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Write a three-paragraph essay that (a) reconstructs a philosophical argument from one our readings this semester

PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy

Critical Paper

FORMAT: 2-2.5 pages, double-spaced, 12-size font, 1-inch margins. Please adhere to these guidelines or your paper’s grade will be automatically lowered. This Paper is worth 25% of your final grade.

ASSIGNMENT: Write a three-paragraph essay that (a) reconstructs a philosophical argument from one our readings this semester (see paper topics below), and (b) presents a cogent critique/objection of that argument. In order to complete these objectives, follow the guidelines explained below as precisely as possible.


Paragraph 1: Introduction. After briefly stating the theme or topic of paper, here you will present a thesis statement that specifies (a) the philosophical argument you will be discussing as well as (b) the critique of that argument you will be making. Your thesis statement shows that your argument makes a consistent overall point. An adequate thesis statement might take the following form: Against philosopher P’s argument that X, I will raise the objection Y. The introduction MUST, to receive full credit, include a thesis statement. 10 points.


Paragraph 2: Reconstruction. In this section, you will explain a philosophical argument from one of the paper topics below. Your task is to summarize a philosophical view in your own words while, at the same time, also providing ample textual evidence and citations for your discussion. Thus, while it is essential for success on this section that you provide textual support for your explanation of a philosopher’s view, it is not enough that you simply quote the philosopher. You must also explain the view in your own words, demonstrating your understanding of their position. Here your overall task is to show you understand the philosophical position and that you can explain the reasoning of another philosopher. 20 points.


Paragraph 3: Objection. Here you will object to the philosopher’s argument. After you’ve shown that you understand what this philosopher is claiming, now it is your turn to present one objection to or critique of that argument. Recall that an objection is either (a) a challenge to the truth of a premise, or (b) a challenge to the overall inference from premises to conclusion. In other words, this is an objection to the philosopher’s reasoning. Your objection must be connected to the argument given by the philosopher as you have previously reconstructed their claims. Here you show you understand how to argue against another point of view. After the second paragraph where you showed you can understand another argument, now you are showing you can effectively argue against someone else. This paragraph should include one well-developed objection. Present a real problem with the philosopher’s argument! What flaws are in their reasoning? In what way is their conclusion not well-supported?20 points. Here you are showing your critical thinking skills.


Do not do any additional research for this paper. The only things you should be quoting from and drawing on should be the readings that are addressed in the paper topic and the lectures and discussions we had in class.


PLEASE NOTE: If you plagiarize, i.e., if you use another person’s words or ideas without attribution, you will receive a 0 and may be subject to academic discipline from HCC. Think and write your own thoughts!


TOPICS: Your Term Paper, in which you complete all the tasks outlined above, should respond to one of the following topics, each of which below contains the argument you should reconstruct as well as hints toward formulating an objection to that argument:


1. Explain Russell’s claim that philosophical objectivity produces a life that is “calm and free,” that is, unbothered by anxiety (“The Value of Philosophy,” paragraph 8). Could someone alternatively interpret the objectivity of philosophy as producing rather profound anxiety or worry?


2. What does Kant mean by the “guardians” and why does he think enlightenment requires liberating ourselves from them (“An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” 58)? Next, explain why someone might defend the legitimacy of at least some of the guardians in our society.


3. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato claims that the prisoner who sees the sun and surface must return back to the cave (Republic, 519d). Explain what these images in the Allegory precisely represent, and why Plato thinks the return of the prisoner (including what this symbol means). Why might somebody think the prisoner is in fact not obligated to return to the cave, and could justifiably remain on the surface?


4. Augustine claims of God that, “If I am to reach him, it must be through my soul”—specifically, he will go on to argue, through memory (Confessions, 213). Explain Augustine’s argument for this conclusion. Is it possible we could access God through other means?


5. Nietzsche presents a critique of Christian morals and values, saying, “do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoning themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 125). Explain Nietzsche’s argument for why Christianity makes one into a “despiser of life,” and then argue how Christianity could possibly be understood in other ways.


6. Plato claims in the Phaedrus that a life that stands “outside human concerns” is a superior kind of life (249d). He justifies this claim with his so-called Allegory or Metaphor of the Chariot. Describe his account of the structure of the soul, including its main metaphors or symbols, and argue why he may illegitimately or unfairly downgrade the Black Horse.


7. In the Symposium, Plato develops an incredibly vivid and intense metaphysical conception of love. Specifically, he connects love to his doctrine of Intelligible Forms, and describes love as eternal, as outside of time: “love is wanting to possess the good forever” (206b). Explain this argument, and state a more “human,” less metaphysical conception of love that could plausibly rival Plato’s.


3. Rubric


Guidelines for how to achieve full credit for each section:


Introduction: Clearly states problem; contains a thesis that takes a recognizable stance on the issue by indicating a concrete objection


Reconstruction: Contains all the premises of the argument and shows what motivates or drives the argument; the conclusion is stated in the student’s own words with clarity and precision; and contains references to the text


Objection: States an appreciable problem for the philosopher’s argument that challenges the truth of a premise or the overall inference from premises to conclusion


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