What is the difference between living and being alive?

Essay 1

For this assignment, you will choose one of the three topics below (scroll all

the way down to see the list of topics; they are given after the general

instructions/information and are listed as ‘topic #1, topic #2, topic #3’) and

write an essay of at least 4 pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12

point font; your paper should be written in Standard English and done in MLA


To submit your paper, click on ‘Essay 1.’ You should attach a file that can be

opened with Microsoft Word (doc or docx); do not submit a pdf or type in the

submission box.

The purpose of the essay, regardless of the topic you choose below, is to

analyze a philosophical question. Though there are hundreds (at least!) of

philosophical questions, here are a few examples (Please note! These are

simply examples of philosophical questions, NOT the topics for the essay;

topics are below all of the instructions.):

 Who “owns” human life? For example, does anyone have the right to take

an individual’s life? The state? The individual?

 Does free will really exist? (And, if there is no free will, are people ever

“responsible” for their acts? should we ever punish people?)

 What is the difference between living and being alive?

 How do you know your perceptions are real?

 If God exists, why is there so much evil in the world?

 What is a person? Is it the mind, or the body?

Regardless of the topic you choose, your essay must include the following:

 An original title (hint: ‘Essay 1’ is not an original title; nor is the title of

the article you choose to write on)

 An introduction with a thesis statement; if you need help with writing a

thesis statement, read this advice on developing a thesis. Since the main

idea of your essay is an analysis of a philosophical question, your thesis

should most likely express this specifically (e.g. state the philosophical

question your essay will be analyzing).

Here is some VERY helpful advice on how to write your intro/begin your

essay: https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/beginning-academic-


 A paragraph (most likely the second paragraph of your essay, following

the introduction) that summarizes the article related to the topic you

chose below; your summary should be written such that the reader of


your essay has a general understanding of the article you are

summarizing; give an overview of the main ideas (and argument if there

is one). Read this helpful advice on how to correctly summarize a text.

 A discussion/explanation of a philosophical question that relates to the

article you chose; you must explicitly discuss the philosophical question

your essay is exploring; this means you should state what the question is,

explain the significance of the question [i.e. why is this a question of

concern in philosophy?], and perhaps explain various ways others have

answered this question.

 Research (incorporated through quotation, paraphrase, or both) from at

least 2 scholarly/professional sources not including the article; all

research must be cited according to MLA. Your sources MUST be from

journals found in the DCCCD Library databases; Internet/other

sources will not count. You should begin by searching the databases

that contain philosophy journals/sources. If you need help using the

databases, you can get help in person in the library or online using the

‘Ask a Librarian’ tool. When incorporating sources into your work, they

must be present so as to serve your position/argument/discussion. In

other words, they should not be there just to be there; they should be

incorporated AS part of the discussion/argument, in a meaningful,

substantial way. Because this is a philosophy paper, appropriate

sources are those written by other philosophers and directly related

to philosophy.

 Your own response, including explanation and reasons, to the

philosophical question/problem your paper addresses

 A conclusion

Here is some VERY helpful advice on how to conclude your essay:


 A MLA works cited page (the works cited page is NOT part of the four-

page length requirement)

NB: Many people make the mistake of trying to argue for one side or another in

their essay. For example, if your essay is analyzing the question of whether

humans have free will, your essay should NOT take a position on this question

(this topic has been debated for thousands of years, and in its current form,

unless you are a neuroscientist or physicist, you are most likely not qualified to

tackle this question); rather, your essay should explain WHAT the debate is with

regard to this question, what the various arguments are with regard to this

question. Of course, feel free to share your view, but doing so is not the focus

of your essay. An effective way to do this is not just ‘I support x’ or ‘I don’t

support x’ but something along the lines of ‘the view presented by (whomever,

John Stuart Mill, Kant, Hume, Peter Singer, Ayn Rand, whatever you have


discussed already) is more reasonable/valid/convincing because blah blah

blah.’ This IS a stance, but it shows a thorough, intellectual understanding of a

position, an evaluation of an argument.

Any instance of plagiarism will be punished by a minimum of an F on the

assignment and a report to the associate dean of the humanities division.

Further punishment could include failure in the course, suspension, or


The articles below are all from The New York Times. Non-subscribers are limited

to the number of articles they can read, but the Richland Library has full access

to The New York Times. You can access The New York Times via this DCCCD

Library web page.

Topic #1: “Sam Harris’ Vanishing Self”

This article deals with consciousness, spirituality, and the problem of self-hood.

It could also be connected to how we think of AI (as being selves or persons).



Topic #2: “The Question We Must Keep Asking”

This article deals with issues related to personal identity/what it means to be


Topic #3: “We Are Merging with Robots. That’s a Good Thing.”

This article deals with issues related to personal identity/what it means to be

human in relation to AI.






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