The Governing Idea

only 3 paragraphs!!

 

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The Governing Idea
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Your goal in writing these is to present your informed judgment about specific arguments
relevant to the larger issue discussed in each unit.
Each essay is to be three paragraphs in length, with explicit thesis sentences beginning each
paragraph. In the first paragraph, you will present the detailed view you are defending. In the second
paragraph you will show that you are aware of arguments opposing your view. In the third paragraph,
you will balance the two but explain why you think believe that your original position is stronger. In a
little more detail:
***In the first paragraph, state clearly the argument you are developing in your essay. Be both
explicit and clear. The governing idea is that each unit concerns a subject area far too vast to manage in
three paragraphs. Many, many books have been written about each of them. So you are going to dial
your attention in to something way, way, way narrower, something that can be managed in the very
finite space allotted. The first paragraph is where you state what you have narrowed your attention
down to. Note that each unit has associated with it a specific assignment tab. There you will find a
short set of further instructions including several suggestions for specific thesis questions.

***In the second paragraph, you’ll present an opposing view. Avoid uncharitable characterization
here. Since philosophical claims get their substance in part from contrast, it is important to be accurate
(which includes being fair) in presenting contrasting views. The governing idea here is that you are
showing that you have a mature awareness that there is room for reasoned and principled disagreement
in moral discourse.

***In the final paragraph, you are developing your original position. What you want to avoid in
this section is mere repetition of the considerations advanced in the first. Instead you’ll show how your
original position can be improved in response to contrasting ideas. Paragraph two presents a challenge.
Paragraph three overcomes, rather than ignores, that challenge. See more details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governance

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So, over the full course of the essay, what you are to do is present your conclusion clearly, state
the reasons for it explicitly, present opposing viewpoints fairly, and develop your arguments logically.
Note that while the format here is rigid, the skills required are perfectly general to all college writing.
In addition to the paragraph-at-a-time requirements detailed above, you’ll be graded holistically
on three basic criteria: 1. How well you understand the issues you’re writing about, 2. how reasonable
are the arguments you offer, and 3. how clear and well-organized your writing is. Importantly, whether
we agree with you will not affect your grade in the slightest. Instead, we will ask questions like these:
Do you clearly state what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you make each paragraph’s thesis obvious?
Do you offer supporting arguments for the claims you make? Do you make clear what they are? Is your
paper well-grounded in class materials like the readings, the lectures, and the blog discussions? Do you
make explicitly identify what parts of your paper are expository, and what parts are your own positive
contribution? Is your prose simple, easy to read, and easy to understand? Do you illustrate your claims
with good examples? Do you limit your use of jargon and explain what you do use? Do you say exactly
what you mean? Do you present other views accurately and charitably?

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