Philosophy abortion Essay the author’s argument for his or her position.

Choose any one of the writers we have read on abortion (Warren, Marquis, Thomson) and do two things:
1) Fully explain, in detail, the author’s argument for his or her position.
2) Refute the author’s argument.
That is, you have to disagree with the author and make the case that the author’s argument is inadequate. Make sure you are crystal clear about how, exactly, the author’s argument goes wrong.
*NOTE: This is not a research paper. You need not deal with any readings other than the course readings that are relevant to your topic. The purpose of this paper is for you to show that you understand and can critically engage with ideas, not for you to look up and report on what others have said about the ideas. That said, if you think additional sources will help you make your argument, feel free to use them.
*If you do not want to write about abortion and want to construct your own paper topic, you may, but you must check it with me first – by no later than Friday September 28th.
II. Writing a Philosophy Paper:
(The following is taken mostly from “Writing A Philosophy Paper” by Peter Horban, here: I have made some changes here and there.)
Good writing is the product of proper training, much practice, and hard work. The following remarks, though they will not guarantee a top quality paper, should help you determine where best to direct your efforts. I offer first some general comments on philosophical writing, and then some specific “do”s and “don’t”s.
One of the first points to be clear about is that a philosophical essay is quite different from
an essay in most other subjects. That is because it is neither a research paper nor an exercise
in literary self-expression. It is not a report of what various scholars have had to say on a
particular topic. It does not present the latest findings of tests or experiments. And it does
not present your personal feelings or impressions. Instead, it is a reasoned defense of a
thesis. What does that mean?
Above all, it means that there must be a specific point that you are trying to establish –
something that you are trying to convince the reader to accept – together with grounds or
justification for its acceptance.
Before you start to write your paper, you should be able to state exactly what it is that you
are trying to show. This is harder than it sounds. It simply will not do to have a rough idea of
what you want to establish. A rough idea is usually one that is not well worked out, not
clearly expressed, and as a result, not likely to be understood. You should be able to state in
a single short sentence precisely what you want to prove. If you cannot formulate your thesis
this way, odds are you are not clear enough about it.
The next task is to determine how to go about convincing the reader that your thesis is
correct. In two words, your method must be that of rational persuasion. You will present
arguments. At this point, students frequently make one or more of several common errors.
Sometimes they feel that since it is clear to them that their thesis is true, it does not need
much argumentation. It is common to overestimate the strength of your own position. That
is because you already accept that point of view. But how will your opponent respond? It is
safest to assume that your reader is intelligent and knows a lot about your subject, but
disagrees with you.
Another common mistake is to think that your case will be stronger if you mention, even if
briefly, virtually every argument that you have come across in support of your position.
Sometimes this is called the “fortress approach.” In actual fact, it is almost certain that the
fortress approach will not result in a very good paper. There are several reasons for this.
First, your reader is likely to find it difficult to keep track of so many different arguments,
especially if these arguments approach the topic from different directions.
Second, the ones that will stand out will be the very best ones and the very worst ones. It is
important to show some discrimination here. Only the most compelling argument should be
developed. Including weaker ones only gives the impression that you are unable to tell the
difference between the two.
Third, including many different arguments will result in spreading yourself too thinly. It is far
better to cover less ground in greater depth than to range further afield in a superficial
manner. It will also help to give your paper focus.
In order to produce a good philosophy paper, it is first necessary to think very carefully and
clearly about your topic. Unfortunately, your reader (likely your marker or instructor) has no
access to those thoughts except by way of what actually ends up on the page. He or she
cannot tell what you meant to say but did not, and cannot read in what you would quickly
point out if you were conversing face to face. For better or for worse, your paper is all that is
available. It must stand on its own. The responsibility for ensuring the accurate
communication of ideas falls on the writer’s shoulders. You must say exactly what you mean
and in a way that minimizes the chances of being misunderstood. It is difficult to
overemphasize this point.
There is no such thing as a piece of good philosophical writing that is unclear,
ungrammatical, or unintelligible. Clarity and precision are essential elements here. A poor
writing style militates against both of these.
philosophy paper is a reasoned defense of a thesis. Your thesis statement is a
statement of the main claim that your paper will seek to establish. Your opening
paragraph should contain your thesis statement, and the rest of the paper should be
spent establishing that thesis with whatever argument you intend to offer. Avoid
general, historical, or flowery introductions. Don’t use phrases like “Since the dawn
of history, philosophers have been arguing about…” The first paragraph of your essay
should be short and to the point. It should indicate the topic of your paper and
clearly state what you are going to show in your paper. For example:
Don Marquis argues that abortion is wrong because it deprives the fetus of a
valuable future. I shall argue that Marquis’ position is inadequate because it
rests on a false theory about what makes killing wrong.
This is how introductory paragraphs should look. They should be short and sweet,
and they should indicate what you are going to do in your paper. It’s fine to use the
first person. This is a paper in which you will be giving reasons in defense of your
2. AVOID LENGTHY QUOTATIONS. Inexperienced writers rely too heavily on
quotations and paraphrases. Direct quotation is best restricted to those cases where it
is essential to establish another writer’s exact selection of words. Even paraphrasing
should be kept to a minimum. After all, it is your paper. It is your thoughts that your
instructor is concerned with. Keep that in mind, especially when your essay topic
requires you to critically assess someone else’s views.
3. NO FENCE SITTING. Do not present a number of positions in your paper and
then end by saying that you are not qualified to settle the matter. In particular, do not
close by saying that philosophers have been divided over this issue for as long as
humans have been keeping record and you cannot be expected to resolve the dispute
in a few short pages. Your instructor knows that. But you can be expected to take a
clear stand based on an evaluation of the argument(s) presented. Go out on a limb. If
you have argued well, it will support you.
4. AVOID CUTENESS. Good philosophical writing usually has an air of simple dignity
about it. Your topic is no joke. No writers whose views you have been asked to read
are idiots. (If you think they are, then you have not understood them.) Name calling
is inappropriate and could never substitute for careful argumentation anyway.
5. DEFEND YOUR VIEW. When arguing against other positions, it is important to
realize that you cannot show that your opponents are mistaken just by claiming that
their overall conclusions are false. Nor will it do simply to claim that at least one of
their premises is false. You must demonstrate these sorts of things, and in a fashion
that does not presuppose that your position is correct. Assume that your reader is
constantly asking such questions as “Why should I accept that?” If you presuppose
that he or she is at least mildly skeptical of most of your claims, you are more likely
to succeed in writing a paper that argues for a position. Most first attempts at writing
philosophy essays fall down on this point. Substantiate your claims whenever there is
reason to think that your critics would not grant them.
6. ORGANIZE CAREFULLY. Before you start to write, make an outline of how you
want to argue. There should be a logical progression of ideas – one that will be easy
for the reader to follow. If your paper is well organized, the reader will be led along
in what seems a natural way. If you jump about in your essay, the reader will balk. It
will take a real effort to follow you, and he or she may feel it not worthwhile. It is a
good idea to let your outline simmer for a few days before you write your first draft.
Does it still seem to flow smoothly when you come back to it? If not, the best prose
in the world will not be enough to make it work.
7. USE THE RIGHT WORDS. Once you have determined your outline, you must
select the exact words that will convey your meaning to the reader. A dictionary is
almost essential here. Do not settle for a word that (you think) comes close to
capturing the sense you have in mind. Notice that “infer” does not mean “imply”;
“disinterested” does not mean “uninterested”; and “reference” does not mean either
“illusion” or “allusion.” Make certain that you can use “its” and “it’s” correctly.
Notice that certain words such as “therefore,” “hence,” “since,” and “follows from”
are strong logical connectives. When you use such expressions you are asserting that
certain tight logical relations hold between the claims in question. You had better be
right. Finally, check the spelling of any word you are not sure of. There is no excuse
for “existance” appearing in any philosophy essay.
8. GIVE CREDIT – DON’T PLAGIARIZE. When quoting or paraphrasing, always
give some citation. Indicate your indebtedness, whether it is for specific words,
general ideas, or a particular line of argument. To use another writer’s words, ideas,
or arguments as if they were your own is to plagiarize. Plagiarism is against the rules
of academic institutions and is dishonest.
9. ANTICIPATE OBJECTIONS. If your position is worth arguing for, there are going
to be reasons which have led some people to reject it. Such reasons will amount to
criticisms of your stand. A good way to demonstrate the strength of your position is
to consider one or two of the best of these objections and show how they can be
overcome. This amounts to rejecting the grounds for rejecting your case, and is
analogous to stealing your enemies’ ammunition before they have a chance to fire it
at you. The trick here is to anticipate the kinds of objections that your critics would
actually raise against you if you did not disarm them first. The other challenge is to
come to grips with the criticisms you have cited. You must argue that these criticisms
miss the mark as far as your case is concerned, or that they are in some sense illconceived
despite their plausibility. It takes considerable practice and exposure to
philosophical writing to develop this engaging style of argumentation, but it is worth
10. EDIT BOLDLY. I have never met a person whose first draft of a paper could not
be improved significantly by rewriting. The secret to good writing is rewriting –
often. Of course it will not do just to reproduce the same thing again. Better drafts
are almost always shorter drafts – not because ideas have been left out, but because
words have been cut out as ideas have been clarified. Every word that is not needed
only clutters. Clear sentences do not just happen. They are the result of toughminded
There is much more that could be said about clear writing. (I have not stopped to talk about
grammatical and stylistic points, for instance.) Some final words should be added about
proofreading. Do it. Again. After that, have someone else read your paper. Is this person
able to understand you completely? Can he or she read your entire paper through without
getting stuck on a single sentence? If not, go back and smooth it out. In general terms, do
not be content simply to get your paper out of your hands. Take pride in it. Clear writing
reflects clear thinking; and that, after all, is what you are really trying to show.
III. How you’ll be graded:
You’ll be graded on three basic criteria:
1. How well do you understand the issues you’re writing about?
2. How good are the arguments you offer?
3. Is your writing clear and well-organized?
OPINION. You will of course tell me what you think about some philosophical issue in
this paper. But it is not what you think that matters. Rather, what matters is why you think
what you think. Another way of stating this: it is not your opinion that matters. Rather,
what matters are the reasons you give in support of your opinion. I do not judge your
paper by whether I agree with its conclusion. Rather, I judge your paper by whether you
do a good job arguing for your conclusion. More specifically, I’ll be asking myself questions
like these:
o Do you clearly state what you’re trying to accomplish in your paper? Is it
obvious to the reader what your main thesis is?
o Do you offer supporting arguments for the claims you make? Is it obvious to
the reader what these arguments are?
o Is the structure of your paper clear? For instance, is it clear what parts of
your paper are expository, and what parts are your own positive
o Is your prose simple, easy to read, and easy to understand?
o Do you illustrate your claims with good examples? Do you explain your
central notions? Do you say exactly what you mean?
o Do you present other philosophers’ views accurately and charitably?

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