Hume or Dostoevsky
The purpose of this assignment is simply to present a (more) detailed elaboration of an author’s view; or to contrast two competing authors’ views; or to develop your reaction to an author’s view; or to relate an outside source (see below) to one of the topics under consideration. The content can be culled from any of the readings on the syllabus. This is not intended as a “term paper” or “research paper”. It can be adequately completed simply from the textual materials and class discussions.
The most basic form of this assignment would be to simply provide a detailed elaboration of an author’s position by reference to the explicit questions below. For example you could simply detail one of the arguments for God’s existence and an explicit line of critique: e.g Paley’s teleological argument and the problem of evil as presented either by Hume or Dostoevsky) Or you can make the major point of emphasis a critique of one of the arguments. (E.g. Rachels critique of Rand’s ethical egoism…as noted, that would require an elaboration of Rand’s view as well.) A distinct option would be that you could present your own thinking on the subject (after presenting a view- do you think it withstands rational scrutiny? Why/why not? Obviously elaborating your view involves a bit more creativity and thinking on your part but such attempts at original thinking are always encouraged (and appreciated). Your position could be detailing why you think someone’s view is just wrong (E.g. Singer’s view that animals have moral standing); or you might be in partial agreement (…some animals might be of moral significance- chimps, my dog, cute marine mammals… but lab rats?); you might be in agreement with an author, or you might be vacillating between two competing views (Singer and Cohen both make some sense…)…
On this assignment I would expect any positions being discussed to be adequately explained/detailed. To do this you can use quotes, but do so sparingly (and remember an un-attributed quote is technically plagiarized) and always explain their use. (I.e. explain exactly what is being said and how it fits into your overall presentation.)You should utilize examples to explicate any lines of reasoning or concepts as necessary. Further, since this is meant as a written assignment, the organization of the ideas you present should also be consideration. If you wish you can go to an outside source for a competing or critical view of the topic. (E.g. you may know of a source or view contrary to Edwards’ view that the death of your brain means THE END of your existence.) If you’re doing this (outside material) you need to provide me in advance with the title/author/web-address etc. (I mean this literally—any outside material requires approval) Also, any outside source would need to be cited it in your essay. (An obvious note about the internet—approach the internet as a source w/ some caution-try to stick with known, legitimate sources…Also, plagiarism is a bad thing, and will result in an F for this assignment. (If you’re unsure as to what constitutes plagiarism, consult the student catalogue. Remember—a quote not cited is technically plagiarized, as is using the ideas of others without attribution, etc.)
Details- Although this isn’t a composition class there are a few general guidelines I’d like you to follow: You should have some sort of introduction, (A brief description of what is to follow, what you’re doing, who you’re doing it to, and (if applicable) what your position is, etc.). Cite any sources other than our readings. The paper should be approximately 4- 5 pages in length. However, the quantity of work is far less important than the quality. The usual guidelines apply: Typed 11/2 or double-spaced, standard margins and typestyles or font sizes. Due date: the day of the final. Late papers will be lowered 3 pts (a full grade.) Finally, part of your submission of the paper requires uploading an electronic copy of your paper to the “turnitin” link on moodle. (The assignment is not completed/you will not receive a grade until this is done. For a brief discussion of turnitin refer to the syllabus.)
Although it may be obvious, be sure to give yourself time to proofread your paper to correct any grammatical or language-use errors. I generally don’t lower grades for minor problems along these lines, but if significant they could make the points you’re discussing difficult to follow which obviously could be a considerable problem.
Some suggestions- (again these are suggestions—if you’re thinking of some variation, feel free. However, if that involves using outside material- let me know)
How does Taylor detail existence as meaningful despite granting Camus’ assertion that our lives mirror Sisyphus. Explain the myth, how Camus uses it and detail how Taylor re-conceives the myth and how he establishes the possibility of meaning.
Nagel, in the optional reading, the Absurd, questions Taylor’s assertion that life can be said to be meaningful subjectively by alluding to the inevitability of taking up the objective standpoint.—A view he defines as what it means to be human. Explain his argument. (You’ll obviously have to explain Taylor’s position as well.)
Detail the teleological argument for God’s existence (discuss the concept and the evidence Paley cites in its favor…) and detail either Hume’s critique of intelligent design (and thereby the idea of teleology or the problem of evil (Dostoevsky/Hume) as a critique of Paley’s argument. (including natural, man-made evil…replies, etc.)
Elaborate Rand’s theory of ethical egoism (Mention the epistemological underpinnings of her view of the value of one’s life and specifically how she argues that selfishness is a virtue, contrary to the altruist conception) and detail Rachel’s specific critique of Rand’s egoism.
Explain in Detail Hobbes view of psychological egoism. To adequately do so, you need to explain his view of human nature, what he sees as the possibilities for altruistic behavior, and the underlying details of both that would lead to the ‘state of nature’. Finally, explain his conception of the social contract how he sees that as resulting from all of the above. (The latter should be explained in Hobbes’ terms, which can be supplemented by the example of the prisoner’s dilemma’.) Finally what might be lacking in Hobbes’ view of morality (as discussed in class/Rachels’ article.)
Singer maintains that our current attitudes towards those in a state of absolute poverty cannot be morally justified. Detail his argument. (How does he argue that we are morally obligated; how does he handle at least a couple of obvious objections; and finally what results, re: charity/duty.) And briefly, explain your view on the idea of being obligated to distant others.
Detail Singer’s view in favor of equal consideration for non-human animals that sentience is the only ‘line’ at which moral significance can be drawn (How does he argue against the idea that some ‘factual difference’ can be the basis for moral significance) and (briefly) how does Cohen critique this view.
Discuss how Goldman critiques any means-end analysis of sex. (Detail his views on viewing sex as procreative; as an expression of love; and as complex communication or interpersonal awareness.) Be sure and also read Moulton’s article for relevant discussions of Nagel/Solomon’s views.
Detail how Leiser questions the moral condemnation of homosexual behavior. (e.g. the inherent ambiguity, possible meanings, and his detailed response to ‘purpose’.) (To answer this adequately you would need to detail the natural law condemnation of homosexuality as well.)
Edwards argues against the possibility of immortality. Detail how he does so and discuss his replies to those who argue for the instrumental and agnostic views on immortality. You can in answering this question make use of Russell and/or Nagel’s articles as well.
Perry, in the dialogue First Night, has his characters discuss the possibility of personal survival of death by discussing the possible ways in which personal identity might be conceived. Explain the possibilities/arguments as he (and the characters) see them. (To do so you may also want to make use of the relevant discussion notes from class.)
Detail Plato’s view on immortality. Outline his view on personal identity and detail his view that immortality is a reasonable conclusion based on his epistemology. (i.e. the theory of ‘forms’)
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