ENG 105: Paper #2, Classical Argument


Directions: Choose one of the following topics for your classical argument. It should be 3-5 pages long and is due Wednesday, 9/22.

Topic related to Plato:

1) Can virtue be taught? Protagoras says it can be (and that he can teach it -- for a price) while Socrates seems to believe that it cannot be. Identify Socrates' reasons for believing that it cannot be taught and examine them critically. When Socrates says "the existence of a state implies that virtue is not any man's private possession," is he arguing that virtue can only be embodied in an institution that is larger than the individual? Does this argument undermine the importance of teaching? Of philosophy? You will need to use quotations from the Protagoras dialogue to argue on this topic.

Topics related to Wilde's "The Decay of Lying":

2) Does life imitate art? Should television and movie violence be curbed to prevent an increase in imitative crimes?

3) Does Wilde's character Vivian have a good point to make in arguing that life imitates art? Should certain forms of advertizing ("art" in the more extended sense of the term) be severely restricted by the government? For example, should the government ban the advertizing of substances or services it considers harmful?


Choose your own topic:

4) Pick an issue that is likely to engender some controversy but one which is not of such a specialized nature that the other students in Eng 105 cannot be expected to have opinions. Choose an issue about which reasonable people might disagree rather than an issue likely to garner headlines but about which reasonable people do not disagree. For example, whether or not terminally ill cancer patients should be allowed to take their own lives is an issue worth arguing. Whether or not all people with IQ's below 130 should be killed by the state is not an issue about which reasonable people will likely argue. In other words, do not choose an issue if you feel that you can imagine few plausible arguments against the position you are taking. Arguing, in other words, in favor of keeping people alive even if their IQ's fall below 130 is not likely to interest an audience because the position against which you are arguing is not likely to be seen in a serious light.

When you have chosen a topic, construct an argument in favor of your position but build it around the systematic refutation of the best arguments against your position (Ed Koch's argument for the death penalty provides a good example of this method of arguing).

Return to ENG 105 Syllabus