philosophy essay

Essay I is due in Module 3 (Feb. 10). This assignment is worth a lot of points. I suggest you start thinking about which topic you want to write on. Note that you pick only one topic. You can write on a different topic, but please pass your idea by me first.

Essay Topics I

[1]      Carefully explain the ontological argument as formulated by Anselm. Kant objects to this argument, claiming that existence is not a predicate. Explain Kants objection. Do you think Kants objection undermines the ontological argument? (Your thesis statement should indicate whether you think Kants objection undermines Anselms argument and why you hold this position.)

[2]      Carefully explain the teleological argument for the existence of God. Hume raises a number of interesting objections to this argument. Do you think Humes objections undermine the teleological argument? (Your thesis statement should indicate whether you think Humes objection undermines Paleys argument and why you hold this position.)

[3]      Compare and contrast Plato and Gettier on the criterion of knowledge. Who do you think has the most convincing view? (Your thesis should indicate whether you think Gettiers objection undermines Platos theory of knowledge.)

[4]        Carefully evaluate Ungers claim that knowledge requires certainty. In science we say that a theory can be highly corroborated but can never be proven true. Does this lend support to Ungers position? Do you think Ungers argument undermines Descartes cogito? (Your thesis should indicate whether you think Ungers objection undermines Descartes cogito and/or our common-sense knowledge claimsfor example, that I am seated in my study typing on my computer at this very moment.)

[5]      Explain Humes argument for the claim that we dont know that the sun will rise tomorrow. Do you think Hume is justified in this claim? (Your thesis should indicate whether you think Humes argument undermines the claim that we know the sun will rice tomorrow and why you hold this position.)

[6]      Explain how the mind-body problem arises for Descartes. Do you think Descartes solution is satisfactory? (Your thesis should indicate whether you think Cartesian Interactionism is a satisfactory solution to the mind-body problem.)

[7]        Compare and contrast Cartesian dualism and the identity theory. Which do you think is the most plausible? Do you think our subjective mental experiences can be reduced to neurosciencei.e., do you think the statement I am in pain is identical to my C-fibers are firing? (Your thesis should indicate which, if either, theory you think is defensible and why you hold this position.)


Please compose a 3-5 page essay in response to one of these questions. Essays should be composed in MLA format. Note that MLA does not use a title page. Essays should have a general introductory paragraph with a thesis, body paragraphs with exposition drawing from the assigned material, a section with critical analysis in which you defend your thesis statement and a conclusion. Be mindful to include a works cited page. Your works cited page does not count toward the minimum three pages. Note that student essays earning top grades tend to me closer to five pages than to three pages.

Essays must be developed within the context of the assigned reading. Do not use outside sources without getting approval from me first. I am not interested in what Wikipedia has to say about this material; I am interested in what you have to say. Note that Wikipedia is not an academic source and should never be referenced in an academic paper.

Essays will be graded on clarity of expression, accuracy of exposition and quality of philosophical argumentationthat is, how well you support your thesis statement. The better the reasons you advance in support of your position, the better your grade.

Do not use subjective languagee.g., I feel or In my personal opinion. Philosophy is based on facts and arguments, not feelings or opinions. Your job in the essay is to advance a position (a thesis statement) and then to give reasons in support of your position. I am very strict on this point.

Heres a suggestion for writing an introductory paragraph. Open with a topic sentence that captures the main point of the essay. Next, introduce the philosophers and their positions. Next, state your thesis. Your thesis statement is who you think is right and why.

I suggest that you use section headers. For example, if I were writing on the first topic, heres how I would organize my paper.

Introduction with Thesis Statement
Exposition of Anselms Argument
Exposition of Kants Objection to the Ontological Argument
In Defense of Anselm or In Support of Kant
You actually want to include the headers in your essay. Headers are usually placed in bold typeface.


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