These guidelines were developed for term papers,
but with appropriate qualifications, they apply to all written
work in this course.
1. INTRODUCTION. Begin by stating the issue that
you will discuss and explain why the issue is important. The issue
should be one that arises out of the course readings and will
require you to discuss and criticize the views of at least one
of the authors in the course readings.
2. CRITICAL SUMMARY. Summarize the relevant views and the arguments in the course readings or in other readings that you believe are of importance. Usually in a critical discussion of a philosophical view it is not sufficient to merely summarize the view. Your attention should be focused on the author's development of the view--that is, on his/her arguments, in the broadest sense of the word. In most cases, an author will begin from statements that s/he expects the audience to agree with, and will use them to support conclusions that s/he expects to be more controversial. The argument need not be a purely deductive one, though it may be. In critically evaluating the author's view, you must reconstruct how the author reaches the conclusions s/he does and must evaluate whether the considerations that s/he takes to support her conclusions do in fact support them.
3. CARE IN CITATIONS. Make sure you accurately state
the position of any author you discuss and always include
page references for each quotation or attribution.
5. USE CARE IN INTERPRETING AN AUTHOR, PARTICULARLY
SOMEONE YOU DISAGREE WITH. If on your interpretation of an author,
the author either is inconsistent or has made an obvious error
of reasoning, begin by assuming that you have misinterpreted the
author. Reread the relevant passages carefully to see if you can
put together a consistent position that is not obviously erroneous.
If you cannot do so, make an appointment to talk to me so that
I can make some suggestions.
6. CRITICAL EVALUATION. A purely expository paper
is not acceptable in this course. Your exposition--even a critical
exposition--of an author's views should NEVER take up more than
half of your paper. At least half of your paper must be devoted
to a critical evaluation of the views of the authors you are discussing.
A satisfactory critical evaluation will require you to raise objections
to the views of the authors you are discussing and to critically
7. WHENEVER YOU CRITICIZE AN AUTHOR'S ARGUMENT OR
POSITION, BEGIN WITH INTERNAL CRITICISMS (IF YOU HAVE ANY)
AND THEN PROCEED TO EXTERNAL CRITICISMS. An internal
criticism is a criticism that uses only premises and evidence
that the author accepts or is committed to accepting. An external
criticism is a criticism that employs premises or evidence
that the author is not committed to. External criticisms of an
author are not complete unless you provide arguments for all premises
or evidence that go beyond the premises or evidence that the the
author you are criticizing accepts or is committed to accepting.
8. CONSIDER POSSIBLE RESPONSES TO YOUR OBJECTIONS.
Whenever you offer an objection to an author's position, explicitly
consider whether the author has said anything that might indicate
how s/he would respond to the objection. If so, develop and evaluate
the author's response. If not, you should take the author's side
and formulate the best response that you can to the objection.
If you cannot think of any good responses to the objection, make
an appointment to talk to me so that I can make some suggestions.
Your grade will be based not only on the quality of the objections
you raise but also on the quality of the responses that you make
to your objections.
9. REPLY TO THE RELEVANT RESPONSES. After you have
formulated the best response(s) that you can to your objection(s)
(8 above), reply to the response.
10. CONCLUSION. Conclude by summarizing the results
of your argument and their significance for the relevant issues.
11. ALL PAPERS SHOULD BE TYPED OR PRINTED DOUBLE-SPACED.
Although papers are evaluated chiefly on their philosophical
merits, grammar, spelling, and diction will also be evaluated.
You are expected to express your thoughts in clear, grammatical,
12. AVOID PLAGIARISM. Whenever you turn in any assignment
in this course, the understanding is that what you are turning
in is your own original work, except to the extent that you explicitly
credit others for their contributions. You have an obligation
to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, by always
attributing any argument or idea that you have borrowed, even
if you have modified it, to its source. The source may be written
or oral. For example, if an argument was suggested by a fellow
student, include that information in a footnote.
1. In your paper, you may wish to distinguish and
compare various different answers to a particular question, or
various different theses on a particular issue. If so, formulate
each position carefully, and then give it a descriptive name or
abbreviation or acronym or other device to facilitate referring
to it in your discussion.
2. Some people can sit down and write an outline
of a paper before they write it. Others have to write the paper
first. But everyone should be able to make an outline of the paper
after writing it. This is a useful way to discover logical
gaps or other gaps in the discussion.
3. Some people believe that really good philosophy
must be very deep, and thus hard to understand. You will not be
rewarded for such writing in this course. Your goal should be
to make your papers as clear, as unambiguous, and as easy to understand
as the subject matter allows. A good way to test for awkward constructions
and for sense is to read your paper aloud to someone else, or
even just to yourself. Your paper should make sense to most reasonably
intelligent people (even someone not taking this course), though,
of course, they need not be persuaded by your arguments. You are
encouraged to discuss the paper topic with other students in the
course, but you are responsible for making your paper your own
original work, except for the sources that you explicitly acknowledge
and cite in the paper itself.