Topic: Turn to the table of contents for our textbook. From chapter 2 through 8, choose a philosophical issue or controversy that is covered in detail, with two or more opposing positions discussed. Examples:
- How do the mind and body relate from chapter 2
- What is the nature of reality (e.g. material vs non-material) from chapter 3
- The problem of evil from chapter 4
- Reason vs the senses as the source of our knowledge from chapter 5
- What is truth (e.g. correspondence theory vs coherence theory) from chapter 6
- Do rules or consequences make an action morally right from chapter 7
- What is justice from chapter 8
- Introduce the controversy (1 paragraph, 150-300 words)
- Explain arguments for position A (300-400 words, 1 or more paragraphs)
- Explain arguments for position B (300-400 words, 1 or more paragraphs)
- Optional: Explain arguments for another position if needed
- Critique the strengths & weaknesses of A’s & B’s arguments (200-400 words, 1 or more paragraphs)
- Share & compare your own view (200-400 words)
- Summarize/concluding paragraph (1 paragraph, 150-300 words)
These are only examples; as you look at the table of contents and look through the sections of the chapter(s) you’re most interested in, other possible topics may be easy to see. You want to make sure that the textbook provides enough detail on the opposing sides of the argument.
The tone of your paper will be mostly objective and unbiased, until you get near the end where you share your own view. You will:
Your complete paper should be at least 1300 words, and better papers will be over 1500 words. Papers of less than 1000 words will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero.
Sources: You will only use your textbook; this is not a research paper.Use a couple short quotes as you explain each side of the argument; however, your paper should not be more than 10% quotes. Work on putting things mostly in your own words to demonstrate your understanding of the material.Be sure to use quotation marks when taking more than 3 words in a row from the text (even for definitions), and just give the page number afterward, like this (p. 241).
Format: 12 pt Arial, single spaced, no extra space between paragraphs, 1” margins all around. Name, word count and title of your paper at top (left or center is fine). No title page. At the bottom (end) of your paper, type the word References or Sources, and then list the textbook’s name and author, formatted simply. No MLA or APA style required. This should be your only source. If you feel like you need a dictionary, try using the glossary near the back of your book instead, but if that doesn’t suffice, you can also use a dictionary. Quotation marks are needed for definitions if you don’t put them in your own words. You may use the 1st person (I, me), particularly in the section where you are asked to share your own views.
In the intro paragraph of your paper, introduce the issue and very briefly describe the main opposing viewpoints in an objective and unbiased way. Explain the importance or relevance of the debate. You might start with a question, such as “Is our mind no more than the workings of our material brain, or do we have an immaterial mind or soul?” The last sentence of an intro paragraph is often a thesis statement. This thesis statement (or position statement) should reflect the conclusion(s) you come to in the last couple paragraphs of your paper, and if you are undecided when you start your paper, you can always come back and add it later. The intro paragraph should be 150-300 words.
In the second part of your paper, explain the arguments in favor of one side of the issue in a neutral and unbiased way. For example, if my paper were on the mind-body problem, I might start with Descartes’ dualistic view. I would explain his position and his arguments in favor of dualism. Your goal here is to demonstrate your thorough understanding of the position and that philosopher’s arguments. Do not discuss your own view or say anything that would let your reader guess whether you agree with the view. (You may use more than 1 paragraph for this section if needed. 300-500 words.)
In the third part of your paper, explain the arguments in favor of an opposing side of the issue in a neutral and unbiased way. For example, if my paper were on the mind-body problem, I might next explain Hobbes’ materialistic view, and the arguments he gives in favor of it. Once again, your goal here is to demonstrate your thorough understanding of the position and that philosopher’s arguments. Do not discuss your own view or say anything that would let your reader guess whether you agree with the view. (You may use more than 1 paragraph for this section if needed. 300-500 words.)
There are often more than 2 sides to a controversy or debate; if you feel like you need to discuss another side to the debate, you are free to do so after describing the arguments on the first two sides. However, it is very possible to write an A paper without having an additional side discussed.
In the fourth part of your paper, demonstrate your critical thinking skills by assessing the debate. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments? Why did each philosopher have compelling reasons for thinking what he or she thought about this issue? Are there any flaws in the logic? You still should try to remain objective here, and do not yet discuss your own personal opinion on the controversy. Think of yourself more as a judge, trying to remain objective while weighing the arguments on both sides and trying to see the strengths and weaknesses of each. (200-400 words)
In the fifth part of your paper, it’s finally time to share and compare your own view on the controversy. Did both of these philosophers have it wrong, or did one of them get it right? Why, and how so?Assume that your reader is one of your peers (another college student) who is somewhat inclined to disagree with you, but who is open to being persuaded by logical reasoning (200-400 words)
In the concluding paragraph, summarize your findings about the debate and your conclusions regarding the issue, as well as any important implications for our personal lives, our society, etc. For example, if you wrote on justice or on the morality of war from chapter 8, there might be some important implications for our society. The concluding paragraph should be 150-300 words.
Remember to list your sources at the end of your paper. It doesn’t have to be on a new page, but it can be. Just write References or Sources or Works Cited (you can center it but don’t have to do so), and then on the next line write the name of our textbook and the author’s name; that’s all. It doesn’t need to be fancy.