required to have a writing assignment of at least 750 words and in which the student defends and supports a thesis across multiple paragraphs. Finally, here
are my instruction for the compare / contrast paper. If you write a different type of paper some of what follows will change – the body paragraphs – but most
of it should apply to any paper you choose to write. My expectation will be that you write a very brief introductory paragraph (three or four sentences should
handle it), body paragraphs for each of the parts of the assignment that take a little less than a page apiece, a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two
solutions to the philosophical problem under consideration, your own thoughts on the topic, and a very brief conclusion. Let’s now turn to a more detailed
account of how each of these tasks should be carried out and how they will be evaluated.
All you’re doing here is telling me what the topic of your paper is going to be. This is just a setup for what is to come, so it need not be incredibly detailed or
labored – just a short explanation of the topic is all that’s required. There is one thing that happens in the introductory paragraph that’s of considerable
importance for a good philosophy essay: a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells me exactly what it is you will be arguing in your paper (basically the
fourth and fifth points in the assignment descriiption). It’s often useful to write your complete paper before constructing a thesis statement to ensure that the
two match. At the very least, reread your thesis statement after you’ve finished the paper to be sure you didn’t change your position somewhere along the
Positions One and Two:
You have two thinkers whose theories have to be explained here, and each receives his own paragraph. How does thinker A respond to the philosophical
problem? What arguments does he / she give for his / her position? At this point you should be summing up thinker A’s position in your own terms. Feel free
to use a short quotation or two from our texts to support your claim that the philosopher says / argues x, y, or z, but don’t go overboard with quotations. The
key thing here is to demonstrate that you grasp both the philosopher’s position and his / her reasons for holding it in your own terms. If you cite a paragraph
that someone else wrote, then you’re probably not doing an acceptable job of showing your own understanding of the position, so keep the quotations to a
reasonable size and number. You must also do the same thing for thinker B. The key issues here will be just how well you explain the two positions in terms
of accuracy, completeness, and depth of understanding.
Looking back at the two positions you just explained, in what ways are they similar / different? How well does each do what it sets out to do? You might think
here about which aspects of the problem are more important to you and which of the two responses better addresses your own concerns. Choosing one side
over another is all well and good, but be fair to both sides. It is, of course, perfectly permissible for you to find neither side completely compelling and you
may think the strengths and weaknesses of each theory end up cancelling one another out leading to somewhat of a draw. The key considerations for this
part of the paper will revolve around how well you grasp the nuances of the problem and the proposed responses. Obviously these thinkers don’t agree on
how to solve the problem, but do you comprehend why there is this disagreement? There’s also the question of whether or not you treat both theories in a fair
manner (give due credit even to theories with which you don’t agree). It’s also important that you maintain consistency in this section with the previous ones
as regards your take on their positions.
This is where you can interject yourself into the conversation. If you have some thoughts on the matter that differ from the thinkers in question, here is your
space to express them. You could, for example, bring in some of your own thoughts from outside the scope of the class, from other classes / readings you’ve
taken / done, you could elaborate on what you began in the previous section, you could just completely reject the question as meaningful, or any of a variety
of other paths. The key point here is to argue for whatever you wish to say. The idea is that you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t necessarily agree
with you that you’re right, so give the best arguments you can for your position. Just because you believe x is no reason for anyone else to believe x. Now if
you can cite some evidence as to why you think x is true, note some authoritative figures who agree with you (making sure, of course, that they’re authorities
on the topic at hand – don’t appeal to a mathematician’s beliefs as evidence outside of math, for instance, or you’re in the realm of the fallacy of appeal to
authority), or maybe even purely deduce the necessity of the truth of your position, then you’ll have something. You want to be convincing, but not in a
rhetorical way, in a logical way. You’re unlikely to impress a philosopher with an emotional appeal, or an appeal to what most people believe, or by noting that
you’ve always been taught something is true. It’s fine, and natural, to start with whatever you happen to believe about some matter, but in a philosophy paper
you’re expected to think about how you would support your position by appealing to evidence / reasons / arguments.
Wrap it up. The first sentence in your conclusion is expected to be a restatement of your thesis statement. When I say “restatement” I don’t mean cut and
paste, I mean say the same thing in a different way. You are concluding your paper after all, so state, once more, what you’ve done in your paper. Much like
the introduction, this should be on the extremely brief side. You might note how thinking about this topic has helped shape your beliefs, how your paper topic
opens the door to some other issues that might be related (or not) and deserving of further exploration, how the answers you wrote about have impacted
thought since their time, etc. Your concluding paragraph just needs to bring your paper to a reasonable stopping place.
If these instructions aren’t sufficient to make the assignment clear, please talk to me in class, after class, during office hours, or email me. It’s far better to
ask a question you think is silly than to just assume you know what you’re doing and end up with an unsatisfactory paper. Feel free to take advantage of the
Learning Lab as there are folks over there who can help you with the basic mechanics of writing a paper as well as philosophy tutors who can provide help
with content as well. This should provide you with a good idea of how to construct your paper, but there are a couple of related topics I need to address:
citation and plagiarism.
Since this is not a research paper you need not provide a citations page. If you are using the books ordered for the class (or handouts provided in class) then
you need only note the text and the page number from which your citation originated immediately after the quotation in parentheses. If you are using the web
versions of the texts then you just need to note after the quotation the text and that you used the online version. So, for example, if you quoted Plato’s Meno
from the book it would look like this: “ ___ ____ ____ ____.” (Meno, 77). If you use the web version then it would be the same except you’d type “web” where “77”
is in the previous example. If you need to quote the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy then you can just type up your citation and put (IEP) behind it. The
web sources are easily enough searched that no more information is needed. It probably should be apparent that no works cited page will be required for this
paper if you stick to the resources noted above. If I approve a topic beyond the scope of our class, though, you will need to supply such a page.