if in the nearest possible worlds wherethe iceberg did not strike the ship at time , the ship did notsink. Others have argued that causal relations should be understood interms of instantiations of laws of nature. (Davidson (1967) andArmstrong (1997) each defend this view albeit in different ways.) Allof these theories expand on an idea from Hume's Treatise inattempting to reduce causation to different or more fundamentalcategories. (For a more complete survey of recent theories ofcausation, see Paul and Hall 2013.)

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Much work on persistence and constitution has focused on efforts toaddress a closely knit family of puzzles—the puzzles ofcoincidence. One such puzzle is the “problem of the statue andthe lump”. Consider a gold statue. Many metaphysicians contendthat there is at least one material object that is spatiallyco-extensive with the statue, a lump of gold. This iseasily shown, they say, by an appeal to Leibniz's Law (the principleof the non-identity of discernibles). There is a statue here and thereis a lump of gold here, and—if the causal story of the statue'scoming to be is of the usual sort—the lump of gold existedbefore the statue. And even if God has created the statue (andperforce the lump) ex nihilo and will at some pointannihilate the statue (and thereby annihilate the lump), they furtherargue, the statue and the lump, although they exist at exactly thesame times, have different modal properties: the lump has the property“can survive radical deformation” and the statue doesnot. Or so these metaphysicians conclude. But it has seemed to othermetaphysicians that this conclusion is absurd, for it is absurd tosuppose (these others say) that there could be spatially coincidentphysical objects that share all their momentarynon-modal properties. Hence, the problem: What, if anything, is theflaw in the argument for the non-identity of the statue and thelump?

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Related to questions about the nature of space and time arequestions about the nature of objects that take up space or persistthrough time, and these questions form yet another central theme inpost-medieval metaphysics. Are some or all objects composed of properparts? Must an object have proper parts in order to “fillup” a region of space—or are there extended simples? Canmore that one object be located in exactly the same region? Do objectspersist through change by having temporal parts?

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