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The Biography

In order to gain a deeper insight into the nature of Philosophy, you are asked to study the life of at least one major philosopher. The goal is to gain an understanding of the historical, social, and relational context of that philosopher’s philosophy. You should focus your attention on the roots and circumstances of that philosopher’s philosophy. This means that you are expected to write a paper detailing, as much as possible, the life and times of that philosopher. Answers to questions such as ‘What are the names of his parents…Where was he born…What did he study in school…Was he ever married…What are the dates and titles of his major works…and What controversies surrounded his philosophy’…are the primary objective of this paper. Papers that attempt to focus primarily on the philosophy of the philosopher will receive lower marks because this assignments objective are not fulfilled. This paper assignment is an attempt to understand some of the historical context in which Philosophy arose.

Assignment: Write a biography on the life of one of these philosophers.
David Hume
Immanuel Kant
John Stuart Mill
Rene Descartes
John Locke
George Berkeley

Extra Credit: This assignment is worth up to 25% extra credit towards the course writing assignment grade. The actual credit awarded depends on the quality of the work submitted.


1) The Brief Biography is an 800 word essay. Most likely it will be longer, say between 900 and 1200 words.
2) Please include your full name on the first page only. (This makes it easier to read and grade online.)

3) Papers require their references to be submitted as part of the paper. Each essay should use at least three sources but no more than five. Books, encyclopedias are all good sources of information for this assignment. Internet sources maybe used but must be properly referenced in the works sited/consulted page. Please consult your librarian. [Internet sources must be cited with author, title, date posted/updated as well as the URL. Internet sources are limited to uploaded books, encyclopedias, and information derived from online university sites.]

4) Papers must be typed and double-spaced. Recommended font: use “Times” with a font size of 12. Do not use all cursive, all italic, or all bold as the general format of the paper.

5) Documentation of sources within the Paper should be accomplished using MLA.

6) Provide a unique introduction for your philosopher. Make it personal, historical, or even dramatic. Just make it unique to the way that you are approaching your philosopher.

7) Any and all of the following may be part of the Brief Biography.
a) Time and Place of birth and death
b) Members of family, upbringing, and family’s social status
c) Education
d) Accomplishments
e) Publications–dates; titles; specific theory discussed in that publication; historical impact; your personal reaction or view to each publication
f) Relation with contemporary philosophers or members of the intellectual community of his time
g) The historical impact of that philosopher’s work on the field of philosophy or society

All papers should be submitted electronically through Angel. No printed copy is be submitted to the instructor. There is a specific assigned drop box on Angel for this assignment.

To begin with, each essay will be assumed to be an “A” paper. The Gordon Rule Rubric will then be used and the content of the paper will be evaluated.

1. Missing a distinguished introduction that sets tone, pace, and thesis –> -10
2. Providing less than three references à -5% per incident
3. Failing to provide a list of references –> -15%
4. Paragraphs not properly marked off with indentation or spaceà essay not graded
5. Number of words less than 800 à final grade reduced proportionately
6. Single spaced papers à -10%
7. Papers that use all capital letters, italics, or bold à -10%
8. Paper coherence –Papers must be legible. This evaluation is based on the view that if an average college educated reader cannot understand your paper then it is to be judged as incoherent. Papers will be penalized if they are difficult to read (for whatever reason). (-5% to -100%)
9. All papers are submitted through Blackboard. And then Blackboard, will submit to This site will determine if your paper is a copy of a previous student’s paper from anywhere in the world, or if his or her paper has been posted on any online site. It will also determine if your paper has been copied in part or in full from online encyclopedia sites. In addition, many Philosophy books are already online.
10. Papers must have an Originality Report of 20% or less. This means that you are permitted to have only 20% quotes in your paper. In a 800 word essay, this means that it should only contain 160 words of quotes. If you want to use more quotations, then write a longer paper.

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