Below, you will find an example of a "flawed" paper, and an "improved" version of the same paper. The papers are similar in terms of the conclusion they arrive at, and the arguments they give for those conclusions. But the improved paper is written in a clearer way. (I wrote both papers, but I tried to adapt them from the student papers I've been reading.)
The flawed paper has a lot of problems, which I have discussed one-by-one in the comments. Some of these problems are incidental ones, but many of them are instances of the following three general categories of problems:
The improved paper is longer than the flawed paper, but that doesn't mean that longer is always better. You can make a paper longer by being long-winded, or by being repetitive, or by using a larger font--and none of these changes will improve your paper. In the case of these two papers, the improved paper is longer because it gives definitions, examples, and more explicit statements of the author's arguments and responses to objections. As long as you do these three things, brevity is a virtue.
All of these issues are discussed in more detail in Professor Pryor's Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper. I have written these papers as a supplement to those guidelines, not as a substitute for them. You need to read both.
I have numbered the paragraphs in the two papers, to make it easier for you to compare them.
1. Do creatures like dogs and cats have minds, or consciousness, or a degree of intelligence?
This question has plagued mankind since we first began to reflect on our own capacity for conscious thought, and it has perplexed humanity's greatest thinkers even to the present day.
In this paper, I will prove that cats and dogs do have a mind.
They do not have minds which are exactly like ours. For example, they are not capable of abstract thought.
Still, I will prove that a dog can feel. This means that dogs and cats have a mind of some kind.
2. As Turing showed with his Turing Test, we can only know that other humans have minds because of how they behave in response to their environments.
And in addition to this, other people have brains.
Dogs show their emotions through their behavior, and they have brains which are similar to ours. Some dogs have even been known to rescue their owners from life-threatening situations.
This shows that having a mind is a matter of having a brain, and of being able to behave like humans do in response to their environments.
3. Webster's Dictionary defines perception as "the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses."
Based on this definition, it is obvious that dogs can have perceptions.
Dogs can perceive objects in their environment and react to them, for example when they see food in their bowl and run over to it to alleviate their feeling of hunger. They also recoil in pain when something is hurting them.
I have also observed my dog Winston's emotions, which shows that he has a mind. When I came home from a long trip to the Bahamas when I was 13, Winston wagged his tail excitedly, since he had been really lonely without me.
Winston also loves to lie on my lap and be petted. And he gets excited when he knows he is about to get a treat. He also loves to go for walks, and to chase squirrels in our back yard.
4. Dog brains are not as large and sophisticated as our brains. But do their brains differ so much from ours that it prevents them from having minds?
We can see that this argument is pretty weak, since even human brains come in different sizes. This shows that since dogs have brains, they have experiences, even if their brains are smaller than ours.
5. [missing paragraph]
6. Dogs are not like robots. Dogs can perceive and have emotions, while a robot just follows a program.
What if you made a robotic dog that wags its tail? Would it be excited, like a real dog?
We can see that this argument is also pretty weak, because dogs have brains, and they aren't following a program.
7. Not every animal with a brain has a mind, like dogs and cats do. An earthworm has a brain, but I have claimed that dogs and cats have minds because they have emotions. If so, then an earthworm does not have a mind because it does not have emotions like cats and dogs do. For example, if you had a pet earthworm, it would not be excited to see you when you came home.
So this is no objection to my argument.
1. Do creatures like dogs and cats have minds? In this paper I will argue that they do.
This does not mean that dogs and cats have minds exactly like those of human beings. For example, most adult human beings can think about abstract subjects like mathematics or ethics, but I don't know of any evidence that cats and dogs can think about these abstract subjects.
Still, I will present the reasons we have for thinking that dogs and cats have perceptual experiences (such as pain and visual images) and emotions (such as excitement).
This means that dogs and cats have minds of some kind, since having experiences and emotions requires having a mind of some kind.
2. To begin with, I want to ask what evidence I have for believing that other human beings have emotions and experiences. I have been able to identify two major sources of evidence.
First, other human beings behave in ways that are similar to how I behave when I have perceptual experiences and emotions. This is the sort of evidence which Turing discussed in his paper Can Machines Think?. Although I don't agree with everything Turing said, I agree that my observations of other people's behavior are an important source of evidence for their having emotions and perceptual experiences.
Second, other human beings are physically similar to me in some important ways--in particular, they have brains which are similar to mine. If these similarities are adequate evidence for me to believe that other human beings have minds (which I will assume), then the same should be true in the case of cats and dogs. And both kinds of similarities do obtain in the case of cats and dogs--albeit to a lesser degree.
This paragraph as a whole presents a coherent view about the relationship between behavioral and neurological evidence for the presence of a mind. It also has a clearer organization than the one we saw in the flawed paper.
3. Let's start with behavioral similarities. If a dog gets hit very hard on some part of its body, it makes movements and sounds very similar to the ones I make when I experience pain. And when a dog has to get from point A to point B, it can avoid obstacles in its path--just like I can when I see those obstacles in front of me. This doesn't prove beyond any doubt that dogs really experience pain, or that they have visual experiences like I do when I see things in front of me. But it does give us some evidence for this conclusion. Dogs also wag their tails and jump around when their owners return after being away for a long time. Many people think that these behaviors are due to the dog's having the emotion of excitement. Once again, I don't think that this behavior gives us definitive proof that the dog is experiencing excitement, but it does give us some evidence for this conclusion.
This describes dogs' behavior in neutral terms, and then says that it reasonable to infer from this behavior that dogs have emotions and sensory experiences.
4. Let's next consider physical similarities. Dogs and cats have brains which are similar to ours in many ways. Although their brains are not as large and maybe not as sophisticated as our brains, they are made out of the same kinds of cells, and on a larger scale they have parts which correspond to many of the parts of our brain. In human beings, the brain seems to be responsible for our ability to have sensory experiences and emotions. Although dogs and cats have brains which are different from ours, the many similarities give us some further evidence that dogs and cats have experiences somewhat like our own.
The organization of this paragraph is much clearer than the one we saw in the flawed paper. It makes the same basic claim, but the structure of the argument is made a lot clearer to the reader.
5. It might seem like the two sources of evidence I have considered are not very strong. First of all, we might wonder whether it is possible for a mindless robot to display the same behaviors which are present in cats and dogs. And second, we might wonder whether there are creatures with brains that nevertheless do not have minds. I will now consider these two possibilities.
This paragraph was not present in the flawed paper. It explains the relationship between the preceding paragraphs and the paragraphs that follow. (Knowing when this is necessary, and when it is just wasting space, is something you just have to learn through practice.)
6. It is true that you could program a robotic dog to wag its tail, or to recoil as if it were in pain. I don't know whether a robot really could feel pain, or have real visual experiences or emotions like the ones that I have. But I don't think that we must accept that a robot could have experiences--or at least that these particular robots do have them--just because we accept that cats and dogs do.
First of all, the robots which currently exist are just following a program. What I mean by this is that their behaviors always conform to a simple routine. For example, some existing robots can use video cameras to navigate around geometrical figures like lines and circles. In contrast, dogs and cats can recognize people, animals, and familiar objects like a leash or a food bowl, and they can tailor their behaviors in ways that are appropriate to these different objects.
In fact, some dogs have even been known to rescue their owners in life-threatening situations--which shows an ability to adapt their behavior to their circumstances in ways that these robots can't.
A second difference is that the robots do not have brains like ours. Now I do not know what it is about our brains which makes us able to have emotions and experiences. But since a dog's brain is similar to ours in many ways, and since the robot's circuitry is different in many ways, we don't need to know exactly what it is about our brains which makes us able to have experiences. Dogs' brains have a lot in common with ours, and these robots' circuitry has very little in common with our brains--and this is enough for us to be more confident of dogs' minds than we are of robots'.
7. It is also true that there are creatures with brains, like earthworms, which I am not so sure have minds. It is possible that these creatures do have minds, but we don't need to accept this just because we think that dogs and cats do.
First of all, the brains of insects and worms are very different from ours. And like I said before, even though I don't know what it is about our brains that accounts for our having minds, the fact that there are so many differences between our brains and an earthworm's can still make it reasonable for us to doubt that it has a mind. And second, insects and earthworms don't behave at all like us, the way that dogs and cats do. These considerations show that we can acknowledge the strength of my argument that cats and dogs have minds, even if we are skeptical that earthworms have minds.