There will be two parts to the Midterm Exam. The Essay part of the Exam will consist of two elements. One will be a sort of “book report,” and the other will be your “reasoned reflections” on what you are reporting on. On the “book report” part of your Essay you will be graded on how well you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the details of Kant’s and Mill’s theories. For grading purposes the main emphasis will be on the “book report” part, where you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the material, e.g., by explaining important terms and phrases which denote various elements of the theories, like the “Cat. Imp;” the “Prin. of Utility,” or “Greatest Happiness Prin.;“ “good will,” etc. On your evaluation of the material, or the “reasoned reflections” part you will be graded on whether or not you give reasons in support of your conclusions, i.e., whether you are giving “arguments,” or not. To give arguments is all that is required. Say whatever you actually think. Just add your real reasons for thinking it. So as long as you are giving “arguments” you will get a good grade for the “reasoned reflections” part.
Now here’s the “catch“–you must give non-fallacious reasons in support of your conclusions. It is not always easy to critique the views of a philosopher well, neither artificially strengthening, nor weakening them, in accord with the “Prin. Of Charity.” They take study and intellectual effort to understand. Avoiding giving fallacious critiques in Ethics and ,e.g., in Philosophy of Religion, areas of reflection where our own views may be passionately held, can be particularly challenging. Common Fallacies to avoid:
1) Straw Man Fallacy (opposite “Prin. Of Charity“) Examples–(a)”Kant maintains that people should not think for themselves, so he is wrong about X.”
(b)“Kant claims that we should do whatever he says just because it is “right,” so he is wrong about X.”
2) Argumentum ad Hominem (“argument directed at the person“)
Example- “Abusive“–”Kant was a romance starved prude, so he was wrong about X.“
Examples-“Circumstantial“–(a) “Kant was never married, so he was wrong about X.”
(b) “Kant lived in a different place and time, so he was wrong about X.” (c)“Kant was a Christian, so he was wrong about X.”
3) Argumentum ad Populum (“bandwagon argument”)
Examples-(a)“Kant is traditionally regarded as a great thinker, so he was right about X.” (b)“Kant’s ‘Categorical Imperative’ is related to the widespread principle of the Golden Rule, so he was right about X.” (c )“Kant was a Christian, so he was right about X.”
4) Argumentum ad Ignorantium (“argument from ignorance”)
Ex.-”No one can prove all their moral views are correct, so Kant was wrong about X.”
Kant could be correct or incorrect about any number of things, but the reasons for this are not given above. Naturally, we could commit the same kinds of fallacies regarding Mill. It is easier to “criticize” than to give a reasoned critique. To sum up–I am not saying that you should not say whatever you actually think. I am saying that you need to demonstrate that you have non-fallacious reasons to think it. This is part of critical thinking. If you do not have such reasons, then perhaps you should consider changing your mind. Try to avoid “rhetorical questions” as well. There are two reasons for this:
1) It is assumed that the reader gets the point of the question, which is not necessarily true.(2) It is assumed that the answer “goes w/o saying,” which is not necessarily true.
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