The purpose of the essay is to allow you to engage with the main ideas of the course in a penetrating and reflective manner.
This third essay will deal with topics relating to the third section of the course, namely, “The Human Person and the Common Good”. It covers ideas relating to Kenneth Schmitz, Charles Taylor, Jacques Maritain and also Robert Spaemann.
There are four possible topics listed at the end of this document on page 9. You are asked to select one of these topics to write on.
This will be an argumentative essay, based on the readings and the lectures.
Please notice that the third essay is to be longer and more in-depth than the first two essays. It should be between 6-9 pages in length. Furthermore, the essay is worth 50% of your final grade.
It is very important that the instructions are followed carefully. Essays which do not meet the specified requirements as laid out in this document will be penalized.
The lateness penalty is 3% deducted from the grade for each weekday that the paper is late.
The final date by which the essay may be submitted (late and with a lateness penalty applied) is April 26. After this date essays will not be accepted.
Essays must be uploaded electronically to the Dropbox in LEARN.
The essay is due on Monday, April 19, 2021 at 9:00 pm EST.
If you have any questions about the assignment please email the professor at [email protected].
The Principal Tasks
This section explains in some detail the approach you should adopt in composing your essay.
- Clarifying the topic: You need to express clearly what it is that you are writing about. It is crucial to have a clear idea in your mind about the precise nature of the subject. This involves confronting questions such as: (i) What is the nature of the problem?; (ii) What is at stake in this issue?; (iii) Why does this issue matter?; (iv) Who or what does it affect?; (v) How has this issue been understood historically (e.g. in the past vs. today)?
*In your introduction you will need to express clearly the topic of your essay and how you will be addressing it.
- Presenting the views: The paper must present the relevant theories accurately and fully. You should use the course readings as the basis of your paper and so you will need to express the principal ideas discussed in the texts. However, you will also have to include discussions from your secondary source reading.
*The bulk of the paper will be taken up with your discussion of the main ideas and theories which are pertinent to your topic.
- Analyzing the ideas: You should examine the ideas in a thorough and rigorous manner. Spend some time presenting the arguments and evaluating the conclusions. Point out the strengths and weaknesses, merits and demerits of these positions. When you carry out critical appraisals of arguments and intellectual positions, you are required to back up your assertions. Whenever you pass judgement on another person’s ideas, you need to support your views with evidence and/or arguments. It is pointless simply to assert an opinion without attempting to justify it somehow.
*The critical evaluation of the theories presented can be done in a variety of ways. For example, you may advance your own insights, or you may use the arguments of authors you have researched.
- Staking out a position: You should articulate your own position on this issue. Although your own opinion should not be the focal point of the essay, you should still express your own standpoint. It is not necessary to be neutral on these issues. Staking out a position
does not obviate the need to present and assess arguments, particularly those with which you are not sympathetic, rationally and dispassionately.
*I would recommend that the expression of your own point of view be relegated to the end of the essay, such as the final paragraph, or even to the conclusion.
*Please bear in mind that even your own personal opinion, if you wish to present it in an academic essay, needs to be supported by argument. In other words, your personal opinion needs to be argued for and rationally defended. The simplest way to do this is to write a sentence that goes something like this: “I believe that
so-and-so is true because ….” (The word “because” is key.)
The Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is one in which a thesis is being argued for and defended. There are two important parts to such an essay: outlining clearly what the thesis is and offering support and evidence for the thesis. To be clear, you need to provide arguments in such an essay, instead of merely asserting opinions, and the way to argue successfully is to provide evidence and support for your statements.
The bedrock of this assignment is the course readings. You are required to read the relevant course books or texts that correspond to the topic that you have selected.
For this essay you are also expected to do some research. By this is meant that you consult secondary scholarly sources in the composition of your essay, that is, sources in addition to the prescribed course readings.
As a rule of thumb, you should consult 2 additional sources. These may be articles or books or chapters of books.
The purpose of doing this research is to help you to understand the course readings better. It will give your paper the depth and integrity that scholarly writing demands.
The most important research resource for this assignment—besides the primary texts—is the University of Waterloo library system (Primo). You should use the library catalogue which can be found at this internet address: www.lib.uwaterloo.ca. You are strongly encouraged to visit the library and to take out books. Moreover, you can read scholarly articles that can be found online through the library website.
You can find many useful philosophy research databases at the following webpage: https://subjectguides.uwaterloo.ca/az.php?s=129661
Philosopher’s Index is highly recommended.
Do not use random internet sources as the basis of your essay. To be clear, do not use Wikipedia or other online sites whose academic integrity is suspect or cannot be vouched for.
The exception to this rule is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is quite good and reliable: https://plato.stanford.edu/
It is also important to provide ample and informative reference notes. Endnotes or footnotes are required as well as a separate bibliography. Please follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition. An easily accessible guide for this citation style can be found at this internet address:
As explained on this website, you are to follow the “notes and bibliography” system, not the “author-date” system. The examples on this website are quite clear and self-explanatory. However, if you are in doubt about this citation system, please consult the instructor.
A very helpful and informative presentation of how to write a good philosophy essay can be found here:
Please read this document if you need guidance on how to write this essay. Some Advice and Guidance on the Reference Notes
Since many students struggle to compose proper footnotes or endnotes or bibliographies, I would like to clarify a few points to help you in doing this part of the essay correctly.
- You are to follow the examples and format of the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition. It does not matter what you were taught in high school or in some other course about how to compose references. Please do not simply use the methods and styles that you used previously that may not be the same as what is being adopted in this course.
- A footnote is a reference note that appears at the bottom of a given page of text. It is provided under the text. An endnote is a reference note that appears at the end of the entire essay. To be clear, footnotes and endnotes are different. Their difference consists in the location in which they appear in your essay, that is, either at the bottom of a specific page or at the end of the entire essay. You are to choose only one kind of reference note for your essay. The choice of whether to use footnotes or endnotes is up to you. Do not provide both kinds in the same essay.
- Do not give reference notes that are in parentheses embedded in the body of the essay. For example, (Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew).
- The footnotes and endnotes must be numbered sequentially (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on). No two footnotes or endnotes are to have the same number. These numbers must correspond to the numbers given in the body of the essay. So, for example, at the end of a direct quotation, you need to put a superscript number and then the footnote or endnote that you will compose will correspond to that number.
- The best and most effective way to create footnotes and endnotes is to use a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word. All you need to do is to click on the “References” tab at the top of the page and then to click either “Insert Footnote” or “Insert Endnote”.
- The bibliography appears at the end of the essay. It lists all the works that you used to write your essay. There is to be no numbering of the bibliographical entries. So, this is one way the bibliography differs from the footnotes/endnotes: no numbers.
- You will notice another stylistic difference between footnotes/endnotes and bibliographies on the Chicago Manual of Style website. In a footnote or endnote, the author’s name is given like this “John Smith” [first name first and second name second]. But in a bibliography the author’s name is given differently, like this “Smith, John” [second name first and first name second]. Please pay attention to these subtle differences.
- In a bibliography, all the works are listed in alphabetical order based on the author’s last name.
- You must be able to distinguish between the author, the editor and the translator of a text or book. To be clear, these are not the same. The author is not the translator and is not the editor. So, do not present a work as if the translator were the author.
The author is always the person to whom the text or book is attributed. You need to put the author’s name first. Do not put the editor’s or translator’s name first if there is an author.
Here is an example of a footnote of a work that has an author as well as a translator:
- Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words, trans. Ann Goldstein (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016), 146.
*I am putting these notes in bold only for the sake of emphasis here. Do not put footnotes/endnotes and bibliographical entries in bold like this.
You notice that “Jhumpa Lahiri” is the author and this name comes first. Then “Ann Goldstein” is the translator of this work and her name comes later in the note and it is introduced with the abbreviation “trans.” which is short for “translated by”.
Here is an example of how this same book would be given in a bibliography:
Lahiri, Jhumpa. In Other Words. Translated by Ann Goldstein. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.
Please notice the differences in the way in which the bibliography is composed in contrast to the footnote. First, there is no number. Second, the order of the author’s name. Third, pay attention to the different punctuation – in the bibliography we are using “periods” instead of “commas”. Then the translator is presented by writing out in full “Translated by”. So, in the footnote we can use the abbreviation “trans.” but in the bibliography we need to spell out the complete phrase “Translated by”. Finally, you will notice the difference in parentheses. The footnote uses parentheses for the publication place, company and date, whereas the bibliography does not.
- Whenever you compose a footnote or endnote, you must provide a specific page number that corresponds to the place in the text or book where you obtained your information. To repeat, a page number must be given, and this page number must be specific. To be clear, do not give a page range, as, for example, the length of an article (e.g. 150-190). This does not tell the reader where precisely the information that you are using is in the book.
The page reference must be specific (e.g. 18).
Here is the footnote example again:
- Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words, trans. Ann Goldstein (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016), 146.
You will notice the number “146” that is given at the end of this footnote. What this signifies is that the information that the writer of the essay is using from Lahiri’s book can be found on page 146 of this book.
The purpose of including page numbers in reference notes is to inform the reader where exactly you obtained your information. It also allows the reader of your essay to check the same source to verify whether what you are saying is accurate and true.
- For books consulted online, include a URL or the name of the database. For other types of e-books, name the format. If no fixed page numbers are available, cite a section title or a chapter or other number in the notes, if any (or simply omit).
For examples on how to write out such sources, please see the Chicago Manual of Style website, in the section “E-book”.
- If you are citing a lecture from this course, simply use the following format: Footnote:
Nikolaj Zunic, “Title of Lecture,” PHIL XXX (Number or Date, whichever is relevant) Bibliographical entry:
Zunic, Nikolaj. “Title of Lecture.” PHIL XXX (Number or Date, whichever is relevant)
The Form and Style of the Essay
You will notice at the end of this document that the essay topics are phrased as questions. It is your responsibility to formulate a precise subject or thesis for your essay based on the proposed topics. This subject or thesis must be succinctly presented in the title of the essay.
Be sure to anchor your topic in a text or reading that actually deals with the topic at hand.
You need to include an introduction and a conclusion. As a general rule, these items should be present in all academic writing. An introduction presents the topic of the paper and offers an overview of the paper as a whole. Please make sure that you do this. Often students fail to compose effective introductions by discussing at the beginning of the essay ideas that are not directly relevant to the essay. Moreover, a conclusion brings closure to the essay. It is a kind of summary of the essay, but this should be done creatively. To conclude an essay is not simply to repeat verbatim what you have written previously. For example, a conclusion punctuates the main points of the essay, not every point. Furthermore, a good conclusion reformulates the main ideas in new and refreshing terms.
The paper should be well written from a grammatical point of view. It is imperative to proofread your essay. There are two ways of proofreading: (a) to read the paper over yourself; and/or (b) to have somebody else read the finished paper. Often it is desirable to have somebody else read it because you may not be aware of the mistakes that you are making. Be sure to eliminate all spelling and linguistic errors. The submitted paper must be free of all stylistic imperfections.
The tone of the essay must be formal. By this is meant that you should not use colloquialisms, vulgar words and phrases, and contractions. However, you are certainly free to use the first person singular personal pronoun (“I”).
If you need additional guidance in the writing of university-level academic essays, please consult the following website:
At all costs avoid plagiarism. Academic dishonesty is a widespread problem in the university sector and institutions are cracking down on this unethical activity. There are severe penalties if it has been discovered that one has plagiarized.
It is each student’s responsibility to know what constitutes academic integrity and how to avoid acts of academic dishonesty.
The following websites are useful in outlining the rules:
Please consult these webpages if you are unsure about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. All essays will be checked by the Turnitin software for plagiarism.
- The essay is to be between 6-9 double-spaced pages in length (approximately 1800 – 2700 words). The essay length does not include the title page and the end material, which refers to any endnotes and bibliography. To be clear, you need to provide 6 to 9 pages of written prose dealing with your topic.
- Use Times New Roman font and 12-point font size.
- The essay must have a separate title page which presents the following information: (a) title of the paper; (b) submission date; (c) course code; (d) student name; (e) student number. This title page is NOT included in the calculation of the essay length (i.e. 6-9 pages).
- The title of the paper must clearly and accurately reflect the content of the paper. 5. The pages must be numbered sequentially.
- You must provide reference notes (i.e. footnotes or endnotes) and a separate bibliography composed after the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.
- The essay must be submitted electronically to the Dropbox in LEARN by the stated deadline.
- Clarity = is your paper well written, easy to understand, and logically structured?
- Relevance = are the ideas that you are raising in your essay relevant to what we have been discussing in this course?
- Research = have you done sufficient research with the primary and secondary sources?
- Quality of the Analysis = have you presented and evaluated the arguments thoroughly and rigorously?
- Meeting Expectations = have you correctly followed the instructions for the assignment as laid out in this document?
*Attention: All the topics listed below refer to the readings, lectures and philosophers studied in the third part of the course, “The Human Person and the Common Good”. There is one exception to this rule: the book by Robert Spaemann is also applicable to these topics. You are expected to refer to these specific readings and philosophers – not necessarily all of them – in your essay.
Please select one of the following four topics:
- Why should the human person be understood in terms of transcendence?
- Why is the human person a relational being and how should this relationality be understood?
- What is the rationale for the distinction between the person, individual and self?
- Why does an adequate concept of the person provide the best foundation for moral agency?