Comments on writing papers: You will want to take notes… ***Many took this as an opportunity to weigh the relative

merits of NCR and to argue both for and against it. While noone was penalized for this, in the future I want you to know that I am asking you not merely to do a pro/contra essay, but to take a position and to argue for that position. You can learn a lot from doing this. (Recall my history paper on slavery). 1. Avoid posing questions in essays, especially rhetorical questions that you think make your point. (Many do this to avoid explicitly stating a point that they cannot properly clarify). So, people are saying “If A then B” …but who in their right mind wants B… and then they stop. Or, sometimes people would try to argue for NCR by asking, “Who are we to judge?” Very ineffective. Especially since we spent several days looking at argumentative essays that aimed at answering this question: We are rational creatures with a responsibility to do so. Often this just amounts to footstomping rather than arguing. Finish your argument by arguing, not by posting a question. Your job in expository essays is to answer questions, not pose them. Don’t assume entailments are obvious. Spell them out. This is not to say that posing questions cannot be used as an effective literary device. It can, but it takes time to acquire this skill and more often than not, at this level question posing usually amounts to footstomping. So, if I circled a question mark and wrote “avoid” that is what I am getting at. 2. Avoid and/or and both/and device, from/through etc. An entire philosophical point can be made or broken rest or fall at times depending on the proper use of a preposition. Leave this linguistic device to lawyers. Choose the word that is most fitting to your point and go with it. 3. Non-sequitur = does not follow. This does not mean “I disagree with what you said” but rather that it is not established by what you said before. 4. Internet sources: be careful. I give you texts to evaluate terms. Wikipedia is notoriously imprecise for doing what it is we are engaged in in this class. 5. Avoid stream of consciousness writing. What do I mean by this? Just putting down whatever next comes to mind and not knowing where your paper is going. Think before you write. Plan. Make an outline of your argument and execute it. Composing a philosophical essay in the stream of consciousness usually leads to contradicting oneself.

6. A line with a check mark means “good point.” 7. Take note of my comments. If something is unclear or you wish to discuss it, I am happy to do so. I have office hours and am available by appointment—and only one students has taken advantage of this thus far. 8. What about my grade? If I got a ‘C’ is it still mathematically possible for me to get an ‘A’? YES. I triangulate grades at the close of the semester, leaving it possible for you to still do well in the class. 9. Note: Only arguments can be valid or invalid in the technical and primary sense of valid. Only propositions can be true or untrue. So, don’t say “The argument is true” or “The argument is false” because arguments contain multiple assertions, and sometimes some of them are true and others false. 10. Regard this as a learning experience. If I didn’t care about you as students I would not bother to take the time to correct you. But I do care, and I want you to improve. So, take the comments seriously and use them to improve your writing.

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