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Argument Reconstruction and Evaluative
Argument Reconstruction and Evaluative Response
Formatting:*Name, date, and course number*4-6 double-spaced pages*No greater than 1 inch margins*Times New Roman or similar font, size 11 or 12*Last name and page number in the footer*Include citations where necessary*Include a titlethere is no required amount of sources but there should be about 1 per body paragraph
Choose one of the prompts below:
Option 1.In the Republic, Plato raises several critiques of democracy. Choose one of his critiques, and explain his argument for it. From there, consider one potential objection and how Plato might respond to it.
Option 2:John Stuart Mill argues that it is valuable to engage with beliefs that differ from our own regardless of whether or not those beliefs are true:
A) Reconstruct Mill’s argument. You may either discuss all three main cases (beliefs that turn out to be true, beliefs that turn out to be completely false, and beliefs that include partial truths) or focus in on one case.B) Evaluate Mill’s argument by presenting specific evidence. In doing so, either (a) consider whether or not contemporary technologies provide us with any reason to revise or nuance Mill’s assessments or (b) consider whether or not you agree with Mill’s argument. Make sure to support your response.
Option 3:John Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration” argues in favor of what today we refer to as the separation of church and state. Explain Locke’s argument for separating the powers of church and state. What is within the power of each on Locke’s view? Why? What are some concrete examples of what the toleration he advocates for might look like?
Option 4:Choose a topic of your own. If you select this option, send me a brief email identifying which text you plan to focus on, and which specific topic in that text you want to write about by September 25th.
Objectives of Paper #1:The following four points are the goals for the paper and the specific philosophical skills that I’m looking to see you practice. We’ll build on these in Paper #2. You will be evaluated on these four dimensions. While I will not be explicitly grading for grammar, spelling, syntax etc., if they impede the clarity of your argument or there are frequent errors, that will negatively impact your paper grade.
1. To engage critically with a philosophical text. “Critically” in this context means thoughtfully, with an eye toward understanding the argument, its motivations, and its implications. This is different from reading with the goal of criticizing the text. To do this well requires reading the text multiple times and with what philosophers sometimes describe as a “generosity of interpretation.”
To strengthen your critical engagement as you read, ask yourself questions such as:-What does the author mean by his usage of a particular term? How do you know? What textual evidence backs up your interpretation? Is he using any other technical terms that it is necessary to understand in order to make sense of his argument?
-What work is this sentence/paragraph doing for the author’s argument?
-What is at stake if the argument is strong?
-What is the author’s methodology? Why might this be a good method for making his case?
2. To strengthen your ability to reconstruct an argument as opposed to offering a summary. A key difference between the two is that in reconstructing an argument, you are interested in how the ideas are logically related. Your goal is to identify how the philosopher arrives at that conclusion. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean addressing the central ideas in the same order that the philosopher you choose introduces them.
-One way to determine whether your paper is offering an argument reconstruction or a summary is to pay attention to the language in your paper. Are you describing the connections between the ideas like in (B), or are you merely reporting what Plato says, like in A?
Compare:(A) “Plato says X. Then Plato says Y.”(B) “Plato argues X in order to demonstrate Y.”
3. To practice using the philosophical values of clarity and precision in your writing. In writing philosophy, one ought to aim to make your points as understandable to your reader as possible. Why? Because it helps your reader better understand your argument.
Some tips:-Make sure that you define any technical terms that you’re using. Technical terms are terms that are central to a philosopher’s argument and that are being used in a specific way. In defining them, you make sure that you and your readers are on the same page. For this reason, do not use synonyms for technical terms, as this leaves your reader wondering whether or not you are introducing a new technical term. Repetition is okay if it leads to greater precision.
-If you find that you are writing very long sentences, read through them again and make sure that the relationships between all of the clauses are clear. Could they be made clearer by breaking those sentences up into shorter sentences?
-Make sure that you communicate how the points are related. Do they support each other? Is one an example of another? Does one follow from the other? etc.
-It is more important that you carefully engage with the text than that you address every argument that Williams makes. For example, if you want to focus on how one of his thought experiments supports his claim, that would be sufficient.
4. To identify ways that someone might push back against the argument.
-You might ask yourself questions such as:-Are the premises sound (aka, true)?-Are there gaps in the logical reasoning?-Are there any suppressed premises? (i.e., premises that the author isn’t acknowledging but that the argument hinges on)-Does the conclusion commit us to a result that warrants considering alternatives?-Is the author’s method an appropriate one for answering the question that he poses?
Compare the following two passages. What do you notice about them? What are the strengths of the first paragraph? Be specific. Where are some places that the second paragraph could be strengthened? Again, be specific.
In Chapter 4 of “On Utilitarianism,” Mill argues that happiness is not only an end for human beings, but that it is the only end. In making his case, Mill considers potential alternative ends, such as wealth and virtue. He acknowledges that human beings do desire wealth and virtue not only instrumentally, but also intrinsically. By “intrinsically”, he means that they are valuable for their own sake, or regardless of whatever else they help us achieve. Nonetheless, Mill claims that rather than serve as alternate ends equivalent to happiness, they are themselves a part of happiness. In clarifying what he means by this part/whole relationship, Mill uses the language of “ingredients” of happiness and happiness as a “concrete whole” (150) comprised of parts such as virtue and wealth. In doing so, he both deepens our understanding of his account of happiness, and he offers support for his claim that our singular moral goal ought to be to increase the overall happiness of human beings. Were virtue and wealth alternatives to happiness rather than parts of it, this would pose a threat to his picture of utilitarianism because in its singular focus on happiness, utilitarianism would leave out other important human ends.
In Chapter 4 of “On Utilitarianism,” Mill first discusses what the ultimate ends of human life are. He talks about happiness and how we desire it and he draws a comparison between how we desire things and how we experience things with our other senses, especially sight and hearing. From there, he says that “happiness is one of the criteria of morality” (148). He says that at this point he has shown only that it is one criteria though. So next he considers what some others might be. Wealth is one of the ones that he talks about a lot, noting that people like having money in addition to being able to spend money in order to get other things. Money is part of happiness. Other ends like virtue and power could be parts of happiness too. This is important because “it results from the proceeding considerations, that there is in reality nothing desired except happiness” (151). Thus Mill shows that we only desire happiness and it is our only end.
MESSAGE ME THE OPTION YOU WANT TO DO AND ALSO TELL ME THE LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING YOU HAVE OF THAT OPTIO
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