Write a 2500-word critical position essay on one of the topics given below. Your

Write a 2500-word critical position essay on one of the topics given below. Your assignment should be double spaced. Make certain that your documentation is complete and that you take every effort to acknowledge intellectual indebtedness.
Base question: Choose a philosopher from one of the two traditions and explain what he takes to be the good life. How does he defend his view? Then, choose a philosopher from the other tradition and explain how he would criticize the first. Give reasons for why you would side with one philosopher over the other.
* Confucius and Budhism
Critical Position Essay:
The Critical Position Essay (Assignment 4)
Again, the Assignment 4 essay builds on the skills developed in the previous ones. Here, you will not only criticize one philosopher, you will take a position on who has the stronger position. In Assignment 3, you needed only compare philosophical positions and arguments. Here, you will criticize, by finding a weakness in a philosopher’s argument. The significance of getting good at critical expositions can be illustrated by reflecting on what happens and what matters in a court of law. Just like a judge, you expect the prosecution and defence lawyers to develop arguments that you will judge for strength and weakness. There are principles and procedures that each lawyer must follow, otherwise their arguments can be rejected outright. In this assignment, you take a position on which philosopher’s view is better or stronger, like a judge would do to prosecution and defence lawyers. Since we are studying some of the greatest thinkers in human history, it would be prudent to treat the differences between these thinkers like the differences between the positions of two very good lawyers; neither position is going to be open to dismissal, out of hand. None of these thinkers, like good lawyers, are going to make obvious blunders. As a judge, then, you need to determine which is the stronger and which the weaker position or argument.
How do you do this? It may help, for those who have difficulty with the idea of an argument and of defending a position, to re-visit the example of the court case. Court cases are decided on the basis of the best argument, at least in principle. Each lawyer’s responsibility is to build the best argument possible and to undermine the arguments of the opponent. Indeed, the very idea of legal proceeding is closely related to the trial of Socrates, as many lawyers who read the Trial and Death recognize. Once you understand that you are to develop an argument, you see why simply expressing an opinion is completely inadequate. If a judge were to pronounce, “I believe the prosecution is right,” without giving a justification, that judge would not last long. She would be declared incompetent. To be considered competent, the judge (and lawyers) must herself argue why she thinks one lawyer’s argument is stronger than the opposing argument. She may conclude that the prosecution’s argument takes the facts better into account, because it tells a more coherent story about how they all fit together, because the defence lawyer may have had to ignore certain pieces of evidence to make her argument. Or perhaps, the judge may side with the defence because her appeal to principle is more compelling. The prosecution may have charged you with first degree murder, in which case he would have had to demonstrate that you intended to kill the victim. All the evidence suggests that you in fact killed the victim, but there is only weak evidence that you did it intentionally. So, the judge would be justified in concluding that you were innocent of the crime, as charged.
Similarly, after expositing each philosopher’s arguments or positions on a topic, you could argue for one over the other on the grounds that one takes better account of the facts (e.g., has a better accurate of human nature). You could also argue that one philosopher makes a mistake or commits an error in logic (e.g., contradicts himself). To illustrate the first sort of criticism, if you continue on in philosophy, you will encounter two very different thinkers—Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hobbes argues that man’s life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. He enters into relationships (compacts or contracts) with others to protect himself and his property from harm. Rousseau believes that humans have a natural sympathy for one another, because they are inherently good, and can enter into a social contract as much for the positive values (e.g., the virtues, such as honour and courage) that are made possible, as for protection. Hobbes argues that in return for protection each member of society forfeits his/her freedom and autonomy. The monarch (or leviathan) rules absolutely. Rousseau, in contrast argues that there was a stage when humans lived in the prime of civilization, freely exercising their intelligence to the benefit of all. It is only later when mistrust and jealousies emerged, for example, that civilization declined into Hobbes’ state. Where Hobbes argues for complete subservience of citizens to the state, Rousseau argues to some extent at least for a return to a former golden age of man where citizens are optimally free from a ruler. Who has the better argument?
The essay for the final assignment should be constructed by first gathering information (like evidence) on what a philosopher is saying about an issue. You gather evidence about what a philosopher thinks by referring to the text (as you did in Assignments 1 and 2). The text is like the body of evidence a lawyer uses. You then need to put this evidence together into an explanation of how the philosopher arrives at his conclusions. You are also going to criticize one of the philosophers you exposit, so you need to construct the explanation in a way that is relevant to your criticism. You do not explain everything the philosopher has to say, but need to identify what is central and supportive of his position on a specific topic. Part of the skill in writing the explanation or exposition, then, is in picking out sections of the text that are relevant to your essay topic. Further, since you are comparing two philosophers who do not agree entirely with one another, you already have the beginning of a criticism. You do not have to come up with a criticism alone. You can choose one philosopher as your fellow critic to find a weakness in another philosopher’s position or argument.
For instance, after describing the positions of, say Socrates and Confucius, you will see that both of them believe that citizens must obey the state. But by comparing their reasons for their position, you will also come to see differences in what they think our responsibility to the state is. Socrates believes that we must act as gadflies, continually stinging the state with criticism and evaluating it and its members’ beliefs, claims and actions. Confucius, in contrast, believes that we must obey the state, as we are to obey our parents in acts of filial piety. It appears that there is no room or tolerance for critically challenging the state in Confucius. Now, you can begin to answer the question, “Who has the stronger position?” You can begin answering this question in the same way as is illustrated throughout the Study Guide, by identifying questionable assumptions the philosopher you wish to criticize makes or finding a flaw in reasoning.
You can find clues concerning where to look for criticisms by examining the arguments of the other philosopher you choose to examine. If you choose to criticize Confucius, you can use Socrates’ arguments, for instance, to argue that having gadflies in society is vital to the strength and well-being of the state, since they help ensure that the state constantly corrects its mistakes. If the state’s mistakes are not corrected, the state could fall into ruin. At this point, you should add something from your own thought, such as an analogy. You could say, for instance, that ignoring the fact that the state is operating on the basis of an error would be like a mechanic ignoring a problem (e.g., faulty brakes) with a customer’s vehicle. If the mechanic is responsible for making a customer’s vehicle safe by pointing out problems with her vehicle, then the citizen is responsible for pointing out problems with how the state is operating.
Alternatively, you can choose to criticize Socrates using Confucius’s views. You could utilize passages where he focuses on the idea of order and how having an orderly society is crucial for everyone’s benefit. You could argue with Confucius that criticism of the state, especially the way Socrates criticizes, would undermine the stability of the state, by making it uncertain of itself and dividing its members against one another. Socratic criticism undermines the order of the state and should not, therefore, be allowed.
So, here you have two examples of how Assignment 4 can be written. You need develop a more detailed account of their positions, of course, but this skeleton of an essay should help you identify what you need to do in the essay and how to structure it.
To make your essay stronger, you can go one step further. If you realize that the philosopher you are criticizing can reply to the other in defence of his position, you are demonstrating greater competence. Like the prosecution lawyer who presents an argument, anticipating what the defence lawyer will argue in response, you should recognize that the philosopher you criticize could very well have a reply ready for you. But, then, like a good defence lawyer who anticipates the prosecution’s reply, you can explain why the philosopher’s reply is not sufficiently strong to change your mind. For instance, say you choose to criticize Socrates, using Confucius’ argument that being a gadfly undermines the order of the state. If you realize that Socrates could come back with a reply and respond to it, you demonstrate greater depth of understanding. You could for instance, anticipate Socrates replying that the state must serve the Good, so that if it constantly falls into error and thereby fails to serve the Good, it would be better for it to de-stabilize. His reply drives the issue deeper. Now, if you can show how Confucius or you can respond in turn, you have taken the discussion yet another level deeper. Say for instance, you see that Confucius could reply in turn by saying that we should never undermine the stability of the state, even if it makes mistakes, because we owe our existence and security to it. Undermine the order of the state and we undermine our own existence. This response would be a pretty powerful reply on your part. It would be even more powerful if you then draw on Socrates’ own statements to that effect, when he explained to his friends why he owed his existence to the state. This back and forth process of explaining how each philosopher could criticize the other could end here and it would make an excellent essay.

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