These are two papers students submitted for Exercise #1 when I assigned it another year. I don't know whether these are the results of one hours' work or of five. But they're fair first efforts. However, like all philosophical writing, including yours and including my own, they can be improved. We'll talk through some ways to make them better.

My analysis of the paper's major pieces and problems is given in this typeface and color.
Detailed recommendations on how to improve the writing are given in this typeface and color. The original text is marked up with insertions and original text deletions. You can hold your mouse over many of the recommendations for a pop-up explanation of why they're recommended.
This shows what the paper would look like after the recommendations to improve the writing. It doesn't attempt to improve the philosophical argument of the paper (which is more important). Rather, it just shows how to express the same arguments better. This revision is not meant to be an example of perfect writing! It can also be improved. The point is to show you what one layer of revising and polishing a paper looks like. To make a very good paper, you'll have to do that many times. (Usually, though, it's better to work out how you're going to improve your argument first, and only then work on polishing the writing and presentation.)

Paper 1

I will argue that Ccreatures like cats and dogs have minds. There Their minds may not be as highly developed or as intricate as ours as human beings, but I believe that they have minds in some capacity. This paragraph states the thesis the paper will argue for.

I will argue that creatures like cats and dogs have minds. Their minds may not be as highly developed or as intricate as ours, but they have minds in some capacity.

Granted One might claim that cats and dogs lack minds, because many of the daily functions that a cat or a dog performs ---whether it be scratching off fleesfleas, licking themselves clean, eating, and sleeping etc. ---are innate behaviors that can be likened to a machine-like "program" or the "hardware wiring" of the animal. While these everyday actions can not prove that these animals have minds and seem to just strengthen the notion that these animals are simply following a machine-like program However, there are other actions that these animals perform that can be observed as possible proof of possession of a mind support the claim that they have minds.

One might claim that cats and dogs lack minds, because many of the daily functions that a cat or a dog performs---whether it be scratching off fleas, licking themselves clean, eating, sleeping, and so on---are innate behaviors that can be likened to a machine-like "program" or the "hardware wiring" of the animal. However, there are other actions that these animals perform that support the claim that they have minds.

Dogs for example can be taught to perform tricks or actions upon command. Although this does not seem to us This may not seem like it requires a lot of rigorous thought and comprehension on the dog's part, but it does demonstrate a definite ability to learn. The dog must learn the required task and whenever it hears the command, it must be able to use its memory to recall with it's memory to perform the appropriate actions associated with that specific command. This presents your basic point: that the more sophististicated actions dogs perform aren't hard-wired. The next two paragraphs elaborate on that basic point. That's useful. But you don't need to go into so much detail, since it should be clear to the reader what you're trying to say, and the extra detail doesn't really contribute to your argument.

Dogs for example can be taught to perform tricks or actions upon command. This may not seem like it requires a lot of rigorous thought and comprehension on the dog's part, but it does demonstrate a definite ability to learn. The dog must learn the required task and whenever it hears the command, it must be able to use its memory to recall to perform the actions associated with that specific command.

Similarly there are mMany dogs that are trained to perform actions on a more advanced level. For example, seeing-eye dogs which greatly help blind people walk around and function in the world. They are trained to guide their master on the street and the sidewalk and make sure that they don't bump into anything and that they do not cross a street while the cars are coming. There are also wWatchdogs which guard houses and valuables and are able to sense danger and intruders. There are FBI dogs and Police dogs called "Working Dogs" which are trained to sniff our drugs, money, bombs and people. They aid in apprehending criminals, in missing persons investigations, and in search and rescue for disaster victims. And so on.

Many dogs are trained to perform actions on a more advanced level. For example, seeing-eye dogs greatly help blind people walk around and function in the world. Watchdogs guard houses and valuables and are able to sense danger and intruders. And so on.

Besides for the fact that these animals can be trained to perform menial tasks as well as more significant ones there is other evidence that these animals potentially have some form of a mind. It is common eEvery once in a while to hear, one hears a story on the news in which someone's life was saved by their pet dog. Although these dogs were just average dogs who did not receive any kind of training, they had the sense and the awareness that their owner was in some sort of trouble and either went to get help, or in other cases rescued their owners themselves. This was not something that was taught to them by specialists or their owners. tThese dogs saw a situation, analyzed it, realized that something needed to be done and devised a plan for the best course of action. This is more of the same: sophisticated behavior that dogs weren't trained or hard-wired to do. It's good that you have a variety of evidence. But it helps your argument to keep it streamlined. You don't need to go into lots of detail about each example. In many papers, it's going to be a struggle to fit all the pieces you need into the assigned length limits. So get in the habit of saying what you need to say efficiently.

Every once in a while, one hears a story in the news in which someone's life was saved by their pet dog. Although these dogs were just average dogs who did not receive any kind of training, they had the sense and the awareness that their owner was in some sort of trouble, and either went to get help, or in other cases rescued their owners immediately. This was not something that was taught to them by specialists or their owners. These dogs saw a situation, analyzed it, realized that something needed to be done and devised a plan for the best course of action.

Other Another kind of evidence of for the existence of a mind includes the language dogs employ while conversing with other dogs. Here you introduce a new argument that dogs and cats have minds. It would be better to separate this off into its own paragraph, and to tell us more about what you have in mind. Another kind of evidence for the existence of a mind includes the language dogs employ while conversing with other dogs. Additionally, it is sometimes Finally, sometimes a dog's behavior just makes it very apparent that the dogs have feelings and emotions. It is obvious common to see a dog that is in pain moan and pout. Sometimes when an owner is yelling at his dog his ears bend over drooping down as the dog puts it's its tail between it's its legs. Clearly the dog understands understands that it is being reprimanded and it's. Clearly it also has emotions and feelings emotions and feelings. that it has These are evident in it's its actions. This is a third argument in support of your thesis. An unsympathetic reader might say, "The author is just saying that his claim is obvious. That's not an argument." However, I don't think that's fair. There's plausibility to the idea that it does sometimes just look to us like animals understand things, feel emotions, and so on. Of course, that can't settle the issue. There are all sorts of explanations of why it might look like that to us. Maybe we're just anthropomorphizing or projecting human emotions onto the animals, like we do onto stuffed dolls. The paper would be stronger if you explained why you didn't think that's what happening. However, the fact that animals do look this way to us is already one prima facie supporting consideration in support of animals really having minds; and it's fair for you to say so.

Another kind of evidence for the existence of a mind includes the language dogs employ while conversing with other dogs.

Finally, sometimes a dog's behavior just makes it very apparent that the dogs have feelings and emotions. It is common to see a dog that is in pain moan and pout. Sometimes when an owner is yelling at his dog his ears bend over drooping down as the dog puts its tail between its legs. Clearly the dog understands that it is being reprimanded. Clearly it also has emotions and feelings. These are evident in its actions.

Again, I am not in any way saying that dogs have minds comparable to humans, nor am I saying that a dog's mind is fully developed in any way. hHowever it seems very, the evidence I've cited makes it seem likely that they do possess a mind on some level.

Again, I am not saying that dogs have minds comparable to humans, nor am I saying that a dog's mind is fully developed. However, the evidence I've cited makes it seem likely that they do possess a mind on some level.

General Comments

This paper has a good structure: you state a thesis, and then offer three considerations in support of it. You should, however, try to simplify and polish your writing. Also, the first argument has more illustrative detail than you really need, and the second and third arguments have too little. If you want these last two arguments to be persuasive, you'll need to expand and develop them more.

Click for more detailed comments on the writing in this paper.

Paper 2

I believe cats and dogs have the ability to feel emotions. They are not stagnant, stiff, frozen beings. As experienced personally, it is apparent when a dog is excited, or happy when it wags its tail, or nudges its head toward someone when they scratch behind their ears. They get happy, and sad. This is the first consideration in the paper relevant to whether animals have minds: sometimes, they just look to us to have minds. (This was also offered as an argument in Paper 1.) Highs and lows are experienced by animals just the same as humans. They play off the environment surrounding them, and are directly influenced by it. Within both bodies of cats and dogs, feelings are expressed, as well as their personal well-being. This being said, these emotions are not connected to any thoughts, but are purely a bodily function adapting and adjusting to their environment. They cannot comprehend, or rationalize their feelings, experiences, or thoughts. The emotions they feel occur in the moment, and only in the moment, and need to be triggered by a physical factor. Dogs and cats see images, obey orders, and act on their body as opposed to their mind. The rest of this first paragraph is difficult to understand. I had to read it several times to figure out what you were trying to say. This can and should be put in simpler, more straightforward terms.

I do not believe dogs and cats have minds in the same sense that humans have minds. It seems as if a mind is far too complex for them to possess. This is the second consideration: even if animals have some mental capacities, those capacities are too simple to count as minds. Their actions would be much more rational, than just mere natural reactions This is a third consideration: are animals acting rationally? Or are they just naturally responding to stimuli? You must explain what you mean by this contrast, and explain what bearing it has on the main question of whether animals have minds. Does having a mind require that one act rationally rather than just naturally respond to stimuli? to external stimuli. I believe humans have minds. Humans have the capability to go off on their own, form their own belief system with morals and values, and create themselves based on what they themselves want. Whereas cats and dogs are a bit more dependent, a bit more needy, and reliant on others of their kinds to be able too live. This is the fourth consideration: humans are self-sufficient and have free will, whereas animals are more dependent and needy. What cats and dogs do is the basis of their judgment by their own kind, whereas in the case of humans it is more so what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. It seems as if life is more complex for us, because we are more complex and capable of understanding. We can also communicate in a much more understandable way to each other. We not only have body language, but verbal language as well to express our thoughts, and feelings. This is much more specific, with differences being a lot more noticeable within each individual. This is the fifth consideration: how versatile are animals at communicating? As a result, humans are much more personalized, and individualized even though we are a communal species.

General Comments

The notion of "mind" that you are working with seems idiosyncratic. You think that animals could have some kinds of mental states, like emotions, without having "minds"; a mind requires more mental complexity. This isn't the notion of "mind" that we're working with in this class. We're using the notion of a "mind" in such a way that anything that has any mental states at all has a mind. It'd have been best if you used the notion of a "mind" in the way we were in class. It'd be second-best if you used "mind" in the different way you do here, but you had clearly explained the difference between that and our usage in class. As it was, you didn't do either. But let's set this aside and see how good a job you do arguing that animals don't have "minds" in your sense.

The paper has a bad balance between stating your views and arguing for them. It does too much of the former and too little of the latter. You stake out too much ground---state too many claims that need defending---and don't do enough, or even leave yourself enough space, to defend them.

Additionally, you don't clearly separate or make clear to your reader what your arguments are. I identified five possible arguments in the text, but they don't stand out and a casual reader might miss some of them.

And these arguments need to be better developed. For each consideration you introduce, you need to address the questions: Is that a requirement for having a "mind"? Why or why not? What is the evidence that animals lack it? Usually, you just say that it's needed to have a mind, and animals don't have it. That has very little argumentative force.

Arguments in a paper like this should have three stages:

  1. Identify a characteristic you think is necessary for having a mind.
  2. Argue that, or explain why, that characteristic is necessary for having a mind.
  3. What is the evidence that animals lack that characteristic?
This paper devotes most of its attention to stage 1, and a little bit to stage 3. It neglects stage 2, which is probably the hardest and most important part.