Write an essay 3 – 4 pages in length and double-spaced along the following lines: (a) choose one argument from any of the materials assigned from Monday, November 2 until the deadline for this paper; (b) present and explain the argument as clearly, fully, and charitably as possible; and (c) develop and fully explain a single objection to the argument as clearly, fully, and methodically as possible.
The goal is clarity and fullness of explanation. Assume your reader knows nothing about the topic. Clarify terms and claims. Explain how the claims support the conclusion advanced by the author. Use examples where helpful. Make sure your examples serve to sharpen rather than detract from your reader’s understanding.
Remember to choose an argument, that is, a set of claims which together lead to or entail a specific conclusion. Do not choose a single claim or an assemblage of loosely connected claims. Which argument should you choose? How broad or how narrow should the argument be? These are challenges implicit in the assignment. But choose an argument that is ethically or philosophically interesting.
Present the argument in the best possible light. Present what you believe to be the most persuasive version of the argument offered by the author. Communicate the argument in such a way that you believe another undergraduate student could understand and could find convincing.
I will only talk about part (c) in this section.
When crafting a criticism of an argument the goal is to come up with some reason or worry that might make your reader hesitate to think that the initial argument is a successful argument. You may draw upon any objection that came up in the course. It may come from an assigned reading, a discussion from section, a discussion from lecture, a conversation with a friend, or something you have thought of on your own. Note that sometimes an author will consider objections to their own views! You are free to utilize even these objections.
Originality is not necessary. However, if you come up with an original objection and present it well, then we will notice. Whatever criticism you choose, the challenge is the same. Identify the claim or inference from the initial argument that is targeted by your criticism. Explain how it is that your criticism poses a problem for this claim or inference. Does your objection reveal that a claim on which the argument hinges is false? Does your objection reveal that an inference on which the argument hinges is invalid or unreliable? Be precise.
The criticism does not have to be successful. You are merely expected to come up with an objection that a reasonable person might propose. You will not be graded on whether your objection works to defeat the argument. You will be graded on how well you explain the nature of the problem your objection poses. However, if you come up with an original objection that is presented well and is shown to successfully defeat the argument, then we will notice.
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