Essay One  Prompts -Phil 103-13 - Spring 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, 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, 2003. [use hanging indent]

Example- 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 at least one objection.

Essays will be graded for both form and content as indicated in Points to Consider in Evaluating Essays.  You should use this points as one guide in proof-reading drafts of your essay.

Choose ONE of the following questions/prompts:

1. Take a position on one of the key points that Glaucon makes in his devil’s advocate praise of injustice in Book 2 of the Republic in the selection we read on pp. 92-95 in Solomon and Martin.

2. Gertrude has been keeping up with news about the credit crunch in the financial markets and the subprime mortgage crisis. She tells Plato that she is not surprised to learn about shady mortgage deals. The almighty dollar rules! Everybody does whatever it takes to make money, so long as they don’t think they will be caught. Professional Codes of Ethics are merely made up by the profession involved, they aren’t universal standards. People agree to them when they don’t have the power to do what they want without being hurt back. There is room for interpretation and bending the rules. Who knows what justice and goodness are anyway? There are lots of different opinions. Ethics is just a bunch of fuzzy ideas. Give me something concrete that I can get my hands on any day! Preferably some chocolate cheesecake or a new I-pod. Or, if I am really thinking big a new HD-TV in time for the Super Bowl. A full cupboard and as many toys as possible make a person a lot happier than being "just", whatever that is.

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 Gertrude expresses?  and B. Pick one aspect of the response and explain why Gertrude should or should not be convinced.

3. Explain and evaluate Aristotle’s argument that there is a distinctive human function and that this is a key to the summum bonum in Nicomachean Ethics. Book One.

4. Jane is an army helicopter pilot. Her unit has been called to service in Iraq.  She'll primarily fly Medevac and search and rescue missions. What advice might Aristotle have given her about courage as a mean between extremes? In your answer be sure to describe and illustrate in relation to this example the key elements of Aristotle's view of moral virtue as a mean between extremes in the excerpts we read from Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2 (pp. 123-36 in Solomon and Martin) In your view, would Aristotle’s advice be worth taking? Why or why not?

5. 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.

6. 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).

7. Explain why the problem of evil arises for Augustine based on the passages we read from City of God. What is one way he addresses it? To what extent is he successful?

8.  ****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 including a Citation FAQ and the Landmark Citation Machine which automatically formats in MLA and APA.

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