Philosophy of the Person

Phil 12: Philosophy of the Person

Paper Assignment #1
Purpose of the Assignment:
Many of Western society’sfundamental beliefs about the ‘self’ are derived from the ancient Greek
thinkers Plato and Aristotle. These fundamental beliefs, or assumptions, are summarized below. It is
important to recognize these assumptions, and to explore them for ourselves. The purpose of Paper
Assignment #1, then, is to encourage you to develop your own critical view about the self, or the “soul”,
and to be able to give reasons that support your conclusion. Due to the role these fundamental beliefs
play in our contemporary society, whether in religious doctrine or therapeutic notions of the ego, it is
important to recognize them consciously, and to intentionally develop a critical view in regard to these
notions, rather than simply assume the credibility of these beliefs without critical reflection. It may be
that these arguments support your current beliefs about the self/soul with greater rational force, or have
given you cause to change your views. This is what I want you to have fun exploring!
Plato and Aristotle explored the notion of the soul in four distinct ways. They offered 1) arguments
for the persistence of the soul after death (or parts thereof, i.e. “the intellect” in Aristotle), 2) analyzed
the distinctive parts of the soul, and 3) investigated the relationship of the soul to the body, as well as, 4)
offered what they concluded was the proper purpose (“virtue”) of the soul. In investigating their theories
concerning the soul and arguments for the points outlined above, we are invited to question our own
notions of the soul and ideas concerning the afterlife, and what it is to be alive and with a soul/psyche.
This will be the focus of Paper Assignment #1. Investigate Plato’s and Aristotle’s views concerning their
characterization of the soul, and an afterlife. These arguments will be related to their various
characterizations of the relationship between body and soul (mind), and why they think the soul has a
distinctly rational purpose. The questions to address in your paper are: Do you agree with their arguments,
or disagree? Why do you agree or disagree? What conclusions have you arrived at for yourself? What
reasons/arguments do you have to believe in your conclusions? How do your views differ from
societal/cultural views?
The Traditional Western View of the Soul, or Human Nature:
The traditional Western view of human nature has roots in ancient Greek philosophy, as will be noted in
exploring Plato’s and Aristotle’s account of the soul and arguments for life after death. These accounts
of life after death ask us to make some fundamental assumptions about human nature. They ask us to
believe:
1) All human beings have an ego (an “I”/a “self”/a “soul”/psyche or mind):
This ego, or “I” (self/soul) exists in a physical body and is conscious and rational. The self, in
other words, is a thinking, reasoning and perceptive thing. This thinking self can have a purpose,
a destiny.
2) The self is different from, but related to the body:
The body is a physical or material entity, whereas the self is a spiritual or immaterial entity
(often called a “soul”) that can survive the death of its body.
3) The self endures through time:
Not only does the self remain the same self throughout its life, it can also continue to be the
same self after death.
4) The self is an independent individual:
It exists separate from other things and people, with an independent identity.
Phil 12: Philosophy of the Person Korsund/Fall 2018
Research Guidelines:
In writing your paper, I want you to look at where you can locate at least two of the four fundamental
beliefs about human nature from the traditional Western view above in either the work of Plato and/or
Aristotle. Then tell me whether or not you agree or disagree with each of these two fundamental beliefs
or assumptions about human nature? Why do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your conclusions.
Paper Assignment #1 Requirements (Grade Lowered for Not Following
Expectations):
 The opening paragraph must be a formal introduction, identifying 1) the thesis (your final
conclusion) and 2) the transitional conclusions (conclusions which also act as premises) which
you will use to defend your thesis (as a premise) and which will be elaborated on in the body of
your Thesis Defense (argumentative) paper (as a conclusion).
 Must be at least 1,200 words; printed, double-spaced; standard 1-inch margins; 12 point, Times
New Roman font; absolutely NO cover or cover page of any kind; number the pages; indicate the
word count at the end of your paper (before but not included in the bibliography).
 In the upper left corner of the first page give only: 1) your name (last name followed by your
first name with the two separated by a comma); 2) professor’s name; 3) your major; 4) the class
title and number (i.e., PHIL 12); and date.
 Include a bibliography at the end of your paper (all bibliographic citations must also be
referenced in the body of your paper): Consistently use any one standard form of bibliographic
citation (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). If it is a reference from the Internet, then give a full
bibliographic citation plus the Web address or DOI (digital object identifier) number—never give
the Web address or DOI number alone as a citation. For your paper to be accepted, there must
be at least one bibliographic reference in addition to the course reader’s articles. You may
include additional references, but only from a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal or other source.
Wikipedia cannot be used as a reference.
 Graphic, artistic, visual, and other types of material are welcome in addition to text (not as a
substitute for it).
 Do not use rhetorical questions (if you raise a question, try to provide an answer).
 Double check your paper for spelling and grammar (and/or have someone help you do so).
Philosophy tutors are available in the Philosophy Center (FOB 231) to help you with your papers,
particularly content. There are also writing tutors at the SJSU Writing Center in Clark Hall who can help
guide you on the use of language and writing.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your paper (every single word of it) must be written entirely by you alone. The only possible
exception to this would be at most a few brief quotes from the work of others. If you use such quotes, it is your
responsibility to be sure you put them in quotation marks and to give full bibliographic citations for them. It is also
your responsibility to make sure that the paper you turn in is in keeping with this rule. Absolutely no excuses of any
kind will be accepted (including, “I meant to put it in quotes” or “I turned in the wrong version” etc.). Copying,
paraphrasing or in any way presenting as your own work something that was written by someone else is dishonest,
unacceptable, in violation of University policy, and will result in you receiving a failing grade for the assignment and
being reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. There will be absolutely no exceptions
made to this rule.

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