You will write a 200-500-word essay on one of the four reading assignments attached to these instructions. Three of these readings are part of the assigned readings for this course (the fourth is not). You will have to read those three by the end of the semester, anyway, but you’ll have to read at least one of them now to write your essay. The assignment is to write something persuasive, informative, or critical about that assigned readings. That’s it. You can write anything you want, so long as it either informs the reader of something relevant to the assigned reading, attempts to persuade the reader about something relevant to the assigned reading, or delivers a relevant criticism or challenge to the author of the assigned reading. Whatever you write, a person who reads your essay, but did not read the original text should have SOME understanding of the original text based on what you say about it. Moreover, you essay must be no fewer than 200 words and no more than 500 words (not including citations, title pages, works cited pages, etc.).
Your writing must be CLEAR, CONCISE, ACCURATE, and PROFESSIONAL. Those four criteria will determine your grade and are explained below.
CLARITY: Assume your reader knows nothing about the assigned reading, and has not taken this class, but is otherwise as generally educated as you were BEFORE you started this course. EVERYTHING that your reader needs to know about the assigned reading or about philosophy MUST be explained to them in your paper. Explain everything. Assume nothing. Even if you use direct quotes from the original text, make sure to EXPLAIN them clearly in your own words.
CONCISION: Concise writing uses no more words than necessary, and uses the simplest words possible. To this end, while your GOAL is a 300-word essay, your essay MUST NOT CONTAIN MORE THAN 700 WORDS. Writing clearly AND concisely is a challenge – it’s easy to explain things by rambling on and on, and it’s easy to write very little by leaving out important details. You must do neither of these. Include everything that needs to be included, but do so in the briefest manner possible.
ACCURACY: Accurate writing does not misrepresent the facts, the author’s views, or the views of others. Given that you are writing an essay ABOUT some other piece of writing, it is vitally important that you read that other work carefully, and do not misrepresent it in your own. It might be the case that you INTERPRET the writing differently than other people would. That’s fine, but if your interpretation directly contradicts something that is clearly stated in the original writing, that is an inaccuracy. Similarly, you must take care to distinguish that which was stated in the original writing from that which YOU are assing to that writing as your own interpretation of it. Make it clear which things the original author says or seems to believe, and which things YOU are saying or believing ABOUT that original author’s work.
PROFESSIONALISM: Professional writing follows all of the instructions – include due dates, manner of submission, file formatting, etc. – and uses appropriate formatting, grammar, syntax, and citations. You may follow ANY academic or professional style guide you wish. Most of you are probably most familiar with MLA Format and/or APA Format. Either one is acceptable, but pick ONE and use it for your ENTIRE essay. Given that your essay is ABOUT an assigned reading, you will have to cite AT LEAST ONE SOURCE – that assigned reading. If you have done any other research or used any other sources to enhance your understanding or that reading or your own arguments, then cite those properly, as well.
These are the four readings that you may choose from. Your essay must be about one of these four readings. The first three readings are included in the Reading Schedule for this course – we will be reading those during this class and discussing them some time AFTER this assignment is due. The fourth (Plato’s Euthyphro) is a “bonus reading” on a topic (the nature of piety) which will not be covered during lecture, but which is RELATED to some material we WILL cover. It is the most challenging of the four, but some of you will probably find it the most interesting. PDF copies of each of these are attached to these instructions.