Picking a Topic
You may write on any topic which meets these four criteria:
You find it interesting enough to want to write a paper defending a view on it.
It falls broadly under “Contemporary Analytic Epistemology”, as opposed to the History of Philosophy (Ancient, Medieval or Enlightenment era) or Continental Philosophy (Lyotard, Deluze, etc.). Your topic may intersect with historical or continental thought but should be based on what we study in class.
The topic is indexed as a subheading on philpapers.org/browse/epistemology
Remember that you’re not aiming to reinvent philosophy. Your job is just to offer your own thoughts on a topic that many others have already written about, and to explain why, in your best judgment, you lean towards one position or another.
An argument paper is not a report and it is not an encyclopedia article.
You are not being asked to write about the history of philosophy, nor are you being asked to present all views in a detached, equally balanced way, while reserving your own views to the end.
Instead, you are being asked to give an argument in favor of your own position on an issue. It should be clear from the start of the paper what your position is.
Use this to make sure you have the minimum requirements for a passing grade on the argument paper.
Does your paper have these basics…?
Meets the minimum word count for the class (i.e., 1500 words or whatever the class requires)
A thesis statement in your introduction, such as “In this paper, I will argue that… because…”
An argument for your own thesis (not just a report on what others say)
Bold sub-headings for each major section
Paragraphs that express one coherent idea each.
Proofreading for Clarity, Formatting and Grammar
Submitted as an MS Word .doc or .docx
relates to a topic discussed in the course lectures or textbook
If required, cites the relevant portion of the textbook(s)
If required, cites and responds to at least 1 published journal article in contemporary philosophy
How about Citations?
I put all direct quotes in quotation marks ” “
I gave In-Text Citations or footnotes for all information obtained from any source besides myself, e.g., (Watson, Lecture 3A)
I included a Bibliography/Works Cited page in a standard format (MLA, APA, Chicago, other)
Minimum Requirements in Presenting your argument
My Paper includes an extracted formal argument as a series of numbered premises followed by a conclusion.
The formalized argument is in numbered list form, not part of a paragraph
Each premise in the argument is a concise one-sentence statement
It is clear, step-by-step, how to get from the premises to the conclusion
An opponent is likely to find the premises plausible, even if he or she does not believe the conclusion
The argument is valid. (i.e., It follows a valid form or pattern of inference, like modus ponens, so that there is no possible world, so far as I can tell, where the premises are true and the conclusion is false).
If this argument represents my reasoning, then the conclusion is identical to my thesis. If this argument represents the reasoning in a paper I am responding to, my thesis closely relates to the conclusion of this argument.
Minimum Requirements in Explaining your Argument
I explain each premise of the argument after presenting it formally
For each premise, I state reasons why I think everyone, including an opponent, should think the premise is true
I define any unclear terms in each premise
I offer examples to illustrate the claims in the premises
Minimum Requirements in Defending your Argument
If this is my argument, then I consider objections against the premises of my argument. If I am discussing someone else’s argument, I raise objections to the premises.
I treat the objections fairly and charitably, not as “straw men”
For each objection, I help my reader understand why the person objecting would believe a particular premise in my argument is false
I suggest a rebuttal or reply to each objection, whether my own or someone else’s
I distinguish objections which seem more persuasive to me from those which seem less persuasive, and I explain why
Slightly more than the bare minimum
The introduction to my paper gets quickly to my thesis
Before presenting my argument, I gave important background about the debate, including major views discussed in textbook and/or the wider literature
The word “I” appears throughout my paper, alongside my own thoughts, not just at the very end
My Paper has a distinct sections for introduction/background, for my argument, and for objections to my argument (It may have more than this, but it should have at least this)
If I gave this paper to a professor of mine who didn’t study philosophy, I think he or she would understand the background and my argument
I think a person who disagrees with me would at least have to think harder about why they disagree after reading my paper
The conclusion of my paper is neither overly modest nor overly bold. Instead, I state my conclusions confidently, while respecting the rationality of my opponents.
How to Write the Paper
Then, you will need to write a paper presenting a valid deductive argument in numbered premise-premise-conclusion format, doing one of the following:
Presenting an argument from the article you read, and either:
defending the premises of the argument against objections.
raising objections to the premises of the argument.
Presenting an argument for your own view on the same issue as the article you read, doing one of the following:
disagreeing with what you read, arguing for an opposing view, and defending the premises of your argument against possible objections the article would have raised.
proposing to amend or improve on what you read, showing how your argument is an improvement on what is provided in the article, while defending your premises from objections.
agreeing with what you read, and showing how your argument helps support the argument given in what you read.
Please have a source from Phil papers. Also a thesis statement. For more information on Contemporary Analytic Epistemology visit this: https://www.encyclopedia.com/philosophy-and-religion/philosophy/philosophy-terms-and-concepts/epistemology
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