For your final essay, you will again begin by reporting the view of one of our philosophers, but you may choose which argument or topic you will discuss, after which you will again consider an objection and a reply. It should be clear how this assignment, like the previous two essays, will help students advance toward the course goals. You will be asked to demonstrate familiarity with the course material (Goal 1), to identify an argument in the text (Goal 2), to report it clearly and precisely (Goal 3), and to engage with it productively (Goal 4).
In short, this assignment will help you to improve further those skills we have been practicing all semester. Instructions before you write: First, choose your author. You may choose any argument found in our assigned readings from the third unit, which includes Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Wollstonecraft, Beauvoir, Marx, DuBois, Singer, or Clifford.
Second, select one of the arguments that your author presents. For example, you could choose one of the social contract arguments from Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau; you could choose the argument against censorship from Mill, or the argument for women’s equality from Wollstonecraft, or the argument that capitalism dehumanizes workers, or the argument that women or African-Americans bear a special burden in society from Beauvoir or DuBois.
Next, try to formulate the question that the author you have chosen is trying to answer. If you know what the author’s conclusion is, you should be able to state explicitly (maybe even more explicitly that the author ever did) a question that the argument seems to be trying to answer. The question might be: on what is the legitimacy of the sovereign (or the government) based? Or, what is the most rational form of social contract? Or, does capitalism dehumanize workers? Or, should women be granted the same rights as men? And so on. Decide your own view concerning your chosen argument. Try to write out your own view in a single sentence, called a thesis statement. This thesis statement should be a direct and clear answer to the question you have just formulated. You may find that you agree with one of our authors. That’s fine; you will therefore be backing them up, adding your support to their argument. You may also chose to disagree with one of our authors, in which case you should try to provide a clear alternative answer to the question. Only now should you begin writing your paper. Once you begin writing: Paragraph One: Introduce the topic, your chosen author, and your main thesis. What question do you take yourself to be answering? With what author will you be engaging primarily? What is that author’s main view concerning the question you are discussing? And what view will you be taking on the question? Paragraph Two and Three (and perhaps Four): The argument from your chosen author (with which you will later agree or disagree). Paragraph Four or Five: Consider an objection to your author’s view. If you disagree with your author, then this objection should be your own. If you agree with your author, then this objection should be from another author or from an imagined objector Paragraph Five or Six: Imagine a reply from the original author (or from yourself, if you agree with the original author). Last Paragraph or Two: Evaluate the debate and explain your own view. Why do you agree or disagree with the original author? What are the reasons you have for agreeing or disagreeing with the chosen author? Which argument is stronger? This will likely be at least six or seven paragraphs. Remember, though: I am more concerned that you demonstrate progress toward the course goals (the spirit of the assignment, one might say) than if you follow the letter of the assignment. In brief, your third and final essay should include the following: 1. A preview of what you will do. Identify your question, briefly summarize your chosen author, and then identify whether you will agree or disagree with the author. 2. Your chosen author’s argument, presented at length 3. An objection to the author’s argument (either your own or from someone else) 4. A final evaluation of the debate. Who wins? Why?