Philosophy Question


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Each student will have the opportunity to write their own prompt for the midterm and final essay, but these prompts will also be provided for those who would like direction. If you would like to write your own prompt it would be a very good idea to check the prompt with me to make sure it is appropriate.

Prompts: Take an argument you find in a dialogue and first explain what that person is arguing. Following this explanation give your opinion on the matter. You may choose some thing you agree or disagree with, but you should heavily consider bolstering your arguments with passages from the texts or from reputable outside sources.

A: What is oratory and what is the use of it? Plato gives his explanation on p.806-807. You may choose to use examples from oratory in Greece or the modern day to help you explain your points

B: What is happiness? And who has a closer definition of happiness, Socrates or Callicles? The main arguments are found around p.836-837. Again, try to use the text to go beyond the text here, and feel free to use reputable outside sources.

C: Take any of the dialogues on love, Phaedrus, Erixymachus, Agathon, Pausanias, Aristophanes, Socrates, and give an explanation for what they are saying. Then, go on and either expand upon their argument, or detract from it.

D: Why does Plato write in Dialogues? Say something about what it is possible to achieve in the dialogue that is not possible in other forms of writing such as the essay or treatise. Why would the dialogue be necessary for Plato’s form of education? What does it imply about the soul, and what it means to learn?

I have made a sample midterm available in the files section of canvas. This is a sample midterm from an Aesthetics class which utilizes Plato. So the question the midterm is addressing is not the same, but the format (utilization of quotations, structure of argument) is exactly what you should be aiming for.

Final must be a pdf. Individual thinkers should be cited in-text according to last name and page number, e.g.: (Plato, 23). Citation for course packet to be placed in bibliography: Plato, et al. “Phil 252 Course Packets.” 2021. PDF file.


First axiom: You must demonstrate how much you have learned from this class Keep this in mind in every paragraph of your essay. Generally, the best way to do this is through exegesis, meaning you must take difficult quotes and dissect them.

Second axiom: Outside sources in moderation. Outside sources are most definitely encouraged, as they can add a unique dimension to the paper, and can help to achieve ‘depth’ points. However, what you want to avoid at all costs is the outside sources crowding out the sources we have studied in this class. If you add quotations from some of Plato’s other books then that is absolutely fantastic. But if you relate an outside sociological study to Plato’s thinking, for example, then be very sure that the time you spend on the source is proportional to how much it helps to explain Plato.

The general paragraph format of introducing a quotation, citing the quotation, and explaining the quotation is a good starting point for building your paragraphs. However, ‘A’ papers will require a depth of interpretation. To really write an excellent philosophy paper the explanation of the quote is crucial. For example, a well-chosen quote cannot be explained in a sentence or two. An ‘A’ paper will have a very thorough explanation of a quotation (think of how long we sometimes spend on just a single line of a philosopher), this explanation will be well organized, and focused. When you quote a philosopher, try to go beyond the quote itself: don’t just tell me what the quote means, tell me what the quote means and how it relates to the rest of the thinkers philosophy, to a larger concept you are pushing, to the thinker’s historical context, ect.

  • Introductions: An introduction should frame your argument and prepare your reader. Have you noticed how important it is to understand context when you receive a message from someone else? For example, imagine if we began our first class without any preliminaries, just jumping right into a text. Can you see how much more difficult it would be to understand the text if you didn’t know where we were going? This is the job of the introduction. There is a reason that I say the first lines of any book are the most important. Be very thoughtful about the first lines of your paper.
  • Depth: Importantly, you need to analyze a quote, you can’t assume that it’s meaning is obvious. If it really is absolutely obvious, then choose a different quote. To really write an excellent philosophy paper the explanation of the quote is crucial. For example, a well-chosen quote cannot be explained in a sentence or two. An ‘A’ paper will have a very thorough explanation of a quotation (think of how long we sometimes spend on just a single line of a philosopher), this explanation will be well organized, and focused. Really think deeply about both the philosopher and the philosophical question. Try to move to abstract principles: show me that you understand both the project of the philosopher, the greater questions at stake, the historical context, ect.
  • Organization: An ‘A’ paper will be extremely well organized. Give a lot of thought as to why certain paragraphs are coming before or after certain others. Transitions are important for organization. Do not let your paper wander. It is OK to go on a tangent as long as you reconnect that tangent to the main point. You should by the end be able to take a bird’s eye view of your paper and say “this is what this paragraph is doing, which leads us to the next idea which is expressed in the next paragraph, which leaves us with a question which is answered in the next paragraph” and so on.
  • Citations should be in format of author page number, like this: (Plato, p.72). You do not need to cite page number for SEP, or any of the extra documents we have used in class (which are all available in the ‘files’ sections of canvas). A Bibliography should be at the end of your essay, but any format (Chicago, MLA, Harvard) is perfectly acceptable.
Explanation & Answer

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