Instructions from my professor:
We have been examining a variety of questions: is abortion permissible? Is affirmative action permissible? Are we obligated to provide famine relief? Can we eat animals? Are we obligated to adopt socialism? Should drugs be legalized and, if so, which ones? Your job in this paper is to articulate your own position on one of those issues.
This does not mean that I want you to give me a review of all the arguments, pro and con. You need to focus on what seems most important as you see the issues.
It also does not mean that I want you to merely tell me what you think without telling me why. You should think of your reader as someone who does not already agree with you.
That’s very important. Your goal is to write a paper that makes a reasonable case to someone who doesn’t agree with your view.
This has another consequence: citing the articles as part of your argument without telling me why I should believe what is said in the citation will almost certainly not be appropriate. You should not assume that your reader grants any authority to whatever you cite. Instead, you should cite merely as a means to illustrate a position. In fact, since I am interested in what you have to say, I would rather you cite as little as possible.
Your paper must do at least four things. First, it must start off with a thesis. No fancy introductions, just tell me what position you are going to defend. For example, “I will argue that God and evil are incompatible.” Second, it must offer an argument in favor of your view that someone not already convinced would find reasonable. For example, you can provide the abductive argument from evil. Third, it must anticipate, as the argument develops, how a thoughtful, informed critic would object. For example, you can provide the objection that focusing on evil is cherry picking the data and purported experiences of miracles should also be taken into account. Finally, it must give a reasons why, in spite of those criticisms, your view is still reasonable. For example, you can argue that purported experiences of miracles are very weak data.
Don’t treat this lightly. When a really good paper deals with objections, two things tend to happen. First, as the one reads the statement of the objection, one will feel its force. One will find oneself wondering why the objection doesn’t simply defeat your position. Second, when one reads the reply, one will see why, in spite of its apparent strength, the objection is not decisive.
Importantly, one of the argument, objection, or rebuttal sections must contain an original element. The reason for this is that an “A” paper , even at the intro level, is one in which the author makes the topic his/her own. It presents a way of looking at the issue that makes even the informed reader think. This requires that the author does not merely regurgitate the material, but instead adds something from her/him. A regurgitation of the material presented in class, even if done very well, would normally be sufficient at most for a “B”. This means that waiting until the last minute to start thinking about your paper is a very bad idea. Importantly, just telling me what someone you have researched thinks about the topic does not count as a good original
contribution, unless you also tell me why I should agree with them. Since the paper is short, it might be a better idea to focus on what you think about the issue and why you think so. A simple way to produce an original element in your paper is to provide a further, novel objection to the rebuttal and a further, novel rebuttal to this novel objection.
II. Structure of the paper:
1. Thesis. You must have a clear thesis: “in this paper I argue that X”. The thesis is the answer to some question. If your thesis is not the answer to a question that is relevant to the topics we have examined in this course, then you should rewrite your thesis.
2. Argument. You must provide an argument for your thesis. Make sure the argument is valid and to the best of your knowledge sound. Do not simply say what your position is and why you hold it (e.g., I was raised to believe…), rather, provide reasons for thinking that your position is correct. You can provide an argument of your own or adopt an argument from the ones covered in class. If you do the latter, either develop the argument in an original way that goes beyond what was covered in class or provide an original contribution in section 3 or 4 below.
3. Objection. You must anticipate relevant and decent objections to the argument you gave in (2). State what you think is the biggest problem for the argument in (2). This step involves arguing that the argument in (2) is invalid and/or has false premises. Be sure to be charitable when presenting an objection to your argument and avoid setting up a straw man (setting up a weak objection to make it easier to refute). You can provide an objection of your own or adopt an objection from the ones covered in class. If you do the latter, either develop the objection in an original way that goes beyond what was covered in class or provide an original contribution in section 2 or 4.
4. Rebuttal. You must respond to the objection raised against your argument. State what the best rebuttal to the objection in (3) is: show that the objection in (3) is invalid and/or one of the response’s premises is false. If you find an objection that you cannot answer to, then you should think about revising your thesis to actually defend the objection. You can provide a response of your own or adopt a response from the ones covered in class. If you do the latter, either develop the response in an original way that goes beyond what was covered in class or provide an original contribution in section 2 or 3.
People we discussed in class: Powell, Newton,