PHIL 350: Major Paper on Ethical Theory (Up to Hume)

Instructor: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised date: October 1, 2010

This is a chance to develop, and to show, understanding of at least one moral philosopher prior to 1776.

The paper is due Wednesday, October 13, 2010.

Approximate length: 1300 words.


Please give me an accurate word count. Citations, drawings, notes and/or bibliographical data may be appropriate or even necessary, but they do not contribute toward the word count asked for. For the semester you need a total of 3500 words on the shorter paper, this paper, and the second major paper.

Choose as your focus one of the works from Cahn and Markie by:

1. Epictetus (Stoic)

2. Thomas Aquinas

3. Thomas Hobbes

4. David Hume

I recommend that you first work through the study questions corresponding to the primary material from which you will be drawing in writing your paper (Study Questions).

Topics generally to explain:

1. The key ethical questions discussed by the author (plus any other important questions raised in trying to answer the key questions)

2. The answers offered by the author to these questions, plus the reasons the author provides these answers

3. Assumptions being made that are necessary to make sense out of the questions, the answers, and the reasons.

4. The contrasting answers to these questions offered by other authors. (You may refer to Plato's or Aristotle's contrasting positions at this point.)

5. The reasons offered by those authors for their answers.

Regarding #4 and #5, the authors with contrasting answers can be radically different, as, say, Aristotle is from Hobbes, or Hobbes from Hume, or similar in many respects but not identical, as Thomas Aquinas is relative to Aristotle.
6. [Not absolutely required but recommended if you feel fairly confident in your grasp of the main subject-philosopher(s) of your paper.] Evaluate the philosopher's or philosophers' positions or reasons from an independent philosophical perspective.
After you have drafted your paper,
7. Review your draft essay, bearing in mind the Universal Intellectual Standards you have in your possession. Be sure you have avoided plagiarism, even unintentionally.

8. Revise/polish your essay in light of #7.

Demonstrate that you have paid careful attention to the primary material by accurate paraphrase and embedded documentation as appropriate, e.g.
Hobbes describes the natural condition of mankind as "a war . . . of every man, against every man" (222.1).
The parenthesized number indicates that this point is based on page 222, column 1. Of course, more information, such as author and year, may be required if you are referring to some work other than the Cahn and Markie anthology.

If you supplement the texts in Cahn and Markie with references to other primary material by our authors (e.g., Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on Happiness), be sure to document the source precisely enough that I can locate the original passage.

While you may--and perhaps even should--use secondary sources to orient yourself toward these philosophers (and help yourself to avoid common errors of interpretation), I would like to discourage direct reliance on them in the actual writing of this paper.

If this assignment is in any way unclear to you, please ask for clarification right away.