The course requirements include one 5-6 page (double-spaced and not including your “works cited” page) essay worth 100 points.
Please submit your essays into the appropriate dropbox in “Assignments” under the “Course Work” tab.
The purpose of the essays is to explore the philosophical process. This requires going into the readings and the assignments with an open mind. There is a Confucian analect (saying by Confucius) that tells a story about a prospective student who meets with Confucius for tea. Wanting to impress Confucius with his learning in order to be admitted to the academy, the prospective student tells Confucius that he has read everything Confucius has ever written. Confucius offers tea and begins to pour it into the student’s cup but, when it is full, he keeps on pouring. The student, shocked, points out that the tea is pouring everywhere. Confucius looks at him and says, “If the cup is full, then there is no more room for the tea.”
The same applies to our class. If you come with the conviction that you already know everything and already have your mind filled (closed to all but your own views), there is little that the class will have to offer you. Keep the mind open and receptive and this can be a rewarding experience.
General “Do’s” for Formal Essay Writing :
Do use your computers to check for any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. After you have finished your essay, be sure to re-check. There is no excuse for errors and they significantly demote your work.
Do write a formal paper using college level standard English. If you do not have adequate writing skills, contact the Writing Center and get help immediately, long before you write your first essay.
Do adhere to Modern Language Association (MLA) format throughout your paper (including your “Works Cited” page). No blue font, no bold font, no paragraph headings, no extra spaces between paragraphs, no extra wide margins, etc.
Do stick to the required length. If you are asked to write a 5-6 page, double-spaced paper then please write a 5-6 page, double-spaced paper. Don’t hand in a 2-page paper. Don’t hand in an 8-page paper.
Do write a proper introduction. Your introduction should start with general comments and end with a specific point; namely, your thesis statement (which is the point you are trying to make: “In this paper, it will be argued that X…”).
Do write a proper body for your essay. Your body should be comprised of a list of reasons in defense of your position. In a 4- or 5-page paper, for instance, if you list three reasons, then make the first paragraph of the body of your essay about the first reason, the second paragraph about the second reason, etc. Along with each, make sure you acknowledge any reasons a reader might argue against you. For example:
First paragraph of the body… “Although some might argue against X because… this is not a valid argument since X is the case for the following reason…” Continue on to the second con and pro to your thesis statement, and so on, to build the body of your essay.
Do write a proper conclusion. Your conclusion should start out with a specific point (a reinstatement of your thesis statement: “In this paper, it was argued that X…”) and end with more general comments. It should be balanced with your introduction in terms of length.
General “Don’ts” for Formal Essay Writing :
Do not use first-person language (e.g., “I”, “We”, “Our”, etc.) that renders your argument arbitrary and subjectively based. It is already understood by the reader that you stand by what you write. Stressing the first-person perspective weakens your position. You want the reader to accept your view not because YOU happen to present it but because it is reasonable to accept it.
Do not use words linked to first-person language that further render your argument arbitrary and subjectively based (e.g., “I believe”, “I feel”, “I think”, etc.). You want the reader to accept your view not because YOU happen to believe it but because it is reasonable to accept it.
Do not use acronyms without first spelling them out. For example, do not simply throw out the acronym “PAS” without defining it. Write “physician-assisted suicide (PAS)” and then you may simply use the acronym throughout the rest of the essay.
Do not use colloquialisms (e.g., “rehab”, “idiot”) unless part of a quote.
Do not use contractions (e.g., “don’t”, “can’t”, “I’m” – a double no-no since first-person AND a contraction, etc.) unless part of a quote.
Do not write about a topic that is not one of the approved topics from the course textbook.
Do not plagiarize the works of others. There might not be any need to cite. The purpose of the essay is to develop your own thought process. However, if you do refer to the works of others – including those from the course textbook – then you must provide both in-text sources and a “Works Cited” page.
Do not submit a paper that you have written and submitted in any other course. Double submission of the same work to more than one class is plagiarism.
Do not appeal to authority to justify your view. Saying something is right or good because it is the law, or because it comes from your religion, or because it is tradition, or because Mom said so, does not constitute a justification. That only tells us the source, not why it is right. The same goes for rejecting ideas because they are from another religion, or another country, or said by someone from another race. “Good” and “Right” ethics are determined by their justifiability – not their source. Giving a source as your justification (for example: “The Bible says…”), will result in a “0” for the essay.
The following is cited from “facultyweb.ivcc.edu”:
Have you ever attended an event in which “formal” attire is expected? You probably did not wear old jeans with holes in the knees, a stained tee shirt promoting your favorite beverage, and a pair of sandals. You probably chose more formal attire.
If you were giving an important speech to a group of people you do not know, would you use the same kind of language you use when talking with friends? Probably not. Recognizing your lack of familiarity with the audience, the importance of the occasion, your desire to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject, and the impression you would like to make, you would probably use a more formal voice for your speech than what you would use when talking with close friends.
For all of the essays you write for this course, you should use a formal writing voice. You should use the kind of language you would use when giving an important speech, not the kind of language you might use when talking with close friends. A formal tone helps establish the writer’s respect for the audience and suggests that the writer is serious about his or her topic. It is the kind of tone that educated people use when communicating with other educated people. Most academic writing uses a formal tone.
The following guidelines should help you maintain a formal writing voice in your essays.
1. Do not use first-person pronouns (“I,” “me,” “my,” “we,” “us,” etc.).
Using these expressions in analytical and persuasive essays can make the writing wordy, can make the writer seem less confident of his or her ideas, and can give the essay an informal tone. Use of first-person pronouns is unnecessary in the kinds of essays you are writing for the course. Readers will know that they are reading your thoughts, beliefs, or opinions, so you do not need to state, “I think that,” “I believe that,” or “in my opinion.” Simply delete these expressions from sentences, and you will be left with stronger sentences.
ExampleI think that this character is confused.This character is confused.(The second sentence is less wordy, sounds more formal, and conveys a more confident tone.)
“One,” “the reader,” “readers,” “the viewer,” or something similar sometimes can be used effectively in place of first-person pronouns in formal papers, but be careful not to overuse these expressions. You want to sound formal, not awkward and stiff.
ExampleI can sense the character’s confusion.Readers can sense the character’s confusion.
2. Avoid addressing readers as “you.”
Addressing readers using second-person pronouns (“you, your”) can make an essay sound informal and can bring assumptions into an essay that are not true. A student once wrote in her essay, “If you wear a tube top, guys might think that you are easy.” I wondered why the student would think that I, a male, would wear a tube top. As with first-person pronouns, second-person pronouns can be replaced by words such as “one,” “the reader,” “readers,” and “the viewer.”
3. Avoid the use of contractions.
Contractions are shortened versions of words that use apostrophes in place of letters, such as “can’t,” “isn’t,” “she’s,” and “wouldn’t.” The more formal, non-contracted versions are “cannot,” “is not,” “she is,” and “would not.” You might be surprised by how much better a sentence can sound if non-contracted versions of the words replace the contractions.
ExampleThe character isn’t aware that he’s surrounded by people he can’t trust.The character is not aware that he is surrounded by people he cannot trust.
Making your writing more formal by avoiding contractions is easy: just find the contractions and replace them with the non-contracted versions of the words.
4. Avoid colloquialism and slang expressions.
Colloquial diction is informal language used in everyday speech and includes such words as “guys,” “yeah,” “stuff,” “kind of,” “okay,” and “big deal.” Highly informal diction, such as “freak out” and “dissing,” falls into the category of “slang.” While slang words often are vivid and expressive, slang comes and goes quickly, another reason why slang should be avoided in formal writing. Both colloquialism and slang expressions convey an informal tone and should be avoided in formal writing.
ExampleThe guy was nailed for ripping off a liquor store.The man was convicted of robbing a liquor store.
As you avoid informal language, be careful not to use words that suggests ideas that you may not intend. “The gentleman was convicted of robbing a liquor store” would probably leave readers wondering why the man who robbed the store is considered to be a “gentleman.” Likewise, “the lady was convicted of robbing a liquor store” would probably cause readers to wonder why a woman who robs a liquor store is considered to be a “lady.”
5. Avoid nonstandard diction.
Nonstandard diction refers to expressions that are not considered legitimate words according to the rules of Standard English usage. Nonstandard diction includes “ain’t,” “theirselves,” “hisself,” “anyways,” “alot” (the accepted version is “a lot”), and “alright” (the accepted version is “all right”). Most good dictionaries will identify such expressions with the word “Nonstandard.” Because nonstandard expressions generally are not regarded as legitimate words, I mark these expressions in essays as examples of “inaccurate word choice.”
6. Avoid abbreviated versions of words.
For example, instead of writing “photo,” “phone” and “TV,” write “photograph,” “telephone,” and “television.”
7. Avoid the overuse of short and simple sentences.
While the writer might use formal diction in such sentences, too many short and simple sentences can make an essay sound informal, as if the writer is not recognizing that the audience is capable of reading and understanding more complex and longer sentences. Short and simple sentences can be used effectively in formal writing, but heavy reliance on such sentences reflects poorly on the writer and gives the writing an informal tone.
Do not confuse formal diction with presumptuous diction (the kind of language that seems intended mainly to impress readers) or jargon (the kind of language only familiar to people within a specialized field, such as computer technicians).
You should not sound “artificial” as you use formal diction. Instead, consider that different situations require different uses of language and that educated people are able to adapt their use of language to a variety of writing and speaking situations. Educated people have several different writing and speaking voices, and one voice is no more “genuine” than another. Instead, the different voices reflect choices based on the writing or speaking situation. Through your word choice in essays, you can portray yourself as an intelligent person who is aware of your audience–a group of well-educated people whom you do not know. Imagine the kind of language that you might use in a job interview for an important job. With formal diction, you can express yourself clearly, accurately, and effectively, without relying on the kind of language that you might use in less formal situations.
ESSAY TOPICS (pick ONE)
OPTION 1: What is it to be human? For Russell and Plato, to be human is to wonder and explore the intellectual possibilities of life. Later in our readings we will see that Buddha agrees with Aristotle that to be human is to live a life of moderation. We will also see that for Confucius and the Bhagavad-Gita, to be human is to follow duty. All imply that to be human not only is to think beyond what is merely needed to survive, but also requires a sense of responsibility: intellectual honesty/open mindedness, moderation/rejection of extremism, and public and private duty towards others. With that being said, what do you believe are the qualities that distinguish us as human beings? Use the readings from the textbook as a beginning place to come up with your own version of what it means to be human. You are welcome to use the existing qualities listed above, add your own, or come up with a totally different set of criteria. Whatever the outcome, the grade for your essay will depend heavily on the logic of your justification for the qualities you present.
OPTION 2: How is a good life achieved? Buddha believes we should start with the recognition that we are part of an interrelated universe. Lao Tzu takes the interrelated nature of the universe to its most mystical depths. Confucius concentrates on the way we are a part of social structures. Plato believes we need to focus on the rational life, and Aristotle believes we should focus on the long-term development of virtue. How do you answer the question of what makes life worthwhile? Is it the Buddhist insistence of compassion and”do no harm”? Is it the cyclical nature of reality according to Taoism? Is it the Confucian notion that “we are all members of a larger social community with responsibilities to all”? Is it Plato’s questioning (“the unexamined life is not worth living”)? Is it Aristotle’s goal oriented happiness itself? Would you combine aspects of two or more or come up with something totally different?
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