Intro to Philosophy Midterm Essay Deadlines: Th, Oct 7, in class and online. Ro
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Intro to Philosophy Midterm Essay
Deadlines: Th, Oct 7, in class and online. Rough draft due. Turn in a copy to Canvas and bring a hard paper copy to class for peer review.
For in-class peer review, hard copies only. Must be printed on paper. No electronic copies, no exceptions. Peer review to be performed in class.
Fr, Oct 15, 11:59pm, online. Final version due online. Grading
Click here to see the rubric. The essay is worth up to 25 points toward your total course grade. Late essays will be automatically deducted 5 points for each day past the deadline (beware: that is two letter grades (e.g., from A to C)). If you anticipate needing to submit the essay late, it would be wise to get in contact with me ahead of the deadline for a possible extension. There will be no retroactive extensions granted. Essay Writing Resources
Slides on Analytical Writing
Composing introductions and conclusions
Transition sentences 1
Transition sentences 2
Classic tips on writing a philosophical paper from Jim Pryor (ignore the “How you’ll be graded” section) Argument Reconstruction
Sample Argument Reconstruction
The midterm essay is a 3-6 page (double-space) argumentative essay. Your goal is to critically evaluate, and come to a decision on, the success or failure of one of Descartes’ arguments in the Meditations. You will argue for your position by reconstructing Descartes’ argument and submitting it to critical scrutiny. That will involve three major components:
Reconstruction of the argument
Motivation and Context: Why is the argument important? What role does it play in Descartes’ overall project in the Meditations as a whole? Why is it significant for philosophy or human knowledge more generally? Logical Analysis: Identify the major conclusion of the selected passage.
Explain the inferences Descartes makes to get there. ***You may need to consider things Descartes says outside the context of the passage itself here to fully explain Descartes’ reasoning! Ask yourself which conclusions Descartes makes in earlier parts of the text that push him to say the things he says in the part you are considering. Textual Support: You must use at least three quotations from the text to support your reconstruction. Cite these quotations with page numbers like so:
Descartes says, “For this reason alone the entire class of causes which people customarily derive from a thing’s “end,” I judge to be utterly useless in physics” (p.37). For more guidance on this part, see the handout on Argument Reconstruction.
Critical Analysis: Step 1: Pose at least two objections to the argument
Be sure to take a few sentences to explain why these objections speak against the Descartes’s view and what the force of the objection is. These objections may come from things Descartes himself says, or you may make them up on your own. Do not do outside research. If you have trouble generating objections, please see me or G.A. Raley in office hours. Step 2: Explain how Descartes or someone supporting him might reply to the objections. Even if you agree with the objection, do your best to think about how Descartes might use the resources of his theory to respond to the objections. In other words, think about how the philosopher would respond to your objections. Final evaluation: Decide whether the objections suffice to undermine the original argument, or whether the replies were sufficient. That is, explain whether you think those objections can be overcome or not. Your final evaluation is your thesis for this essay. There are three basic possibilities: Does the philosopher’s original argument stand firm against the objections? If so, state how the Descartes’ theory can reply to the objections. Do the objections sway you to the other side? Then explain why the Descartes’ theory cannot withstand the pressure of the objections you’ve stated. Perhaps the objections suggest a modified version of the philosopher’s argument that can withstand the objection. In that case, explain what modifications you would make, and tell your reader in detail how these modifications make the argument immune to the original objection. The Prompts
Choose one of the following passages. Write your essay by doing tasks 1-3, above, in relation to your selected passage. The First Meditation
The evil genius argument
“Accordingly, I will not suppose a supremely good God, the source of truth, but rather an evil genius, supremely powerful and clever, who has directed his entire effort at deceiving me. I will regard the heavens, the air, the earth, colors, shapes, sounds, and all external things as nothing but the bedeviling hoaxes of my dreams, with which he lays snares for my credulity. I will regard myself as not having hands, or eyes, or flesh, or blood, or any senses, but as nevertheless falsely believe in that I possess all these things” (M1, pp.16-17).
The Second Meditation The cogito
“I have persuaded myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world: no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Is it then the case that I too do not exist? But doubtless I did exist, if I persuaded myself of something. But there is some deceiver or other who is supremely powerful and supremely sly and who is always deliberately deceiving me. Then too there is no doubt that I Exist, if he is deceiving me. And let him do his best at deception, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long as I shall think that I am something. Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must finally be established that this pronouncement, “I am, I exist” is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind” (M2, p.18). The wax argument
Let us consider those things which are commonly believed to be the most distinctly grasped of all: namely the bodies we touch and see… Let us take, for instance, this piece of wax. It has been taken quite recently from the honeycomb; it has not yet lost all the honey flavor. It retains some of the scent of the flowers from which it was collected. Its color, shape, and size are manifest. It is hard and cold; it is easy to touch. If you rap on it with your knuckle it will emit a sound. In short, everything is present in it that appears needed to enable a body to be known as distinctly as possible. But notice that, as I am speaking, I am bringing it close to the fire. The remaining traces of the honey flavor are disappearing; the scent is vanishing; the color is changing; the original shape is disappearing. Its size is increasing; it is becoming liquid and hot; you can hardly touch it. And now, when you rap on it, it no longer emits any sound. Does the same wax still remain? I must confess that it does; no one denies it; no one thinks otherwise. So what was there in the wax that was so distinctly grasped? Certainly none of the aspects that I reached by means of the senses. For whatever came under the senses of taste, smell, sight, touch or hearing has now changed; and yet the wax remains. Perhaps the wax was what I now think it is: namely that the wax itself never really was the sweetness of the honey, nor the fragrance of the flowers, nor the whiteness, nor the shape, nor the sound, but instead was a body that a short time ago manifested itself to me in these ways, and now does so in other ways. But just what precisely is this thing that I thus imagine? Let us focus our attention on this and see what remains after we have removed everything that does not belong to the wax: only that it is something extended, flexible, and mutable. But what is it to be flexible and mutable?….But I need to realize that the perception of the wax is neither a seeing, nor a touching, nor an imagining. Nor has it ever been, even though it previously seemed so; rather it is an inspection on the part of the mind alone….Thus what I thought I had seen with my eyes, I actually grasped solely with the faculty of judgment, which is in my mind” (pp.21-22). The Third Meditation
Argument about the origin of the idea of infinity
“Nor should I think that I do not perceive the infinite by means of true idea, but only through a negation of the finite, just as I perceive rest and darkness by means of a negation of motion and light. On the contrary, I clearly understand that there is more reality in an infinite substance than there is in a finite one. Thus the perception of the infinite is somehow prior in me to the perception of the finite, that is, my perception of God is prior to my perception of myself. For how would I understand that I doubt and that I desire, that is, that I lack something and that I am not wholly perfect, unless there were some idea in me of a more perfect being by comparison with which I might recognize my defects?” (p.31). The Sixth Meditation
The argument for mind-body dualism
“First, I know that all the things that I clearly and distinctly understand can be made by God such as I understand them. For this reason, my ability clearly and distinctly to understand one thing without another suffices to make me certain that the one thing is different from the other, since they can be separated from each other, at least by God. The question as to the sort of power that might effect such a separation is not relevant to their being thought to be different. For this reason, from the fact that I know that I exist, and that at the same time I judge that obviously nothing else belongs to my nature or essence except that I am a thinking thing, I rightly conclude that my essence consists entirely in my being a thinking thing. And although perhaps (or rather, as I shall soon say, assuredly) I have a body that is very closely joined to me, nevertheless, because on the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, insofar as I am merely a thinking thing and not an extended thing, and because on the other hand I have a distinct idea of a body, insofar as it is merely an extended thing and not a thinking thing, it is certain that I am really distinct from mby body, and can exist without it” (p.51). Organization, Citations The organization and length of your essay should be based on the logic of your thesis claim. Do not try to fit your essay into any predetermined structure, e.g., the “five-paragraph essay”. We will discuss paragraph construction and organization strategies in class. You are required to use citations in this essay. However, no works cited page is required (you should not cite from anything except Descartes’ Meditations). Use in-text parenthetical citations with page numbers whenever you introduce a quotation or paraphrase an idea from the text like so:
Direct quotation: Descartes says, “For this reason alone the entire class of causes which people customarily derive from a thing’s “end,” I judge to be utterly useless in physics” (p.37). Paraphrase: Descartes disallows teleological explanation in physics, because he believes we cannot grasp the ends or reasons that God has for creating things in the way he does (p.37).