PHIL 1200 Assignment #1
This assignment consists of a short essay question, and some short logic questions. The
main intent of these questions is to ensure that you have a sound grasp of the
fundamentals of the material presented in this unit. The logic questions are intended to
draw on some important logical concepts that will be relevant throughout the course.
Although an understanding of basic logic terminology and argumentation is important in
this course, logic for its own sake is not the focus of this course. As such, the short essay
question should attract most of your attention with this assignment. There is a 3 to 4
page (1000 words) limit for the short essay question. As with all the short essay
questions you will address in this course, I’m not so concerned with whether you agree
with a particular author or not. The quality of your answer is based on your exposition of
the competing positions, your comparative analysis of those positions and, lastly, your
argument in support of the position you defend.
As with all the assignments in this course, the short essay question is not designed to be
a “research” question. There is no requirement to get material from external sources
such as other authors, or reference websites, who have summarized, or criticized, the
authors you are dealing with. In effect, including such material defeats your purpose in
completing your essay because you are essentially telling me what some other person
thought about the material you should be explaining and assessing. If you make
reference to sources external to the course readings it will be detrimental to your mark.
In some cases, I may ask you to re-work and submit your assignment. The point of your
essay is to formulate the course material and develop your critical response. You can do
this by working with the course material and developing your own ideas about the issue.
The essay is simply your opportunity to set that out in paper.
So, the material you need to successfully complete this assignment can be found in the
online course materials available through the UMLearn course site. There may also be
some reading material that is part of the hard copy course readings package. You can
find this information on the course materials section of our course UMLearn website.
QUESTIONS: (The total possible mark for this assignment
is 100 marks.)
Short Essay Question – The Nature of Philosophy (80 marks)
In Apology, Socrates refers to himself, metaphorically, as a gadfly to Athenian society.
He uses this metaphor, in part, in arguing for his assertion that “the unexamined life is
not worth living.” Explain how this metaphor is considered to be characteristic of the
discipline of philosophy. Specifically, explain how it justifies what our course readings
refer to as the conceptual analysis, and the constructive, tasks of contemporary
philosophy. Is Socrates’ conclusion that “the unexamined life is not worth living”
still relevant in today’s society? Provide an argument in support of your response.
Logic questions – You should try to limit yourself to two or three paragraphs
per answer for each of these questions. (10 marks each.)
1. Consider the following two arguments:
(A) 90% of observed crows are black. Therefore, 90% of all crows are black.
Furthermore, I conclude that the next crow I observe will be black.
(B) If 90% of observed crows are black, then the next crow I observe will be black. In
fact, 90% of observed crows are black. Therefore, the next crow I observe will be black.
Using the logic terminology presented in the course material, classify the two arguments.
Which argument is the better argument? [Hint: I realize the term “better” is vague in
this context. Part of your response should be to clear that up.]
2. The following argument is deductively invalid. Indicate the form, or structure, of the
argument, and provide your own counterexample (i.e., an example with all true premises
and a false conclusion) that clearly shows the invalidity.
All subjectivists are relativists. Some objectivists are subjectivists. Therefore, some
relativists are not objectivists.
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There are six assignments for the course.
Refer to the course schedule for the due dates. Each assignment includes instructions for
The questions in these assignments are not designed to be “research” questions. There is no
requirement to research your answers from external sources such as websites like wikipedia.
The material you need to successfully complete these assignments can be found in your online
course written and video materials, links to readings, and the course readings package.
Use the online submission process to submit your assignments.
Submit the “Honesty Declaration” (located in the assignments section in the course website),
when you submit the first assignment.
A wide variety of methods have been used by successful writers. Some people write many drafts of
a composition before arriving at a final product, while others write only a few drafts. Some people
read over their work and do a lot of editing, while others do not. There are different opinions, too,
about who one should have in mind as a potential reader. Should you write as to a friend? To
yourself? To a classmate? It depends who you ask.
There is an interesting anecdote involving two of the best philosophical writers of this century. Karl
Popper, upon examining some of the original longhand drafts of the work of Bertrand Russell, was
amazed at how Russell had done almost no editing as he composed. For pages the prose in
Russell’s manuscript carried on seamlessly, with no crossed out words or insertions. Popper
observed that the contrast with his own style of writing could not have been more stark. His own
originals were full of all kinds of revisions and editorial remarks made along the way. These two
great philosophers apparently completed their work in very different ways.
These facts suggest that how to produce good written work in philosophy is something you will have
to discover for yourself. Thus it is difficult to give generally applicable guidelines for putting together
your essay assignments. Nonetheless, here are some tips that will be valuable.
Philosophy involves the investigation of ideas. Thus, your writing should have the aspect of an
exploration. You are not expected to break new ground in the classical philosophical problems.
Essentially the grader will look for evidence illustrating that the problems and their proposed
solutions are properly understood and clearly explained in an organized manner.
Even though your work will therefore primarily be expository, the aspect of exploring the logical
relationships between ideas remains of great importance. Each of the course units lays out certain
philosophical problems and attempted solutions to them. In most cases solutions are outlined with
the arguments that have been made for and against them. After you have studied these arguments
you will write your assignment. In your writing, although you are not required to go beyond the
materials in the texts and course manual, it is important to try to set out the relevant ideas in your
own words. Let the structure of your essay be determined by your own understanding of the issues
and arguments, and not necessarily by the order in which they appear in the course material. Thus
you should study the course material closely so that you “internalize” the relevant theories and
argument, and having done this, you can write your assignment “out of your own head,” allowing the
ideas to flow as your understanding of them dictates. This is your own exploration of philosophical
There are certain advantages to this method. For instance, it requires you to reach a solid
understanding of the course material, thus aiding you in preparing the unit assignments, and also in
Introduction to Philosophy
PHIL 1200 Assignment Instructions
studying. It also provides excellent practice for improving your writing skills in general, for creative
writing involves the art of setting your thoughts down on paper in an orderly and coherent fashion.
What about making references to the texts, the course manual, or other sources? In your papers
you should make such references and use quotations from the course material, even if you are
following the advice given here. Sometimes there is no better way to explain an idea than to provide
a quotation from someone else’s work. (Perhaps the point was made very elegantly or concisely.)
And—what is more important—when you are criticizing someone’s ideas it is your responsibility to
use references or quotations to establish that you are not misrepresenting them.
There are several acceptable formats for providing references in academic work. The University of
Chicago documentation style is a widely used method. Whenever you take a direct quotation from
someone else’s work, or whenever your own writing closely follows the content of another work, or if
you just want to indicate a source of information, provide a footnote in this form:
Adam Morton, Philosophy in Practice: An Introduction to the Main Questions (Cambridge, MA:
Blackwell, 1996), 227.
Following an initial footnote like this, further references in footnotes may be abbreviated:
Morton, Philosophy in Practice, 229.
If you make several references to the same work, place them in the text of your essay. In that case,
indicate this fact in the initial footnote, and identify the abbreviations that will be used.
Adam Morton, Philosophy in Practice: An Introduction to the Main Questions (Cambridge MA:
Blackwell, 1996), 335. This book will hereafter be referred to as Morton, and all further references
to it will appear in the text.
After this footnote, provide further references like this: .” . . Morton lists problem areas for dualistic
theories about the mind (Morton, 341). The most serious of these problems is ..”
Finally, at the end of your paper provide a bibliography of all works cited, including all author and
publication information. The exact format is described in the various style manuals.
Practical guide for responding to short answer
Short answer questions – What they are all about
The purpose of a philosophical question is to inquire into the reasons in support of a position.
Indeed, some philosophers contend that the answer to a philosophical question is of less importance
than the reasons offered in support of the answer. Other philosophers will point out that that’s a
characteristic of a philosophical question.
The questions I ask usually follow a particular pattern. First, I’ll ask for some explanation of a
position or an argument from a particular author. (Note: this will be your link to the required reading.)
I’ll then ask for a criticism or objection to that position or argument. (This will probably also be found
in the required readings.) Then I’ll ask for your assessment of the criticism and the position. In most
cases, either you’ll support the criticism or the original position. In either case, what is important is
the reasons you have in support of your assessment (i.e. the reasons in support of your conclusion).
So, when it comes to your reasoned assessment, I’m not looking for a particular answer. I’m more
concerned with your reasons in two ways. First, that you provide reasons in support of your answer
and, secondly, the quality of the evidential support that those reasons provide. In short, I’m looking
for your argument.
This is a task that you should be able to do in 1,000 words (3-4 pages) – maximum. So, being
concise is a virtue. The questions are not designed to be the basis for a research paper. Focus
immediately on the question. A lengthy introduction that makes commentary on all aspects the issue
and their perceived importance isn’t required. Part of your task in responding to the question is
filtering out material that is not relevant.
Here are some tips on how to structure your answer.
Introductory paragraph: Tell the reader what your response contains. In this sense, be specific –
do not say merely “I am going to raise an objection to Walsh” or (worse) “I am going to discuss
Walsh.” Instead say what the objection/reply is going to be. Avoid the wasteful descent into the
particular, e.g., “Philosophers have long pondered the ethics of warfare. One of the most popular
topics has been just war theory. Walsh claims…” To ensure that the introduction correctly describes
the paper, you might consider writing it last.
Exposition: Focus on accurately explaining the argument or position the question asks you to
explain. While doing this, you might keep in mind the particular objection you will also be explaining.
It is beneficial to be able to clearly show how the objection is relevant.
Your assessment: Your assessment should, to some degree, find you in agreement with either the
original position/argument or the objection to it. This should be clearly expressed, and most
importantly your reasons in support of your assessment must be clearly articulated. Do not simply
give a list of objections – give one and develop it.
Conclusion: Tell the reader what you have argued. Do not introduce new thoughts here – No
Remember to complete and submit the Honesty Declaration when submitting your first assignment.
The declaration is required, and is available in the assignments section. Proof that you submitted the
declaration can be viewed in the gradebook.
Feedback from your instructor
Each unit assignment will be marked and returned to you with a grade and comments from your
instructor. These comments are meant to encourage you when you are doing the right thing, and to
offer suggestions for improvement. However, you may have problems or questions that the
instructor will not know about unless you come forward with them. When you request help, you
should be clear on where your problem lies. A letter of introduction from your instructor is located in
the course website, containing contact instructions including how to contact your instructor via email, by telephone and a list of office hours.
Introduction to Philosophy
PHIL 1200 Assignment Instructions
Sober, Elliot. 2001. Deductive arguments and inductive and abductive arguments. In Core questions in
philosophy, 3rd ed.,7-34. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
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