Your answers should be well written and thoughtful. In constructing your answers, it may help you to keep in mind the following points about arguments and how to write about them in philosophy. Remember too that you can post questions about the assignments. It is difficult if not impossible to write well about material you do not understand.

Arguments take the form of a set of premises that are intended to support a conclusion. To "present" an argument is to set out its premises and conclusion. To set out the premises and conclusion, you must identify them in the text in question. To show that the premises and conclusions you identify are present in the text, you must quote the passages in which you take them to occur. Begin with the conclusion, and then move on to the premises. To "explain" an argument is to do two things. The first is to explain the technical terms in the argument. The technical terms are the ones whose meanings are not immediately clear. The second step in the explanation of an argument is to provide the evidence for the truth of the premises. This evidence consists in two parts. The first is whatever evidence the author of the argument presents. You must quote the passages in which the author gives this evidence. The second is the evidence the author does not present explicitly but seems to assume. To "evaluate" an argument is to determine whether it is sound. A sound argument is one that is valid and whose premises are true. A valid argument is one whose conclusion cannot be false if its premises are true. If it is difficult to know whether the argument is sound (which is almost always true for philosophical arguments), then you must provide the case for and against.

Assignment #1

In book I of the Republic, Socrates introduces the notion of "function" as part of an argument to show that "injustice is never more profitable than justice."

• Present, explain, and evaluate his argument.

Assignment #2

In Book II of the Republic, Glaucon states a view many hold about justice.

• Explain this view and compare it with the conception of justice in the city Socrates sets out.

Assignment #3

Once Socrates and his interlocutors have found justice in the city, they turn to the search for justice in the individual human being. From a principle about the use of names, they conclude that the soul must have parts like the city. This leads them to take up the question of whether the parts of the soul and how these parts work.

• Present, explain, and evaluate Socrates' argument for the Tripartite Theory of the Soul.

Assignment #4

Socrates argues that the just life is better than the unjust life because the "truest pleasures" are the "proper" ones.

• Present, explain, and evaluate his argument.

Assignment #5

"To say that the best good is happiness is apparently something generally agreed, and what we is a clearer statement of the best good is. Perhaps then we shall find the best good if we first find the function of human being (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)" (Nicomachean Ethics I.7.1097b).

• Aristotle gives an argument from function to show that happiness for a human being consists in some sort of life of reason. Present, explain, and evaluate his argument.

Assignment #6

• Explain what Aristotle thinks a "choice" (προαίρεσις) is. Since he thinks that "choice" involves "wish" (βούλησις) and "deliberation" (βούλευσις), be sure to explain what he thinks "wish" and "deliberation" are and how they are connected to "choice." Aristotle also thinks that we can "choose" to do something only if it is "up to us" (ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν). Explain what he means.

Assignment #7

• Aristotle thinks that "contemplation" (θεωρία) is the activity in accordance with the virtue of the "intellect" (νοῦς) and that intellect is the cognition most proper to human beings. Further, he thinks that what is most proper to a thing is most pleasant for it. Does it follow from these premises that the life of "contemplation" (θεωρία) is the happiest life for a human being? Explain your answer.


The bibliography project is a summary of 5 journal articles or book chapters from the secondary literature on issues related to the course. You are to outline the argument and make a judgment about its interest and plausibility. The bibliography project, in this way, is a set of notes about what you read to which you can return. Here is an example of what an entry might look like.

"A Fallacy in Plato's Republic," David Sachs. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 72, No. 2. (Apr., 1963), pp. 141-158.

Sachs argues that Socrates, in the Republic, commits a certain fallacy. Sachs calls the the fallacy the "fallacy of irrelevance" (141). Glaucon asks Socrates to show that the just life is better. In this request, Glaucon has in mind what Sachs calls the "vulgar" conception of justice (141). Socrates agrees to try to meet Glaucon's request and, to that end, argues that the just life is better. The problem, however, according to Sachs, is that Socrates' argument is not about the "vulgar" conception of justice. It is about what Sachs calls the "Platonic" conception of justice (142). Sachs thinks that this equivocation "wrecks the Republic's main argument is due to the lack of connection between two conceptions of justice that Plato employs" (141). The difference in the conceptions of justice is present, just as Sachs claims, but it is unclear to me that this "wrecks" the argument. From Socrates' point of view, the vulgar conception of justice is a misunderstanding of what justice is.

Contact Information

Thomas A. Blackson
Philosophy Faculty
School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies
Lattie F. Coor Hall, room 3356
PO Box 874302
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ. 85287-4302,, www.public.asu/~blackson

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