Essay #2: Assignment Topics and Instructions
NB: Before starting your essay, you should read this entire document as
well as the information in the ‘Essay Assignments: Grading Criteria and
Helpful Information’ folder.
Choose one of the topics below.
Topic #1: The Problem of Knowledge
Chapter 3 of our text focuses on epistemology: “the study of knowledge, its
nature, its sources, and its justification.” As you know at this point in the
course, much philosophical thinking and theorizing is related to a quest for ‘the
truth’ using our reason. But some information about how our minds actually
deal with ‘the truth’, with facts, presents significant problems for how we
understand our relationship to knowledge, to reality, to our own use of reason.
Read this article from The New Yorker and write an essay that discusses the
article in relation to the assigned sections of Chapter 3. Your essay must
include specific reference to chapter 3 of our text as well as at least one
reference to an article/entry in either The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy or
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, through quotation and/or paraphrase.
The focus of your essay should be a philosophical discussion of our quest
for and relationship to truth/reality.
NB: If you are unable to access the article with the link above, a pdf file of
the article is attached to this assignment.
Topic #2: The Problem of Free Will
Chapter 7 of our text deals with the problem of free will. Read this article about
philosopher Sam Harris’ position on free will (make sure to watch/listen to the
short video) and write an essay that discusses the article in relation to the
arguments/problems related to free will in Chapter 7. Your essay must include
specific reference to chapter 7 of our text as well as at least one reference to an
article/entry in either The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy or The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, through quotation and/or paraphrase. Rather than
your opinion on the problem of free will, your essay should be a discussion
of the philosophical problem of free will. In other words, think of your
essay as a research paper that discusses your findings, not as a paper
expressing your own views.
NB: you may want to also read this short piece by Harris, as it gives a
concrete example that is helpful to understanding his position on free will.
In addition to what is described above, your essay must include the following:
• A heading done according to MLA
• An original title
• An introductory paragraph that contains your thesis (see this VERY
helpful advice on how to write your intro/begin your essay, and if you are
unsure of how to write a thesis, read this advice on developing a thesis)
• A summary of the article given above with the topic you chose (If you are
unsure of how to write a summary, read this helpful advice on how to
correctly summarize a text)
• Body paragraphs that discuss philosophical approaches to knowledge and
truth or the problem of free will, depending on the topic you chose,
through reference to the article, chapter 3 or 7 of our text, depending on
your topic, and at least one of the sources mentioned above (here is
some excellent advice on how to structure body paragraphs)
• A minimum of 3 full pages (your works cited page doesn’t count as a
• A conclusion (see this VERY helpful advice on how to conclude your
Your essay should be double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point font; your
paper should be written in Standard English and done in MLA format. You must
include a MLA works cited page that includes all sources used in your essay,
including the article I provided.
To submit your paper, click on ‘Essay 2.’ You should attach a file that can be
opened with Microsoft Word (doc or docx); do not submit a pdf or type in the
Any instance of plagiarism will be punished by a minimum of an F on the
assignment and a report to the associate dean of the humanities division.
Further punishment could include failure in the course, suspension, or