depends on the tutor


Essay Due November 7

Please write a 5-7 page (roughly 1250-1750 word double-spaced) essay on the topic below (back of this page). As you compose your essay, keep in mind that the resources for successful paper writing are in the course readings and in your own experience, judgment, and imagination. The worldwide web will not help, nor will too much reliance on lectures and discussions (a good paper will often be inspired by what goes on in class, but it never simply regurgitates notes). Your essay must have a strong introduction and thesis statement, and must demonstrate this thesis through the use of relevant textual citation (including, but not necessarily limited to, directly quoted text) and consistent argumentation.

One trick to finding and presenting a thesis (i.e., an argument) is to find a position to argue against: either that of one of your authors or that of an imaginary interlocutor (e.g., “one might think…but” or “it seems reasonable to suppose…but” followed by reasons why one might think or why it seems reasonable to suppose what you are arguing against, followed by reasons why this is wrong). This technique helps to sharpen your own point of view, and, if well executed, helps to make your case a persuasive one.

When you quote passages from text as evidence for your argument, select them carefully and do not quote more than is needed; also, be sure to interpret what you quote for your reader: don’t just leave a passage hanging in your text and assume it is self-explanatory. Although you must meet the assignment’s requirements on use of course readings, do not treat any questions listed in the topic as questions you must answer, but instead as a framework for thinking. Your paper must ultimately be guided by criteria internal to it, and not by an off-stage topic. Before you begin to write you should assemble pieces of your argument and evidence for them; when you begin to write you should use your thesis to guide all your work. Do not begin your paper with a cliché (e.g., “Since the beginning of time…”) or truism (e.g., “Order can mean different things…”), or with a dictionary definition or other crutch. As you write, think about what is necessary to advance your argument and what is peripheral to it, and keep or delete accordingly. After you write, carefully proofread and revise your work before handing it in. You must do your own work. Course readings must be cited by author name and page number; no bibliography should be necessary but if you consult any outside materials (including web pageswhich, again, you’d do better to avoid) you must include a bibliography, even if those materials are not cited in your paper. Draw your evidence and conclusions from a close reading of the texts—and remember, when you compare texts, any comparison has to find something in common to compare!

Please title and type your essay (and number and staple your pages) before handing it in. We also require that you submit an identical same-day electronic copy to Blackboard. Plagiarism free!

Essay Topic

In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes writes that individuals need “a Common Power, to keep them in awe, and to direct their actions to the Common Benefit.” Furthermore, the “only way to erect such a Common Power…is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills…unto one Will” (Hobbes, p. 227 [ch. 17]). This “one Will” will have the unlimited right of nature (see chapters 14 and 18) to do whatever it thinks necessary to preserve itself; absolute sovereignty is the solution to the problem posed by the “Naturall Condition of Mankind” (see chapter 13). Hobbes’s insistence on absolute sovereignty as the only means to political order does not sit well with many of the authors we are reading for this course. Write a critique of Hobbes (or a defense of Hobbes against strong criticism) using one or more of the following sources/pairs of sources: Sophocles’s Antigone, Arendt’s “On Violence” excerpt, Madison’s Federalist 10/51, Plato’s Apology/Crito, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In order to do this essay well you will want to choose an author or authors with whose aid you can build a strong criticism or that are vulnerable to strong criticism from Hobbes, and to explore their assumptions and Hobbes’s assumptions about the sources of disorder and order. It might help to think about fundamental questions. What keeps us together and what breaks us apart? According to your authors what are the sources of binding power, authority, law, justice, and their opposites; what introduces relative concord and what introduces relative discord in our relations with one another? Are some basic assumptions about human relations shared between your sources, even as others differ? Could political discord and conflict be valuable and productive rather than destructive? Are some things more important than mere life and the preservation of life? When you write, you will need to give an account of Hobbes’s arguments; but never summarize for summary’s sake. Your account of Hobbes and any account of his opponent or opponents should be motivated by the purposes of your own essay; they should be offered to facilitate the presentation of a thesis or argument that structures your paper from beginning to end.

Last but not least, let me know what & which articles you would want to use so I can attach so.

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