The Paper Assignment
You are required to write a paper of 10-12 pages which draws on philosophical inquiry and at least one other discipline to reflect on a specific historically and culturally situated moral practice. You must research and reflect on the moral practice, presenting a descriptive account of the practice and the principles and concepts underlying the practice. In developing the account of the practice, you must draw on a discipline other than Philosophy. For example, you may investigate a specific practice from the perspective of history, literature, or a natural or social science.
The paper has three major sections:
A descriptive account, in which you describe and explain the practice or event. This section should be no more than 3 pages in length. Research is required and should be evident. In this part you should:
Clearly identify the practice or event
Thoroughly describe the practice or event
An explanation of the practice or event, in which you provide the underlying reasons involved in the practice or event. In this section it should become clear to your reader why people engage in this practice (or participated in this historical event). In this section you should:
Explain the values, norms, and assumptions underlying the practice or historical event
Include at least one discipline other than philosophy in order to make clear the operative assumptions and concepts.
A normative claim (a moral judgment) and supporting argument. This is where most of your philosophical reasoning will be found. In this part you should:
Make an ethical claim about the event or practice
Present an argument for that claim (which, in fact, contains several different arguments)
Discuss several objections to your claim and supporting argument
Respond to those objections
Concerning the third major section of the paper, you should recognize that the goal of the paper is to present original reasoning to support a claim that you think is true. Therefore, although it is anticipated that you may be influenced by the arguments of philosophers and other thinkers, it is not enough to simply restate their positions. This means that even if you find yourself agreeing with a particular author you may not simply repeat his or her arguments, but must instead present your own way of reasoning to the same conclusion. For example, perhaps you incorporate different or additional resources in support of their conclusion, or you respond to additional objections to their claim or argument. Or, if you wish, you may draw upon a work of an author but then identify why you judge his or her argument to be weak. You could then present a stronger case in support of their claim.
Criteria for assessment of essays will be:
- Following instructions;
- Grammar, spelling and punctuation;
- Comprehension of the assigned text;
- Use of secondary materials;
- Clarity and originality of thought.