Midterm Benchmark Project
Timeline and Policies
Due: March 17th (Extension to March 21st, 11:59pm)
Submission: Via Email as .Doc or .Docx Attachment
March 3rd: You may submit a 300 word topic sketch in lieu of your blog paper for March 3rd
March 15th: No Annotations Due
March 18th: No Blog Paper Due
Papers earning less than a B may be rewritten (Maximum rewrite potential capped at B)
THE PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY:
You will craft a philosophical essay on any topic or figure from course readings, whether required or optional
One 6-7 page paper on a single topic
Two 3-4 page papers on two distinct topics
The aim of this course not only to teach you about philosophy, but to cultivate your ability to do philosophy. The purpose of the Midterm Project is to give you the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the material while also giving you the opportunity to actually explore some of the basic conventions of philosophical discourse.
The Four Paper Types: In order to help you accomplish the foregoing, your midterm paper(s) should satisfy at least one of the following paper types below. Your paper may satisfy more than one type:
1. Critical Engagement: Engage critically with a philosopher's work by generating original objections or challenges to their position
2. Reconstructive Effort: Try to defend a philosopher’s view from some classic objections or problems by
reconstructing a fortified or amended version of their position
3. Applied Topical Debate: Show how a real-world issue is illuminated or problematized by a philosophical figure or idea. Or show how a philosophical idea might be illuminated or problematized by a real-world issue.
4. Interpretive Dispute: Engage in an existing scholarly debate between differing interpretations of a philosopher.
Some Additional Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers,
for First Time Philosophy Students:
I. SHOW DIALECTICAL SENSITIVITY
Compelling arguments require compelling interlocutors! In philosophical writing, if you do not consider an opposing view, or if you present the other side in a way that makes their position seem weak or underdeveloped, your argument will appear undermotivated in turn.
II. TREAT YOUR PAPER AS AN ACT OF COMMUNICATION, NOT AN OBJECT
Philosophical writing is best seen as an act of communication between inquiring persons. You should get out of the headspace of seeing your writing as the production of a textual object that satisfies a set of formulaic rules, and into the headspace of seeing your writing from the standpoint of a human reader. At each stage in your paper, anticipate how your reader will be reacting to your argument.
III. SOMETIMES, LOSING IS WINNING - AIM FOR INTELLECTUAL DISCOVERY, NOT “WINNING”
While it is critical to consider opposing perspectives, this doesn’t mean that you have to defeat the objections you raise. In fact, it is an intellectual achievement to show just how difficult an issue really is, and some of the most important contributions to philosophy, and indeed some of the best student papers I have read, have concluded without a resolution to the problems that were raised.
IV. AIM FOR ORIGINALITY, IRRESPECTIVE OF NOVELTY
Your paper should demonstrate independent thinking and original synthesis of ideas. However, this doesn’t mean that your ideas have never been expressed by anyone in the literature. The idea is rather to aim for philosophical growth on your own merits, relative to your encounter with the primary sources.
Guidelines for Philosophical Writing: Philosophy comes in many different forms, and I would hate to give you the impression that there is a one size fits all approach to philosophical discourse. There isn’t one. That being said, Jim Pryor’s guidelines is a fair place to start if you’ve never written a philosophy paper or an argumentative paper before. Pryor gives a helpful overview of some of the basic conventions of philosophy. Keep in mind that this is just one approach to philosophical writing:
Where to Find Papers in Philosophy: PHILPAPERS.ORG: The best way to get a sense of the philosophical writing is to see what it looks like in the wild. The following website is an excellent database of philosophical research that will give you a sense of what philosophy looks like today: