*See question choice 2 for an example of in-text citation
• You are striving to offer your best explanations, along with refined opinions backed up by reasoned arguments. This requires careful thought on your part, and you will be rewarded for your thoughtfulness. Philosophical writing also requires the ability to identify weaknesses in your position and to account for objections to your view. Do your best to explain the course material and use your own best reasoning.
• Do not use sources besides the assigned course materials. In the Norton Introduction, you have the articles that you should explain in your answer to the question. You should quote, paraphrase, and summarize them as support for your own thinking about this issue. Make sure be clear and credit the ideas and words from these authors to them.
Upload your essay to the digital dropbox at the Blackboard website. The dropbox enters your writing into the turnitin.com database. Turnitin.com checks your paper for plagiarism and gives grammar and spelling tips. You can view your “non-originality” score a few hours after you submit. Note that your essay should show a score higher than 0% because you should be using passages from your textbook as support. Any quotations, summaries, or paraphrases of other writers’ ideas that are not properly attributed constitute plagiarism/academic dishonesty. If you see a problem, you can improve and resubmit your assignment before the deadline.
A score above 0% does not usually indicate plagiarism. If your percentage is in blue or green range, there is probably not a problem. If your percentage is in the yellow range, there probably is a problem. If your percentage is in the orange or red range, there definitely is a problem.
Use the method of in-text citation (also known as parenthetical citation) to cite your sources. No cover page or works cited page is necessary. For other matters of style, refer to MLA, APA, or whichever academic style manual you use.
Here are your three guiding questions when using sources:
1) Is it a permitted source?
2) Am I announcing the source, so that my readers know that I am presenting words and/or ideas that are not my own
3) Have I given a citation that is enough for a reader to look up the source for herself?
The Meno is one of Plato’s many dialogues featuring his teacher Socrates (469-399 BCE), and mostly concerns the questions of whether virtue can be taught and what virtue is. The selection we read is from the end of the Meno; earlier in the dialogue, Socrates raises the following puzzle:
You can’t try to find out about something you know about, because you know about it, in which case there’s no point trying to find out about it; and you can’t try to find out about something you don’t know about, either, because then you don’t even know what it is you’re trying to find out about. (Meno 80e)
Exercise: First, explain this puzzle more clearly. Then propose some solutions. It seems like there must be a solution, because we do gain new knowledge. But how do we realize that there is something we don’t know? Explain your solution by creating and explaining examples.
Give a brief overview of Descartes’s External World skepticism as he argues for it in pages 264-267. Then describe the following skeptical problem Descartes has – he claims he “regularly has all the same experiences while asleep as madmen do when awake.” He says this is a dealbreaker for our claims that we can be certain about our ‘knowledge’ of the external world. After all, for any perception we have, we could always be dreaming it.
Now suppose your dreams aren’t quite as vivid as Descartes’s – perhaps you only dream in faint shades of gray, and you only dream about dragons. Does that mean that you should not be worried by the thought that you can’t know you are not dreaming? Just because your dreams have a different qualities (grayness, lots of dragons) than your experiences of ‘reality,’ does that mean that you can always perfectly distinguish illusions (like dreams) from reality? (Make sure to refer pages 259-263 in your reading)
Mills says, “All whites are beneficiaries of the [Racial] Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it.” (Norton Introduction, 1069, including footnote) Use the definitions linked below. Explain in detail what the difference is between being a beneficiary of an agreement and being a signatory to an agreement. How does this distinction apply to the idea of the Racial Contract? Why does Mills think that all whites benefit from the Racial Contract, even when they are not signatories to it? What kinds of specific benefits does he have in mind?
In her opening paragraph, Okin states the general issue that she addresses in her essay: “[W]hat should be done when the claims of minority cultures or religions clash with the norm of gender equality that is at least formally endorsed by liberal states…?” Think of some current examples of such clashes and explain them in your essay. Try to think of both cultural and religious examples. Next consider your definition: what conception of gender equality are you using in your examples? How would Okin resolve the tensions in the cases you are thinking about? (Use her article to support your view.) Would she resist extending group rights? Do you find her resolution plausible? If not, why not? If so, why? (Be sure to refer to pages 1119-1125.)
Okin says that “most cultures have as one of their principal aims [main goals] the control of women by men.” Let’s call this the gender-culture thesis. How does Okin defend the gender-culture thesis? (See pages 1165-1173.) Is her defense convincing?
Does her argument about tensions between multiculturalism and women’s equality depend on the gender-culture thesis being correct? Reformulate her argument about tensions between multiculturalism and gender equality using a less strong assumption (try variations on “most cultures” and “principal aims”).
Must a meaningful life be a morally good life? We all know examples of extraordinary artists, scientists, and political leaders who did genuinely valuable things and took satisfaction in them but were also awful people: selfish, dishonest, even brutal. How would Wolf’s “fitting fulfillment” view respond to this question? Can a vicious (= filled with vice/ morally bad) person lead a fully meaningful life in Wolf’s view? Why or why not?
Many people find meaning in religious practice and devotion. Some of this activity is obviously valuable even if there is no God: religious music can be beautiful, friends made at church can be good friends, and so forth. This seems to fit well with the fulfillment view of meaning, but it seems to fail on the terms of the larger-than-oneself view. Consider the specifically devotional activities: worship, prayer, and ritual. Can a life that finds fulfillment in this sort of activity be fully meaningful in Wolf’s sense if the gods do not exist or, more generally if the metaphysical commitments of the religion are simply false? (Refer to pages 984-995)
Note the consequence of saying ‘no.’ Since the religions of the world disagree significantly in the metaphysical commitments – some positing one God, some many; some positing an afterlife, some not – we can be confident that many people spend their lives practicing a religion in which their basic commitments are mistaken. If the meaningfulness of a religious life depends on one’s being right in one’s basic commitments, we must conclude that many religious people are leading lives that are less meaningful than they think. As Wolf notes, it always sounds harsh to say this, even if we are not pointing fingers at anyone in particular. But still, it might be true.
Does Wolf’s view entail that a religious life based on mistaken metaphysical assumptions is less meaningful than its followers think? If so, how might the view be modified to avoid this conclusion? Is the modification an improvement?
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