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Philosophy Essay

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Introduction to Philosophy

Summer 2020

The purpose of this assignment is to provide you an opportunity to articulate key arguments, themes, and ideas and to critically assess and analyze the soundness and validity of those ideas and arguments in a well structured essay.

Write a three to five page paper (not including a cover sheet or a bibliography if submitted) on one of the following:

1.  Provide a critical discussion of what I’ve called Divine Command Theory. You should provide a clear statement of the view; a discussion of the attractiveness of the view; and critical discussion of the merits of the view. Use example to illustrate where you think the view is useful in helping to understand the basis of morality and its efficacy in making moral judgments.

(put another way, are you convinced that morality is determined by God’s will? Why or why not?).

2.  Provide a critical discussion of ethical relativism. You should provide a clear statement of the view; a discussion of the attractiveness of the view; and critical discussion of the merits of the view. Use example to illustrate where you think the view is useful in helping to understand the basis of morality and its efficacy in making moral judgments. (put another way, are you convinced that morality relative? Why or why not?).

3. I argued that free will and determinism appear to be in conflict. That is to say, there are good reasons to think that the natural order is organized by mechanistic, predictive, and deterministic laws. But if this is so it is difficult to understand ourselves as free. Compare the indeterminist and hard compatibilist responses to the dilemma. Are either satisfactory and why? And if you had to choose between either view which would you choose to understand the relationship between free will and determinism?

4. I argued that John Rawls is an egalitarian and that he understands justice to correct for the injustices in what he calls the basic structure. His two principles of justice, so he contends, can adequately address the kinds of injustices that we tend to see in advanced democracies with economic production organized via capitalism. But someone might argue that his view neither goes far enough in addressing wrongs or goes too far and undermines ambition and hard work by heavy taxation. Carefully explain Rawls’ view and critically consider these objections. 

Some notes about the assignment:

  1. You are to offer a thesis and offer support for that thesis. Given the above, be sure your paper has a thesis statement – some statement of what you will argue (the reader should be able to identify it as one of those conclusion statements). Be sure also to use citations to back up your claims about Hobbes. But be prudent, a paper with a bunch of quotes won’t receive a passing mark.
  2. Your paper should have two clear parts, one part in which you explain the views you consider, the other in which you do critical analysis.
  3. In writing your paper you should think about your audience. In this case assume that your reader knows little about the theory you’re discussing and so you should take care to patiently, thoughtfully, and fairly present the views you consider. Be sure to clearly define any important terms or ideas that your reader might not recognize or that play a key role in understanding and justifying the argument. The reader should be able to identify the key or important premises to the view. You are evaluated partly on your ability to present the view you critically discuss as a coherent and plausible.  
  4. In the critical phase you should be thinking about the ways in which the argument(s) are convincing or not. You should think about the progression of ideas and whether they support that conclusions found in your explication. You might raise questions by posing thought examples or counter examples.
  5. This is not a research paper and the assignment is meant to be written without the aid of secondary sources (notes from lecture or tutorial are excluded and do not warrant citation).
  6. But be sure that if you receive any help from sources outside the class that you document them (e.g. the internet, the bus driver…)
  7. Use the APA referencing style for your paper
  8. The font should be 12pt with 1 inch margins on all sides. Please double space your essay as well.
  9. Please do not use jargon or fancy words. Even if your vocabulary is impressive, you are assessed on your ability to fairly, cogently, and accurately summarize a piece of writing and to critically evaluate its merits, not on your ability to manipulate the English language. Also, this is a formal assignment and you should seek to make the language you use formal for the setting. So do not use contractions or colloquial expressions (e.g. Cahn’s’ view is sooo off the hook! lol!). You can use such expressions as ‘I feel that or I think that.’
  10. Be aware of what counts as plagiarism. Even accidental plagiarism (you know, the kind where you paraphrase without citing or where you accidentally quote without citing) will be reported!


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