Length: 600-700 words Format: Double-spaced, 12-point font, standard margins (a

600-700 words
Double-spaced, 12-point font, standard margins (approx.1”)
You do not need to have a title page
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This first assignment asks you to explicate an argument from a text. The foremost virtue of such a paper is clarity. The task is to explain to an intelligent reader who has not necessarily read the passage in question exactly what the author of the argument wishes to show and how he or she thinks this is to be done. Explain all terms that need explaining, don’t take it for granted that the reader can see the connections you think you see. Make the structure and the content of the argument explicit.
You can, if you wish, make a criticism of the argument although a paper that only explains the argument and its role in the author’s view clearly is perfectly acceptable. But if you do advance a criticism, don‘t just say you don’t like something. Only criticisms that help clarify the argument or parts of are acceptable: a structural problem with the argument, an unclear premise, a conclusion that is not what the author thinks it is, etc.
In philosophy papers one generally does not need much of an introduction. You need to state what the purpose of your paper is and what it’s main conclusion is going to be. But this can be done in a single sentence, not a lengthy discursive paragraph.
You are being asked to think through some issues by yourself. It is, therefore, both unnecessary and usually not advisable to look at outside sources. The readings that we provide plus the material in lectures and tutorials should be more than enough.
“Writing A Philosophy Paper. docx”
The paper topic
Read the passage from the Phaedo very carefuly (and repeatedly!) Then explain what is the main argument in the passage and how the conclusion of the argument figures in the broader context of what Plato’s views. (Hint: Equality is just an example of a form in the dialogue, much like Square is the example in the Meno)
The passage has been shortened for the purposes of the assignment. You can find the complete dialogue in many places, but the translation and nicely formatted version used in the assignment can be found here: “06. phaedo.pdf”
I look at it in this way, said Socrates. We are agreed, I suppose, that if a person is to be
reminded of anything, he must first know it at some time or other?
Quite so.
– Are we also agreed in calling it recollection when knowledge comes in a particular way? I
will explain what I mean. Suppose that a person on seeing or hearing or otherwise noticing one
thing not only becomes conscious of that thing but also thinks of a something else which is an
object of a different sort of knowledge. Are we not justified in saying that he was reminded of
the object which he thought of?
What do you mean?
Let me give you an example. A human being and a musical instrument, I suppose you will
agree, are different objects of knowledge.
Yes, certainly.
Well, you know what happens to lovers when they see a musical instrument or a piece of
clothing or any other private property of the person whom they love. When they recognize the
thing, their minds conjure up a picture of its owner. That is recollectian. In the same way the
sight of Simmias often reminds one of Cebes, and of course there are thousands of other
Yes, of course there are, said Simmias.
So by recollection we mean the sort of experience which I have just described, especially
when it happens with reference to things which we had not seen for such a long time that we
had forgotten them.
Here is a further step, said Socrates. We admit, I suppose, that there is such a thing as
equality—not the equality of stick to stick and stone to stone, and so on, but something beyond
all that and distinct from it—absolute equality. Are we to admit this or not?
Yes indeed, said Simmias, most emphatically.
And do we know what it is?
Where did we get our knowledge? Was it not from the particular examples that we
mentioned just now? Was it not from seeing equal sticks or stones or other equal objects that
we got the notion of equality,
Well, now, he said, what do we find in the case of the equal sticks and other things of
which we were speaking just now? Do they seem to us to be equal in the sense of absolute
equality, or do they fall short of it in so far as they only approximate to equality? Or don’t they
fall short at all?
They do, said Simmias, a long way.
Suppose that when you see something you say to yourself, This thing which I can see has a
tendency to be like something else, but it falls short and cannot be really like it, only a poor
imitation. Don’t you agree with me that anyone who receives that impression must in fact have
previous knowledge of that thing which he says that the other resembles, but inadequately?
Certainly he must.
Very well, then, is that our position with regard to equal things and absolute equality?
Then we must have had some previous knowledge of equality before the time when we
first saw equal things and realized that they were striving after equality, but fell short of it.
That is so.
And at the same time we are agreed also upon this point, that we have not and could not
have acquired this notion of equality except by sight or touch or one of the other senses. I am
treating them as being all the same.
They are the same, Socrates, for the purpose of our argument.
So it must be through the senses that we obtained the notion that all sensible equals are
striving after absolute equality but falling short of it. Is that correct?
Yes, it is.
So before we began to see and hear and use our other senses we must somewhere have
acquired the knowledge that there is such a thing as absolute equality. Otherwise we could
never have realized, by using it as a standard for comparison, that all equal objects of
sense are desirous of being like it, but are only imperfect copies.
That is the logical conclusion, Socrates.
Did we not begin to see and hear and possess our other senses from the moment of birth?
But we admitted that we must have obtained our knowledge of equality before we obtained
So we must have obtained it before birth.

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