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This is just a reminder that you will need to turn in a single page on Wednesday, 27 April stating which topic you are choosing and outlining what you plan to say about it.

So, two items:

[1] State 
the thesis
 for which you will be arguing and sum up what you want to say about it in a couple sentences. So, thesis sentence + 2-3 sentences of explanation = your 

[2] Provide an 
 of how you plan to organize your essay. Bullet points and phrases are fine. The outline does not have to be formal or in complete sentences. 

 should make reference to your thesis, which authors and texts you plan to use, how they will fit into your argument, and the relevance of your thesis to our lives and experiences.

The Final Essay is due on Canvas by Friday, 13 May 2022 at 3pm. Please upload the paper to Canvas. Write around 5-6 pages on the topic of your choice.

The focus of this essay will be to state, explain, develop and defend a particular 


 based upon some theme in philosophy related to the texts we’ve been reading. The thesis needs to make some specific claim (or closely interrelated set of claims) about some topic or theme that we’ve touched on this term (see list of possible topics below).

This claim needs to be stated clearly, explained carefully, fully developed, and explicitly related to the kinds of arguments we’ve encountered in texts by at least 
 different authors
, drawing upon and quoting their texts. One of those texts 


 be either Rene Descartes or Josef Pieper and the other must be an earlier author: Plato, Aristotle, or Boethius. (If you use more than two texts, the additional texts can be any of the ones we read.)

You will need to support and defend your thesis with philosophical arguments and reasons drawing upon texts we’ve read, ideas of your own, and your own experiences and beliefs. Be sure to relate the theme of your essay to our lives. Why does this claim matter? What difference does it make if you’re right about thesis?

Topics might include:

· the value of the liberal arts & their relation to the contemplative life

· the nature of genuine human happiness and well-being

· how human beings are distinctive, unique and the implications of this for a good life

· what it means to die well and the meaning of death (and what, if anything, lies beyond)

· the existence of God or human openness to transcendence & its value in life

· finding meaning and value in life, even in suffering

· the nature of intellectual virtue & importance of moral imagination

· inordinate desire & incontinence and how we master or overcome them

· the intellectual & moral effects of wrongdoing upon human well-being

· virtues and vices of character, either in general or more specifically

· the freedom of true knowledge, the place of certainty and doubt, & education

· the value and meaning and kinds of friendship

· intrinsic goods, leisure & work/career

You will need to turn in an abstract & outline on Wednesday, 27 April 2022. Your abstract should articulate a specific, focused thesis with regard to one of these topics, followed by several sentences of explanation, summarizing where you intend to go with the thesis.

Your paper outline should set out how you plan to structure your paper, making reference to your thesis, which authors and texts you expect to incorporate, how you will use them, how they will fit into your overall argument, and what connections you will draw with our lives and experiences.


Write 4+ pages (double-spaced, typed) on 


 of the following topics.

Your essay should demonstrate careful reading and a clear understanding of the text(s) involved, as well as careful and accurate use of their concepts. You need to synthesize ideas and arguments from across one or more texts, demonstrating critical abilities and philosophical insight. You will have to express your own viewpoint creatively, giving reasons for specific claims you make.


[1] Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy is, like Plato’s Phaedo, a piece of prison literature. Phaedo begins with Socrates in prison writing poetry/music, while the Consolation opens with Boethius in prison writing poetry/music. Socrates says he had always thought that philosophy was the highest, best sort of music, while Lady Philosophy shows up to Boethius to offer better music. Socrates writes music in response to a recurring dream (which seems to have some connection to his self-identification as a swan-like prophet of Apollo), while Boethius’ entire conversation with Lady Philosophy is dreamlike. What do you think is going on with these connections? Do the two works diverge in significant ways? What do you think is the significance of these similarities and differences?

[2] In Book III, Prose 2-7, Boethius’ argument builds upon Aristotle’s argument in Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, especially sections 1-6. How does Boethius use Aristotle in talking about lives that pursue wealth, honor/reputation/power, and physical pleasures? How does he go further than Aristotle or differ from Aristotle? How does the notion of self-sufficiency play into the arguments of both Boethius (see especially Book III, Prose 9 here) and of Aristotle? How does Lady Philosophy’s discussion of how goodness and virtue fulfill our natural function (Book IV, Prose 2) relate to Aristotle’s discussion of virtue and the human function?

[3] According to Plato, Socrates drinks the cup of poison “calmly and easily.” Earlier Socrates had said that a soul purified by philosophy

makes its way to the invisible, which is like itself, the divine and immortal and wise, and arriving there it can be happy, having rid itself of confusion, ignorance, fear, violent desires and the other  human ills and, as is said of the initiates, truly spend the rest of time with the gods (Phaedo 81a)

He later adds, “The soul of the philosopher achieves a calm from such emotions; it follows reason and ever stays with it contemplating the true, the divine.” How might Boethius’ Consolation serve as a commentary and further explanation of these ideas from Plato?

[4] In his description of the relationship between happiness, the highest good, and God (Book III, Prose 10-12), how does Boethius make use of Platonic thinking in general and about the Forms in particular? Consider especially how Plato describes the relationship of beautiful things to The Beautiful in Phaedo 100b-e (but also think about his arguments there in general). Consider also how Plato describes the forms as “divine” and the soul purified by philosophy as “godlike” and “divine.”

[5] At the beginning of Boethius’ Consolation, when Lady Philosophy first appears, she is described existing both on earth in human form and as a superhuman figure with her head in heaven. Her clothing is described as having a ladder on it, offering a series of steps, from π (pragma, practical) to θ (theoria, theoretical). How does the structure of his discussion with Lady Philosophy follow this pattern, providing a path from earth to heaven, from the practical to the theoretical (in the sense of something to be contemplated)? How does this relate to Aristotle’s discussion of practical and theoretical knowledge and virtues of thought (Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI)? How does it parallel the structure of Plato’s Phaedo as the text proceeds through the four main arguments, ending with Socrates’ final myths?

[6] In Book IV, Prose 3 of Boethius’ Consolation, he describes how those who “fall away from the Good cease to exist” and lose their humanity. He goes on to describe how various kinds of wrongdoing make people like corresponding sorts of wild beasts. How does this relate to Plato’s Phaedo (81e-82c) where Socrates seems to describe those who do wrong reincarnated as various sorts of animals? How does this discussion fit with Socrates’ myth in which the purified soul ascends to a place that is brighter, true, more real than the hollows of the earth or the fate of souls in Tartarus? (Optional: How might this align with Aristotle’s discussion of what he calls “bestiality”?)


For grading criteria, refer to the rubric connected to the assignment on Canvas. More detailed criteria are contained within the rubric.


In the myth of Icarus, the young Icarus and his father, Daedalus, attempt to escape from Crete by fashioning wings from feathers and wax. 

Daedalus warns Icarus to avoid the two extremes, first of complacency (a deficiency) and then of hubris (an excess), telling him to fly neither too low nor too high. If he were to fly too low, the sea’s dampness would clog his wings and if here were to fly too high, the sun’s heat would melt them. 

Instead, Icarus should navigate a temperate path in between the extremes, remaining attentive and taking care.

The story of Icarus, therefore, provides a good illustration of Aristotle’s approach to virtues of character – fixed habits by which a person avoids vices of excess and of deficiency.



Choose any 
 of Aristotle’s virtues of character (except for mildness, the virtue concerned with anger) and explain it in terms of [a] the feelings, passions, desires, and/or actions involved in it and [b] the two vicious extremes – of excess and deficiency – that the virtue avoids.

Here is Aristotle’s list of virtues and where they can be found in Nicomachean Ethics (listed by book and chapter and the Bekker numbers):

· bravery (or courage) – II.7 (1107b1-5) and III.6-7 (1115a6-1116a15)

· temperance (or moderation) – II.7 (1107b5-10) and III.10-11 (1117b24-1119a21)

· generosity (or liberality) – II.7 (1107b10-16) and IV.1 (1119a23-1122a18)

· magnificence – II.7 (1107b17-23) and IV.2 (1122a19-1123a34)

· magnanimity – II.7 (1107b24-1108a) and IV.3 (1123a35-1125a35)

· truth-telling (or honesty about oneself) – II.7 (1108a20-23) and IV.7 (1127a14-1127b35)

· wit (or good humor) – II.7 (1108a24-27) and IV.6 (1126b12-1127a13)

· friendliness – II.7 (1108a27-31) and IV.8 (1128a1-1128b9)

· shame (a quasi-virtue) – II.7 (1108a32-1108b1) and IV.9 (1128b10-35)

Remember, you only need to choose 
 to explain.


In the section above Aristotle argues from a premise (or starting assumption) to a conclusion.  His first premise is, in summary:


 Everything we do as human beings aims at some sort of “good,” that is, some kind of benefit or goal or purpose.

For instance, if you smother your roommate in the middle of the night with a pillow, you wouldn’t do that for just any reason.  You’d have some specific “good” you are trying to accomplish: for instance, stopping his loud snoring so you can finally get a decent night’s sleep.

Presumably, this is not a morally good way of handling the situation, but it is a good that you’re trying to accomplish – in the sense that you think, at the moment you act, you’ll be better off doing it.

Aristotle argues from this premise down to a specific conclusion:


 There is an end of our actions that is the ultimate end, that is, the highest good or goal.

Your assignment is to take the rest of the numbered paragraphs (which I’ve numbered [2] through [7]) and re-word them in your own words, just as I did here with [1] and [8].  You should have eight numbered sentences when you’re done, including the two I’ve given you.

As you do this, try to trace out the argument, that is, highlight how Aristotle’s thought progresses from his opening assumption in [1] down to the final conclusion in [8].  What are the logical connections that lead from one paragraph to the next, if any?

This is Aristotle’s set-up for the whole Nicomachean Ethics, so he should be trying to make some kind of sense, constructing a solid starting point for his subsequent discussions.


[1] Every craft and every line of inquiry, and likewise every action and choice of pursuit, seems to aim at some good.  And for this reason the good is rightly described as that at which all things aim.

[2] But the ends we aim at seem to differ: some are themselves activities, and others are products  that lie beyond the activities that produce them. Where these ends lie beyond the actions, the products are by nature more important than their producing activities.

[3] Now, as there are many actions, crafts, and sciences, their ends or goals also turn out to be many as well.  For instance, health is the end of medicine, a boat is the end of shipbuilding, victory is the end of military strategy, and wealth is the end of household management.

[4] But some of these pursuits fall under a single capacity.  Thus, bridle-making and the other crafts involved in producing equipment for horses fall together under the art of horsemanship. And horsemanship and every other action of warfare fall under military strategy.  In the same way other arts fall under yet further ones.

[5] In all of these, the ends of the overarching pursuit are more worthy of choice than all the  subordinate ends.  After all, it is for the sake of the ends of the overarching pursuit that we pursue the subordinate ends.  Here, then it makes no difference whether the end of an activity is the activity itself, or whether it is something else that lies beyond the activities, as is the case with the pursuits we just mentioned.

2.  [6] Suppose, then, there is some end to the things we do that we desire for its own sake and desire everything else for the sake of this. 

[7] Suppose further that we do not choose everything for the sake of yet something else, because if we did, then the process would go on to infinity and our desire would be empty and futile.

[8] Clearly, then, this end [that is pursued for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else] would have to be the Good, that is, the highest good.


(This is my translation above, so differs a bit from other published translations, though I hope it’s clearer than many.  Also I’ve added the numbers in the square brackets for ease of reference.)



Write 3+ pages (double-spaced, typed) on 


 of the following topics.

Your essay should demonstrate careful reading and a clear understanding of the text(s) involved, as well as careful and accurate use of their concepts. You need to synthesize ideas and arguments from across one or more texts, demonstrating critical abilities and philosophical insight. You will have to express your own viewpoint creatively, giving reasons for specific claims you make and making reference to the relevant texts and sources.

For information on how to quote and incorporate sources, consult this guide (also available under “Resources” in Modules): 
How to Use Quotations in Writing

[1] Think back to our initial discussion of the liberal arts as practices of freedom that are theoretical or contemplative and which aim toward developing our intellectual capacities. Or, in the words of John Henry Newman, the liberal arts involve a kind of reasoning “which sees more than the senses convey; which reasons upon what it sees, and while it sees; which invests it with an idea.” How does this same theme or concept arise in Plato’s Phaedo? How does it connect to what Plato means by “philosophy”? How does it relate to his notion of a transcendent Reality (the Forms)? What bearing, if any, might this have on an education that is inflected toward the “liberal arts”? Is this how you think about your education?

[2] In Phaedo Plato argues that living well and dying well rests in our ability to perceive or intuit a transcendent Reality (the Forms) that lies above or beyond this present life (even if present in this world insofar as material things participate in that Reality). How does Plato’s understanding of absolute Reality and our connection to it function in his arguments for the immortality of the soul (focus here especially on the Affinity Argument and Form of Life Argument)? Do you find his arguments persuasive or see some parts as more compelling that others? Are there implications of his arguments that you think he could trace out more completely? Given his assumptions, how would you argue for the immortality of the soul?

[3] At the beginning of Plato’s Phaedo we find Socrates in prison writing music – composing a hymn to Apollo and putting the myths (moral fables) of Aesop to music. Socrates says he is doing this in response to a dream sent to him by Apollo and in order to “purify himself” before death. He also says that a poet needs to tell myths rather than give argument. How do these motifs – Apollo, prophecy, music, myth, argument, and self-purification – recur throughout the rest of Phaedo (e.g. the discussion of swans, the final myths)? What points do you think the author, Plato, is trying to express with these? Why do you think he organized the dialogue in the way he did?

[4] In Phaedo Plato suggests that living well and dying well is a matter of priorities: we should value things that last and are grounded in absolute Reality over things that change and pass away. This is what he calls “practicing philosophy in the right way,” which frees us from mortal ill and leads to happiness (e.g. 81a).  What does this sort of life look like? What kinds of virtues are necessary for practicing philosophy? Why does it require these virtues? How do his beliefs shape his attitude toward our present, material experiences and desires? Where should his language be taken as hyperbole and where should it be taken more at face value? What do you think about these issues of what we value and how we prioritize our wants and desires? What are some practical implications of these views for everyday life? What do you think about his perspective?

[5] In his Nicomachean Ethics, how does Aristotle ground his account of happiness (eudaimonia, flourishing) in an analysis of the human function? What does he mean by a “human function” and what does it tell us about what it means to be human? What light does this analysis of the human function and happiness shed on his claim that a life of pleasure, honor and reputation, or money-making cannot possibly be genuinely happy? Since happiness does seem to have some relationship to pleasure, how does Aristotle both distinguish and interrelate them? Do you think a person can be wrong about what will make them happy? Why do people sometimes seem to have such difficulty identifying what will make them genuinely fulfilled? What do you think about Aristotle views on happiness?

[6] In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he argues for claims that intersect with claims Plato makes. Both philosophers hold out some kind of happiness or blessedness as an outcome of how we shape our lives. Both believe that a cultivation of virtues that directs, prioritizes, and constrains our desires is a key to happiness. Both believe that immediate gratification through material pleasure can lead us down destructive paths. Trace out some of these similarities, but also look for differences, both obvious (e.g., Plato’s focus on life after death) and less obvious (e.g., how each thinks about the human capacity for higher thought and rationality). What is your perspective on Plato’s and Aristotle’s respective visions of happiness and virtue? What do you think about these issues? Do you agree with either or both of these figures? Why or why not? Are there places in which you find yourself in significant disagreement? Use specific examples to help illustrate and explain your arguments and viewpoints.


Beginning in Book II, Prose 4 and continuing through Book III, Prose 9, Lady Philosophy argues that whatever genuine happiness it, it involves self-sufficiency.

Explain her argument briefly. Why should we look within ourselves for happiness rather than looking to Fortune to provide it? Why can’t power, riches, fame, honors, and pleasure ever give us true happiness? How is self-sufficiency different from all these?