Phil 89: Second Brief Writing Exercise

Choose one of the following passages, and write a brief exposition of the philosophical argument it’s presenting. Aim for 200–400 words (a bit shorter or a bit longer can be ok).

Both of these passages are taken from a text you’ve been assigned to read for class, but the aim is not for you to tell us about the larger text or the author.

Instead, you should try to explain the argument in the passage to someone who hasn’t read these passages (or the text they’re taken from). You should say enough that they could understand and discuss the argument, based just on your summary of it. Don’t provide more detail than is needed to do that.

Also don’t try to list or give a sentence-by-sentence copy of the author’s text, with some words and phrases switched around. Instead, reconstruct the argument in your passage, in your own words and in a careful way that makes its organization clear. You may want to say things in different order than the original does.

We don’t want you to criticize or defend the arguments you summarize. There will be opportunities for that later in our course. For now, just explain the arguments, as best as you can. Learning how to do this well is an extremely important philosophical skill, and it’s harder than you might expect.

These exercises, like the others due in the first weeks of class, will be graded only: High quality/Satisfactory/Low quality, and the default grade will be Satisfactory. If someone turns in a paper that shows low effort or was especially confused, I’d give it the Lower grade; and if your work demonstrates special care and/or skill, I’ll give it the Higher grade. But you shouldn’t stress about the grade. That’s just me giving you feedback and won’t put you behind or ahead in the class. All of these brief exercises at the start of term are warm-up exercises to develop your writing skills.

Submit your exercise in Sakai by the end of the day (11:59 pm) on Tuesday Sept 20.

As I said in an earlier email, it’d help going forward if you all submit your work as a PDF. (If that’s not possible for you, then submit it another way.) Also please make sure to have identifying information on the PDF, so that I can see whose paper is whose when I print them out. When we get to your longer, more substantial papers later in the course, I will grade them anonymously, and so you’ll have to identify yourself with your PID. But for now, please identify yourself with your name instead. In any case, don’t give me PDFs with no identifying info on them at all.

Passage 1

The two-paragraph passage that starts with “Has the dualist any way to respond to this counter-argument?” on pp. 237-8 of the van Inwagen reading.

Passage 2

The three-paragraph passage that starts with “We now turn to a third argument,” on pp. 240-1 of the van Inwagen reading.