Philosophy 1308 Paper #1

Due date: September 10, handed in electronically by midnight Central Time.  (I advise handing in by 10 pm, in case you have computer trouble.)


Paper topics

Topic A. Socrates and the virtuous life

Why does Socrates think everyone should act morally no matter what the price (even death) to be paid is?  Is Socrates' reasoning plausible here?  Why or why not?  What additional arguments could one produce for the claim that we should lead a virtuous life no matter what the consequences?  What kinds of arguments could one give against this claim?  Is the claim true?

Topic B. Absolutism

What is C. S. Lewis's main argument for absolutism (the one about quarreling), and what is absolutism?  Now take the most plausible (to you) of the three discussed alternatives to absolutism (individual relativism, social relativism or the error theory), define it carefully, and try to show how someone who accepts this theory could argue for it and could try to refute C. S. Lewis's main argument.  Now, consider how an absolutism might respond to this argument.  Is absolutism true or is the alternative you chose true?  Why or why not?  When discussing alternatives to absolutism, you need to consider hard cases for anti-absolutism, such as what the anti-absolutist would say about Nazi Germany or pulling wings off flies if you feel like it.

Topic C. The Euthyphro problem

What is divine command metaethics?  How does the circularity argument in the Euthyphro challenge the theory?  Carefully state the circularity argument.  How might a theist who accepts a version of divine command metaethics attempt to defend her theory against this challenge?  If she is unable ultimately to defend the theory, is there a better account a theist could give of the relationship between God and ethics?  Explain.

Topic D. Idols, symbols and signs (hard to do well)

Tillich distinguishes signs, symbols and idols. Explain the distinction, giving examples that you think Tillich would approve of, and explain how this connects with the idea of one's ultimate concern. Is it true--and why or why not--that the same object could be a sign to one person, a symbol to another and an idol to a third? What would you and Tillich say to the following question: Are there some things that should not be anybody's ultimate concern? Why or why not?