Paper #1: Aristotle
Choose one idea or concept central to Aristotle’s ethics that interests you, or confuses you, or
arouses wonder in you, etc.—something that you care about.
Explain it as thoroughly and precisely as you can, staying close to Aristotle’s text (using his
terminology, following his reasoning, etc.).
I want you to try to capture the essence of the idea/concept you choose. You might imagine the
paper as an answer to the question: “For Aristotle, what is ______?” You might also imagine that
what you are trying to do is teach someone what Aristotle means when he uses this idea/concept.
Monday, February 13th in class
3 full pages of text (i.e., 3 complete pages of text, not three sheets of paper)
12-point font (of your choice, but nothing difficult to read, please)
Make sure your paper utilizes terminology and concepts appropriate to Aristotle. As we have already
seen in the case of Aristotle, philosophical theories tend to contain language whose specific
meaning is rooted in the theory itself—think about how much Aristotle’s notion of virtue depends on
the concept of energeia, “being-at-work, for instance.
Philosophical writing and reflection needs to be attentive to the specific weight that concepts
have, and work that concepts do, within a philosopher’s thinking. You are expected to show this
kind of attention as you write about Aristotle.
I expect you to use the text, which means: offer quotes from the text that support your
explanation. Please simply cite parenthetically within the body of your text (no footnotes), using
the title and proper pagination (marginal pagination for Aristotle—e.g.: Nicomachean Ethics,
Since most students seem to be completely oblivious when it comes to in-text, parenthetical
citations, here is a paradigm to follow, in terms of grammar and punctuation:
…Aristotle says, “to be virtuous is simply to be what a human ought to be” (Nichomachean Ethics,
1150a). [not a real quote, though it is thoroughly Aristotelian]
The quotation marks designate only the quoted text, and the period goes at the end of the sentence,
after the parentheses. This is a rule that far too many students do not know and/or follow. (And
periods and commas go inside double-quotation marks).
**YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE OR CITE OUTSIDE SOURCES**
I will be grading these papers with an eye toward their presentation, which includes grammar,
syntax, spelling, punctuation, etc.
Likewise, I am looking for you to strive to articulate yourself clearly and with precision.
Admittedly, this is not an easy task when it comes to philosophical issues—it takes practice and
effort. I don’t expect any of you to be the next Aristotle, but I am looking to see genuine effort
to really grapple with the text, make important connections, follow the movement of its thinking,
and attempt to offer an explanation that goes beyond a superficial reading.