PHILOS Aristotle Doctrine of The Mean Essay
First Paper Topics
Write an essay of no more than 1350 words (typed, double-spaced, twelve-point font) on one of the following topics. (The word limit should be taken seriously: a clear, coherent, complete paper shorter than 1350 words is perfectly acceptable: any words beyond the limit may not be read.)
1. Explain Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. Using your own life as a test case, explain how and to what extent this doctrine either provides or does not provide guidance when deciding what you ought to do. Compare this level of guidance with either Kant or Mill.
2. Aristotle maintains that we should not expect too much precision from a theory of ethics. Why does he think this? Would Kant agree? Why or why not?
3. Would Kant accept Aristotle’s function argument? Why or why not?
4. According to Kant, “a good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes, because of its fitness to attain some proposed end, but only because of its volition, that is, it is good in itself” (4: 394). Explain why Kant says this and how Mill would respond to this claim.
5. According to Mill, when Kant “begins to deduce from [the formula of universal law] any of the actual duties of morality, he fails, almost grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction, any logical (not to say physical) impossibility, in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct. All he shows is that the consequences of their universal adoption would be such as no one would choose to incur” (p. 154). Explain what grounds Mill has for making this criticism and assess whether it hits home against Kant.