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Philosophy 3 Stage Project

3-Stage Project

Philosophy Project

The Final Project gives you a chance to write about one of our discussion questions in greater depth and detail than in the forums. In Stage 1, you are asked to pick a question and submit a brief topic proposal. In Stage 2, you are asked to submit an outline of your final essay that lists and analyzes arguments on both sides of your question. In Stage 3, you are asked to compose and submit an essay that uses philosophic techniques to argue for a specific answer to your question.


Begin Stage 1 by selecting a question from the list below; you may pick one you have already worked on in the forums, or you may instead decide to work on a fresh one; either way is fine. Your proposal should state clearly which question you have picked and in at least 100 but no more than 200 words explain why the question, text, and philosopher interest you and how you plan to answer the question. Include at the end a list of two or three sources you plan to use in preparing your essay.

*** Pick only 1 of the following Questions (Week 1-7) below as the main topic to pick from ***

Week One

Philosopher: Plato
Text: Republic, Book 7

  1. What is the difference between truth and opinion? How far should I be allowed to go in trying to get others to agree with my beliefs?
  2. Is it right to try to convince someone of something you believe is true even if it harms them? Why or why not?

Week Two

Philosopher: Plato
Text: The Apology

  1. According to the example set by Socrates, what does it mean to lead a good life?
  2. Was it just or unjust for the Athenians to sentence Socrates to death?

Week Three

Philosopher: Aristotle
Text: The Nicomachean Ethics

  1. Is it more important for a person to be courageous or truthful?
  2. Is it more important for society to be lawful or fair?
  3. What is the most important virtue to practice in a good life?

Week Four

Philosopher: Thomas Aquinas
Text: Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 2, Articles 1-3

  1. Does God really exist?
  2. Which of Aquinas's five ways best aligns with your own religious faith or best confirms your doubts?
  3. Does the reality of evil in the world disprove God's existence?

Week Five

Philosopher: Rene Descartes
Text: Meditations 1 and 2

  1. Are you a rationalist or empiricist regarding mathematical knowledge? How can you be sure two plus two equals four?
  2. Are you a rationalist or empiricist regarding ethical knowledge? How did you learn right from wrong?
  3. Can we ever be fully certain that reality isn't just a dream?

Week Six

Philosopher: John Locke
Text: The Second Treatise on Government

  1. Should mercy temper strict adherence to a code of justice? Would you ever permit the execution of a convicted killer despite lingering questions regarding his guilt, motives, or the like?
  2. Should governments have power to mandate religious tolerance? Are laws criminalizing intolerance desirable?
  3. Should people be allowed to do whatever they want whenever they feel like it, or should a strong central government have extensive powers to regulate personal behavior for the sake of the common good?

Week Seven

Philosopher: Immanuel Kant
Text: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

  1. Is it better to treat others well in the expectation that they will return the favor or to do it from a sense of duty without considering reciprocity?
  2. Is the principle "never lie or be dishonest" just an optional personal belief or is it a universally binding absolute moral law?
  3. Is there really such a thing as free will given the constraints of morality?

Stage 2

For Stage 2 of your PHIL 100 Final Project you are asked to analyze the question you picked in Stage 1 by listing a claim and counter-claim and marshaling arguments, evidence, reasoning, examples, and the like to support them both.

The present assignment asks you to formulate and record a claim and a counterclaim relating to your question. Below each one, list arguments, reasoning, evidence and examples that can be used to support it.


A claim positively asserts an answer to a question. For example, to the question, "Is it more important for society to be lawful or fair?" one could claim, "It is more important for society to be lawful than to be fair." A counterclaim would be, "It is more important for society to be fair than lawful."

Question: Is it more important for society to be lawful or fair?

Claim: It is more important for society to be lawful than fair.

Counterclaim: It is more important for society to be fair than lawful.

**End Example**

Once you have formulated your claim and counterclaim, list some arguments you will use to support each.

An argument is an organized series of reasons that together aim to justify belief in a particular conclusion about a given subject. Good arguments follow basic principles of logic and, ideally, assure us that the conclusions we want our audience to draw from our presentation will arise naturally and perhaps even obviously from a careful consideration of relevant facts, common principles, shared assumptions, and the like. For the purposes of this assignment, you should rely on two main sources of evidence, the authority of the posted learning resources, especially the primary text, and your own life experience.

Your organized claims, counterclaims, arguments, and evidence should be drawn up in a text document to look like an outline.

Do not use a flowchart, stem diagram, or other format for this assignment. In Stage 3 you will be asked to flesh out, polish, and refine each step in your main argument to create the bulk of your essay, and to include a section that refutes a condensed version of your counterargument.

Stage 3

Stage 3 of the final project asks you to write an essay presenting your answer to the philosophical question you picked in Stage 1 and developed in Stage 2. Your essay should follow the classical formula for writing speeches, which has four parts:

  1. Introduction and Narration: The first part of the classical style asks you to introduce your question in a way that makes it relevant to the audience. One way to do this is to establish context by narrating problems or controversies associated with the question. Analogies or other devices may be used to amplify the issue's importance. Phrases like "Have you ever wondered about . . . ?" or "Many people have debated whether . . . " are common devices for stimulating audience interest. The introduction's purpose is to prepare the audience for your main argument, and the better your introduction, the more amenable they will be to your position. Neither a very short introduction nor an overly long one is likely to persuade.
  1. Arguing for Your Claim: The second part of the classical style asks you to support your claim by weaving argumentsand evidence together in a chain of reasoning that persuades the audience to agree with your position on the issue. Faithfully present the arguments of the philosopher(s) you are citing as authorities to bolster your claim as they can be very powerful when handled correctly. It is most persuasive to present your strongest argument and evidence first, your weakest ones second, and any middling ones last. You have already organized your arguments and evidence in Stage 2; now craft them into a convincing essay.
  1. Refuting the Counterclaim: The third part of the classical style asks you to concede or refute elements of the opponent's argument. Never skip this step! You will always be more persuasive when you engage the opposing argument. Phrases like "Some people think X, but they are wrong because . . . " are very popular for just this reason. You can refute objections before they are stated, concede one point to strengthen another, grant a minor point to show goodwill, or do any number of other ingenious tactical moves, but don't undercut your main claim. You have already identified arguments for the counterclaim in Stage 2, so now refute them in your essay.
  1. Conclusion: The fourth part of the classical style asks you to tie everything together to create a sense of finality or closure and convince the audience that the question or problem stated in the Introduction has been answered. Often, speakers will include an emotional or ethical appeal in the conclusion in order to help sway the audience to their opinion.

Your essay will be graded on its use of the elements of the classical style as well as its overall persuasiveness.

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