NOTE: YOU MAY ALSO USE JOHN CALVIN’S INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION for this paper. I neglected to include it in the list.



The History of Western Civilization I

Fall 2011


Paper #2

Due:  November 22, 2011



Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established that the soul can do without everything except the word of God, without which none at all of its wants are provided for. But, having the word, it is rich and wants for nothing, since that is the word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good thing.


--Martin Luther, "On Christian Freedom".



Assignment: Write a critical essay of between 1200 and 1500 words (4-5 pages) on the following question:



All of the authors you have read for this course make certain assumptions about the nature of “truth” and how human beings can know (or not know) the meaning of “truth”.  Write an essay that compares and contrasts how two (2) of the authors you have read this semester define the philosophical, religious, and/or cultural meaning of truth.  Questions you should consider:


Š         Do they believe that an absolute truth really exists, or do they think that truth is contingent upon historical and cultural contexts as well as individual subjectivity? In other words, is truth based on context? 


Š         Do they hold that truth is something that the individual can actually know and be certain of, or are there limits to a human being’s knowledge of truth?  


Š         What methods do these authors use to gain knowledge of the truth (e.g. Socrates or Abelard)?


Š         What is the value of "truth" that has made it such a topic of philosophical, historical, and theological debate?


Š         In your view, which author provides the more perceptive definition of truth and the more effective method to attain it?  Which one comes closer to your own understanding of truth? [WE DEFINITELY WANT YOU TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION IN THE FINAL PARAGRAPH.]


In addition to offering a clearly stated thesis in the introduction, your essay should draw directly on evidence – in the form quotations – from the texts you write on.  Moreover, your analysis should be rooted in the historical and cultural context in which the authors you focus on wrote.  That is, be sure to demonstrate how each author was shaped, at least in part, by their historical context and culture. That is, root your analysis in the historical and cultural context.


You can (and must) use two (2) of the following texts (with some exceptions – see restrictions in the list of texts). You may use more than two, but do not need to, and might be better off sticking to two).  If you would like to use a different text by one of these authors, you must first clear it with your teaching assistant or Professor Hunziker. For example, perhaps you’ve read other works by Aristotle in another class. Fine, but clear them with us first.


Note: some of these texts were not discussed in recitation, but were in your course reader and were supposed to have been read. PLEASE NOT THE DIFFERENT COMBINATIONS OF TEXTS YOU MAY USE.


1) Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

2) Plato, “Apology” or “The Republic”

3) Aristotle, Ethics

4) Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus”

5) Polybius, The Histories

6) St. Augustine, City of God

7) Pope Gelasius I, Letter to Emperor Anastasius Dictatus Papae; Gregory VII, First Deposition and Banning of Henry IV; Gregory VII, Decrees Forbidding Lay Investiture; Gregory VII, Letter to Bishop Hermann of Metz (may use Gelasius and Gregory, but they represent one perspective).

8) Henry IV, Letter to Gregory VI and/or Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace (may use both, but they represent one perspective)

9) Peter Abelard (selected writings; you may also use Bernard of Clairvaux in addition to Abelard, but not as a second text. He might work well, for example) OR Thomas Acquinas, Summar Theologica.

10) Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man (You may use Innocent III, On the Misery of Man, but not as a second text.)

11) Boccaccio, Introduction to Decameron

12) Nicolė Machiavelli, The Prince

13) Martin Luther, “On the Freedom of a Christian” OR “The Jews and Their Lies”


15) Pope Leo X, Papal Bull, 1820

16) Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Just War Against the Barbarians OR Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies (not both)

17) Galileo, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany” OR Francis Bacon, Selections from Novum Organum OR René Descartes, Selections from Discourse on Method (only one of these three texts)


There are many ways to go about writing this essay, but here are some general guidelines you should adhere to (read carefully):











Format, Organization, and Style:  We are sticklers for proper format!  Your paper must be typed, double-spaced, and use a 12-point Times or Times New Roman font.  Only black ink should be used.  Papers submitted in any other color will not be accepted.  If your printer is low on black ink, buy some more, as points will be deducted if the print is streaked, unclear, or too light.  Your paper should have 1-inch margins on the top and bottom and 1.25-inch margins on the right and left (for comments).  At the bottom of the page, you must include a word count and honor statement exactly as written below.  Please save your paper as a Microsoft Word document and submit it to Blackboard by November 23, 2011.


This is how your paper should look:



Your Name

PID #:

History 151 - Hunziker

TA’s Name

November 23, 2011



Title of Paper (required, no more than 30 words)


Body of Paper (double spaced)



Word Count:  (use the “word count” tool in MS Word; include body of the paper only; do not exceed 1600 words.)


Honor Pledge:  This paper is entirely my own work.  I did not plagiarize in any way or have someone else write any portion of this paper for me.  (Your signature here.)