Introduction to Philosophy Richard Lee
Philosophy 2003 C 001Spring 1999

Paper (Writing Assignment)

Choose one of the following arguments:

A. Aristotle's argument that virtues are moral states (See P 414)

B. John Hospers' argument that the only laws there should be are "laws protecting individuals against aggressions by other individuals" (See P 491f)

C. Mary Anne Warren's argument that a fetus does not have full moral rights (See P 562f)

D. Louis Pojman's argument (derived from Ernest van den Haag) that it is rational to execute convicted murderers (See P 577f)

E. Louis Pojman's "argument from the principle of merit" against affirmative action (See P 626f)


For your chosen argument do the following:

  1. State clearly the conclusion of the argument. (If you quote directly, put the page number in parentheses. If you do not quote directly, add a footnote or endnote where you do quote the relevant passage, and provide a page reference.)
  2. State clearly each premise that appears in the text. (If you quote directly, put the page number in parentheses. If you do not quote directly, add a footnote or endnote where you do quote the relevant passage, and provide a page reference.)
  3. State clearly any implicit premises.
  4. If the argument has additional layers, show the overall structure of the argument by indicating which premises yield which intermediate conclusions and which intermediate conclusions and premises yield the ultimate conclusion, ideally by offering a tree diagram along the lines of the example presented in "Identifying and Formulating Arguments."
  5. Abstract the form of each move in the argument. (A "move" in an argument is an inference from a set of premises to a conclusion.) If the form has a name, state it. If the form is similar to one that has a name, explain the similarity.
  6. Offer some critique of the argument. As you develop each point of critique, be sure to indicate the nature of the critique (e.g. if you are calling into a question the truth of a premise of the argument, be sure to point of what the premise is and why you think it is or may be false; if you are calling into question the validity of the argument, attempt to make plain the form of the argument and explain why you think the form is not a valid form).
Your paper will thus follow this outline:

  1. Conclusion
  2. Explicit Premises
  3. Implicit Premises
  4. Overall Structure
  5. Form of Individual Moves
  6. Critique

Note: For this assignment you need not use any materials apart from those in the class texts -- indeed you are encouraged not to. However, no matter what sources of information you use -- even the textbook -- be sure to make adequate attribution (e.g. in footnotes). You are expected to do your own work. Use of unacknowledged sources (e.g., books, friends, tutors, other papers) for this assignment constitutes cheating.

This paper should be typed (or printed out by computer), if possible, or submitted electronically to rlee@comp.uark.edu. Submissions after the due date risk incursion of a penalty for lateness.

If you submit the paper non-electronically, please submit two (2) copies (marked "copy 1" and "copy 2"): one to be returned to you when graded, the other to be kept for our files.

Please put your name on your paper. If you are handing in a printed version, a genuine staple in the upper left-hand corner would be appreciated. No fancy covers or binders, please.

Be sure also to indicate (by letter) at the top of the first page which of the topics you are writing on.


For a sample of a paper in this format (but on another topic) see Descartes' argument that he knows that he exists.
Richard Lee, rlee@comp.uark.edu, last modified: 31 March 1999