Philosophy Essays

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Essay #1 (Unit 2)

Plato’s works are presented as dialogues; that is, they recount conversations between Socrates and other people in his community. The Bhagavad Gita is presented in poetic verse and tells the story of a conversation between Prince Arjuna and Krishna, a god who offers Arjuna advice at a moment of distress. Both of these types of presentation are unique when compared with “traditional” forms of philosophical presentation, which usually give a general statement of facts and belief without use of a dramatic or poetic structure or characters who exchange thoughts and ideas with one another.

In a four to five page essay, compare the styles of presentation of Plato and the Bhagavad Gita. What are the similarities? What are the differences? What do you think is beneficial about each of these presentations of philosophical teachings, compared with “traditional” modes of philosophical writing? Which style do you think is most helpful for learning philosophical concepts and why?

Essay #2 (Unit 4)

In a four to five page essay, reflect upon the social contract. Outline in detail how Rousseau describes the state of nature and what must be transformed in order for the social contract to come into being. What does his account of the state of nature show about Rousseau’s beliefs about human nature? What do people gain and lose by entering into the social contract?

Next, analyze to what extent contemporary society and government resemble the social contract as Rousseau paints it. Have people in modern society given up natural liberty in order to attain civil liberty? What specific rights and privileges does/would civil liberty in a modern context entail?

Essay #3 (Unit 6)

In a four to five page paper, reflect on the following points:

  • What is the value of giving a critique of moral values like that of Nietzsche’s?
  • What are the problems in his analysis? Where can you find prejudices in his views that are problematic for a contemporary audience?
  • Explain whether or not you think the problematic views that Nietzsche presents should invalidate his work overall. Should we throw out the theories of philosophers who might present provocative and useful ideas but nonetheless might have other beliefs or values that we consider unappealing or even harmful, or is it better to retain what is helpful in a philosopher’s work while critiquing and moving beyond his or her weak points?

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