Essay instructions for Philosophy 220

Darwin's Dangerous Idea  

Essay Topic 2010

Most philosophical essays require both exposition of a topic (a thesis, problem, argument, theory, etc.) and critical examination of the topic. The exposition should be expressed in your own words, with quotations kept to a minimum and adequate reference to any material quoted or paraphrased. The critical examination need not display originality, but it must show understanding of the topic, and it must be carefully organized and argued, and leave no doubt as to the reasons for your position — even if this amounts to uncertainty or bewilderment.  The following points must be observed:
(1)  Computer file. You essay must be produced as a computer file and submitted to the anti-plagiarism site, Detailed instruction about how to do this will be made available shortly.
(2)  Quotations.  These should not be plentiful, and must be clearly delimited and absolutely accurate, with adequate reference given to sources. (As a rule, you should quote only when the exact wording is important, or when you wish to engage in substantial critical examination of the passage.)  You are required exactly to follow the reference style given here.
Books: Author, underlined title (city: publisher, year), pages.  
Leslie Patterson, The Concept of Distinterestedness in Aesthetics  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 201-238.
Articles: Author, title (in double quotation marks), underlined name of journal, volume number, year of publication (or name of book and editor), pages.
Edna Everage, “Disinterestedness,” British Journal of Aesthetics, vol. 83 (1956), pp. 71-86.
Madge Allsop, “Psychical Distance,” in Interest and Disinterest in Aesthetic Perception, ed. Norman Everage (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 27-56.
If you make repeated references to the same source, find an easy way to handle it, such as by simply putting page numbers in parentheses after quotations, i.e.,  (Allsop, p. 59).
(3)  Spelling.   One or two misspellings will be overlooked.  More than two will lower your mark. Spelling mistakes are symptomatic of carelessness in preparation.  Be especially cautious about the its/it’s distinction and the difference between criterion and criteria.  In most plurals apostrophes are spelling errors. 
(4)  Plagiarism.  An essay containing quotation that does not appear as such, or consisting of unacknowledged paraphrase, will be flunked. The same goes for an essay prepared by a “typing” or “editorial” service that actually writes for you.
(5)  Style.  You will be marked in part on how well you argue the claims made in your essay (how you choose and use evidence, consider counter-arguments, etc.), but also on how well or badly you write.  (“Crikey, this isn’t an English course!”  No, it isn’t.  It’s a course in thinking, and writing is thinking.)

Critically discuss the distinction between natural selection and sexual selection. As part of your discussion, relate natural and sexual selection to "artificial selection," or what may be called domestication. One issue you may wish to tackle is whether sexual selection is, as Dawkins seems to claim, best understood as as a kind of natual selection. Or whether, as Darwin seemed to think, it is a distinctly different process from that of natural selection.

You my stick with examples from the non-human animal kingdom, or you may venture into the possible effects of sexual selection on the evolution of the human body or of human nature the human personality.


Due: Friday, October 15, 2010. (New date flexibility will be discussed in lecture.)

Length: 1000 - 1500 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. (New length.)