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Lecturer's expectations

Graham Oppy, Lecturer

In this section, your lecturer - Graham Oppy - sets out what he expects from student assignments on this topic.

Essay topic:

What is the argument of Aquinas' fifth way? Is this argument valid? Is it sound? Is it persuasive?

What's required?

This topic requires students to engage closely with a single philosophical argument - Thomas Aquinas' 'fifth way'. The 'fifth way' is part of a longer argument - The Five Ways - which seeks to establish the existence of God.

Students writing this essay would first need to carefully summarise the argument structure of 'the fifth way'. They would then need to evaluate the argument according to the three criteria given:

  • its validity - i.e. Does the argument's conclusions follow on from its premises?
  • its soundness - i.e. Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?
  • its persuasiveness - i.e. Is the argument sound? Does it suffer from some other defect?

How to go about writing the essay

  1. Think generally about the issue, e.g. Does God exist? What sort of evidence would you need to be convinced of God's existence? etc
  2. Carefully read Aquinas' fifth way. Also read briefly Aquinas' full text - i.e. The Five Ways to understand the context of the specific argument of the fifth way.
  3. Summarise in your own words the argument of the fifth way - aim to identify its premises and its conclusions.
  4. Think about Aquinas' argument in relation to the criteria mentioned, i.e. i) validity, ii) soundness, iii) persuasiveness. Think about lecture and tutorial discussions about Aquinas' arguments. Decide whether the argument is acceptable in terms of any of these criteria. Decide what your position is going to be. For example, you may wish to argue 'that whilst Aquinas' argument may be valid, it is not sound', etc.
  5. Try to plan out the structure of your essay as a sequence of paragraphs.
  6. When you have done enough reading, planning, and argument formulation, begin drafting the essay. Repeat any of Stages 1-5, as necessary.
  7. When you have completed your draft, leave it for a day or two - then reread and edit it.

General essay marking criteria

1 2 3 4 5
  • legibility and layout
  • spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • bibliography and citation
  • comprehension and exposition
  • clarity
  • logical development
  • originality
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