Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Assignments



For 4/24. Reading: The theological virtues and law. Paper: In your own words, lay out one of the objections that Aquinas considers and his reply to it. Do you find his reply convincing? Why, or why not? (Alternative: simply analyze one of Aquinas' main arguments in the sections that start with "I answer that...") This is obviously pretty wide open, and feel free to choose what you wish. We might not get all of the way through to the natural law, so perhaps writing on something in Q 94 wouldn't be best, but one of the earlier questions.

NOTE: The articles start with a series of objections to the position Aquinas himself wants to argue for. Then Aquinas gives a chocie quotation, an argument for his own position, and then replies to the objections with which he started.


For 4/22.

Readings from Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, book III, "God the End of Creatures." Chapters 2, 3, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 47, 48, 61.

(If you don't want to click on each of the links above to individual chapters, go to here for the table of contents of the Summa Contra Gentiles and scroll down to Book III. You may also want to do this if you'd like to see what some of the surrounding chapters are that we're skipping. Some of those might be useful to look at to answer some of your questions.)

Paper:

Lay out and evaluate Aquinas' argument for one of the following:

One useful way of approaching the above questions is to see Aquinas as working within a basically Aristotelian metaphysical and ethical position but still wanting to maintain the centrality of an afterlife in attaining happiness.
For 4/17.

Same readings as for 4/15, plus paper topics.


For 4/15.

Reading: From Against the Academicians: Editor's introduction, description of academic skepticism on pp.34-38 (section 2.4.10 through 2.5.13); criticism of: following the 'truthlike" p. 41 until 2.7.18 on p. 42 and 2.7.19 on p. 43 until 2.8.20 on p. 44; main arguments of Augustine, p. 64 (section 3.7.14) - end, Appendices 5, 6, 7, 8.

If you want more background on ancient skepticism, you can read the IEP article on the topic through "On suspending judgement" in the section on Arcesilaus.

Paper topics (These are what I would have assigned, but I didn't, as your thesis statements were due that day:

  1. Evaluate one of the arguments that Augustine gives against the Academic skeptics. These include:
  2. Why does Augustine think that it's necessary to fight against the skeptic? Explain and evaluate his reasons.
  3. Explain and evaluate Augustine's argument that he does know that he is alive. (in Appendix 6 and 8). Does it succeed? Why or why not?
  4. In appendix 6 and 8, Augustine claims that he knows many other (in fact, an infinite # of) things, in addition to knowing that he is alive. Give and evaluate his argument.
  5. In appendix 7, Augustine explains why he thinks it's necessary (as a Christian) to oppose the academic skeptics. Explain and evaluate his argument.
  6. Imagine somebody who says: 'I'm a rational person. Before I believe anything, I need to be given good reasons for why I should believe it. Simply to believe something on the say-so of some person (or institution), before I have good reasons myself to believe that thing, would be epistemically irresponsible.' How would Augustine respond to this person? Look at the photocopied selections , and discuss and evaluate what Augustine has to say about one or more of the following: why (and when) it is rational to submit to authority, why Augustine thinks that, in belief in general, reliance on authority is needed, and why it is necessary (and reasonable) to submit in particular to the authority of Church in religious doctrine, and what Augustine means when he says "I believe so that I may understand."

For 4/10.

Re-read text text I-4, sections 124-127 (starting on the first full paragraph on section 124), text I-5, #31-40, and read I-26, I-54, I-59, I-60, I-121, I-124, I-151, I-152, I-154, Lucretius, book III lines 414-829, and the sections of the on-line article on Epicurus dealing with justice, friendship and death.

Paper: set out and evaluate, in your own words, the Epicurean position on

or some aspect of their position in the above areas.

For 4/8. Move on to Epicurus' ethics:
From Hellenistic Philosophy: I-4 (Letter to Menoeceus), I-5 (Principle Doctrines), I-6 (Vatican Sayings), I-20 through 25, I-36, 37, 45, 48 through 51, I-59, I-61.

On-line article on Epicurus, section on his ethics, up through and including 'types of desire.'

Possible paper topics (nobody assinged for today, I'll post a couple of thoughts):

  1. Why does Epicurus think that only ones own pleasure has value? Give and evaluate one of his arguments.

  2. Why does Epicurus think that mental pleasures are greater than bodily pleasures? Give and evaluate one of his arguments.

  3. Why does Epicurus advocate the simple life? Give and evaluate one of his arguments.

  4. Explain Epicurus' three-fold division of desires. Do you find this division convincing? Why, or why not?


For 3/27. Reading: Lucretius, book III lines 97-176, 414-829. (And re-read selections from last time if you'd like.)

Possible papers:

  1. Why do Epicurus and Lucretius think that (i) the mind must be something material, (ii) that it is an organ in the body, (iii) it cannot be something incorporeal, and (iv) death is annihilation? Explain and evaluate their arguments for any of the above claims.

For 3/25. Reading:

On-line article on Epicurus, up through "the gods."

From Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings: I-2 (The Letter to Herodotus, p. 5 ff.), sections 38-45, 54-55, and 60-71. I-14, I-82, I-87, I-90, I-108, I-109, I-111.

From Lucretius: (The line numbers are on the tops of the pages, and there are notes in the back of the book to go along with the text you will want to look at): Book I, lines 1-634 (pp. 19-38), Book 2, lines 81-293, 1023-end, Book 4 lines 823-857, book 5 lines 837-878.

Possible paper topics:

  1. Why do Epicurus and Lucretius think that there must be an infinity of matter and space, and that the universe has no beginning or end? Explain their arguments, and evaluate one (or more) of them.
  2. Why do Epicurus and Lucretius think that what happens in the universe (i) is not due to the providential care or plan of any deities, and (ii) occurs because of mechanical, not teleological, processes? Evaluate their arguments for either of the above claims.
  3. Explain and evaluate something else from the readings.


For 3/20. Reading Nicomachean Ethics Books 8 and 9. Possible paper topics:
  1. Aristotle make the following claims: there are three types of friendship, the friendships of utility, pleasure, and virtue. The first two types are unstable. The friendship of virtue is the only stable type of friendship; it is complete, and it can only occur between virtuous people. Explain what these three types of friendship are, and his arguments for the claims above. If you disagree with any of them, say which ones, and why. (Reading, NE Bk 8 chapter 3)
  2. Aristotle claims that the virtuous person loves himself and is a friend to himself (or at least takes the same attitude toward himself as toward his friend), whereas the base person is not a friend to himself. Why does Aristotle think these things? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? (Reading NE Bk 9 chapter 4).
  3. Explain and evaluate any other argument Aristotle makes in today's readings.

For 3/18. Do the material for 3/13 (NE Book II, plus additional reading from the NE on the virtues of character, Book III chapters 6-12. (available on-line here: just scroll down to chapter 6. I won't require it, but you may also be interested in looking at what he has to say about other virtues in Book IV.

Papers: Same as for 3/13, or also discuss any of Aristotle's claims regarding courage or other virtues of character.


For 3/13. Read Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics (what's in the book. We'll also discuss any material from Book I we didn't cover in class Monday.

Possible paper topics:

  1. (see NE II.3 in particular). Aristotle says that, to be virtuous, it isn't enough to do the right thing; one must also take pleasure (or at least not feel pain) in doing the right thing. Why does he think this? Consider to the following two cases: Two people have borrowed a great deal of money from a friend, who now needs it back, but both are poor, and returning it would be a hardship. The first returns it easily, and is happy to have the opportunity to pay his friend back. The second really doesn't want to return it, and has to struggle with himself, but with a great effort of will he manages to overcome his reluctance and return the money, because he knows that is what he ought to do. Which person is better? Which person is more praiseworthy? What would Aristotle say, and do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  2. "The golden mean." Aristotle says that virtue is a mean between extremes. What does he mean by this, and why does he think it? In what sense is virtue a mean, and in what sense isn't it? Do you agree with Aristotle? (See NE II.5 and II.6. in particular, and NE II 7 to see the application of this doctrine to particular virtues.)

For 3/11. Read book I of the Nicomachean Ethics (what's in the book).

Possible paper topics:

  1. Why isn't having virtue sufficient for happiness (eudaimonia), according to Aristotle? (Look at chapter 5 in particular. ) What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?

  2. Why does Aristotle think that happiness can't be the same as pleasure, or a life of pleasure? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? See chapters 5 and 7 in particular.

  3. Explain and comment on Aristotle's own conception of what eudaimonia is (based upon the notion of there being a human 'function').
  4. What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?

For Thursday 2/28. Read book I of the Nicomachean Ethics (what's in the book).

Possible paper topics (Courtney Mahida, Katherine McTigue):

  1. Why isn't having virtue sufficient for happiness (eudaimonia), according to Aristotle? (Look at chapter 5 in particular. ) What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?

  2. Why does Aristotle think that happiness can't be the same as pleasure, or a life of pleasure? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? See chapters 5 and 7 in particular.

  3. Explain and comment on Aristotle's own conception of what eudaimonia is (based upon the notion of there being a human 'function').
  4. What *is* the relationship between virtue and happiness? (See chapters 7 and 13 in particular.) What do you think of Aristotle's arguments?

For Tuesday 2/26. Re-read, from the Aristotle book: Papers (Erika Hill, Henry Hitt, Sam Hood):
  1. What does Aristotle mean when he says that certain things (like human beings) exist 'by nature,' and why does he believe this? Explain briefly in your own words, and evaluate some part of what he says.
  2. Explain Aristotle's doctrine of the '4 causes' in your own words, and why he thinks that there are 4 different types of explanation. Evaluate some part of what he says.
  3. Why does Aristotle think that teleological explanations of natural phenomena are indispensable? Explain and evaluate his arguments.
  4. Look at Parts of Animals 640b5 ff. in particular, in light of Aristotle's discussion of the four causes in the Physics. Why does Aristotle maintain that looking at the material cause alone is insufficient when trying to understand organisms, and why were the accounts of e.g., Democritus inadequate? Do you agree with Aristotle? Why or why not?

For Thursday 2/21. Read, from the Aristotle book: Papers (Anthony Chatfield, Timothy Clements, Felicia Evans):
  1. Look at Physics 193b35-194a20 and Categories 2a35-b6 in particular, and Aristotle's discussions of separability and substance. On what grounds does Aristotle disagree with Plato's doctrine of Forms? Evaluate what Aristotle says in these passages.
  2. What does Aristotle mean when he says that particular objects (like me and you) are "primary substances," and why does he say this? Evaluate Aristotle's position.
  3. Why does Aristotle think that teleological explanations of natural phenomena are indispensable? Explain and evaluate his arguments.
  4. Look at Parts of Animals 640b5 ff. in particular, in light of Aristotle's discussion of the four causes in the Physics. Why does Aristotle maintain that looking at the material cause alone is insufficient when trying to understand organisms, and why were the accounts of e.g., Democritus inadequate? Do you agree with Aristotle? Why or why not?

Monday, 2/12. Read book 7 of the Republic to 519b.

Papers (Hannah Walker, John Yurchesyn, and Carkuff, Ronald B.)

  1. What is the difference between the 'lovers of sights and sounds' and the philosophers? Why do the lovers and sights and sounds have only opinion and not knowledge?

  2. Why does Socrates think that knowledge of the 'form of the good' is the highest sort of knowledge?

  3. Anything else: if you wish to explain and evaluate some part of what Socrates says in the similes of the Sun or of the Line at the end of book 6, feel free.

  4. Plato uses the allegory of the Cave to illustrate the process of education. Explain how the different stages of the ascent out of the Cave relate to the segments of the divided Line (509c-511e). Plato argues that mind-independent Forms, which do not exist in the world of senses, must exist as the objects of knowledge. Why does he think this, and do you agree with him? Why or why not?


For 2/7:

Read book 5 of the Republic 471c to the end and Book 6.

Paper (Schaffer, Shauna M.; Szegda, Johnna R.; and Thomas, Lee B.)

  1. Why should philosophers rule, according to Socrates? Do you agree? Why, or why not? (NB: keep in mind what Socrates says about who are the true philosophers, vs. those who are presently called philosophers.)

  2. What is the difference between the 'lovers of sights and sounds' and the philosophers? Why do the lovers and sights and sounds have only opinion and not knowledge?

  3. Why does Socrates think that knowledge of the 'form of the good' is the highest sort of knowledge?

  4. Anything else: if you wish to explain and evaluate some part of what Socrates says in the similes of the Sun or of the Line at the end of book 6, feel free.


For 2/5. Read book 4 of the Republic.

Paper topics (Papers Queen, Joshua T.; Raskina, Mayya Y.; and Scarpone, Danielle M.):

  1. Are the people of the ideal Republic happy? What are Socrates' arguments for why they are? Is he right?
  2. Is the ideal Republic just? Give and evaluate Socrates' arguments for why it is. What is justice (in the city), according to Socrates?
  3. What are Socrates' arguments why there are distinct parts of the soul?
  4. What is justice (in the individual), according to Socrates, and why does he say this? Is he right?
  5. Is justice an intrinsic good for you (if Socrates is right about what justice is)? Why does Glaucon think that it is? Is he right?

For 1/31.

Read the rest of Book 2 of the Republic, and all of book 3, excluding 392c-412b.

Paper topics (McAfee, Daniel B., Murray, Jason P. and Powell, Jeremy S.):

  1. (376ff.)Why does Socrates advocate censoring the stories of Hesiod and Homer, and how does his proposed censorship relate to his educational proposals? Do you agree with his proposal? Why, or why not?

  2. 378ff: Why does Socrates' say that the stories of Hesiod and Homer are harmful lies? What argument does he give for his own conception of the gods, at 379b ff? Do you agree with his arguments? Why, or why not?

  3. (412 b ff.) How are the rulers of the cities chosen, and why? Do you agree with this method (and rationale) for choosing the rulers? Why, or why not?

  4. (414c ff.) Explain the myth of the metals. Why does Socrates propose promulgating it? Is it justified? Why, or why not?


for 1/29. Read Book 2 of the Republic, up to 369b.

Possible paper topics (Hugh, Darryl K.; Johnson, Geremy A., and Maffit, Weston D.):

  1. What would you do if you had the Ring of Gyges, and why would you do it? (I'm looking for a justification here, not an explanation.) If you'd choose to do something that would be considered unjust, what do you think Socrates' strongest argument against you doing so would be, based on what he says in Book I of the Republic? How would you respond to Socrates? If you would not do something unjust, what do you think Thrasymachus would say against you, based upon what he says in Book I of the Republic? How would you respond to Thrasymachus?
  2. What is Glaucon's explanation of the origin of justice, and why does he thinks that a consequence of this explanation is that justice is only a 'second best'? Is he right about how and why people invented justice, and is he right about the implications of his position?

For 1/24. Read Book 1 of the Republic.

Possible papers (Garcia, Zachary P., Guthrie, Brett J., and Harris, Daniel T.):

  1. Briefly summarize one of Socrates' objections to either the definition of justice given by Cephalus or by Polemarchus. Do you believe that Socrates' refutation is convincing? Why, or why not?

  2. Briefly summarize one of the arguments that Thrasymachus gives for injustice being more profitable, or one of Socrates' arguments for justice being more profitable. Do you find the argument cogent? Why, or why not? If you wish to, you can also give your own views about which (if either) is more profitable, and why.

For 1/22. Continue the Euthyphro, and also discuss divine command ethics. Look back over the later parts of the Euthyphro and also read the Euthyphro objection to the divine command theory and the following summary of some of the issues with the Euthyphro. Reading response papers (Cates, Joel K., Dreher, Joseph M., and Godfrey, Grier T.):

  1. Look at the definitions of piety that Euthyphrooffers, or that Socrates offers on his behalf:Explain on what grounds Socrates objects to this definition. Do you find the objection convincing? Why, or why not?

  2. Consider Socrates' objection to the following definition of piety: "What all the gods hate is impious, and what all the gods love is pious." (9d) Does his objection show that a Divine Command theory of ethics is false: that is, a theory according to which morally wrong actions are wrong because God prohibits them, and morally obligatory actions are obligatory because God commands them? Why, or why not? Defend your answer against objections.

  3. Consider Socrates' description in the Apology of how he benefits the Athenians by engaging in his divine mission. Does the Euthyphro bear this out, or not? Why or why not?

For 1/17. Read the Euthyphro.

Reading response papers (Valerie Bryant, Caroline Burke, and Ayanna Carrington):

(1) Look at the definitions of piety that Euthyphrooffers, or that Socrates offers on his behalf:

Explain on what grounds Socrates objects to this definition. Do you find the objection convincing? Why, or why not?

We will probably discuss this second topic more on Tuesday, but you may write on it if you wish.

(2) Consider Socrates' objection to the following definition of piety: "What all the gods hate is impious, and what all the gods love is pious." (9d) Does his objection show that a Divine Command theory of ethics is false: that is, a theory according to which morally wrong actions are wrong because God prohibits them, and morally obligatory actions are obligatory because God commands them? Why, or why not? Defend your answer against objections.


For 1/15. Re-read the Apology.

Reading response papers (Thomas Balcom, Jason Beachy and Aqueelah Beazer, write on one of the below topics; everybody else, read those papers and respond to one of them):

  1. Why does Socrates claim (in 29e-30b and in 36b-37a) that what he is doing is highly beneficial to the citizens of Athens? What is his argument (or what are his arguments) for this? What assumptions does he make? Give and analyze the cogency of Socrates' argument.

  2. In 30b and following, Socrates makes the following claims: "If they kill me, they will harm themselves more than if they harm me," "A better man cannot harm a worse man," and "I am defending myself not for my own sake but for theirs." These claims seem incredible, as Socrates well knew, and would have seemed so to the members of the jury also. Give Socrates' reasons for one of these claims (put this in your own words, as much as possible). Evaluate his arguments and his claim. (NOTE: he doesn't produce a simple argument for these claims when he makes them, but evidence for why he says these things can be found elsewhere in the dialogue, e.g., 39a-b is especially relevant.)

  3. What is Socrates' argument for why there is good reason to think that death is a blessing (in 40c and following)? Give it (in the form of a numbered argument is OK) and evaluate it.


For 1/10.Read the Apology (in The Trial and Death ofSocrates). We'll beconcentrating on the earlier sections, but please readto the end. Here are some questions you may want tothink about while you're doing the reading:
  1. Why does Socrates claim (in 29e-30b and in 36b-37a) that what he is doing is highly beneficial to the citizens of Athens? What is his argument (or what are his arguments) for this? What assumptions does he make? Give and analyze the cogency of Socrates' argument.

  2. In 30b and following, Socrates makes the following claims: "If they kill me, they will harm themselves more than if they harm me," "A better man cannot harm a worse man," and "I am defending myself not for my own sake but for theirs." These claims seem incredible, as Socrates well knew, and would have seemed so to the members of the jury also. Give Socrates' reasons for one of these claims (put this in your own words, as much as possible). Evaluate his arguments and his claim. (NOTE: he doesn't produce a simple argument for these claims when he makes them, but evidence for why he says these things can be found elsewhere in the dialogue, e.g., 39a-b is especially relevant.)

  3. What is Socrates' argument for why there is good reason to think that death is a blessing (in 40c and following)? Give it (in the form of a numbered argument is OK) and evaluate it.

You may also want to take a look at the some descriptions of what an argument is, of vocabulary describing arguments, and of some good and bad arguments, as I'll be presupposing familiarity with this sort of material.

Please also post a question or comment to the class bulletin board on uLearn.



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