Phil Essay

Choose one of the prompts below and in approximately 500-750 words, answer every part of it as directly, thoroughly, and precisely as possible, explaining key ideas in your own words and citing evidence from the course’s assigned texts:

Prompt A [Heidegger 1]:

According to Heidegger in “What is a Thing?”, what is the problem of ‘Eddington’s table’? In the process, make sure to provide not only A) an example of how the problem manifests but also B) an explanation of why it is a problem more generally, C) one possible attempt, entertained by Heidegger, of trying to resolve the problem, and D) the reasoning for why that attempt fails. What is the modern answer to what a ‘thing’ is, and what is at least one potentially problematic consequence of this answer?

Prompt B [Sellars]:

According to Sellars in “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man”, what are at least two obstacles to establishing the primacy of the ‘scientific image’ over the ‘manifest image’ (be sure to explain what these terms mean in your own words)? What are Sellar’s reasons for thinking that these are obstacles? In the process, reconstruct at least one argument he entertains for a possible reconciliation between the two images as well as an objection that he raises to it.

Prompt C [Heidegger 2]:

According to Heidegger in “The Question Concerning Technology”, what characterizes the essence of ‘technology’? How does Heidegger’s understanding of it differ from the ‘instrumental’ conception of technology (and why is the latter inadequate)? Along the way, make sure to explain the notion of ‘standing reserve’ and how the essence of technology relates to it. Explain the ‘danger’ of technology. How, generally, does technology relate to art?


Formatting: 12-point font, double-spaced. Cite appropriately (for any specific, direct attributions of claims to an author) either parenthetically at the end of sentences or in footnotes, indicating abbreviated source title and page number. Direct quotes and close paraphrases (considered together) should comprise no more than 30% of the text of your submission.


Grading Criteria:

[Listed Roughly in order of importance, with ‘Relevance’ being the umbrella under which the other factors are understood.]

Relevance: Did you properly and fully address the prompt questions as they were asked?

Completeness/thoroughness: Did you answer every part of the question, explaining in your own words all the important key points of the content along the way?

Evidence (textual) provided: Did you make a solid case for your interpretation of the text by citing evidence in support of your specific claims about the author’s ideas?

Clarity/Precision of Expression: Did you write clearly, make your thoughts as transparent as possible to the reader, and choose words that aptly described what you meant to say? Did you include the material that is necessary in order to directly and completely respond to the question, avoiding confusing the reader with tangential thoughts?

Proper scholarship (citation format): Did you choose a coherent citation style and consistently stick to it? Did you cite readings that were assigned for the class?


General Writing Tips:

– Answer the question as if you were answering someone who asked you in person (i.e., give a relevant, direct, complete answer; this does not mean that you should speak imprecisely or too informally).

– Explain key ideas in your own words, giving the reader the impression that you understand what you’re saying, but whenever attributing a claim to an author, cite (and in the few cases you directly quote, make sure to explain the quote).

– Don’t bother with flowery/drawn-out introductions or conclusion paragraphs; if you write these paragraphs at all, make them a very brief and to-the-point summary of the points you will make (or have made). In such a short submission, it’s likely better to skip them entirely and jump right into answering the question.

– Expect to include citations [but not necessarily direct quotes] often. Your citations are there to provide evidence that your claims about an author’s ideas are based in specific passages of the text, and to give your reader an easy way to understand how your claims constitute a direct interpretation of that text.

– You may cite the lectures, but your main source of evidence for your claims should be the text.

– This is an exercise in textual interpretation, not an encyclopedic summary of a thinker’s ideas. You should give only what background information is necessary to clarify your response to the prompt question, as it becomes relevant to the points you’re making.


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