Social contract theory & its applications

*These are the suggestions given by the professor, they aren’t requirements



A good essay:


  1. Demonstrates knowledge of the material. This can be the background of the various sides of an issue, the reasons for a pro argument, or for a con argument. This task can also be accomplished by explanation of the philosophical theory that you want to apply to an issue. For instance, if you want to write on Aristotle and same sex marriage then you would need to explain both what aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy you intend to draw from and a good description of the relevant positions on same sex marriage that you intend to address with your understanding of Aristotle.


  1. Make an argument. This is where you suggest a resolution to the problem that you have presented in the background section and then defend that solution. The possibilities for this position are infinite and you will not be graded on the content of your conclusions, but on the strength of the philosophical reasons and the empirical evidence that you provide. This philosophy paper is not just a summary of philosophers’ positions and their arguments for them. In a paper you must also do some philosophy (provide an argument, counterexample, or propose an original position along with a justification for it) of your own. This contribution is not supposed to be a quick point made at the end, but the focus of the paper.  You must not only understand and explain the views of other philosophers, but you must then offer and explain your own ideas and show why they are relevant.  Coming up with an idea like this is hard.  REALLY HARD.  It is entirely appropriate to struggle and try out ideas and find that they don’t work.  That is what I am here for and the discussion boards are in part a place for you to bounce your ideas off of others. In other words, your classmates and I are here to help.


Value Added – Quality is measured by how much value that person adds


How to add value:


  1. Independent research (Books and Academic Articles are best). Things like blogs and wikipedia are ok but not recommended because part of the research process is to check the facts of the people you cite. Data on Wikipedia often is backed up by a reference, the trick is to then look up the place that it references and see for yourself whether or not it is legit. Blogs are hit and miss on whether or not they allow you to fact check their data by providing references, this is the primary reason they are questionable sources. If they do list their references, then you might as well go straight to the source yourself. Blogs and Wikipedia are a great way to find out what is being researched, but they are not themselves sources of research.


  1. Your Own ideas (Extremely Valuable)
  2.   An Argument – Beginning and maintaining a Thesis (required)

B  Opinions are cheap, unless backed by an argument

  1.   Clarifying and explaining issues ONLY is ok but only B- even if it is the best summary ever.  I can read the original text, tell me something that isn’t in there.  Show me that you understand what the thinker is actually saying, but do it while extrapolating on Your Own Ideas.  Actually take a stand on an issue and argue for it using reasons, proofs, examples, and counterarguments.


Structure of the paper

Introduction – 1st Part

Topic and Thesis statement

Get readers attention.  Spark the reader’s interest.

Statement of Problem

Statement of Solution

Why is this important/Why should anyone care

Exegesis – 2nd Part

Stating an opponents view or stating the problem as given by chosen thinkers

Getting the other person straight – Give them the benefit of the doubt

A good way to do this is to use quotes and research data – as evidence of their position.

Quotes need citations.  Just page # unless you use external – then MLA or any legitimate citation style.

As a general rule, normative claims (ones that say we “ought” to believe or do something) need to be supported with reasons and factual data needs to list the study from where the facts             are taken.

Be Concise – don’t give historical backgrounds and dates of birth. Try to think of it as an idea report.

 Analysis – 3rd Part

Your response – The body of the argument

How you solve the problem

Your thesis and your argument for it

Show why and how the problem is solved


A note: There exists a difference between theological and philosophical arguments. Since this is a philosophy course, I ask that your work be based on philosophical texts and argumentation and not on theological justifications. Quoting text from the Holy Book of Religion X will only hold appeal to individuals who believe that the content of the Holy Book of Religion X is necessarily true. Philosophical reasons are designed to appeal to anyone regardless of what assumptions and beliefs they begin with. It might be helpful to write your paper imagining that the person who will read it has never read the texts you are referring to and holds a position that is the opposite of your own. Doing so will emphasize the need to carefully explain the issue, the theories you are basing your position on, and your position itself.


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