Prompt: Below are a series of prompts which summarize some of the important philosophical positions and concepts we have been discussing over the course of this unit. Your task is to fill out one of these summaries as if you were trying to explain them to an “intelligent outsider,” i.e., someone (like your roommate or parent) who has not been attending our lectures or reading our assignments. I will evaluate your responses based on (i) how well you display your understanding of the arguments and (ii) concepts at issue. Don’t take anything for granted or assume I’ll just know what you mean: Spell it out! Do, however, use (iii) the text to support your interpretations at every turn. Convince your audience that you’ve got the author’s position right. But only use direct quotes when the exact wording the author uses is crucial; otherwise use paraphrasing whenever possible. Make sure to use (iv) (Author, Page #) citations. You do not need to include my lectures outlines or the text in your work cited page. Don’t (v) use any sources except online encyclopedias (e.g., IEP, SEP, and wiki), but do include the specific entries in your work cited page. Be extremely careful not to plagiarize, because I will fail you for the course. And be careful not to rely too heavily on outside sources, if at all. If I can’t tell you understand what you are talking about because of that kind of reliance, I won’t give you credit. Make (vi) sure to stay focused on the points I’ve highlighted in the prompt, especially those marked out be a letter in parentheses. You have a limited amount of space, so you’ll have to (vii) be judicious in choosing what points to emphasize and (viii) careful not waste space on tangentially related arguments or concepts. Use a standard 12pt font, double spaced. Keep your essay (ix) between 1200 and 1500 words (not including the works cited page). Do not go over! Plato’s theory of the forms is an attempt to address (a) “the problem of one over many” by positing the existence of (b) uninstantiated universals (236). There are a variety of reasons philosophers have thought universals can d do have a transcendent existence, but one of the more common ones, which Armstrong refers to as (c) “the argument from the meaning of general terms”, is semantic in nature (237). Simply put, it is claimed that their existence is pointed to by the way we use language—predicates in particular—and is required in order for certain predicates (especially those referring to imaginary or fictional things) to have genuine meaning. If correct, we could know what universals there are simply (d) on a priori grounds (241). D. M. Armstrong ultimately rejects this argument, contending that it does not successfully undermine (e) “the principle of instantiation” (234). He points out, like Quine before him, that it commits the “Fido fallacy” by conflating naming and meaning (237/184). He does not, however, deny the existence of universals at all. Instead, Armstrong posits (f) instantiated or “immanent” universals, which we can discover on a posteriori grounds. The result is broadly Aristotelian ontology where (g) “states of affairs” (i.e. concrete particulars) are the fundamental kinds of beings or things that exist. According to Armstrong, they must exist over and above their constituents, if what he calls the (h) “the truth-maker principle” is true (243).
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