Philosophy Question

Introduction to Philosophy (PHL 101)

Mid-Term Writing Assignment (30 points)



In your view, has Clifford shown that it is morally wrong to believe in God? Criticize or defend his argument.

At a minimum, your paper should:

  • Present Clifford’s argument.

Clifford’s essay is generally read as an attack on faith in God. Ironically, though, Clifford has little to say about God. That’s where you come in: Construct an argument for the conclusion that it is morally wrong to believe that God exists using premises drawn from Clifford’s essay. Note: One or more of these premises may be implicit (i.e., unstated) within the essay. You should try to construct Clifford’s argument as a deductively valid argument.

  • Explain the argument you just presented.

Obviously, it’s not enough to just lay out Clifford’s argument, as you see it. Now, you need to explain it.

  • Evaluate the argument.

Now, the hard part. Here, you need to argue for or against Clifford’s view. How do you do that? There are a number of ways to criticize an argument: The conclusion may lead to some absurd implication; a premise(s) may be false; a premise(s) may be unsupported or insufficiently supported; the argument may be invalid, etc. If you want to defend Clifford’s argument, start by offering a criticism using one of the aforementioned routes. Then, respond on Clifford’s behalf. So, either way, you’re doing critical work.

Length: Papers should be no more than three double-spaced pages in length.

Assignment Policies

  1. Late Work

This will be at the discretion of each instructor. 

  1. Sources, Citations and Plagiarism  

For this assignment, I want to know what you think about Clifford’s argument, not what professional philosophers think. (I know what they think.) Thus, no outside sources may be used without the instructor’s permission. Any source of information other than (i) “The Ethics of Belief,” (ii) Crash Course videos and (iii) lecture notes is considered an outside source. Failure to comply with this requirement constitutes plagiarism. If you are guilty of any sort of plagiarism on this assignment, instructors should fill in their policy here.

When quoting, please cite the editors’ names parenthetically in the body of the text followed by the page number (Pojman and Vaughn: 145). If you are quoting lecture notes or the Crash Course video simply put ‘Lecture Notes’ or ‘Crash Course Video’ in parentheses. There is no need for a Works Cited page. Please note that you should use direct quotations sparingly. Part of your grade is based on how well you explain Clifford’s argument. Thus, most of the paper should be in your own words, and papers that do not satisfy this demand will be deducted points.

Evaluation: Please see the rubric for how your paper will be evaluated.

Free, Unsolicited Advice:

  1. Reading: You have already read the article. So, re-read it. And then re-read it again. When you read you should not merely read; you should be actively reading. This means highlighting, flagging, taking notes, etc. For additional advice on reading, see the PowerPoint lecture ‘How to Read Philosophy.’
  2. Presentation/Explanation: Ask yourself what the conclusion of Clifford’s argument is (that much should be obvious – I just told you above!) and how the author arrives at the conclusion (i.e., what the premises of his argument are). Again, you may have to “fill in” the argument yourself in order to construct a deductively valid argument on Clifford’s behalf.
  3. Assessment: Think about whether you agree or disagree with Clifford’s argument and why. This will help determine whether you’re going to offer a criticism or a defense of Clifford’s view, and where precisely you will criticize/defend the author.
  4. Writing:
  • Strive for clarity, simplicity, and precision in sentence structure. Avoid rhetorical flourishes and obscure language.
  • Follow PEE to organize your paper.
  • Your introduction and conclusion should be very brief. Just tell the reader what you are going to do in the paper and what you have done in the paper. Do not try to “hook” the reader. You don’t have time and philosophy is inherently interesting anyway.
  • Provide the reader with sufficient guidance, especially in the introduction, and by way of transition sentences.
  • Don’t be afraid to break minor grammatical rules if your writing is clearer by doing so.
    • Go ahead – end sentences with prepositions!
    • Go ahead – Split infinitives!
  • Forget the formalities!
    • Go ahead – use contractions!
    • Go ahead – use the first person!
  • Do not assume your reader is familiar with the article. Pretend you are writing for an intelligent person—say, a parent or a friend—who is unfamiliar with the article and issue.
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