As a major assignment for this course, you are to write an essay paper on a topic relating to the subject matter of the course and drawing on course material. This should be a new paper, written by you individually, specifically for this class.
You have two options to do this assignment.
First option: You can write an essay paper in a rather classic style by selecting one of the listed topics in part b. If you decide to do the first option, you are required to pick one of the listed topics and write a philosophical essay according to the description provided for each topic. Second option: You can conduct a philosophical project and write an essay on the findings of the project. For this option, you need to become an “undercover philosopher” and interview 5 different people on a philosophical topic given in part c. The final outcome of your project should include the interviews results and your own analysis.
Regardless of the option you choose you are required to follow these criteria:
You are required to do only one of the mentioned options. But it is better to make decision as soon as possible since it will take time to accomplish either of them.
This assignment is due no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 28. Late papers will only be accepted with an appropriate excuse and a point deduction.
Your paper will be submitted via TurnItIn through the Blackboard site for the course. Just so you are aware, TurnItIn automatically checks your paper for plagiarism and will catch it if you try. No email or paper submission will be accepted.
You should use the MS Word template file provided in your Blackboard. Papers not prepared in that format will not be graded.
The final paper should be named as: Your Last Name_Your EU ID_Your Course Section.DOCX o For example if your last name is Jones and your EU ID is mhj034 and you are in PHIL 1050 section 001 then your file name should be: Jones_mhj034_001.docx. Another example: Ahmadi_kia9801_002.docx for student named Ahmadi with kia9801 as EU ID taking 002 section of the course.
There must be “_” (underline) character between name, EU ID, and class section. o EU ID is the ID you use to login to your Blackboard account. You can find your class section by looking at the title of the course listed in your Blackboard account.
Your paper must be no less than 1000 and no more than 1500 words (this is content only; this is not counting name, title, footnotes, bibliography, etc.) Papers with less than 1000 or more than 1500 words will be graded with a point deduction.
You may find a PDF copy of Writing Philosophy on Blackboard, it is strongly recommended that you utilize this resource to help you write a good paper.
All sources, including assigned readings, must be formally cited according to the Chicago Manual of Style (resources for which can be found online). Use of secondary sources is strongly encouraged but not required. Remember that failure to cite sources technically constitutes plagiarism! For further information, you can review the university’s policy on academic integrity at: http://www.vpaa.unt.edu/academic-integrity.htm.
Regarding citations, long quotes of 4 or more lines are not allows and will result in a noticeable point penalty if used. Remember also that not only direct quotes also paraphrasing of another person’s material must be formally cited.
All sources must be listed as footnotes. No bibliography or reference list at the end of the paper is required. Further details about citation can be found in the MS Word template file in your Blackboard account.
This assignment makes up 25 out of 100 points for your final grade. You will be graded equally on writing, your summary of material, and your own critical response. Beyond these you can lose points for having a paper that is too short, failing to cite sources, or in any other way failing to adhere to the instructions and criteria for the assignment.
An “A” paper is one that follows all format requirements, is at the standards of college writing, contains an excellent summary of course material, and shows careful thinking about the topic.
A “B” or “C” paper is one that follows most format requirements, is at or near the standards of college writing, contains a summary that shows a good or at least basic understanding of course material, and shows your own thinking about the topic.
A “D” or “F” paper is one that is well below the paper requirements or the standards of college writing, contains a summary which shows a poor understanding of course material, and/or where any thought of your own on the topic is lacking. And, of course, any paper containing plagiarism will receive an “F”.
Given that this a college course, it is expected that all students are capable of a certain level of writing quality. If you feel that your writing skills are not the best, I would strongly encourage you to seek help from the UNT Writing Lab (http://www.unt.edu/writinglab/).
b. First Option: Classic Essay
For your essay you may select from a list of topics below. Your topic will involve two aspects. First, you should summarize a theory or set of theories of philosophy that we have learned or discussed in class. Second, you should give your own argument for what is the proper view regarding that topic. Your paper must have both a summary of course material and your own original thinking on the topic, in roughly equal measure.
Essay Topics: If you decide to write a classic essay paper you are required to choose one of the following topics. Otherwise you could do the second option described in part c. (1) Metaphysics; Plato and Aristotle: First, summarize Plato’s theory of the Forms as ultimate reality (“The Republic”). Then, summarize Aristotle’s theory of the four causes and form/matter as ultimate reality (“Physics”). The second half of your paper should critically compare and contrast the two, and give your own argument for which you think is more correct, and ultimately state and argue for what you think the true nature of reality is. (2) Knowledge; Descartes and Hume: The first half of your paper will involve summarizing Descartes’ view of knowledge (“Meditations”), then summarizing Hume’s view of knowledge (“Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”). The second half of your paper should critically compare and contrast the two, and give your own argument for which you think is more correct, and ultimately state and argue for how you think we acquire true knowledge and what the limits of knowledge are.
(3) Cogito; Argument and Counter-Argument: The first half of your paper involve summarizing Descartes’ arguments in support of Cogito and philosophical implications of it (“Meditations”), then summarizing an strong counter argument from another philosopher (Modern or Contemporary) against Cogito and its implications. The second half of your paper should critically compare and contrast the two, and give your own argument for which you think is more correct, and ultimately state and argue for the relevance and validity of Cogito argument. (4) Ethics; Aristotle and Kant: The first half of your paper will involve summarizing Aristotle’s virtue ethics (“Nicomachean Ethics,” books I and II), then summarizing Kant’s deontological ethics (“Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals”).
The second half of your paper should critically compare and contrast the two, and give your own argument for which you think is more correct, and ultimately state and argue for what you think is the proper approach to ethics, including whether ethics should be approached through good character or rules for action. (5) Knowledge and Method; Aristotle and Descartes: The first half of your paper will involve summarizing Aristotle’s view on knowledge and method (“Physics”), with emphasis on the Empiricist method and his teleological account of nature; and further will involve summarizing Descartes’ view (“Meditations”), with emphasis on the Rationalist method and Cartesian doubt. The second half of your paper should critically compare and contrast the two, giving the pros and cons of each as well as your own critical reflection on the proper approach and method for knowledge.
c. Second Option: Philosophical Project
For this option you are required to interview five different people on a philosophical topic listed below. First you need to understand the topic well in order to conduct your interviews. Then you pick your interviewees and ask the questions. You need to accurately record their answers. Then you summarize each interviewees’ responses in a very concise but clear paragraph. To do this you need to extract the philosophical core implied in the answers. You should not simply write down everything they say, because only philosophical arguments of their responses are important and relevant to this work. You should ask your questions is a way that makes interviewees reveal their principles or assumptions regarding the topic. Then you give your original thinking on those philosophical arguments and principles by comparing, criticizing, and challenging them.
Generally speaking, your essay should include at least 8 paragraphs. First paragraph should include the questions you asked in your interviews. Five next paragraphs could be dedicated to the summaries of five interviews, and one paragraph for comparing the philosophical arguments and criticizing them, and one last paragraph for presenting your original thoughts on the issue. You should be creative in your questions and let the interviewees speak in their own voices. However you should guide the interview so that you can grasp the underlying philosophical principles. You should not include the interviewees name or identity in the paper. This is absolutely against UNT regulations for such research. Also you don’t need IRB approval since this is only a class assignment and the results will not be published in any way.
(1) Ethical relativism. The main question is “is ethics relative or absolute?”. However in addition to this question you should ask more questions to make the interviewees clear about their idea of ethical principles. You should ask interviewees to explain their reasons with examples. Also you can challenge their responses by giving them counter-examples. For example, for a person who thinks ethics is relative, a counter argument could be “then everything is correct at the same time” or “why killing innocent people for fun is always wrong then?” Or for a person who believes that ethical principles are absolute, a counter example is “what if an ethically wrongdoing (such as lying to a murderer, or torturing a terrorist) is the only way to stop a disaster?” (2) Absolute Truth. The main question is “is there an absolute truth?” You should ask interviewees to explain their reason. Also you should ask them if absolute truth depends on human mind or whether or not is attainable by human mind. A challenge to people who believe in absolute truth is “how exactly they know there is an absolute truth?” or “how can they justify their position?” On the other hand, if they believe in relativity of truth, then the challenge is “then everything can be true or false at the same time and this is contradictory (isn’t it?)”. Also you can ask if scientific truths are relative in their opinion or not. In addition, they should make it clear on what parameters truth depends (e.g. social contract, power, culture, personal preference, utility, etc). And also if truth is relative then why do we think we know the physical world better than ancient thinkers (don’t we?)
(3) Environmental Ethics. The main question is “do we have moral duty to nature and environment?” You should ask questions such as “are we morally responsible for nature and environment?”, “is there anything morally wrong about destroying nature (intentionally or unintentionally)?”, “what if destroying nature is necessary for human life?” and “what makes us responsible for nature?” You can also ask questions about what elements and aspects in nature makes us responsible. For instance, we are responsible because it is useful for us, or because it is beautiful, or because animals and plants are alive (like us), or it is because of the next generations that we are responsible? Or combination of them.
You should clarify what sort of ethical relationship each interviewee is assuming between them and nature. Also do they think that human is just a plain member of ecosystem or special member who stands above everything because it is human being? Also “to what extent we should care for nature?” (4) Existence. The main question is “what makes our existence valuable?”. You may ask questions such as “why we are here?”, “why we should not kill ourselves?”, “what is the most valuable in human life?”, “what makes life worthy of living?”, “what is valuable about existence?”, “is the any purpose in human life?” and “is there any meaning in human existence?”.
(5) Being Human. The main question is “what is human being?” Under this topic you should ask the interviewees to give a very clear and concise definition of human being and then ask them further questions to challenge their definition. For example, if human being is defined as a rational animal, then why we consider mentally impaired humans as human being? The main concern in this topic is to clarify the essence of human being. Also you should ask them to explain how philosophy/science/religion can help us understand the nature of human being. Also you may ask them to clarify whether or not human being has a fixed nature /essence. In this regards you can ask “do you think human beings have changed in their nature/essence over the course of history?” Also you may ask them how can we grasp the truth about human nature.
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