Paper PHI 2010 – Debate
Choose a debate that concerns you in some way (I.E. Business Ethics/Law etc). Make a clear decision on which side of the debate you stand on. Use facts to back up your position.
A) Choose a debate topic that interests you and your possible/current career or life interests (the problem of evil, ethics at workplace, laws, freedom, etc.) Briefly explain the topic in simple terms and introduce your thesis immediately (how and why do you stand on this side of the argument or why you have a new idea about the argument) – 1 page
B) Sketch out how the main philosophical debates and philosophers that we have discussed in class feel about this issue). Use examples from the texts to support your stance on how they feel, this is not the part of the paper where you place your opinion yet, so remain neutral. – 4 pages
C) Criticize the arguments that you disagree with – 3 pages
D) Defend your thesis with quotes, resources and statistics as well as opinion – 3 pages
E) Present information that may weaken your thesis – 1 page
F) Present new arguments (this part will be all new and synthesized by you) to strengthen and overcome your thesis weakness – 1 page
G) Present evidence/opinion on how your thesis works in real world scenarios (provide examples that are original and your own) to further support its usefulness and correctness. 1 page
H) Provide a synopsis or conclusion of what you discovered in the process – 1 page
Tips on Writing the Paper
- A philosophy paper consists of the reasoned defense of some claim
Your paper must offer an argument. It can’t consist in the mere report of your opinions, nor in a mere report of the opinions of the philosophers we discuss. You have to defend the claims you make. You have to offer reasons to believe them.
So you can’t just say:
My view is that P.
You must say something like:
My view is that P. I believe this because…or: I find that the following considerations…provide a convincing argument for P.
Similarly, don’t just say:
Descartes says that Q.
Instead, say something like:
Descartes says that Q; however, the following thought-experiment will show that Q is not true… or: Descartes says that Q. I find this claim plausible, for the following reasons…
There are a variety of things a philosophy paper can aim to accomplish. It usually begins by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration. Then it goes on to do one or two of the following:
- Criticize that argument; or show that certain arguments for the thesis are no good
- Defend the argument or thesis against someone else’s criticism
- Offer reasons to believe the thesis
- Offer counter-examples to the thesis
- Contrast the strengths and weaknesses of two opposing views about the thesis
- Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible
- Argue that certain philosophers are committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis
- Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true
- Revise the thesis, in the light of some objection
No matter which of these aims you set for yourself, you have to explicitly present reasons for the claims you make. Students often feel that since it’s clear to them that some claim is true, it does not need much argument. But it’s very easy to overestimate the strength of your own position. After all, you already accept it. You should assume that your audience does not already accept your position; and you should treat your paper as an attempt to persuade such an audience. Hence, don’t start with assumptions which your opponents are sure to reject. If you’re to have any chance of persuading people, you have to start from common assumptions you all agree to.
- A good philosophy paper is modest and makes a small point; but it makes that point clearly and straightforwardly, and it offers good reasons in support of it
People very often attempt to accomplish too much in a philosophy paper. The usual result of this is a paper that’s hard to read, and which is full of inadequately defended and poorly explained claims. So don’t be over-ambitious. Don’t try to establish any earth-shattering conclusions in your 15-18 page paper. Done properly, philosophy moves at a slow pace.
The aim of these papers is for you to show that you understand the material and that you’re able to think critically about it. To do this, your paper does have to show some independent thinking.
That doesn’t mean you have to come up with your own theory, or that you have to make a completely original contribution to human thought. There will be plenty of time for that later on. An ideal paper will be clear and straightforward (see below), will be accurate when it attributes views to other philosophers (see below), and will contain thoughtful critical responses to the texts we read. It need not always break completely new ground.
But you should try to come up with your own arguments, or your own way of elaborating or criticizing or defending some argument we looked at in class. Merely summarizing what others have said won’t be enough.
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