Consider the passage on pp. 212-215 of Republic Book 2 beginning with “They say that to do injustice is, by nature good…” and ending with “…the life of the unjust better than the life of the just.” In this passage, Glaucon gives an argument that each person is better off being unjust than they are being just. Motivate this issue, reconstruct Glaucon’s argument, and give an objection. You can plausibly claim either that Glaucon’s argument is invalid or that it is unsound. Suggestion: Glaucon gives three main reasons for his conclusion in the passage; these are intermediate conclusions, each backed by further premises.
Your response will have five parts: introduction, motivation, reconstruction, objection/assessment, and conclusion.
This is a paper assignment, so your submission should be a well-structured and stylistically integrated essay. Section headings, bullet points, and other outline-y things should be avoided.
You should be able to fully address the prompt in about 1,500 words, but you can go a bit higher if you need to. Your paper must be no more than 2,000 words total. Unlike other assignments, this is a hard ceiling: anything over 2,000 will not be read. There is no word count for the individual sections. At this point you should be able to tell if you’ve done everything in each section and tell if you’ve added words for the sake of adding them.
You must give an in-text citation in MLA format for any direct quotes or paraphrases. You should also credit any author whose ideas you are using, even if you don’t quote or paraphrase from them. This is so that I (and you) know where you’re getting what, and that you’re being accurate. It’s very easy to trick yourself, and to think that you’re being accurate when you aren’t. This is a bigger challenge with more complete papers, which is why the citation requirements are more rigorous here. If you have questions about authorship, just ask! You must provide a works cited page, also in MLA format. See the MLA formatting and style guide (Links to an external site.) for questions on formatting; if that page doesn’t address your issue, ask. Correctly formatted in-text citations and works cited page are not optional.
Part 1 – Introduction
You should have a brief introduction that sets out each thing you will do in the rest of the paper. It should state the issue you’re discussing, a 1-3 sentence summary of the argument you’re reconstructing, and a brief summary of your objection, including your final assessment of the argument. Your intro must have all of these things, but should not have very much more than these things. For a good example, look at the abstract (the italicized text) of Brennan’s paper.
Part 2 – Motivation
motivate the central issue of each of your selected prompts. Again, the prompt tells you what the central issue is, and your issue presentation provides you more help here. Your job in this section is to convince your novice reader the issue is worth spending some time thinking about. To do this effectively, this section of your response should have the following three elements:
The issue’s source. This is different from your presentation of the issue. Here you should explain why we would think of this issue at all. This is not a “plot summary” of how the author started off their piece. Rather, it’s a quick illustration of how someone might be drawn to the questions raised in the piece.
The issue’s difficulty. If the issue has a single obvious answer, then it’s not worth spending much time on. So here you need to show that the issue is difficult to resolve. This is not a statement that the issue is difficult because it’s “hard to think about.” Why is it hard to think about? What makes the issue something that needs our careful attention to resolve?
The issue’s relevance. Knowing the issue, its source, and its difficulty aren’t very helpful in motivating a discussion by themselves (unless you happen to already be interested in philosophical questions). So here you need to do two things. You need to identify an audience – who should care about resolving the issue – and explain why that’s the relevant audience. And you need to explain why that audience should care about resolving the issue. These two elements play into each other: figuring out either one will help you figure out the other one.
Part 3 – Argument Reconstruction
Your task is to show a novice reader how the author made the case for that conclusion. SEE THE RECONSTRUCTING ARGUMENTS HANDOUT IN THE HELPFUL RESOURCES MODULE ON CANVAS FOR A MORE DETAILED WALKTHROUGH OF ELEMENTS 2, 3, AND 4 BELOW. To explain the author’s argument effectively, your reconstruction should have the following FIVE ELEMENTS:
1) The conclusion for which the author is arguing. Again, this is given to you in the prompt. If you’re reconstructing the argument and it doesn’t get you to the conclusion in the prompt, you’ve made a mistake somewhere.
2) The premises of the author’s argument. The assigned passage contains numerous statements. You need to identify which of these statements provide support for the conclusion; these are premises. You will also need to identify which statements provide evidence that the premises are true.
3) The structure of the argument: the overall pattern of reasoning by which the author hopes to lead the reader from the premises to the conclusion. This is different from showing what the premises are. If you can’t show how they fit together, knowing the premises doesn’t help your reader to understand the argument. This is where argument mapping can be especially helpful.
4) The evidence for the premises. This is different from showing what the premises are and different from showing how they fit together. If you have the premises and structure right, but don’t show your reader why they should accept the premises, they can’t fully follow the argument. The work you already did for Element 2 should help you here. This is a reconstruction of another person’s argument that you’re helping your reader to understand, so you should provide the author’s evidence for the premises, not independent evidence you come up with. If the author didn’t provide evidence for a premise, you should say so.
5) An appropriate style. This is not a separate section of the rubric, but can affect your grade on all of the other elements if your writing style makes them hard to understand. You should reconstruct the argument in your own words and as clearly as possible, so that someone who hasn’t read the piece you’re discussing could understand the argument. It’s also important to give the best and fairest version of the argument you can, which will often involve saying things differently than the author originally did. You should be direct and to the point. Say only what you need to say to explain the author’s argument. At the same time, you should not be too brief. If a reader could be confused by something, you need to explain it. Here are some general things to avoid:
Over-quoting. Your reader hasn’t seen the piece you’re quoting, so giving lots of quotes won’t help them understand what’s going on. You’ll need to explain the quotes. And if you explain the quotes well, you’ll have written a perfectly good paraphrase! Just use that instead of the quote! (Remember to provide a citation for your paraphrase.)
Thesaurus-bombing or other over-academic style. Using bigger words won’t make you more correct. If a big word is the word you need to express your meaning, fine. But you shouldn’t need to write ‘utilize’ when you mean ‘use.’
Very conversational style. You want your reader to take you seriously. You can have a meaningful conversation with your friends using nothing but TikTok references, but your reader doesn’t have that vibe with you. Don’t leave out words when writing that you might leave out when talking, for example. Don’t use very recent slang unless it is the only possible way to express what you’re trying to express.
Part 4 – Objection and Assessment
Offer, fully explain, and honestly assess a specific objection to the argument given in the prompt. This means that you must give a single specific objection, correctly categorized (is the argument invalid or unsound), explain your objection, make a good-faith attempt to improve the original argument, and assess the strength of your objection and its impact on the original argument. To make a good-faith improvement and assessment, you need to understand the author’s overall intent and what changes to the argument would be fundamental changes in topic rather than improvements. If you’re objecting to a premise that isn’t defended in the specific passage indicated by the prompt, but the author defended it elsewhere in the reading, you should say so as part of your assessment. So you may need to refer to parts of a reading outside the specific passages indicated by the prompt. This part combines two tasks from the Paper 3 assignment. For further discussion of this element, refer to the Paper 3 assignment page, the Generating Objections handout, Page 2 of the Paper 3 rubric, the refresher videos on generating and assessing objections in the Course Media, and any relevant comments on your Paper 3 practice exercise and Paper 3 itself.
Offer and fully explain a specific objection to the argument given in the prompt. It is possible to argue either that the argument is invalid or that it is unsound. If you claim the argument is invalid, you must explain how the premises can all be true but the conclusion can still be false. If you claim the argument is unsound, you must identify which premise you think is false or unsupported by the author’s evidence and explain why that premise is false or unsupported. This task corresponds to the “Specific,” Identify,” and “Explain” elements of the Generating Objections handout and the same elements on Page 2 of the rubric. We discussed the handout in class at the beginning of the unit, and I have posted a refresher video in the Course Media.
Assess the strength and impact of your objection. You should start by attempting to improve the author’s argument based on the objection you gave in Part 2. In light of the improvement you offer, you should then discuss whether your objection is successful and whether it has a large or small impact on the author’s original aim. This task corresponds to the “Improve” and “Assess” elements of the Generating Objections handout and the same elements on Page 2 of the rubric. We discussed the handout in class at the beginning of the unit, and I have posted a refresher video in the Course Media.
Part 5 – Conclusion
You should have a concluding paragraph that neatly packages up all your results. Your conclusion should briefly recap the argument you considered, the objection you gave, and your assessment of the overall state of the argument. This will be somewhat similar to the assessment of your objection, but you shouldn’t try to blend your conclusion directly into your assessment; make this a separate paragraph.
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