Directions: You can choose one of the topics below for your essay, or you can develop your own topic. A topic can be found by looking back over things that have intrigued or puzzled you over the course of the semester. For instance, you can backtrack through your journals or short writings to find a good problem to explore. The best topics stem from disagreement in my opinion, since this gives your essay focus and gives you the task of critiquing a viewpoint and arguing for a more improved perspective, both of which are necessary features of a philosophical essay. If something you have encountered in this class has stuck out to you and you continually think about it, this is a great place to start when coming up with a topic to write about.
The essays should be 4-6 pages double-spaced. Any quotations used can be documented in the following manner: (Descartes, 52) or for pieces that were on the internet and do not have page numbers: (Apology) or (Tao Te Ching), etc. There is no need to use a work cited page for this assignment unless you use material outside of the material we are using for class. I would suggest sticking to our own class material, since there is more than enough here for a paper of this length and doing so will help you keep things simple. Make sure to use spell check and to use proper grammar and sentence structure in your essay. Be particularly vigilant about using paragraphs. Sometimes students write essays that are one full paragraph or only a few. Remember, when you begin writing about a new point or new topic, you need to use a new paragraph!
*Be sure to look at the rubric used for grading your essay. Aim for the “exceptional” boxes of the rubric. Following the guidelines in the rubric and aiming for the “exceptional” boxes will help you master writing a philosophical essay. I also encourage you to look over the plagiarism policy in the syllabus.
Topics: You can choose one of the suggestions below for your essay if you don’t know what you want to write about.
1) Explain the problem of ataraxia in Epicureanism and Stoicism and how each school of thought proposes to overcome the problem. Considering the nature of the problem which approach (if either) seems more convincing? Give reasons to support your conclusion.
2) Identify and explain what you take to be the main problem in human life that Marcus Aurelius seeks to deal with in his Meditations. What are some of the ways he tries to deal with the problem? What behaviors does he try to cultivate within his behavior? Does he seem to be on the right track? What can we learn from him?
3) Explain the Tao and the concepts of Te (virtue) and Wu Wei (non-action or not doing). Be sure to point out examples from passages in Tao Te Ching when explaining these concepts. How does Lao Tzu’s approach differ from a classically western approach, the way of the Stoics for example? Do you think Wu Wei is an effective way to live life? Why or why not?
4) Explain the problem of the Cartesian Circle in Descartes’ Meditations. Explain and consider Descartes response to the Second Objection. How does Descartes defend himself from the charge? Do you think he is able to overcome it?
(You can find the text and objections here: https://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/descartes)
5) Explain Sartre’s concept of nausea. How does this connect to the concept of authenticity as explained in the lecture? Point out examples in the book that illustrate this connection. (Feel free to use the article included in the course content to bring in analogues from the Matrix). Do you think it would be good to live an authentic life? Why or why not?