Introduction to Philosophical Writing

For any essay assignment you will be given a prompt. The prompt for this assignment is below.

However, instead of developing a complete essay, the goal of this assignment is to (1) flesh out the main ideas and challenges to moral subjectivism and (2) to utilize this in developing a clear introduction with a thesis statement in response to the prompt below.

The first several pages of this assignment include brainstorming exercises. Complete each one. Once you’ve finished, you can draw on your brainstorming activity to complete your introduction with a thesis statement.

Purpose of this assignment: please note that this is a scaffolding assignment. As such, it is designed to help you write both a thesis statement and introduction to an argument essay. It is also designed to help you formulate your thoughts on writing an entire argumentative essay. Later in this class, you will use these skills to help you construct an entirely realized argumentative essay.

Note: please download the attached document and use it to complete the assignment: Introduction to Philosophical Writing Activity Sheet. Failure to use the attached document to complete the assignment may result in a 5 point deduction.

Writing Assignment Brainstorming Activity Sheet



Is morality a matter of opinion? Explain the moral subjectivist’s position in response to this question. Be sure to identify which strand of moral subjectivism (autobiographical/naive) you will be considering, then assess. 

1. Brainstorm and Analysis: carefully state /describe four of the criteria for evaluating moral theories (note that the four criteria have already been provided in the downloadable Writing Assignment Brainstorming Sheet). Then, for each criterion, state a potential strength OR a weakness that corresponds it. Note that an example has been provided in the Brainstorming Sheet that shows how to complete this part of the assignment (intuitive appeal).

2. Thesis: based solely on your analysis in the above Brainstorming and Analysis section, carefully and explicitly state your thesis (in no more than three sentences). Note that your thesis should state exactly whether or not naïve or autobiographical subjectivism is a strong or weak theory. AND, your thesis should explicitly reflect either Timmons’ criteria for evaluating theories or the particular strengths and weaknesses that you have articulated above. To be more specific, pick two or three strengths or weaknesses from above (or pick two or three of Timmons’ criteria), and use these to provide the supporting evidence/reasons for the conclusion/claim of your thesis.

For more information on thesis statements, please carefully read the Writing Guide.

3. Counterargument and Response: in this section, you are to state and briefly explain a potential counterargument to your thesis. Then, you are to respond to the potential counterargument. Note that philosophical essays usually do just this thing. That is, they have a thesis. Then, after the thesis has been stated and defended, a counterargument and response will be entertained. The counterargument and response should come in the last third of your essay.

4. Introduction and Thesis: in this part of the assignment, you are to write an introduction, where you draw on the elements from the Brainstorming and Analysis section to create an introduction with thesis statement (again, please see the downloadable Writing Assignment Brainstorming Sheet). Typically, thesis statements are placed at the end of the introduction. Please note that it is optional as to whether or not your incorporate a sentence or two about the counterargument and response to your thesis. Although counterarguments and responses ARE required in argumentative essays, sometimes they are mentioned in the intro, and sometimes they are not. Here is a color-coded example that represents a fully realized introduction:Example Response.

Road Map: Think of your introduction as a map of your argument. When you look up a destination say on some app, you generally get an overview of the route. Most maps don’t tell you all the details of the journey; for instance, they don’t tell you how many cars are on the road and how many stoplights, stop signs and large buildings you’ll pass (although this technology is increasingly available). However, they do provide a rough picture of the area, including the route you’ll take and some stops you’ll be making on the way. Likewise, your introduction should identify to your reader the general terrain (i.e. the issue under evaluation), your destination (i.e. your thesis, what you will be arguing), and the stops you’ll be taking on the way (i.e. the reason you’ll proffer in support of your thesis—you’ll expand upon these in the body of your essay). An effective introduction is like a good map. It will be clear and concise so that your reader won’t get lost on the way.Some helpful tips:

1. You’ll want to begin your introduction by telling the reader the issue under consideration. Don’t assume your reader has read the prompt and knows that you’re going to talk about moral subjectivism. 

2. An introduction should be between 6-17 lines of text. However, note that the size of any paragraphs should ultimately be determined by the content. But 6-17 lines is a good guideline. For a visual, the "road map" paragraph above is 11 lines.

3. All of the essential components that should go into your introduction are in the Brainstorming section, though not necessarily in the right order! If there are strengths/weaknesses that do not explicitly appear in the Brainstorm and Analysis section, you have not done the assignment correctly.

Continue a line of thought

and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what’s more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)

Denote change

whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all, in contrast, although this may be true

Mark a conclusion

in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently

Use appropriate transitions when moving from sentence to sentence. Below are examples of transitions that will help the reader understand what you are trying to say.

NOTE: A full list of transitional devices can be found at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab: Transitional Devices.

NOTE: Please download the attached PDF, and use these document to brainstorm your ideas. Upload this document to the Assignments folder with your essay. Writing Assignment Brainstorming Activity Sheet

NOTE: Please download the attached PDF, which is an example response. Writing Assignment Example Response

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