What counterarguments can you make (if you choose to), and what key evidence can you provide?

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The following list presents several categories for students to follow while writing their papers. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it meant to be a ‘checklist’ of things to do when writing your own papers. Oftentimes, good philosophy papers will not contain every single one of these elements and if they do they will be in different proportions. Instead, this list of categories is supposed to serve as a useful guide to help students structure the form of their papers, and to help them with filling in the content.
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Explanation: Does your paper demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the text? Your paper should offer a plausible reconstruction and summary of the author’s main ideas, how they argue for them, and what they think the important implications are. It might be helpful to cite a passage or two from the text that you think is the most important and work to put it in your own terms.
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*What is the primary question you are trying to answer?
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Interpretation: What is the question you are trying to answer, or topic you are most interested in addressing? This should work to build upon your summary and explanation to develop an interpretive question of your own centered around whatever idea you’re most curious about. Here, you are going beyond just the surface level of the text to pose a question to the author that does not have an immediate answer. For example, instead of asking what it is that Descartes knows with certainty, you might whether or not the certainty of the self is constituted in this manner. Here you will need to interpret and/or clarify what exactly Descartes means by certainty, the self, clear and distinct ideas, etc. Also, how might the author answer your question and is it plausible?
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Evaluation: After developing and clarifying an interpretive question, you can move to your own evaluation of the authors claim(s) that you’re interested in. Here you can start providing your own analysis of the authors claims and positions. This can take a number of forms. Perhaps you can identify some flawed aspect of the authors reasoning, or a premise that you would like to object to. Or, perhaps you would like to propose an entirely new theoretical basis for the theme you’re interested in. Potential questions at this level include: What are the strengths of her argument? Where do you find weaknesses? What interpretive point do they clarify, or fail to clarify? What counterarguments can you make (if you choose to), and what key evidence can you provide?
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Application: Here, you can further develop your own creative theoretical point by attempting to apply it with a concrete example or implication. What you must do is show how and why the theory applies to the situation and whether or not the evidence provided for the example does/does not hold up. For example, what implications does Descartes theory of personal identity have for well-known social theories of identity? How do lived social experiences affect our identity? Do our social patterns of recognition and/or group identity support Descartes’ notion of an isolated ‘thinking thing’? Do these kinds of examples undermine his theory? These are just some potential questions for you to expand your own creativity and novel criticism.

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