Morality Essay

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Project Description

Please write three or four pages (1000 - 1200 words) answering the following questions about the
relation between morality and self-interest:
What, according to Hobbes, makes his Fool a fool? What, according to Hume, makes his sensible
knave both sensible and a knave? Does either Hobbes or Hume, in your opinion, provide a
convincing argument that injustice is not in the interest of the unjust? What argument do you
have for your opinion, and how would you respond to one strong objection that somebody might
raise to your argument?
You should structure your essay as follows:
(1) Begin with a very short introductory paragraph that explains why someone might care about
the topic you are about to write on.
(2) At the end of this introductory paragraph, you must include a thesis sentence: a sentence that
states whether either Hobbes or Hume provides a convincing argument that injustice is not in
the interest of the unjust.
a. Examples of good thesis sentences: “I will argue that neither Hobbes nor Hume
provides a convincing argument on this issue”; “I will argue that Hobbes, and not
Hume, provides a sound argument for the conclusion that injustice is not in a person’s
own self-interest.”
b. Examples of bad thesis sentences: “I will argue that Hobbes and Hume both have
interesting things to say about why we should be just”; “I will show that Hobbes and
Hume disagree about why one should be just.”
(3) Explain in some detail both Hobbes’s argument against the fool and Hume’s argument against
the sensible knave. Then give your assessment of whether Hobbes or Hume offers a sound
argument, and an argument for your conclusion. This task should take you about two pages to
(4) When you consider an objection to your argument, it might help to imagine the following:
a. If you are defending Hobbes’s argument, consider how the Fool might object or
consider how Hume might object.
b. If you are defending Hume’s argument, consider how Hobbes or the sensible knave
might object.
c. If you argue against both Hobbes’s and Hume’s conclusion, consider how Hobbes or
Hume might object to you.
(5) When you respond to whatever objection you are considering, do not simply repeat your initial
argument. Either try to explain in a new way why the objection is mistaken, or consider
whether there is some truth in the objection that calls for amending your initial argument
This is not a research paper, but a test of your ability to articulate and explain some arguments we have
been looking at in class. It is neither expected nor particularly recommended that you look at any
outside sources for help. (If, however, you would like to read something about these arguments, feel free
to ask me for advice about what to look at.)
In any case, anything (this includes, of course, anything found on the internet) you look at other than
the assigned class reading must be listed in an attached bibliography. You must do this even if you
believe that you did not learn anything from a particular source. If you do make use of an idea that you
find by reading something, or by talking to someone, you must acknowledge this in a footnote. There is
nothing at all wrong with getting help from others in any of these ways, but failure to acknowledge that
you have done so is plagiarism and will be treated as such.

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