Explaining an Argument

Paper 1 Instructions and Prompts

Paper 1 is purely expository, meaning that it asks you to only explain an argument and not evaluate it (“evaluating it” means taking your own stance and arguing for it). There are three prompts (see below), and you must choose from one of these to write Paper 1 on. Each of these prompts is focused on a specific argument from the core philosophy reading.
Reading: https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0HXjTog-Z7IMYYOR2qvrIh7qQ#Philosophy_Textbook
As with all of your Papers, I will be using the VALUE Rubric to determine your grades. Paper 1 will be graded using 4 of the 5 criteria on that rubric (the “Sources and Evidence” criterion is the only criterion that I will NOT use to grade Paper 1).
Rubric: https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0Ae4jc9iPv7U-lNFAznJBaZRA#VALUE_Rubric

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Formatting and Submission Requirements:
Your paper must use a readable 12-point font (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Cambria), be double-spaced, and have 1-inch margins. It should be formatted in MLA, APA, or Chicago Style (or some similar format); the most important part of formatting is that you cite the original source whenever you mention an idea that’s not yours, cite any page numbers that are relevant, and always use quotations marks for direct quotations.
The paper should be 200-300 words in length (approximately 1-page long).
You must choose to write Paper 1 on one of the follow three prompts:
• Prompt A: Descartes and Dreams
At the end of Meditations (Part 1), Descartes concludes that the senses cannot give us certain knowledge of the world around us. He does this in part by arguing that the senses cannot distinguish between dreaming and being awake, since any experience we have while awake can happen while we’re asleep (and vice versa). Your task: Explain Descartes’ argument based on dreams (which is given mainly on page 16, lines 34 to 62; the exact conclusion that follows from the argument is discussed roughly in lines 3 to 34 of page 17); that is, explain why Descartes takes the example of dreams to show that we cannot have certain knowledge of the world around us on the basis of our senses.
• Prompt B: Thomson’s Violinist
In “A Defense of Abortion”, Judith Jarvis Thomson uses the example of the violinist to argue that abortions are sometimes morally permissible, specifically in cases of pregnancies due to rape. Your task: Explain Thomson’s argument (which occurs between line 45 on page 21 and line 22 on page 22); that is, explain how Thomson uses the violinist example to argue for the conclusion that the common argument against abortion fails to show that abortion is immoral.
• Prompt C: Thomson’s Burglars and “People-seeds”
Later in “A Defense of Abortion”, Thomson argues that a fetus would not have a right to the mother’s body just because the mother got pregnant as a result of voluntarily having sex when she knew there was a risk of getting pregnant. (See the passage on page 24 going from line 6 to line 45) To show this, she uses the example of burglars and the example of “people-seeds” that “drift about in the air like pollen” and “take root” in “carpets and upholstery” (p. 24). Your task: Explain her argument; that is, explain how she uses the burglars and people-seeds examples to argue that a fetus does not have a right to the mother’s body just because the mother got pregnant as a result of voluntarily having sex (when they knew there was a risk of getting pregnant).

Recommended Outline:
Although there are various good ways of structuring your papers, I highly recommend the following way of organizing your Paper 1:
• Introduction Paragraph: In 3-5 sentences, state the author’s conclusion that they’re arguing for and the general way in which they argue for it. All prompts for Paper 1 involve arguments based on specific examples introduced by a philosopher, which they use as evidence to support their conclusion. (Do NOT start by giving a history of the philosopher’s life or the debate or any of that. Just go straight into introducing the argument.)
• First Body Paragraph: Describe in detail the example that the philosopher uses in support of their argument. Focus only on describing to the reader the important details of the main example(s) the philosopher’s argument is based on and do not yet explain the reasons that the philosopher gives for thinking their examples support their conclusion. This should be a medium to large paragraph, roughly 5 to 8 sentences. (Do NOT give your own opinions/reasons here.)
• Second Body Paragraph: Explain the author’s reasons for thinking that the main example(s) they use supports their conclusion. In the author’s mind, how exactly does the example(s) provide support for their conclusion? This should be at least a medium to large paragraph (roughly 5 to 8 sentences). (Do NOT give your own opinions/reasons here.)
• Concluding Paragraph: In 3-5 sentences, explain briefly what you did in the paper: what example the author used to support their conclusion (in the First Body Paragraph) and the reason the author thought it supported their conclusion (in the Second Body Paragraph). (Do NOT add new things into the paper here.) For more information on Explaining an Argument see this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument

Explaining an Argument

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