Critiquing a Topic

Introduction to Philosophy

Final Paper Assignment:

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Instead of having a final exam, we have to write a final paper. The final paper is very different than the first paper assignment. It does not aim merely to explain a topic or position. Rather, it should be a critical paper. What this means is that you will offer either a defense or a critique of a position or topic that we have covered in class this semester, and will support your position with rationally persuasive reasons. Your job here is to think, and to write in support of your thoughts. It is not enough just to say that you agree or disagree — give good reasons why — this will require to think! The more thoughtful and original, the more reasoned the premises in support of your argument, the better the paper. Try to choose a topic that captures your interest; something close to you; something you care about. Also, citations MUST come from the texts we actually used in class.

In any case: you will chose a position or topic (to offer just a few examples: perhaps you will argue that Nietzsche’s distinction between master and slave moralities is rife with inconsistencies; or perhaps you agree (or disagree) with Kant’s theory of the good will and how it succeeds in describing the highest sense of morality. Once you have selected a topic position, you will (i) work to explicate the topic and then (ii) provide good reasons for your support or critique of a topic position. These reasons should show a serious engagement with the text, again, for this assignment you will have to think! Consequently, the aims of the paper need to be clearly set out at the start, with an account of how the author proposes to approach the subject and support the argumentation.

The paper has a 5-page minimum requirement, and should represent a polished piece of academic writing (in formal style – 12-point type, page numbers, etc.), organization (sentences and paragraphs should flow seemlessly, with each part of the essay playing a unique role), and citation, etc. I strongly recommend that you use the style and suggestion sheet I offered for the first paper. As I explained, a solid plan would be to write the first half as an explication and the second half of the paper as your evaluation.

Below are six possible topics for your final essay:

1. Epictetus, The Enchiridion. Work to explicate his main points using representative passages from the text, and then work to formulate reasons in support or against his arguments.
2. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Hobbes has a very negative view on human nature and makes an identity relation between the state of nature and state of war. Work to explicate his main points on the relation and formulate reasons in support or against his arguments.
3. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of a Metaphysics of Morals (Section I). Kant argues that the only thing that can be judged as unconditional good is the “good will.” Work to explicate his formula for the good will, and then proceed to offer reasons in support or against his formulation.
4. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of a Metaphysics of Morals (Section II). Kant introduces his reader to the role that imperatives (commands) play in morality. Work to articulate the difference between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperative, and then formulate reason in support or against the idea that the categorical imperative can serve as a procedure for rational agents to author moral laws.
5. Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity of Existence (on Blackboard) or On The Suffering of the World. Schopenhauer provides a philosophy of existence which is pessimistic. Select one of the essays above and explicate its arguments before coming up with reasons in support or against it claims.
6. Friedrich Nietzsche offers a unique, if controversial, story of origin for modern values in the first essay of his Genealogy of Morals. Basically, he believes that modern value systems are based on weakness and produce a culture full of pathetic human beings. In your work, explicate his take on what he perceives as a modern malaise and formulate reasons either in agreement or disagreement.

Finally, put effort into your papers and take pride in your work. For more information on Critiquing a Topic checkout this:

Critiquing a Topic

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