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In this essay, you will consider two readings about hedonism, then explain and evaluate the
arguments they offer.
More exactly, let hedonism be the view that pleasure is the only thing in life that is inherently good.
Everything else is good merely as a means to pleasure. Both Thomas Aquinas and Robert Nozick
give different arguments against hedonism, and I want you to explain these arguments to me.
Aquinas only addresses a restricted form of hedonism on which the only inherent goods are bodily
pleasures like eating and drinking. Aquinas gives several arguments against this view. I want you to
choose two of them and present them with numbered premises. Make sure both arguments are
valid. So, if Aquinas omits a premise needed for validity, say so, then add the needed premise.
Moreover, for each argument arguments, explain the premises and evaluate whether they are
plausible. Work down the premises one by one. Should we accept these premises? Why or why not?
Aquinas argues against carnal, bodily hedonism, but Nozick argues against any form of hedonism.
Nozick’s argument relies on a counterexample, the experience machine. Explain the counter
example to me, then present the argument based on this counterexample using numbered premises.
Make sure it is valid. Add whatever premises are needed for validity. Here again, evaluate the
premises. Are they plausible? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
In presenting these authors, be sure to quote when appropriate, grounding your interpretation in the
text. You need to convince the reader that you have read these texts carefully. Probably, that means
quoting 3-4 times per author, but this is not an exact science.
Who is the reader, anyways? Don’t just imagine the reader is me. Imagine the reader is any decently
intelligent person who is curious about hedonism. Don’t assume the reader knows any fancy jargon,
or is already well-versed in these issues. On the other hand, you don’t want to overexplain things in
a way that is condescending or overly painstaking.
Max length: 1500 words. Do not exceed this even by a single word. This limit will force you to
write with precision and to edit with care, two necessities if you wish to write well. That should be
just enough words to accomplish this essay, but not enough for long winded tangents or sloppy
repetition. The word count includes quoted material.
Citation system: Use Chicago style. If you rely on easybib, double check the formatting: it often
needs to be adjusted slightly.
The Nozick reading (“On Happiness” ) is under Readings on blackboard. The Aquinas reading is p.
34-35 of the course reader.
Copy and paste this template. Use these exact section headings. You needn’t follow the word count exactly,
but it will give you some idea if you are looking for guidance.
1. Introduction
[100 words. Introduce hedonism. Define key terms. Motive the issues. Explain why they are
important. Explain what this essay will accomplish. State you’re the conclusions you have reached,
which will have something to do with whether the arguments of Aquinas and Nozick are
2. Aquinas
[50 words. Define the restricted form of hedonism Aquinas is arguing against.]
2.1 Aquinas’ first argument
[200 words. Explain his argument using numbered premises. Use ample textual evidence]
2.2 Is Aquinas’ first argument persuasive?
[200 words. Discuss each premise and evaluate it]
2.3 Aquinas’ second argument
[200 words]
2.4 Is Aquinas’ second argument persuasive?
[200 words]
3. Nozick
[50 words. Define the unrestricted form of hedonism Nozick is targeting. Contrast this with
3.1 Nozick’s experience machine
[200 words]
3.2 Is Nozick’s argument persuasive?
[200 words]
4. Conclusion
[100 words. Summarize the main events of the essay. Restate your verdict. Offer a final reflection
that leaves the reader saying, “hmmm, interesting”.]
Grading is based on the following five criteria:
The paper is well-edited. The style is smooth and polished. The writing is concise and the sentences
varied. Transitions are managed well. Quotations are integrated seamlessly. The writing aims at
clarity and helpfulness.
Textual evidence
The author makes able use of textual evidence. The quotes chosen provide good support for the
student’s interpretation of the authors cited.
The student offers thoughtful and reasonable remarks about the premises of each argument. The
student’s criticisms take heed of how the author might reasonably respond.
Numbered premises
The student’s use of numbered premises is effective. The student handles this tool competently, and
makes sure that all arguments are valid so that the only question is whether they are sound.
The student makes effective use of Chicago style, both in the text and in the bibliography.
*First draft due: Nov. 12, worth 20 points.
*Draft returned with grade and comments: by Nov. 19. Save this draft with my comments. Take
a picture in case you lose it.
*Revised draft due: Dec. 10, worth 10 points.
*Total percentage of grade: 30%
*Formatting: Double spaced, page numbers, times new roman, stapled. I will not accept unstapled
*Submission for first draft: Via the link on blackboard AND a hardcopy. Outside my office, there
will be a box for each class. Turn your hard copy in there. My office is BMC 112. I will set out the
boxes on Nov 10, in case you want to submit early.
*Submission for second draft: Same, but I want the revised draft paperclipped to your original
draft with my comments. A box will be outside by office by Dec. 8.
*Tutorials: These will be held Nov. 15-19. There is no class this week. I will meet with you for 10
minutes to return your draft and discuss my feedback.