Reading List

This is the reading list for PAW: Philosophy & Argumentative Writing.

Week 1: Philosophy as a Discipline

Required Reading:

Rachels, J. (1975) ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’ in New England Journal of Medicine, 292: 78-80.

In this classic short (2 page) paper, Rachels discusses the ethical and policy questions raised by euthanasia practices. As you read this paper, ask yourself: Is this a good example of philosophical writing? What makes the argument easy to follow? What makes it difficult?

WritePhilosophy Guide: Abstracts and Introductions

Assignment 1:

Write a 200-300 abstract for your next PH103 essay. Follow the guidelines on the assignment page.

Deadline: Submit before your seminar in Week 2.

Week 2: Exposing Arguments

Required Reading:

Epicurus “On Death” – Fragment of a letter to Menoeceus.

An example of a difficult philosophical text. This is a brief excerpt from a letter by Epicurus in which he describes his views on death. During this week’s seminar, we will try to extract and expose the argument from this passage.

WritePhilosophy Guide: Reading Effectively

WritePhilosophy Guide: Logical Arguments

Week 3: Presenting Your Argument

Required Reading:

Judith Jarvis Thompson “Trolley Problem” Sections I and II only.

The trolley problem is one of the most famous philosophical thought experiments. Originally devised by Philippa Foot, JJ Thompson’s famous paper developed the thought experiment significantly. This is a lengthy paper – only sections I and II are required for the class, but the rest is recommended reading.

WritePhilosophy Guide: Structure

WritePhilosophy Guide: Constructing an Argument

Information about four important philosophical tools: definitions, conceptual analyses, distinctions and thought experiments.

Assignment 2:

Complete the four exercises on the assignment 2 page. Submit this exercise before your seminar in Week 4.

Week 4: Criticising Arguments

Required Reading:

Gettier, E.L. (1963) “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” in Analysis, 23: 121-3

In a classic of modern philosophy, Gettier demolishes an account of knowledge which dates back to Aristotle in under 2 pages. As you read, ask yourself the questions: What precise thesis is Gettier refuting? Do you find his counterexamples easy to understand? Can you think of any way to make them simpler and clearer?

WritePhilosophy Guide: Criticising an Argument

Information about the common approaches to criticising positions: reductio ad absurdum, dilemmas and counterexamples.

WritePhilosophy Guide: Argumentative Fallacies

Definitions and examples of some of the most common and important argumentative fallacies.

Week 5: Improving Your Work

Required Readings:

WritePhilosophy Guide: Editing your own work

Assignment 3:

Re-write and improve a 500-word section from your latest PH103 essay, taking into account your teacher’s comments and using what you’ve learned in PAW.

Slides from PAW classes:

Week 2: Analysing Logical Arguments

Week 3: Structure

Week 3: Constructing an Argument

Week 4: Criticism

Week 5: Assessment (with thanks to Luc Bovens)

Week 5: Plato Sample Paper and Falsificationism Sample Paper