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Morality Essay

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.

Skills: Research Writing

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