1. Introduction. In the following, I will explore such and such (or so and so’s argument that…). I will ultimately defend the plausibility/implausibility of his/her position or such and such a position. The position the author takes is actually the conclusion of their argument. The bulk of the work (or words/pages), in philosophy, constitutes the premises (i.e. reasons), which the author presents to attempt to persuade you of the plausibility of their main argument (which, is, once again, actually the conclusion of the bulk of the work, which is, in turn, an elaboration of reasons). NO FENCE SITTING. Even if you are a fence sitter about the issue at hand, take a stance one way or another. Your intro should be no more than a few sentences.
2. Explain the philosophical problem/argument advanced by so and so.
First, identify the main terms that occur in the work. Circle them. If you haven’t included that term in your essay, you know you’re missing something. You should not have a section called “main terms”. The purpose of circling the terms is to avoid you missing something important.
Do not summarize the article. Think of the next part of the task as a dialogue with me.
Abi: “What does so and so argue in their piece?”
You: “S/he argues that (main argument aka the conclusion of the work).”
Abi: “What premises (reasons) does s/he offer for this view?”
You: “Well, she argues that (such and such).” THIS is the part that should be written into the essay. Identify the premises the author uses. Again, DO NOT SUMMARIZE. Just explain in a few sentences, each of the reasons the author provides. Let’s say the author offers three reasons in favour of his or her argument (call them premise A, B, and C). Expound A, B, and C.
3. Does the author anticipate counter-objections and then attempt to diffuse them? If so, outline their response(s).
4. If you want to defend the author’s position, come up with a few more reasons the author’s position is plausible. If you want to argue against its plausibility, come up with objections to A, B, and C (those mentioned in Point 2 above). Sometimes you can’t come up with an objection to every position the author provides. That’s ok. Just make sure you attend to as many as possible. The more objections you can come up with, the better (sort of). Why the parenthetical remark? Some objections are just “meh”. Try to state the strongest possible objections. Similarly, the more reasons to support the position, if that’s the route you choose, the better. Again, if it’s a meh reason, don’t include it. Strong reasons to support the position are better. Be cautious here, the more you write, the more I might find something wrong with what you’re writing.
5. Anticipate counter-objections to your defenses/objections from Point 4. EXPAND upon them and choose the strongest objections possible. If you include weak objections, this results in a less impressive paper since weak counter objections are easy to argue against.
5. Respond to the counter-objections (using reasons other than any provided by the author or by others mentioned/elaborated within the author’s text) to show why your defense/rejection still holds/is plausible. The reasons cannot merely be a repetition of reasons from Point 2 (the original reasons for the thesis provided by the author).
6. Conclusion: I have argued that X. This should be no more than a sentence of two. Nothing new should show up here.
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