For your essay, you will sign up for a topic and write an essay presenting an argument (i.e., defending a conclusion) about a specific philosophical question or issue related to that topic. For example, you could sign up to write about the mind/body problem and argue that Descartes fails to solve the problem; or you could construct an argument about how well (or poorly) the ontological argument works to prove the existence of God; or you could present an argument in favor of (or against) the claim that life has no meaning; etc. Your essay must be about a problem, question, or issue covered in class, and must relate directly to course content and readings.
Once you’ve signed up for a topic, you’ll present your own argument about an issue related to that topic. An argument is not a summary of the text or lecture content: it is a set of reasons intended to support a specific claim about the text. Start by asking yourself a question (e.g., “Does free will exist?”) and, using the philosophical and tools you’ve gained from the class, determine what you take to be a defensible answer to that question. Your answer is your conclusion: the position you will defend in your essay. Then, write a thesis statement clearly stating your answer (e.g., if your answer to the above question is “No,” your thesis statement could be as simple as, “Free will does not exist.”)
Once you have a thesis statement, develop reasons why we should accept your conclusion and put them together in a clear, logical order. Then, start writing. The first paragraph of your essay should provide a brief overview of your argument and should include your thesis statement. The rest of your essay will explain the reasons why we should accept your thesis—i.e., it will provide an argument in support of your conclusion. Devote one paragraph of your essay to each main point you will make in support of your thesis and organize the paragraphs so that each point leads clearly and logically to the next. Finally, write a concluding paragraph summarizing your argument.
While this essay is not a research paper and you are not required to use secondary sources, you are required to cite any and all sources that you do use. If you’re writing about an issue that comes up in Descartes’ Meditations, cite that text; if you’re writing about an issue covered in Nagel’s What Does it All Mean?, cite that text; and so on. If you use any secondary sources, cite them, too. Remember that complete citation requires either in-text parenthetical citations or footnotes in the body of your paper where you quote or discuss ideas from a source, and a Works Cited page at the end of the paper providing complete bibliographic information for the source.
Your issue essay should be a minimum of about 750-1,000 words, but you’re welcome to write more than that if you need more space to fully develop your argument.
Submit your polished, proofread issue essay here only after you can answer “yes” to all of the following:
Is your paper at least about about 750-1,000 words? (It can be longer.)
Does your introduction paragraph include a thesis statement, i.e., a statement of the main point (conclusion) your paper will support?
Remember that a thesis statement is not the question your paper is about; it is your answer to the question.
Does the body of your paper provide a clear, organized, coherent argument in support of your thesis, i.e., does it provide relevant and clearly-explained reasons why we should accept your conclusion?
Does your concluding paragraph sum up your argument?
Have you placed all quotes in quotation marks?
Have you included citations for all quotes and ideas drawn from any source?
Have you included a bibliography/works cited page listing all of your sources?
Have you proofread your paper at least once?
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