Discipline: Philosophy

Type of Paper: Creative writing

Academic Level: Undergrad. (yrs 3-4)

Paper Format: APA

Pages: 2 Words: 600



PHIL 3351: Pre-Socratics Paper

Due by 8pm on Saturday, 9/19

One of the challenges of reading the pre-Socratic philosophers is to reconstruct a coherent picture of their views from a disconnected set of short passages. This paper invites you to take on this challenge using two to four passages from one of the following pre-Socratic philosophers:



Select one of the central concerns each of these thinkers have:

a. the arche or fundamental principle of the universe

b. an explanation of change and diversity

c. the nature and role of the divine

d. ethics or the impact on human welfare

e. Method: reason alone?  Observation? 

Select two to four passages (depending on length) from one of the above pre-Socratics that you think address the central concern you chose.  When you discuss these passages in your paper, be sure to identify them using the numbers given to them in our text. 

Analyze the passages you chose.  What is the main claim the author is making?  Does the author provide an argument to support that claim?  If so, discuss what that argument is and how it works.  If not, try to come up with an argument to explain why the author makes such a claim.  Is there more than one way to interpret the passage?  If so, what are they and which do you think makes it better fit the other passages?

Reconstruct a coherent picture of the philosopher’s view by showing how the passages you chose fit together.  Are there tensions that need explaining?  If so, what might that explanation be?

Summarize the work you’ve done by presenting the picture of the view of the philosopher you chose, based on your analysis and reconstruction of your chosen passages. 

Structure & Formatting:

1. Structure:

A paper of this sort has three basic parts:

Introduction:  where you give the reader an outline of what to expect in the paper.  This is where your thesis statement should be made clear.  Avoid any unnecessary opening statements (e.g. “since the beginning of time…”)

Body:  where you do what you say you will do in the introduction.

Conclusion:  Sum up what you have done in the paper. 

Thesis Statement:  This is a crucial part of your paper, for it outlines what you will argue in the body of your paper.  The thesis unifies all the detailed work you do in the body of the paper in that everything you discuss in your paper should aim, ultimately, at proving your thesis.

Example of an introduction and thesis:  Thales appears to emphasize the natural over the divine when he offers water as the first principle or source of all existence (passages 1 & 2).  Yet in passage 3 he says that all things are full of gods. One might resolve this tension by assuming that water is divine, but only if Thales is offering a different account of what it means for something to be divine, namely that to be divine something is simply alive.  Yet if water is what’s divine, why does Thales use the plural “gods” rather than the singular “god”?  In this paper, I’ll argue that this can be explained by showing that…

2. Formatting:

• Font should be Times New Roman, size 12.

• Paper should be double spaced

• Length:  600-700 words (there are roughly 300 words per page in this format)  Include a word count at the bottom of your paper.

• No need for a bibliography, since you should only use AGRP. 

• When you quote or cite a passage from the text, just reference the passage number:

e.g. “All things are full of gods” (4).