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Philosophical Essay

This 4 – 5 full page (not to exceed 6 pages) Philosophical Essay you will be writing due Week 7 is designed to be a thoughtful, reflective work. The 4 – 5 full pages does not include a cover page or a works cited page. It will be your premier writing assignment focused on the integration and assessment relating to the course concepts. Your paper should be written based on the outline you submitted during week 4 (see below) combined with your additional thoughts and instructor feedback.  You will use at least three scholarly/reliable resources with matching in-text citations and a Works Cited page.  All essays are double spaced, 12 New Times Roman font, paper title, along with all paragraphs indented five spaces.



You will pick one of the following topics only to do your paper on:

  • According to Socrates, must one heed popular opinion about moral matters?  Does Socrates accept the fairness of the laws under which he was tried and convicted?  Would Socrates have been wrong to escape?
  • Consider the following philosophical puzzle: “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (1) How is this philosophical puzzle an epistemological problem? And (2) how would John Locke answer it?
  • Evaluate the movie, The Matrix, in terms of the philosophical issues raised with (1) skepticism and (2) the mind-body problem. Explain how the movie raises questions similar to those found in Plato’s and Descartes’ philosophy. Do not give a plot summary of the movie – focus on the philosophical issues raised in the movie as they relate to Plato and Descartes.
  • Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God?” (1) How does this question relate to the Divine Command Theory of morality? (2) What are the philosophical implications associated with each option here?
  • Explain (1) the process by which Descartes uses skepticism to refute skepticism, and (2) what first principle does this lead him to? (3) Explain why this project was important for Descartes to accomplish.


Your paper will be written at a college level with an introduction, body paragraphs, a conclusion, along with in-text citations/Works Cited page in MLA formatting.  Students will follow MLA format as the sole citation and formatting style used in written assignments submitted as part of coursework to the Humanities Department.  Remember – any resource that is listed on the Works Cited page must have an in-text citation in the paper to match or this is considered plagiarism.



Week 4 outline


Socrates on Morality


Thesis: This paper will evaluate the authenticity of using popular opinion on moral matters


  1. Rough draft of introduction to essay/paper

Socrates rejected the use of popular opinion over expert opinions when discussion moral matters. However, the issue of popular opinion and their place in distinguishing morality in various matters is debatable. This paper seeks to analyze these issues, and prove that expert opinions are preferable over popular opinions. The paper will achieve this objective by outlining various points in support of expert opinion over popular opinion. These points include an outline of the strengths and weaknesses of using popular opinion on moral matters, and the strength and weakness of using expert opinions on moral matters. An additional point that this paper will highlight is the significance in upholding laws that are fair. The paper will show that Socrates would have accepted a trial and judgment carried out under laws that are considered fair. The essay will also describe why it would have been wrong for Socrates to escape based on the laws of a state.


  1. Popular opinion

States have laws that are intended to guide both citizens and residents of the state on acceptable behavior. These laws differ from one state to another. As a result, it is important for an individual to understand the laws of the state. These laws provide an individual with certain privileges and regulations to ensure they live cordially with other individuals. A democracy provides a platform for members of the majority within a state to take lead in the constitution and amendment of laws that govern the state. During Socrates’ time, Athens was a democracy. As such, the laws of the state were considered to be for the people, and by the majority (Bentley, 3). As such, popular opinion was used to make laws that would be used to govern citizens and residents across the state. This was carried out without any regard to the justifiability of the laws. The views of the minority were ignored irrespective of the quality of these views with regard to their applicability to public good (Monoson, 48). This is a common misconception where the views of the majority are considered to advance a greater good as compared to those of the minority.

  1. Public good

Public good refers to a situation that ensures a large section of the public benefits from a specific action. In most cases, the action should be considered from a moral point of view and is expected to meet virtuous standards. It is not common for popular opinion to meet the standards set from a moral point of view. This is especially difficult if the moral fabric or a society does not, cumulatively, meet minimum standards of morality. As such, actions taken by public opinion, as well as laws set by public opinion may fail to be in the interest of public good.

  1. Majority and Minority

During Socrates’ time, the majority was made up of commoners. This can be said to be the case in modern times. In ancient Athens, the majority were uneducated and had low moral standards. As such, the majority, at the time, could not be trusted in making decisions that would be considered moral or intellectual. The minority that was made up of the elite were educated and were in a better position to make decisions for the public good. Expert opinions do not depend on the justification of the majority as explained in the subsequent point.

  • Expert Opinion

Socrates does not endorse popular opinion as a means of determining the morality of an action or situation. He is of the idea that moral matters should be influenced and defined by the soundness of an argument and not the number of people who agree with the same opinion. This represents an expert opinion as opposed to a popular opinion. The experts, according to Socrates, are made up of the elite who have been educated (Sandrine, 1). Their intellect allows them to make judgments that are justified from a moral point of view. Socrates is of the view that the opinions of the majority should be ignored and only those advanced by experts should be upheld for public good. Based on Socrates’ view of how laws should be made, it would be interesting to understand why he accepted to be tried under state laws.

  1. State Laws

Socrates agreed to be tried under the state laws in Athens. He accepted the fairness of the law even though he did not agree with how the laws were constituted. This is due to his view that escaping from prison would be morally wrong.

  1. Justice

According to Socrates, justice is portrayed by doing the right thing irrespective of the situation or consequences within the prevailing environment (Sandrine, 1). His view also describes justice as an act that does not take into consideration the individual involved. It only focuses on the actions and the moral standing of the actions at hand. His decision to stay in prison is one he considers just by his beliefs. In addition, Socrates had already agreed to the state’s sentencing. The state had sentenced him to death and he was of the belief that the sentence was just under the state laws. As such, he would be breaking this agreement in the event he escaped from jail, an act that would go against his view of himself as a law abiding citizen.

  1. Conclusion

Morality is a topic that has generated debate in various fields. There lacks a clear line that separates right from wrong. This may be the reason Socrates is of the opinion that expert opinions should be used to determine the morality of an action or situation. It is easier for intellectuals to debate and agree on laws that morally upright, and that can work in favor of the public. As a law abiding citizen, Socrates was also keen on ensuring he lived up to his beliefs. This led him to accept the laws under which he was charged as fair laws. His sentencing after the trial was also a factor he accepted due to his belief in abiding by the law regardless of his views of state laws. Afterwards, Socrates has an opportunity to escape from prison, but, chooses to stay and uphold his trust and belief in the rule of law. Socrates challenges the audience to openly discuss the systems used to formulate laws within their respective jurisdictions. He pushes the audience to question the motives and ability of the majority in caring about public good. Socrates also challenges the audience to uphold personal moral codes despite the state of unfairness they may find themselves at different points of their lives. Unjust deeds are not justifiable in any way.


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