The purpose of a critique is to demonstrate your ability to summarize the arguments of a noted philosopher and examine their arguments in light of the ideas of other thinkers who dealt with the same issues. For each critique, you will select an article from the Voices of Wisdom text, drawing on the Invitation text and related articles in Voices to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the position presented in your chosen article. For example, if your article defends “common sense realism,” you might raise some of Descartes’ arguments against relying on sense experience.
Your critique should include your own reflections upon the issues being raised (not just expressing an opinion, but examining the arguments). You should note any logical fallacies, inconsistencies or vagueness you find in the article. Be as specific as possible about your objections. For example, if you note an inconsistency, don’t just say the article was inconsistent but note the specific passage that reveals an inconsistency, and describe the problem. Just saying an article “doesn’t make sense” or is “unclear” won’t do. Relating the article to real-life tests of applicability is always encouraged.
Generally critiques will be about 4-6 pages in length, with roughly two-thirds of the paper summing up the article’s argument in your own words, with appropriate citations (using any standard form – Chicago, MLA etc.) to clarify their position. The closing will draw on your other reading and reflection to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the article’s position in light of available alternatives. You might want to make use of basic reference works beyond the text to assist you in understanding the issues, but extensive research beyond the two texts is neither expected nor required.
Please don’t hesitate to check with me for any clarification or questions you might have about the article you’re examining (well in advance if you are involved in a class presentation!). If your critiques are submitted when due, one week following the class discussion of the topic being considered, you will have an opportunity to make revisions based upon comments from my teaching assistant and myself. Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each week they are late, and no papers will be accepted once they are more than three weeks late. Be aware that if you select a topic being discussed late in the semester, there will only be one revision opportunity, since we will need to skip the teaching assistant comment step.
Keep in mind that you will also be selecting one of the articles you are critiquing as the basis for preparing an oral presentation, and be aware of the date of that presentation to avoid scheduling conflicts.