Mark your calendar, Spring '20 Splash will be on March 8, 2020!

Splash Biography

VALERIE KENDRICK, Berkeley Law student, undergrad Govt/Phil major

Major: Law

College/Employer: UC Berkeley

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Valerie Kendrick

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Valerie is a law student but has a strong interest in philosophy, as well. She is active on the board of the Berkley Law chapter of the Federalist Society, a prominent national conservative and libertarian legal organization. She is originally from Tuscaloosa, AL but lived for many years in DC.

Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

H714: Free Will: What Is It? Do You Have it? in Splash Fall 2019 (Nov. 02, 2019)
This course will offer an introduction to the issue of free will in philosophy. We will also consider its connection to questions of moral responsibility. We will cover the main positions: hard determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism. Libertarians and hard determinists share the view that free will requires us to have genuine alternative possibilities of action that we choose between without being necessitated by prior events. Libertarians think that we have such possibilities (and therefore have free will). Hard determinists think that everything is necessitated, so we lack free will. Compatibilists advance a different definition of free will, one in which freedom is compatible with the idea that all our choices might be caused by factors ultimately outside our control. Is libertarianism compatible with science? Is compatibilism a tendentious word game? What is the connection of these theories to various religious doctrines? (Would it surprise you that the most influential Christian theologians have not been libertarians?) We will consider these questions and more.

H724: Philosophy of Time and Time Travel in Splash Fall 2019 (Nov. 02, 2019)
All of you have surely seen stories involving time travel. What you may not realize is that many ancient myths, such as the story of Oedipus, raise exactly the same questions. An infallible "prophecy" is just informational time travel. We will consider the paradoxes that arise from time travel and question whether it is logically possible. On a deeper level, we will consider the two opposing basic views of the nature of time. In one view, called presentism, time refers to an objective process of change. The past and future do not exist, so of course you cannot travel to them. Only the present exists. In another view, called eternalism, time is just a subjective aspect of our experience. Just as there are three spatial dimensions, there is a fourth "time dimension", on which everything that has ever happened or will ever happen is laid out. This view potentially accommodates time travel. We will touch on the scientific implications of each view, as well as their roots in the religious question of whether god could know people's actions in advance.

H725: Philosophical Zombies and the Ghost in the Machine: Philosophy of Mind in Splash Fall 2019 (Nov. 02, 2019)
What are you? Are you your body? Your brain? A computer program running on your brain's hardware? An immaterial soul? This course will provide an introductory overview of the major questions in philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem and the nature of personal identity. We will discuss the interactionist substance dualism of Descartes, which is likely the most similar to students' intuitive views. This theory holds that we are essentially immaterial minds or souls inhabiting physical bodies, and that the mind interacts with the body. But some have questioned how this theory fits with scientific evidence. Pejoratively, it has been called the theory of "the ghost in the machine". We will then turn to the idea of epiphenomenalism, which holds that our mental activity is just a useless "byproduct" of the physical action of our bodies and has no causal influence on that action. We will then turn to various materialist theories. We will briefly touch on eliminative materialism, which holds that the mind doesn't exist, then turn to the most popular functionalist view. Functionalism holds that the mind is akin to a computer program. We will discuss the idea of the philosophical zombie, used to critique this doctrine: a "zombie" acts just like one of us but lacks any subjective mental experience. Are we essentially "ghosts in the machine"? Are "philosophical zombies" logically possible? What implications do these views have for the possibility of free will and ethics? We will consider these questions and more.

H744: The Virtue of Robot Selfishness? Metaethics, the Orthogonality Thesis, and Rational Egoism in Splash Fall 2019 (Nov. 02, 2019)
This course will provide an introductory overview of the philosophical field known as metaethics. Unlike normative ethics, which deals with concrete questions such as whether it is ever okay to steal (more broadly, "what should I do?"), metaethics asks what it is that makes something good or bad in the first, "what is goodness?" We will examine the debate between moral realism, which holds that there is an objective science of ethics that can be discovered in the same way as principles of chemistry or physics; and anti-realism, which holds that ethical propositions are ultimately either false or based on subjective (individual or cultural) standards. This debate has taken on a new dimension in the domain of artificial intelligence. Many people advance what is called the "orthogonality thesis", which says that any ethical value or code can be combined with any level of intelligence. The archetypal example is the "paperclip maximizer": a superintelligent being that whose sole goal is to create as many paperclips as possible. Is this view plausible, or would a being of sufficiently advanced intelligence see that there is something inherently wrong with such an impoverish goal and reject it? We will then turn to the theory of rational egoism (also known as "enlightened self-interest") as an example of the naturalistic school of moral realism, briefly contrasting it with utilitarianism and intuitionism. We will consider whether the idea of free will can reconcile moral realism with the orthogonality thesis. We will also briefly touch on the connection of various ethical theories to various theories of personal identity.

O745: The Case for Capitalism in Splash Fall 2019 (Nov. 02, 2019)
You've probably heard many attacks on free-market capitalism. And likely you've heard misguided or even offensive defenses of various aspects of our existing mixed economy. But what are the basic reasons that lead the vast majority of economists to favor a system primarily based on market exchange and private ownership of the means of production? What is so good about it? This course will examine those questions and more. We will look at why both parties generally gain from trade, how competition among employers determines wages, how redistribution can be accomplished without regulation (the Nordic not-at-all socialist model), and how government can fix — but also create problems of "externalities".