For each paper assignment, write a 2-4 page (600-1200 word) paper related to one of the topics that we studied so far.
must be typewritten and double-spaced, with normal fonts and margins,
and be submitted on the website by the due date and time. Put
your name and page numbers in the top right corner of each page (use a
"header" to do this). Compose your paper in Microsoft Word.
Save it as a .doc file rather than a .docx file. Then attach it
to the relevant Assignment on the website (either "Paper #1" or "Paper
, your paper must
- have a clearly stated thesis.
Your paper cannot be a mere "book report" of the views of others. You
must have a view on the topic on which you are writing. You must make
it blatantly obvious to the reader what that view is. Here are a bunch
of examples of some theses that a paper in this class might defend:
- "Abortion is wrong even in cases of rape."
- "Paske’s cat-person example undermines Marquis’ position on abortion."
- "The responsibility objection to Thomson's argument by analogy is successful."
- "Beckwith’s point involving the responsibility of fathers undermines Thomson’s view on abortion."
- "Norcross' argument against eating meat is unsuccessful."
- "Animal suffering doesn't matter."
- "People who are in favor of animal rights should be against abortion."
- "There is a morally relevant difference between Singer’s shallow pond case and donation to famine relief."
- "The objections given in lecture to Chadwick's argument against organ selling were weak objections."
- "Cloning is wrong because it is 'playing God'."
Of course, there are a zillion other possibilities.
As these examples illustrate, your thesis can be directly about the
views of someone we've read this semester, or it can just be your own
view on one of the topics we've studied. If it's the latter, your paper
should still be sensitive to ideas discussed in readings or lectures
whenever they are relevant to your paper. For example, if some
philosopher has an argument against your thesis, it would be a good
idea to show how you can answer that argument.
- lay out the necessary background
for understanding your thesis. For example, if your thesis is that
Paske's cat-person example undermines Marquis' position on abortion,
you’ll need to explain Marquis' position on abortion as well as Paske’s
cat-person example. You'll also need to imagine what Marquis might say
to this objection and explain why this isn't a satisfactory response.
- defend its thesis. The
main purpose of your paper will be to defend its thesis – to persuade
the reader, through rational argument, that the thesis is correct.
There are several ways to defend a thesis. One of the most
straightforward ways is to come up with a positive argument for it
(this is what Marquis did to defend the main thesis of his paper).
Another way is to rebut what you take to be the main argument(s)
against your thesis. Obviously, this would require first explaining the
argument(s) you will be rebutting. If you have the space, you should
consider and reply to objections to your position. In some cases, doing
this is mandatory. For example, if your thesis is that animal suffering
doesn't matter, you must address the "argument from marginal cases."
If you are having a hard time coming up with a thesis, you might begin
by reflecting on what seems to you to be the correct view on one of our
topics. Then try to think of what you would say if you wanted to
persuade a friend that this view is correct. When you do this, you will
be laying out an argument for your view, an argument that could form
the centerpiece of your paper.
You may find that when you subject your own thesis and the reasons you
hold it to scrutiny, you actually convince yourself that your thesis is
mistaken. If that happens to you, you might be able to turn all of this
into a paper arguing against your original thesis. (But not
always: if your original thesis was counterintuitive, then a paper
arguing that such a thesis is false will not be very interesting.)
, you should
- aim for clarity, precision, succinctness, and directness.
- avoid flowery language, polysyllabic words, and long, winding sentences.
- there is no need to sound deep – instead, just make it completely clear exactly what you are trying to say.
- make no spelling and grammatical mistakes – use a spell checker and get a good style manual.
. Here are two helpful guides on writing a philosophy paper. Please look them over.
You are encouraged to discuss your paper with others in the class;
however, the paper you turn in must be your own work. Students turning
in duplicate or near-duplicate papers will receive an F for the entire
course and may be subject to expulsion from the university. I take
cheating very seriously.
Do not quote much or at all in your papers. I want to hear the ideas in your own words
But if you must use the words of others, put them in quotation marks
and cite the source. Otherwise, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism will
earn you an F for the whole course and possible expulsion from the
Late Paper Policy
. Your score
will go down five points (out of 50 total points) for every day your
paper is late. >0 - 24 hours late is one day late, 24 - 48 hours
late is two days late, etc.
. I am more
than happy to provide assistance to you as you work on your paper. Feel
free to run your thesis by me, or an outline of your paper, or just
talk through your ideas with me.