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What is philosophy? Can you explain, in your own words, one or more of the definitions of philosophy included in this module?

PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy

Module 1 Discussion

If you can answer most of these questions for yourself by the end of this Module, you will be in really good shape as far as comprehending the material.

1. What is philosophy? Can you explain, in your own words, one or more of the definitions of philosophy included in this module? Do you find these definitions clear? Why or why not? What do you find most interesting and/or provocative about philosophy as we have defined it so far?


2. Define these important vocabulary terms from Kant in your own words and/or using Kant’s text: enlightenment, immaturity, guardians (including an example), public use of reason, private use of reason. Some questions to think about here: Who are examples of guardians today, and how would the public/private distinction apply to those examples?


3. What implications does Kant’s view of enlightenment have for how philosophy would be defined in general? (Compare to question 1 above.)


4. Can you think of an objection to or critique of Kant’s definition of enlightenment in the opening paragraphs of his essay? Do you find anything false or questionable or one-sided in his view?


5. Can you explain Russell’s argument that philosophy has value? What elements of his argument are relevant, or how does he prove this conclusion? Do you find his argument convincing? Why or why not?


6. Can you provide an objection to or critique of some aspect of Russell’s view? For example, concerning his definition of science (as opposed to philosophy), to his idea of “seeing as God might see,” or to his conception of the freedom from anxiety that philosophy produces? Do you find anything false or questionable in his view?




PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy


Module 2 Discussion




1. Diotima suggests that Socrates was wrong to say that love means “being loved, rather than being a lover” (487; 204c). What does she mean by this? What does it mean that love means “being loved”?


2. What does Diotima mean when she says that lovers “want the good to be theirs forever” (489; 206a)? What does this claim have to do with metaphysics?


3. Diotima says “all of us are pregnant, Socrates, both in body and in soul” (489; 206c). Can you explain the figurative meaning of this idea? What would be an example of being pregnant in soul?


4. Diotima proposes to initiate Socrates into “these rites of love” (492-494). This passage is referred to as Plato’s Ladder of Love. Can you give an example of one of the steps of this process, along this metaphorical Ladder? Can you explain how the process ends (“Try to pay attention to me…as best you can. You see, the man who has been thus far guided in matters of Love, who has beheld beautiful things in the right order and correctly, is coming now to the goal of Loving,” 493; 210e).




1. At the very outset of the Allegory of the Cave, Socrates states that he will discuss “the effect of education and of the lack of it” (1132; 514a). In what sense, then, is the Allegory essentially about education?


2. Pick one or more of the following elements of the Allegory: The cave, the prisoners, the shadows, the puppets, the escaped prisoner, the ascent to the sunlight, the objects above in the world, the sun, the prisoner finding himself initially blinded by the sun, and the escaped prisoner’s return to the cave where the other prisoners scorn him. Explain the metaphorical meaning behind these parts of the story for Plato’s metaphysical philosophy.


3. After the Allegory, Socrates refers to “the song that dialectic sings” (1147; 532a). What does Plato mean by “dialectic”? And how is this theme connected to the Symposium’s Ladder of Love?


4. What does it mean to say that Plato believes in a “two-world metaphysics”? Does two-world metaphysics seem plausible or convincing to you? Why or why not? Do people today believe in the existence of two worlds?




PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy


Module 3 Discussion


Please post in this mandatory discussion thread on Module 3 by Wednesday, July 28. (Please note the earlier due date; this is because an Exam is due at the end of the week.) You may respond to any or multiple of my questions below, raise a question/comment of your own, and/or respond to a contribution by your classmate. Your response to this thread absolutely does NOT need to answer all of my questions!


Remember to post a contribution of at least 200 words.


If you can answer most of these questions for yourself by the end of this Module, you will be in really good shape as far as comprehending the material.


Questions on Plato’s Phaedrus:


1. Plato says, “To describe what the soul actually is would require a very long account, altogether a god in every way; but to say what it is like is humanly possible and takes less time” (524; 246a). What difference is Plato pointing to between an account a god could give and what is “humanly possible”?


2. Re-read the so-called Allegory or Metaphor of the Chariot (see pp. 524, 530-531). Outline the three elements of this tripartite (three-part) conception of the human soul, and give an interpretation of what these elements metaphorically represent or symbolize.


3. The two horses in the Allegory/Metaphor are hierarchically organized, that is, one is better than the other (see pp. 527, 532). Which horse is the better part of our nature, for Plato, and why?


4. See Plato’s “spectacular vision” on pp. 527-528, and describe what the meaning of this beautiful image is supposed to be.




PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy


Module 4 Discussion


Questions on Augustine:


1. What is the underlying connection or continuity between Plato’s metaphysics as we looked at it in the Symposium (the Form of the Beautiful at the end of the “Ladder of Love”) and the Republic (Theory of Forms) and the Christian metaphysics we find in St. Augustine? The difference between our world and another world could be best summed up in the long paragraph under number 28 on p. 232, and is the most important connection here.


2. What is the basic (two-premise + conclusion) argument of the long passage from pp. 211-212  that begins with “But what I love when I love my God…”? Reconstructing this argument is an important thing to take away from this week’s reading.


3. What does Augustine think is the main distinction or difference between human beings and animals, as this distinction relates to our access to and understanding of God? See p. 213: “The animals, both great and small, are aware of it [the universe], but they cannot inquire into its meaning because they are not guided by reason”; and p. 230: “When I remind myself of you [God] I go beyond those functions of the memory which I share with the beasts…”


4. Why does Augustine suggest that it is memory, alone among all the functions and capacities of the soul and mind, that allow us access to God? See pp. 230-231. Answering this question might require thinking outside the text a bit and thinking about what would motivate this argument, in other words, what is it about memory that is a compelling tool to get us toward God.


5. Do you find Augustine’s version of Christian faith (a God in another world, totally separate from us) recognizable as a form of religious belief? Is this a persuasive or convincing way to think about God? Why or why not? Think here of developing an objection to or critique of Augustine on God.


Questions on Nietzsche:


1. Nietzsche, we could say, even though he represents an atheistic point of view, agrees with Plato and Augustine in the basic characterization of a two-world metaphysics. In what way does Nietzsche follow their characterization of this form of thought? How does he also represent a critique of two-world metaphysics?


2. Explain the metaphorical meaning of the three main symbols in section 1 (pp. 121-122) of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, especially as these symbols relate to metaphysics, Plato, and Christianity: The cave, going under, and the sun.


3. Zarathustra encounters an “old saint” in section 2 (pp. 124). What point of view does the old saint represent, and how does Zarathustra depart from or dispute that point of view? And, most importantly, what does Zarathustra mean when he says, with reference to his conversation with the old saint, “God is dead!” (p. 124)?


4. What does the “overman” (see pp. 125 and 132 especially) represent (Übermensch, also translated as “superman”)? What way of life does this figure signal and try to teach us about today? How would the overman’s point of view represent a difference from Platonism and Christianity? Why can we call the point of view of the overman, his adherence to “the meaning of the earth” (p. 125), something like what is sometimes referred to as existentialism?


5. Do you agree with Nietzsche’s basic characterization of Christianity as implying hatred of life (old saint)? Why or why not?


6. Compare Plato’s account of the soul with Nietzsche’s: “By my honor friend…all that of which you speak does not exist: there is no devil and no hell. Your soul will be dead even before your body; fear nothing further” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 132). As a departure from Plato’s understanding of the soul, do you find this passage convincing? Why or why not?








PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy


Module 5 Discussion


Remember to post a contribution of at least 200 words.


If you can answer most of these questions for yourself by the end of this Module, you will be in really good shape as far as comprehending the material.


Questions about Martin Luther King:


1. What is King’s definition of justice, in your own words? See p. 3 especially. What imperative or demand does this definition of justice imply? What actions would have to be undertaken to create and live by this definition of justice?


2. Explain (some of) King’s argument on behalf of nonviolent direct protest and action. I think there are at least four elements that I discuss in the video lecture and that can be found in the reading in support of nonviolent direct action.


3. How, exactly, does King distinguish between just and unjust laws? Offer his definitions of these categories of laws. What is the connection, furthermore, between his definition of a just law and authors we have looked at in our class like Plato and Augustine?


4. What is the definition of civil disobedience? See p. 7. Can you think of any criticisms of or possible shortcomings in civil disobedience, either conceptually or as a practical political tactic?


5. Why does King claim moral means have to be the only way toward moral ends? See p. 13. Provide an example of moral means for moral ends; or immoral means for moral ends; or moral means for immoral ends; or immoral means for immoral ends. (That’s a mouthful!)


6. Finally, since this is our last module, do you have any concluding questions or comments about the course as a whole? Anything leftover from earlier modules?


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