1. In your own words, explain and critically evaluate Weirob’s argument against the Soul Theory presented in John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (Hint: it’s in the section labeled The First Night, and the core of it is presented on page 399 of F&S. But don’t expect to understand it if you haven’t read the entire article.)
2. In your own words, explain and critically evaluate the argument Shafer-Landau gives (on p.543-4) for the conclusion that, as he puts it, the objectivity of ethics does not hinge on God’s commands.
3. In your own words, explain and critically evaluate Thomson’s argument (in sections I and II of her paper) for the conclusion that Foot?s solution to the Trolley Problem is incorrect.
NOTE: Often, the passage in which a given argument is presented is quite brief. But, to be sure that you understand the passage, you?ll need read and re-read the entire article in which the passage is found.
One method that you’re encouraged, but not required, to try is RECing an argument: R: Reconstruct. Put the argument into numbered form, so that it fits a valid pattern and captures as much of the reasoning from the chosen passage as possible. Display the pattern that it fits (in symbols) to the right of your reconstruction (in words).
E: Explain. For each premise in your reconstruction, mention it by name (its number) and devote at least one sentence to explaining why that premise might seem plausible, at least initially. Also, if there are any unfamiliar terms in the premise, take this chance to explain what they mean. If the logical structure of the argument is somewhat complex, you may wish to explain informally why the intended conclusion really does follow from the given
C: Criticize. After you’ve motivated each of the premises, focus on one particular premise, mention it by name, and attack it: i.e., present, in detail, what you take to be the most powerful reason(s) for thinking that the given premise is not true, or for thinking that the premise is less plausible than the advocate of the argument took it to be.
If space permits, you may discuss a potential response to your criticism that could be given by an advocate of the argument, and a reply (attacking the premise) to that response.
If done correctly, this method will yield a great paper. But sometimes it introduces more complications that it?s worth, so I will leave the decision about whether to use this method up to you.
Hard Copy. The paper should be given a title, printed out, and stapled, and it should have your TA?s name on it. If you don?t know your TA?s name, you need to find that out consider it part of the assignment.
Length. Your paper should be 4-5 typed, double-spaced pages long (assuming a reasonable type face and size and reasonable margins), NOT INCLUDING ANY QUOTATIONS OR
NUMBERED RECONSTRUCTIONS. This means the paper should include 4-5 pages of ordinary text in paragraph form written by you. Most of that should be focused on a critical evaluation of an argument.
Grading. You will be graded on the clarity and mechanics of your writing, on how well your paper is organized, and most importantly, on how well you?ve explained and critically evaluated an argument. Again, the critical component will be weighted the most heavily of the three: the more original, insightful, and convincing your criticism of a premise, the better your grade will be. There is no mechanical recipe for coming up with interesting criticisms: it takes a lot of time, hard thinking, and creative spark.
Some rough guidelines
A range: excellent mechanics, extremely clear and accurate explanation of an argument, unusually insightful/creative/original/persuasive critical
points ? these must go beyond anything that has been said in lecture, discussion section, or the readings, and must be sufficiently interesting
and non-obvious that it would take some hard-thinking to come up with them B range: good mechanics, very solid explanation of an argument with few or no mistakes of fact or terminology, critical points that are on-target,relevant, and persuasive ? though maybe not quite so dazzling as what
one would find in an A range paper.
C range: some problems with mechanics OR some errors or lack of clarity in explaining an argument OR an off-target or unconvincing critical
D range and below: two or more of the following: serious mechanical problems, major errors
or obscurity in explaining an argument, badly off-target or obviously
unconvincing critical evaluation
Outside Sources and Citations
You are not expected to consult outside sources in writing your paper. You are permitted to this,
of course, but a better way to spend your time is to get clear on what you think about the issues,
and about how to express your own thoughts as clearly and precisely as possible. Any sources
you do consult must be cited at the end of the paper, and any ideas or terminology that you take
from the outside source must be indicated in footnotes. Failure to appropriately cite outside
sources brings up the issue of . . .
I take plagiarism and other violations of the standards of academic integrity very seriously.
Students are responsible for knowing what constitutes inappropriate behavior in this regard;
university policies on the matter can be found in the Winter 2012 Class Schedule and
RegistrationGuide. See in particular the University of California Standards of Conduct for
Students. Any student who violates these standards on an exam or assignment will be referred to
Student Judicial Affairs.
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