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Philosophy and Ethics

A common assignment on Philosophy and Ethics is as follows:

Interpret the Allegory of the Cave. Read the allegory carefully and explain its meaning and what you believe some of the symbols in the allegory stand for, i.e., the shadows, the prisoners, the fire, the sun, etc. One page, double-spaced.

Philosophy and EthicsWhat responsibility does each of us have to take up the Platonic challenge to seek a deeper understanding of important issues and our individual and collective impact on the world in order to make ethical decisions? What responsibility does each of us have to act in the face of that deeper understanding? Two pages, double-spaced.

One of philosophy’s most famous quotes is in Euthyphro, where Socrates says, “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.” Briefly explain what is meant in this quote. You may wish to use the terms essence and attribute in your answer. One page, double-spaced.

For some people, religion offers rules of morality, which they believe they are obligated to follow.

Some people further wish to make the leap from private belief to public policy, i.e., from rules for personal conduct to rules of law: the Taliban in Afghanistan, some Jews in Israel, some Muslims in various Muslim countries, Hindus and Sikhs in India and Pakistan, and some Christians in America. In the United States, is such a leap permissible? In other words, considering the separation of church and state, can religious belief dictate public policy? If you answer yes, on what basis (how does one justify) can one make such a leap, to what extent can one implement those beliefs, and why? If you answer no, why can’t it? Two pages, double-spaced.

Isn’t It Enough Just to Be a Good Person? Or Aristotle, the Doctrine of the Mean, and Virtue Ethics

Read: Aristotle: excerpts from the Nicomachean Ethics, online:

Briefly explain Aristotle’s use of the word “virtue” and his Doctrine of the Mean.

In your answer, use one example of how one could use the mean in his or her life. One page, double-spaced.

First, think about and write a couple of paragraphs on your summum bonum: what it means for you to flourish as a human being, and what you believe it means to live an excellent human life. Be sure to explain WHY! (In this part you can use the first person I.) Then consider how much in the way of material goods is really necessary as a prerequisite to living that excellent human life, to achieving your summum bonum? What is your mean between the extremes of poverty and wealth, between Bill Gates and the homeless person? In your answer you may want to list some things you need and things you don’t need to live a good and meaningful human life. Be sure to explain WHY you need or don’t need them. Two pages, double-spaced.

Don’t I Just Have to Follow the Rules? Or Kant, the Categorical Imperative, Deontology, and the Question of Absolute Rules.

Read: Immanuel Kant: excerpts from Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, in compiled readings (vol. 2)

Explain the first form of the Categorical Imperative and give your own example of how to universalize a maxim.

One page, double-spaced

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