Final Project: Part 1
Description: This final project is a continuation of the work began for the midterm. In the midterm, students chose an issue to work on, took up a stance on that issue, and began to articulate a way to argue in favor of their stance. The final project will complete this process. It is separated into three parts. Part 1 will have students focus on the counter-argument to their position, articulated as the fourth body paragraph of their Midterm outline. Focusing on the counter-argument is essential because without dealing with the strongest competition to one’s position, one can only advance their position so far. Even if you offer a decent argument for a claim, even if you support it strongly with good reasons, you can’t be sure that there isn’t a far stronger argument available in favor of the opposite position until you’ve looked. This limits the strength of your otherwise good argument. If you support a conclusion or thesis with strong premises or supporting reasons, and you adequately reconstruct then dismiss the best argument against your position, you have achieved some success in reasoning and argumentation. So, the focus of Part 1 of the Final Project is reconstructing then dismissing an argument against your chosen position. This is generally hard to do without constructing a straw man or picking the low hanging fruit from the opposition (i.e., one of their weaker arguments). Obviously, we want our argument to win, and our biases can make honest evaluation of other positions especially hard. But offering a straw man or weak argument and then knocking it down is not an accomplishment, and actually weakens your own argument in the long run. So, Part 1 is intended to focus on doing this difficult task well. It is, at the same time, working on what will become a large part of your paper in Part 2. Remember, you’re basically building that fourth body paragraph here. Part 2 is where students will actually write their completed argumentative paper about their chosen issue, based on their Midterm outline. Part 3 is where students will respond to commentary on their argument given by the instructor. The due dates and points distributions for this project are as follows:
Part 1: 50 points due Tuesday 4/17 in class Part 2: 80 points due Tuesday 5/1 on Blackboard Part 3: 20 points due Friday 5/4 on Blackboard
1. Restate your issue and argumentative thesis from the midterm in just a few statements.
2. This may be based on the fourth body paragraph from your midterm, or you may have rethought and reformulated the opposing stance since that time. Regardless, in a few sentences, explain the basic position which argues against or contrary to your position in general. This may, given your approach, look like a refutation of
your stance (If you’re arguing for X, their stance is, “X is false, wrong, or not the case.”). Alternatively, this may look like, not the negation of your position, but the positive assertion that something else, which is incompatible with your stance, is the case (If you’re arguing for X, their stance is, “Y is more true or good than X, and you can’t have X and Y at the same time.”)
3. In one paragraph, explain one reason that the opposition believes their stance is superior to yours. What is one premise they use to support their conclusion, in other words?
4. In one paragraph, explain a second reason that the opposition believes their stance is superior to yours. What is a second premise they use to support their conclusion, in other words?
5. In at least one paragraph, explain why it is that you aren’t convinced that their argument is superior to yours. What is weak about it in comparison to your position? What faulty reasoning is present in their argumentation? How is their argument not a problem for your position? If it is still a problem, how is it to be handled?
*As a tip, ask yourself, “Who actually holds this position?” There should be some person, group, or institution whose view you are reconstructing here, and they should be known to you. Not only that, but there should be some reason that they matter on this issue. Your opposition should be tangible and have a mostly legitimate case to make, otherwise the issue you picked isn’t much of an issue, because it’s not really contested. I only bring this up so that you don’t end up fighting ghosts on this part. Don’t fight enemies that you make up; that’s getting the result of a straw man without the straw man even resembling anyone.
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