Essay One - Phil 103 Honors Ethics - Fall 2008


1. Your essay should be word-processed, double-spaced, one-inch to one and one-half inch margins. It should be spell-checked. Pages Numbered. Font no smaller than 12 point.

2. You should have a cover page with title, date, prompt, class and section, and your name. 

3.   Number each paragraph.  Bold your thesis.  After the end of the essay, attach an OUTLINE of the essay with the thesis clearly stated and at minimum a line for each paragraph.

4. Each essay should be approximately three pages long (not including the title page or Works Consulted page).

5. You must include a Works Consulted/Cited Page.  I will assume that you have read and understood Harvey, Writing with Sources on when and how to cite sources. CAREFUL AND CORRECT CITATION IS REQUIRED. WHEN IN DOUBT, CITE. Remember that simply paraphrasing or changing every third word is not OK. Quote and cite or radically summarize and cite. Use quotation marks when quoting or indent if quote is five lines or longer. Guessing at where your information comes from is not OK. Use page numbers in your in-text citations, footnotes or endnotes. Book or journal titles are italicized or underlined.  You need not consult any other sources than what we have read for class.  Those sources and any other sources you consult must be included in your Works Consulted/Cited and cited in-text or in footnotes/endnotes.


How to cite Solomon and Martin:   Solomon, Robert C. and Clancy W. Martin, eds. Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics through the Classical Sources. 4th ed.  Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. [use hanging indent]

How to cite Plato in Solomon and Martin:   Plato.  Republic. Books I, II, IV and "The Myth of the Cave: From Book VII." Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics through the Classical Sources. 4th ed. Eds. Robert C. Solomon and Clancy W. Martin. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2003. 81-102.  [use hanging indent]

For a reference work that is less known than major encyclopedias or dictionaries, you should give a fuller entry such as in MLA Format:  Angeles, Peter A. "Utilitarianism." The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: HarperPerennial. 1992.   OR in CMS format:  Angeles, Peter A., The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), s.v. "Utilitarianism."  [use hanging indent]

6. Your essay should define any key terms used, use examples to illustrate and support your argument where appropriate, and discuss likely alternatives or respond to possible objections.

Grading:  Essays will be graded for both form and content as indicated in the Grading Rubric. You should use these points as one guide in proof-reading drafts of your essay. Note: Information on setting the grammar checker in WordPerfect and MS Word is on my Philosophy Tools site.

Choose ONE of the following prompts:

1.  What is compelling and what problematic about Plato's notion of justice as harmony of the parts of the soul (Reason, Spirit, and Appetite) and harmony of the "orders" of the polis (guardians, auxiliaries or soldiers, and workers)?  Discuss one compelling aspect and one problematic aspect of either justice as harmony of the parts of the soul or justice as harmony of the parts of the polis or both.  (Obviously can't be the same point addressed by the sample essay we read.)

2.  Argue that the "Myth of the Cave"  provides a response to one of the points Glaucon makes in his devil's advocate argument in the excerpt we read from Bk II of Plato's Republic.  Explain why the response is or is not successful.

3.   Fred tries to convince Bill to cheat on his ethics test. Fred says that different teachers make up different rules for tests, so there aren’t any hard and fast rules anyway. Everybody would cheat on tests if they were sure they could get away with it. "Who would be happier, a perfect cheat who gets straight A’s  or a student who never cheats and gets a reputation as a cheater?" he asks. Abstract concepts like honesty are just that. Everyone has different definitions of them.  There are no absolutes.  Give me something concrete like a fancy car or a high end gaming computer any day, he says. I can understand those things clearly and I’m willing to cheat to get to the top so I can have them.  I am sure we won’t be caught, so let’s do it.

Based on the sections we read in Plato’s Republic (especially the section on the Myth of the Cave) and his Theory of Forms, A. How might Plato respond to the views Fred expresses? and B. Pick one aspect of the response and explain why Bill should or should not be convinced.

4. Explain and evaluate Aristotle’s argument that there is a distinctive human function and that this is a key to the highest realizable good in Nicomachean Ethics. Book One.

5. The presidential election is coming up soon.   Betty is going to an election night party.  What advice would Aristotle give her about eating and drinking at the party based on his discussion of moral virtue as a mean between the extremes in Book Two of the Nichomachean Ethics?  Should Betty take Aristotle's advice?  Why or why not?  (Note:  The elements of moral virtue as a mean between extremes in Aristotle that we outlined in class should help you in writing this essay.)

6. In the excerpts from the Nichomachean Ethics we read Aristotle's intended audience is elite, Greek males of his day. To what extent does one (or more) of his key concepts continue to have relevance in our modern context? Be sure to define the terms you use in your answer.  Other ways to think about the issue are to ask whether an argument he makes could be extended or to ask whether the ethos he assumes shapes his argument to such a degree that it is either no longer intelligible or no longer acceptable.

7. Explain why the "will to love" is central to Augustine's views of human nature and morality and discuss one strength and one weakness of his use of the "will to love". Be sure to explain what Augustine means by the will to love and define any other key terms you use.  (Passages in our readings that would be of special interest are  "Two Cities" [excerpts from Book 14. Chs. 1, 7, 8], pp. 150-51 in Solomon and Martin; "Of the Fall of the First Man", 170-71;"That in Adam's Sin an Evil Will prededed the Evil Act",  172-74, and "That We Ought Not to Expect to Find any Efficient Cause of the Evil Will", pp. 175-76 as well as the excerpts from On the Morals of the Catholic ChurchYou can find the full City of God which Solomon and Martin cut pretty short from the online version at University of Virginia at   Book 14. Chapters 1, 6, 7, 8 might be useful to read in full).

8. A. What is at issue in Augustine’s discussion of free will in the selections from City of God that we read?   B. Discuss at least one strength and one weakness of his views.

9.   ****Wild Card. Write on a topic of your choice based on our readings in this section of the course.  However, you must have the instructor approve your topic.  You may talk to me after class, visit me in my office, or contact me via email to request approval.  One concern is not making the topic/thesis too broad.

Writing Help

The assigned reading from Cruz at

Jim Pryor of Princeton has a website with some plain words about writing a philosophy paper. It can be found at

"Philosophy Tools" on my website has many links useful for writing philosophy papers and essays.

Visit the UI Writing Center - The Writing Center is located in Room 323 on the third floor of the Idaho Commons. Tutors help students with writing projects. For more information, the URL is

Harvey, Writing with Sources - textbook  for this class

Citation FAQ