Prompt: Your essay should argue for a thesis engaging significantly with the claims and arguments made by at least one of the assigned readings for this course so far, which you did not discuss in your first or second papers (i.e. if your first paper focused on Jenkins, you cannot write on that). You must cite at least two sources (depending on the paper topic, this may require finding a source that is not among the course readings). Beyond that, the topic is up to you. So choose wisely. Some advice:
•In a paper of this length you are not going to decisively prove a centralphilosophical thesis. But you can demonstrate the ability to argue in a way that isrigorous, that wastes no words, that is completely clear and logically organized,and that shows you have mastery of the issue at hand.
•Defend a thesis you can argue for: can you make even an interesting preliminarycase that there are no moral saints? This is doubtful. Can you clearly explain one ofWolf’s arguments and offer a compelling argument that it is seriously flawed? Yes.The model paper is implausibly ambitious for a paper of this length. Do notemulate it in this respect.
•As much as possible focus on making your argument, as opposed to just telling mewhat others have said. The model paper is an excellent model in this respect.
•The acceptable range for this paper is slightly longer than that for the secondpaper.
•Length: 1200-1700 words.•Use a standard font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Arial.•Use 12 pt font and double space your lines.•Use standard margins – between 1” and 1.2” on each side.•Number each page•Save the file in .pdf format.
Some advice regarding this paper: I expect this to be a crisp and polished short essay. Start early, and revise often! It is very unusual for one’s interpretation of a text, or one’s argument about a topic, to be their strongest when you first formulate them. Reading over your paper carefully can help you to notice important gaps in your argument, crucial objections to your claims, as well as spelling or grammatical errors. Please refer to the resources I have provided for writing philosophy papers and avoiding plagiarism. Choosing a topic and thesis:
•You want to defend an arguable thesis. This is one that is neither obviously true,nor obviously false. A good way to find an arguable thesis is to identify a questionwhere you disagree with one of the authors we have read. This almost guaranteesthat your thesis will be arguable.
•You want to find a thesis that is specific enough that you can defend in the limitedspace of a short paper. You will have a hard time arguing well in such a small spacethat egoism is false. However, you could argue that one of the arguments for itfaces an important objection.
Arguing for your thesis:
•It will often be a very good idea to draw on ideas from authors we have read insupport of your position, or your objection to a given author. However, it will notbe enough to say: “as —— shows, ___.”, in order to object to someone. That twophilosophers disagree does not show that one of them is wrong! Your paper mustnot simply summarize the arguments of others. Rather, you should seek todevelop your own ideas, going beyond those of the authors we have read. If youthink that one of philosopher A’s claims is a good objection to philosopher B, forexample, you need to explain why. You should then think carefully about howsomeone who disagreed with that argument might object to it, and then in thepaper explain the objection, and then try to show why it fails.
•Write clear, simple sentences. As you only have 1100-1600 words, you do not havespace to use fancy or obscure language (try to do better than many of our readingsin this respect!).
•Write to a specific audience: someone who is also taking this course. What doesthis mean? First, you do not need to introduce your topic by trying to explain whyit is exciting; assume that your audience is already interested, and get to the pointof explaining your thesis and defending it. Second, you need to carefully explainthe details of the philosophical ideas that you are discussing. Your colleagues
probably remember the outlines of the views we have discussed, but they might not remember exactly how the details go, and your job is to explain those details.
•You may be daunted at the prospect of trying to challenge the philosophers thatwe have read. In order to do well in this paper, you do not have to convince usthat Jenkins (e.g.) is wrong about something. We will be grading your paper onhow well you:
oShowed that you understand the details of a view that we have examined
oDemonstrate the skills developed in the short writing assignments.
oDefend your own opinion using reasonable and original argument.
oCan do all of this in a logically organized and well-written essay.
•Use a consistent citation style. I do NOT care which one.
A caution about plagiarism:
•Whenever you introduce another person’s idea – whether Kant’s or one of yourclassmates’ – you must tell your reader where the idea comes from. Failure to do sois plagiarism, and will be treated severely (see below for more details). The onlyexception: if you take an idea from our discussion in seminar, you do not need tocite it. (But if the idea is from one of the authors we have read, you still must citethem).
•I treat plagiarism extremely seriously, and will seek the strongest penalties inprovable cases. So don’t do it!
•Why not to do it: There are many ethical objections to plagiarism: it faces all ofthe objections that other forms of serious dishonesty do, and it stands to sullyOhio State’s reputation, thereby affecting the perceived value of your and yourpeer’s education.
I object to plagiarism mostly because it is unfair: course grades are used as groundsto distribute scholarships and bursaries, and are used by graduate and professionalschools and some employers as a way of selecting candidates with relevantabilities. A student who plagiarizes thus potentially deprives some of his or herpeers of opportunities that those peers deserve.
•What it is: In this context, plagiarism is representing someone else’s ideas, fromany source, as your own. NB: plagiarism is using ideas, not just using words. So ifyou paraphrase a source, but do not credit them with the idea, that is plagiarism.
•How to avoid it: Avoiding plagiarism is simple. If you use ideas that originatefrom others, tell your readers this! Thus, if you use an idea from your text youmight say:
Virtue is a mean between two extremes (Aristotle, page number). Or,
Aristotle argues that virtue is a mean between two extremes (page number).
Philosophy 3000: third paper prompt 4
If you have a great conversation with a colleague, and she suggests an idea that you want to use in the paper, you might say:
One way of defending Aristotle against this objection is to point out that for Aristotle, virtue is a mean between two extremes (this point was suggested to me by Alice Jones in conversation).
Or you might use a footnote to reference either sorts of source. I don’t care what citation style you use, as long as I can tell where the ideas come from (page numbers are crucial however – I want to be able to figure out where you think that Descartes says such and such).
•Sources other than the course readings (especially the internet):
This paper involves using multiple sources. It is essential that you cite sourcescarefully, so that I can distinguish your ideas from theirs, and this is especially trueof sources other than the course readings. Taking ideas from a website withoutciting them is much more serious plagiarism than taking ideas from our coursereadings without citing them, and has in the past resulted in students failing mycourse, and facing additional consequences from the university.
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