Midterm and Final Papers — Each student will write two essays in the course, a shorter essay at Midterm and a longer Final essay. The Midterm Paper is worth 22% of your grade, and the Final Paper is worth 30%. Specific requirements, including possible topics, for these essays will be posted separately.
Papers will be graded for content, including quality and precision of thought, as well as organization and clarity of presentation. Generally, I will overlook minor grammatical and stylistic issues in favor of these matters of content and presentation, but this will only be true insofar as those issues do not affect the substance of your discussion or its comprehensibility. You should take care that your writing is clear and says what you mean it to say fully and directly.
Make sure to address all parts of the question or prompt.
Papers should be reasonably close to the approximate word-count lengths in the assignments. Generally, if your paper is more than 10% over or under that approximate length, it is probably either underdeveloped or in need of some editing to condense it.
You should write for an audience who are generally acquainted with the texts you are discussing, with the aim of clarifying and deepening their understanding of those texts and their main ideas and/or of taking and defending your own position about the issues under discussion.
As such, your goal will be to try to offer your own account of the ideas covered in these texts, explaining what those ideas are, their meaning, how they can be justified, what is important or significant about them and / or what you object to and think should be viewed otherwise, and why.
On textual support. In the course of your paper, it is important that you establish that the views you are attributing to the authors you are discussing are what they actually hold. There are two ways of doing this.
In cases where the view can be adequately represented in a summary or paraphrased form, you can provide a citation to the place where the author expresses the view you are attributing to them.
In cases where the view needs to be exhibited in the author’s own words, you should quote and provide a citation. Quoting can be necessary for a number for reasons, such as precision (which is a good reason to use someone’s exact language in many cases), or because the interpretation of an author’s position on a certain point is controversial and you want to establish exactly what they say in order to support a specific characterization of their view, or because the view needs some explanation, which should start with a careful discussion of their own language.
Some further points:
When quoting, be sure to provide enough context and explanation of the text you are quoting to ensure that its meaning is clear and the reader can understand how it supports or illustrates what you are saying. (Sometimes just quoting will be enough, but not often).
And remember, even when you are simply summarizing key ideas found in the text in your own words, you must provide citation references to aid the reader in locating discussion of those ideas in the original.
Finally, make sure that you have something of your own to say about the texts you quote or refer to beyond simply stringing together quotations or paraphrases of their content. Tell the reader why and how these texts are important, interesting, or how they illustrate a point you want to make.
Some other notes about philosophical writing:
It is common in philosophy to use first person constructions like ‘I will argue that…’ or ‘I believe that…’. You should feel free to do so, especially since it will almost surely make your writing clearer.
Philosophical writing relies to a great extent on consistency of terminological usage. Rather than seeking synonyms to avoid using ‘common’ words, or trying to rephrase another author’s formulation in ‘your own’ terms, it is better to use the words that first come to mind when trying to say something and to stick with (or close to) other people’s precise formulations when discussing their claims, especially if you have reason to believe that the language in question contains technical vocabulary – i.e., terms around which the author is developing their concepts. Obviously, when using other people’s language, you should enclose what you are using in quotation marks and provide clear references for where they first made that formulation. And references should also be supplied for paraphrases, even when you are not directly quoting.
Papers should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, with no title page or abstract (see http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html). You may use the author-date or notes and bibliography styles, according to your preference.
All papers must include complete and correct bibliographic information for all sources cited or consulted.
Papers should be uploaded to Canvas by the deadline.
Your paper should be an attachment in one of the following formats: .doc or .docx.
Do not compress or ‘zip’ the file
Do not submit papers in any other format.
Your papers will be returned, with comments and a grade.
Keep a copy of your paper, so that you can resubmit it in case of computer problems.
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