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Term Paper Thesis Argumentation 200 Grade Points
Due As Assigned Via E-mail
Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper:
Start by reading the Notre Dame University Guidelines
By Professor Jim Pryor
and finally, Professor Peter Horban's "Writing a Philosophy Paper"
Then, follow these Ten Commandments and everalsting grade salvation shall be thine.
While the primary intent for publishing these 'commandments' is to aid your success in my Logic and
Critical Thinking courses, anyone can use these steps to formulate a defensable term paper in philosophy.
These are NOT mere guidelines for this Critical Thinking and Writing course, however. These are the
NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS for writing a successful term paper in this course. Since
satisfying these necessary and sufficient conditions entails demonstrating the skills of VALID and SOUND
reasoning, then many students may well find these 'commandments' useful and productive in writing any
paper assigned in your academic life. Be well and prosperous!
PART ONE OF YOUR TERM PAPER: VALIDITY
1. THOU SHALT STATE THY THESIS: A philosophy paper begins with the statement of a claim to be
defended. This claim is a proposition and constitutes the THESIS of your term paper. The first paragraph of
your paper should state clearly what 'thesis' proposition you intend to defend.
Example: "Political Science is an oxymoron"
Choose a topic from your major academic discipline of study. The example is suitable for a political science
major. If you don’t have a major yet, then choose a claim you wish to defend in an area of study interesting
to you and where you have sufficient general background knowledge.
Example: "There is a high degree of probability that intelligent life exists on other planets in the known
Perhaps you want to challenge the views of another thinker. If so, then your thesis statement would read
something like this.
Example: "I oppose the view held by Gilbert Ryle that states that the term ‘mind’ refers merely to the
functions of the brain rather than to some being separate from the brain."
Your statement of the claim is your thesis. You will defend this view by advancing a series of reasons called
arguments. You may need many sub-arguments in order to get to your main thesis argument.
Prepare a bulleted outline of what those arguments will entail. List the kinds of evidence or proof you will
need for each argument. Is your argument purely analytical (a priori) like Anselm’s argument for the
existence of God? Then you will have no soundness issues to deal with only issues of validity. Or, is your
argument concerning some area of practical reasoning (a posteriori) as is in the first example stated above
about political science? In that case you will have to deal with both issues of validity and soundness. This
outline should be free from mere opinions, beliefs, feelings, hearsay or things you vaguely remember
Monica Lewinsky saying in her interview with Barbara Walters on TV. Your outline should ONLY
CONTAIN REASONS that support other statements in the outline by logical entailment.
2. THOU SHALT DEFINE ALL THY TERMS: Take each section of your outline and break it down into
smaller sections containing premise statements (propositions) that lead to conclusions. List what kind of
definitions you intend to employ for the terms in the premises you use for each sub-argument and your
main argument. Are your definitions stipulative, lexical, functional, theoretical or some combination
thereof? Make careful note of this in your outline. At this stage, be prepared to go through several drafts of
your paper before you get to the final version. Three to four drafts are quite to be expected in writing a good
philosophy paper, especially if this is your first attempt. Show your drafts to me or to a tutor for comment
3. THOU SHALT STATE THY ARGUMENT IN A VALID FORM: Choose a deductive method of reasoning
to compose your arguments. This could be a series of standard form categorical syllogisms where each
conclusion serves as the major premise for the succeeding argument until you arrive at the main argument
also stated in standard form categorical syllogistic form. Choose one of the 15 Valid Forms.
4. THOU SHALT PROVE YOUR ARGUMENT(S) VALID: Once your argument is formulated using one of
the known 15 valid standard form categorical syllogisms you must then prove validity of your argument.
You do this by use of a VENN DIAGRAM and The 6 Rules for Validity in Standard Form Categorical
Syllogisms. Embed the Venn Diagram for your thesis argument in the body of your text. Parse your
argument through each of the 6 Rules. DO NOT FAIL TO DO THIS! If you have mastered these techniques
you should have no trouble getting to this point. If you have trouble, see a tutor or bring your work to class
for analysis. I’ll be happy to evaluate it with you.
PART TWO OF YOUR TERM PAPER: SOUNDNESS
5. THOU SHALT ANALYZE THE SOUNDNESS OF THY ARGUMENT: Once your argument is proven
VALID then each of the premises for the main argument must be submitted to inductive analysis to
determine their empirical probability. Here you need to state the empirical conditions under which they
could be tested. Of course, if your argument contains terms and propositions about those terms that are
beyond the realm of empirical proof then you must state why that is the case. Then you must present an
'analytical' proof for your premises. THIS IS A CRUCIAL STEP IN YOUR PAPER. Valid arguments are easy
to construct since validity is purely a matter of correct form. Sound arguments, on the other hand, are valid
arguments that have all factually true, empirically verifiable, scientifically demonstrable premises to a high
degree of probability. If you find that the premises have scientifically weak evidence then you cannot claim
soundness for your argument, just weak probability. Empirically weak arguments provide little reason to
accept them as factually true. Don’t be shy to come to this conclusion if the evidence warrants it. That’s the
point of doing the paper, i.e. to see if valid and sound reasoning can substantiate the truth-claim of your
term paper thesis.
6. THOU SHALT SUMMARIZE THY FINDINGS: As a last step in your paper, review where you began,
where your inquiry took you and where you concluded. If this process changed your views on the issue
underlying your thesis then state the reasons why. If you discover that there is little or no empirical
verification for the factual truth of your premises, then say so. If you have come to some original insights
about this issue, then state what those insights are. Typically, your summary paragraph will be quite short.
7. THOU SHALT MAKE THY PAPERS printed 6-10 pages in length, double-spaced, spell-checked and
grammar-checked documents. Make two copies of your final paper. Keep a backup copy in digital format.
8. THOU SHALT FOLLOW APA (American Psychological Association) style and format for printing your
final paper. List all references and resources used according to the APA format.
9. THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBORS WORK. I define plagiarism as submitting the work of
another as if it were your own.
10. REMEMBER TO READ THY PAPER ALOUD: Before you hand in your paper READ IT ALOUD to
yourself and/or to a kind friend. You will catch last minute mistakes this way as well as enjoy a sense of
confidence that your final paper actually makes well-reasoned sense.
Your papers will be graded according to the following criteria:
1. Is it clearly written, relatively free from careless errors in typing, spelling grammar and syntax? I stop
reading papers that are syntactical train wrecks and do not grade them.
2. Is your thesis free from vague and ambiguous language?
3. Is there a logical flow to the structure of the paper?
4. Did you prove your argument valid by formal means?
5. Did you fairly represent the views of those you cite?
6. Did you consider counter arguments to your own?
7. Did you adequately examine the soundness of the premises you use?
8. Did you comprehend what you have been able to demonstrate?
9. Did you hand your paper in on time?
10. Did you do original work?
Excellent Internet resources for writing a philosophy paper:
APA Style and Format
Help with Writing
Here are some Valid Syllogisms from successful former student Term Papers. These thesis arguments were
successful, not because of 'what' they argued, but rather by 'how' they were argued.
All individual passion is ruled by individual character. All individual destiny is ruled by individual passion.
Therefore,All individual destiny is ruled by individual character.
No human fetus killing is a private matter. All human abortions are human fetus killings. Therefore, no
human abortion is a private matter.
(NOTE: by converting the MAJOR premise, this argument could be formulated as a CESARE, EAE-2)
All perception states are real states. Some dream states are perception states. Therefore, some dreams
states are real states.
(NOTE: by converting the MINOR premise, this argument could be formulated as a DATISI, AII-3)
All things in life that don’t kill you are things that can make your character stronger. Some things in life that
don’t kill you are “bad choices” you make. Therefore some “bad choices” you make are things that can make
your character stronger.
(NOTE: by converting the MINOR premise, this argument could be formulated as a DARII, AII-1)
EIO-1 FERIO (All EIO Mood arguments are valid regardless of Figure)
No inanimate three-dimensional objects are objects that can commit murder. Some things (i.e. guns) are
inanimate three-dimensional objects. Therefore, some things (i.e. guns) are not objects that can commit
All state sanctioned marriages are marriages wherein it is at least logically possible for human procreation
to happen. No marriages between members of the same gender are marriages wherein it is at least logically
possible for procreation to happen. Therefore, no marriages between members of the same gender are state
No ‘entity’ is a thing that exists outside of sense perception. All ‘god’ things are entities that exist outside of
sense perception. Therefore no ‘god’ thing is an ‘entity.’
(NOTE: by converting the MAJOR premise, this argument could be formulated as a CELERANT, EAE-1)
All 'gay' people are people that politicize their homosexuality. Some homosexual people are not people that
politicize their homosexuality. Therefore, some homosexual people are not 'gay' people.
Some people that rely on ‘feelings’ in place of ‘reason’ are not ‘critical thinkers and writers’. All people that
rely on ‘feelings; in place of ‘reason’ are political ‘liberals.’ Some political ‘liberals’ are not ‘critical thinkers
No drugs are “recreational”. Some ‘high risk’ sports are “recreational.” Therefore, some “high risk” sports
are not drugs.
(NOTE: by converting either the MAJOR or MINOR premise this argument could be formulated as a
FERISON- EIO-3 or a FRESISON, EIO-4)
Many students have asked for a sample term paper that satisfies the necessary and sufficient conditions for
formulating a successful term paper in this course. Here is just such an example as your guide. Click the link to
access the PDF,
Sample Term Paper by Matthew Bixby class of 2007
Yet More resources on Writing a Philosophy Paper
Professor Douglas Portmore, Arizona State University has an excellent PDF that both parrallels these guidlines
and provides an excellent bibliogrphy for successful writing of undergraduate philosophy papers. Here's the
URL for his PDF
Professor Mark McIntire
REASON ARGUE REFUTE:
Critical Thinking About Anything by Mark
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopies, recordings, internet,
multimedia, television, virtual reality, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Mark
MAY BE SOLD BY AUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTORS ONLY
First Printing 2007
Thank you for protecting the digital property rights
of the author.
Table of Contents
Author: Mark McIntire
Dedication and Acknowledgments:
Part One: Reason
Basic Logic Concepts
Twenty Basic Reasoning Distinctions
Reasoning Fallacies in Three Categories: Irrelevance, Presumption and Ambiguity
Fallacies of Irrelevance Category
Fallacies of Presumption Category
Fallacies of Ambiguity Category
Part One Reasoning: Learning Review
Attributes of Critical Thinkers and Writers
Part Two: Argue
Section 2 Categorical Logic
Venn Diagrams & 15 Valid Forms
The Six Rules of Validity
Problems with Ordinary Language
Propositional Logic Overview
Argument Learning Review
Part Three: Refutation
Refute the Definitions
Refute the Logic
Refute the Weak Evidence
Refute by Analogy
Refute Ethical Or Moral Assumptions
Refutation Learning Review
Appendix I: Guidelines for Argumentative Writing
Writing a Journal of Your Ideas
The 19 Rules of Natural Inference
Author: Mark McIntire
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Professor McIntire received his
undergraduate and graduate philosophy degrees from Oblate College at
The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1977 he wrote
an original one-man-show, “JFK: A Time Remembered” giving over 500
live performances at colleges and universities across America.
Author of “The Financial Core Handbook”, Professor Mark McIntire has
taught Philosophy since 1966 at Westfield State College, Massachusetts
(now Westfield State University), University of Phoenix, Antioch University,
and currently teaches online at Santa Barbara City College in California.
McIntire was elected to the National Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors
in 1983, when he wrote and filed a brief, amicus curiae, with the Supreme
Court of the United States in the landmark case CWA v Beck (1986). The high
court decision 5-3 sustained McIntire’s argument protecting the freedom of dissident
union workers and led to the publication of his work “The Financial Core
Handbook” that remains the definitive source on this decision to date.
When not teaching Critical Thinking and Writing at Santa Barbara City
College online, McIntire conducts executive seminars in “Critical
Thinking for Success” and mentors gifted students into their graduate
In 2010, “The Mark McIntire Show: “MINDS THAT MATTER” ran for 52
episodes on AM 1290 Santa Barbara News Press Radio. The highly rated
program featured the life of ideas from college presidents, writers, actors,
and scientists and gifted students
Supplemental materials for this e-textbook, Reason Argue Refute:
Critical Thinking About Anything, are available on Mark McIntire’s
online teaching website:
Dedication and Acknowledgments:
It seems fitting for an author of an Aristotelian
categorical logic book to acknowledge his
indebtedness to others by logical category.
In Memoriam: Dr. Peter A. Angeles, Joan
McIntire, Ron Pagel, Vernon Olson,
Inspiration: Many thousands of students I have
taught since 1966
Nurturing: David L. Hutchinson, Ellen White,
Tyler and Whitney Duncan
Guidance: Charlton and Lydia Heston, Fraser C.
Heston, Christopher Mitchum, Carol Lanning
Wisdom: Matthew Kane Bixby, Professor Joseph
White, Professor Jim Chesher, Professor Peter
Georgakis, Preparation: Mychilo S. Cline,
Patricia L. Raabe, Norman P. Stevens, Max
Insistence: Christopher Candy, Gary Gentilini,
Michael Miller, Mikal C. Davies, Alastair
Patiently, you have coaxed this book from me.
-Cordially, Mark McIntire “Nemo dat...quod non
Preface and Introduction
“Is not the great defect of our education
today--a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble
that I have mentioned-that although we often succeed in teaching our
pupils "subjects," we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how
to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.”
---‘The Lost Tools of Learning’ by Dorothy Sayers, Oxford University,
Welcome to a critical thinking boot-camp for the mind. This is a “how to
think” e-textbook for digital devices. Any intelligent person over the age of
twelve years old can master basic reasoning, argumentation, and refutation
by using this book. Primarily intended for high school college and
university students, it can also serve the needs of career professionals in their
writing and decision making. Tim McGrath, author of, John Barry: An
American Hero in the Age of Sail wrote a gracious testimonial after using
this book; “In no small thanks to Reason, Argue, Refute, I wangled a nice
advance for a book on the Continental Navy (the Reason section was
obviously a bigger help in this instance than the other two – but man, have
they been good to learn for the business hours of the day).”
This book presents the basics on ‘how to think’ clearly, rationally and
logically. The guiding compass of the entire text is the concern for the quality
of “how” students think, not with the quantity or content of ‘what’ they
think. It is divided into three main parts, each with relevant subsections.
Part One: Reasoning gives rigorous training in basic logical ideas, laws,
methods and principles as well as an exposition of common fallacies in
everyday failed attempts at reasoning.
Part Two: Argument gives systematic training in recognizing
arguments by type distinguishing arguments by the strength of the inference
in their conclusions, analyzing arguments in ordinary language and
everyday speech, formulating arguments using both categorical and
propositional logic, proving the validity of arguments by formal rules and
graphic illustration, and distinguishing between valid and sound
Part Three: Refutation gives effective strategies for refuting arguments
by objecting to definitions, weak inductive evidence, causal claims,
analogies, and ethical and moral first principles. Ways to look inside (X11
ray or autopsy) arguments for their internal defects are demonstrated
leading to cogent refutation by formulating contrary, contradictory and
analogical counter arguments.
Appendix I offers argumentative writing guidelines that have proven
successful for thousands of students.
Appendix II offers a reliable format for anyone wishing to write and
keep a journal of their “life of ideas.”
Throughout this book provocative examples are used sparingly and only to
illustrate ideas and methods of effective reasoning, argument, and
refutation. This book helps fill a vacuum created by current education
curricula. Those curricula advocate teaching “what” to think while giving
only flimsy clues as on “how” to think. Current higher education
expectations place a premium on “diversity” of opinions while requiring
little if any formal training in how to determine valid and sound arguments
for or against these diverse opinions.
Why Read This Book? Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century
it is common for students to receive a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even a
Doctoral degree from higher education in ...