Early American Thought in Founding American Politics; Bill of Rights Arguments and critique

DISCUSS Critically and argue the following topic: What are Hamilton’s arguments against the Bill of Rights? Are they persuasive? What are the Anti-federalist replies? How successful are they?

*** Enclose an Outline of the Thesis statement, Arguments/Objections to Arguments in separate paper (free outline feature mentioned on your webstie)
Please follow the Philosophical writing guidelines written below.
II Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is two-fold. First, I want you to rehearse an argument from one of the assigned texts. If you are writing on Locke, for example, it is expected that you clearly and precisely present an argument in The Second Treatise. Secondly, I want you to critically discuss and evaluate the argument. Thus, it is not only necessary to explain Locke’s views, but also to make an argument either for or against them.

III Form of the essay: Every essay should contain (though not necessarily in this order):

A) Thesis: In your opening paragraph, you should include a clearly worded thesis
statement that informs the reader of your argument. The thesis can be stated in very
simple terms. The following would be acceptable: “In this essay, it will be argued that the theory of political obligation put forth by Locke in The Second Treatise is insufficient.”

B) Body: In this next part of the essay, clearly present the author’s arguments. The idea here is to be clear and concise. Make sure to include all the relevant information, but also try not to ramble and go off on tangents. Provide a simple narrative of the author’s ideas.

C) Argument: The following step is to evaluate the argument. Clearly state the reasons why you are opposed to the author’s argument. (If you want to defend an author and are convinced by his or her arguments, then you essay will take a slightly different form. Rather than criticize the author’s position, you will identify possible criticisms of it and reply to those criticisms.) A good essay utilizes both empirical evidence and logical argument. An empirical argument simply points to a fact in the world that either contradicts the argument of the author or cannot be explained by the author. For example, author “X” claims that democratic countries do not go to war with other democratic countries. However, in 1988, democratic country “x” went to war with democratic country “y.” Beware, however, of counterfactuals. An author’s argument may be generally true even though it allows for some exceptions. So, if you want to argue against the idea that African-Americans vote democratic, citing Clarence Thomas will not be all that helpful. Even though there are some African-American conservatives, evidence exists to prove that African-Americans overwhelmingly vote for democrats. With regard to logical arguments, simply deduce conclusions from stated premises. The author could be wrong on a few fronts here. It is possible that he or she has weak or unsubstantiated premises. It is also possible that their conclusions don’t logically flow from their premises. They might also make two logically sound arguments that contradict each other. If you have yet to take a logic class, it is best to ask yourself a few questions, such as: 1) what point is the author trying to make? 2) How does he or she prove his or her point? 3) What problems related to the author’s point have not been raised? 4) What are the implications of the author’s arguments? Invariably, your essays will be somewhat speculative. It is unlikely that you will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author is wrong.

1 Fallacies to be Avoided: I have compiled a list of some common fallacies often committed by students.
a) The Genetic Fallcy: Discrediting the argument on the basis of its origin. For example,
Elmer only supports a reduction in the capital gains tax because he is rich. That may be
true, but Elmer may still get the argument right despite his selfish motives. There is a
tradition of social criticism that seeks to uncover the lowest possible motive for holding an
opposing position. And once this motive is formulated, it is automatically attributed to the
opposing author. Be sure to avoid such intellectual laziness.
b) Ad populum: Appeal to popular prejudices. For example, everyone knows
Arabs are terrorists. Kareem is an Arab. Therefore, he must be a terrorist. This, I hope, needs no explanation. More generally, do NOT hold up contemporary American moral attitudes as the yardstick with which to judge authors from other cultures and ages, e.g. Confucian social theory is self-evidently wrong because it fails to honor the value of equality. While it is perfectly legitimate to make criticize inequality, you need to back up your assertion with logical argument. The fact that Americans now believe something is not evidence that it is true.
c) Fallacy of False Alternatives: Over-simplifying the alternatives and setting up false choices, e.g.
Bill isn’t going to vote for the democrats. This proves he is a fascist. Obviously, there is a lot of
ground between Barack Obama and Benito Mussolini.
d) Appeals to Authority: Citing an expert to prove your case. Be careful here. First of all, experts can be wrong. Secondly, sometimes people cite experts on things in which they are not experts. For example, think about the following argument: “Einstein is a pacifist, which proves that all war is wrong.” Einstein, remember, is not an ethicist or international relations scholar. His opinion on these matters is no more informed than your own.

2) Don’t Shoot from the Hip-: Second, do not try to be too hip, ironic, clever, etc. To make a persuasive argument, it is necessary to remove your tongue from your cheek. Your tone is very important.If the reader gets the sense you are either biased or condescending, he or she may not take your arguments very seriously.

D Objections: Fourth, consider objections to your thesis. If you are critical of an author, think about he or she might respond. If you support an author, consider how critics might object to your thesis. To introduce this part of the essay, you may simply state: “Critics may object…” or “It might be objected that…” Make sure to take criticisms seriously. If you present weak arguments against yourself when obvious stronger alternatives are available, the reader will not be convinced by your essay. This is sometimes referred as the straw man fallacy. Philosophical essays of the sort I am describing have a dialogic character. Your job is to construct both sides of the dialogue. You should thus make sure to give careful consideration to all possible viewpoints. If you win the argument too easily, it is a sign that you have not seriously considered possible objections.

E Replies to Objections: Fifth, you need to reply to the objections. Again, you ought to use empirical evidence and logical argument. Again, the goal is to be clear, concise and fair-minded. If you win your argument too easily, then perhaps you should take another look at your criticisms.

F Conclusion: Sum up your essay.

IV Secondary Sources: Lastly, do not use secondary literature (grad students excepting). This exercise is designed to develop your argumentative abilities. Reciting another scholar’s ideas has its benefits, but is at cross-purposes with the goal of this assignment. For the same reason, avoid the internet. Again, I want to see your work, not someone else’s. If you really want to delve into the scholarly literature, then you must engage it critically. I don’t want to see you citing authorities for your arguments. And, if you use internet sources to access the scholarly literature, be careful. Internet research has its own challenges and pitfalls. For many internet sites, it is impossible to tell who the author is and whether his or her scholarship has been subjected to an independent review process. Thus, some of your sources may be false or sub-standard. One site I recommend is www. jstor.org. This site will allow you to access much, though not all, of the journal articles written on political theory since the 1920’s. When conducting a search, make sure to include history and philosophy journals in addition to political science ones. There are, of course, other legitimate scholarly sites on the web. Just be careful and don’t assume because it’s on the web it valid.

V Citations: Consult the Chicago Style Manual. An example of the easiest form is as follows: As Hobbes contends, the state of nature is “poor, nasty, brutish and short” (Hobbes, Leviathan, 100.) Unless you are using outside sources, you do NOT need a bibliography or “Works Cited” page.

VI Final Thoughts: The quality of your essay will always be more than the sum of its parts. Logical consistency, accurate summaries of the material and proper form are necessary but not sufficient for earning a grade of “A.” Excellent essays are imaginative and shed new light on old problems and theories.


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