Reconstruct an argument from an eligible (see below) philosophical work
Critically evaluate that argument
If you agree with the author you are critiquing…
Objections to their argument
A defense of that argument against those objections (this is a good place to contribute your own thoughts to the discussion – see 3b)
- If you disagree with the author you are critiquing…
Objections to their argument (this is a good place to contribute your own thoughts to the discussion – see 3b)
Possible responses to those objections that you think the author might offer, and an explanation of why you think the responses are inadequate
Contribute their own ideas to the debate.
This means more than just saying “I agree with Jones” – you should build your own case in favor of the view you are supporting, or raise your own objection against the view you are rejecting. You should take the discussion a step further than what’s already in the readings.
This shouldn’t just be a disconnected section at the end of the paper where you tell me why you think X is okay/not okay. Rather, you should be entering into the specific debate that you set up in the paper.
Doing additional research on the topic is not necessary, but it will almost certainly be helpful. Just make sure you properly cite all source material (I do not have a preference for any particular citation format, just be consistent)
Here are some places you can look for research:
look here first. The articles are often written at a higher-than-introductory level, but they always have good bibliographic info / suggestions for further reading.
the advanced search option lets you filter for philosophy journals
their ‘browse’ functionality is especially good – very extensive breakdown of topics and subtopics
if you find an article that looks promising, but you can’t find a full text version of it online, look here – the library website provides links to everything that we have free access to as a university
Jim Pryor (a professor at NYU) put together some introductory guidelines for reading and writing philosophy. They are very good.
Here are some very common pitfalls that you should make a special effort to avoid:
The first portion of the paper, where the original argument is supposed to be reconstructed, is often underdeveloped. This is doubly-bad.
First, it is a requirement of the paper, so it needs to be done well. One of the main elements of your grade is that you clearly demonstrate that you understand the material.
Second, if you don’t make it super-obvious to me that you appreciate the nuances of the original argument, then it will be much harder for me to get on board with your objections.
If an objection seems like it might miss the point, I will be more inclined to think that you just didn’t get the argument in the first place (because you will not have proven me wrong at the start).
If, on the other hand, I can see explicit connections between your reconstruction and your objection – because you took the time to spell them out carefully – I will have no trouble at all