Description: Write on one of the following two topics:
1. In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates raises the following question concerning Euthyphro’s proposed identification of piety with being god-loved: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (10). In class, we discussed how this question not only poses an important challenge to Euthyphro’s view, but how it also gives rise to a similar challenge to any view that bases morality on the commands of a deity (i.e. to any Divine Command Theory). Explain the philosophical challenge faced by a theist who maintains a Divine Command Theory and how that challenge arises out of Socrates’ question. To this end, you’ll want to reconstruct the challenge in terms of a deductively valid argument. Then present the best response a theist could make in response to this challenge and:
a. Explain why this response ultimately doesn’t work, or
b. Explain why this response ultimately succeeds
2. In Plato’s Meno, Socrates distinguishes between correct opinion and knowledge, in response to questions about the nature of virtue. Explain Plato’s account of knowledge and how it is supposed to apply to claims about the nature of virtue. In particular, what does Plato think is required to have knowledge of virtue? And how does he (via Socrates) argue for this view? Then present the most compelling objection you think one could raise against this view and:
a. Defend Plato’s view against this objection, or
b. Present the best response Plato could make against the objection and explain why this response doesn’t work
3. In Descartes’ Meditations, the meditator claims that “I exist as a thing that thinks” is indubitable. In class, we noted that there are some interpretative questions about what this claim means and how it’s supposed to be justified. In particular, there are questions about what the meditator means by “I” and “thinking thing”, and whether the claim is supposed to be inferred from some more basic claims. Explain what you believe is the best (most plausible, most charitable) interpretation of this claim’s meaning and justification. Then present the most challenging objection you think one could raise against the resulting position and:
c. Defend it against this objection, or
d. Present the best response Descartes could make against the objection and explain why this response doesn’t work
4. In Meditation Three of Descartes’ Meditations, the meditator defends a cosmological argument for God’s existence. Reconstruct the argument as charitably as possible, paying close attention to the details of the text. Make sure you discuss all of the premises in the argument and show how they are supposed to work together to lead to the conclusion. Is the argument compelling? Why or why not? Present the most challenging objection you think one could raise against the argument and:
a. Defend the argument against this objection, or
b. Present the best response Descartes could make against the objection and explain why this response doesn’t work
5. The same instructions as in 4, except applied to the ontological argument found in
6. The same instructions as in 4, except applied to the meditator’s argument for mindbody dualism found in Meditation Six that we discussed in class.
7. In Part II of Hume’s Dialogues, Cleanthes presents a design argument for God’s existence. Reconstruct the argument as charitably as possible, paying close attention to the details of the text. Philo famously objected to this argument by arguing that even if nature offers evidence of intelligent design, we can infer nothing as to the nature of the designer (or perhaps designers). Is Philo right? Why or why not? Present the best response a theist can give to this objection and:
a. Explain why this response succeeds, or
b. Explain why the response doesn’t succeed.
Length: 1000-1200 words.
Format: double-spaced, typed, 12 point font, 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins.
Further Instructions: For this assignment, you do not need to consult any resources apart from the primary texts and lecture/recitation notes. Students sometimes feel the urge to consult outside sources, particularly sources on the web. You are strongly encouraged to resist this urge. There are plenty of articles online which offer commentary on Plato, Descartes, or Hume. However, the vast majority of those articles are subpar and will most likely lower your grade. The assignment is asking you to reconstruct the material as presented in class, not as presented by some author you found on the web.
Standards (What You’ll Be Graded On):
1) Be Clear. This means, first of all, that you must use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. It also means that you should express your ideas in as ordinary, simple and concrete terms as the subject matter permits. I should never have to ask “what does this mean?” If an idea is very difficult, explain it in simpler terms. If it is very abstract, give a concrete example to illustrate it. If it is ambiguous, find a less ambiguous way to say it, or give a further explanation.
2) Be accurate. This means being able to interpret the source text correctly.
3) Be concise. This means saying exactly what you need to say and nothing more.
4) Be Precise. If “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” precision means never having to say “that’s not what I meant.” In this assignment, you will be graded on what you write, not what you meant to write. Therefore, you should write your sentences carefully, taking care to check whether what you have written is indeed what you mean to say and what you mean to say is indeed what you have written.
5) Analyze and evaluate arguments correctly. This includes being able to identify the parts of an argument (basic premises, inferences, main conclusion), being able to determine whether the argument is formally valid, and being able to tell how plausible or controversial the premises are.
6) Be Persuasive. This includes being able to provide adequate support for your thesis. It also includes being able to recognize when a point you make within your paper is controversial or in need of further support.