Instructions How to Write

Philosophy Short Paper

Analyze and Critically Evaluate

In this paper you analyze and critically evaluate an argument from one of the philosophers (i.e., not textbook) we have read thus far in the course (e.g., Plato, Midgley, Aristotle, etc). This paper is meant to test the progress of you the analytical and critical thinking skills we have been practicing in the examining ethics and discussion assignments.

Part 1: Introduction
This section has three elements. (You don't have to write these in order. Your paragraphs should have topic sentences and be well-organized, which means you might have to deviate from the order.)

Contextualize the debate. This involves 2 elements. First, explain the main question the author is addressing in the big picture of the module. For example, in an paper about Mill, you would say that the main debate is about the ethical significance/value of pleasure. Second, explain the author's position within that debate. For instance, Mill argues that pleasure is the (ultimate) aim of all action and, thus, provides us with a moral standard of right action.

Explain and contextualize philosophical concepts that arise. If your paper involves a philosophical term, you need to explain and contextualize it. For example, if you were writing about Mill, you would explain that he is attempting to argue for the morla principle that you should act to maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness. You would state what happiness and unhappiness is (hint: pleasure and pain), what it meant by maximizing/minimizing (i.e., how the utilitarian calculations are done), and explain why it this is important for the philosophical debate about Utilitarianism.

Introduce your thesis and provide summary of your argument. That is, you should very clearly state what you are going to argue for in section three of the paper. You can come right out and say it (e.g., "I will argue/object that..."). Additionally, you should offer a brief summary of the argument you will offer in section three by explaining how you intend to support your thesis. In other words, what are the important premises that readr should be looking for in the objection.

Part 2: Analysis
Before you can critique someone’s reasoning, you need to be able to understand and explain it. To analyze an argument, you need to identify the premises (and hidden premises, if any) and the conclusion. You need to demonstrate how the premises support the conclusion (which includes identifying sub-conclusions). As you do so, you should quote (and cite!) and interpret the reasoning you are analyzing. You’ll also need to explain any technical terms that arise. This section should be in paragraph form (you'll be doing standard form in part 4).

Part 3: Critical Evaluation
When you critically evaluate an argument, you give your own argument (not mere opinion) that examines one or more premises in the analysis section (the conclusion is that one of the premises examined is incorrect or correct). Your argument should arise out of a critical thinking question you have about the argument you’ve analyzed. It should have an identifiable conclusion that is supported with premises. This section should be in paragraph form (you'll be doing standard form in part 4).

Part 4: Standard Form
First, put the analysis in standard form. Second, put the critical evaluation in standard form.

Minimum requirements
There is no word count requirement, but I anticipate most papers will be 500-800 words (not including PART 4--the standard form part). This writing is very precise and detailed, so do not think that a relatively low word count means that the paper is easier. Instead, what the low word count means is that I expect the arguments to be polished. Your paper should be double spaced, with page numbers at the bottom center. No title page, no running head. The title and your name should be at the top, centered.

Works cited page that cites the relevant part of the textbook (with as complete of information as you have); use APA style. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. For in text citations, use APA as well. Failing to do either of these things counts as plagiarism, which could result in failing the course.

Have an argument of your own--i.e., premises in support of your thesis--and not just making assertions. (Do not rely on outside sources for either your argument or your analysis.)

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