Objection-Reply Assignment
Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College

Essentially, the assignment is to state an objection to an author's position and imagine the author's reply. The point is to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the author's position, to bring imagination into the construction and critique of arguments, and to get a sense of when progress is made in philosophy —that is, when objections refute positions and when positions answer objections.

  1. Sources. Give complete bibliographic citations for the objection and for the position to which it objects.
  2. Critic's objection. State the objection in a few concise sentences of your own words. State it as an objection; don't leave your reader to infer the objection from the positive statement of some alternative position.
  3. Critic's argument. Reconstruct and explicate the critic's argument for the objection. Make the argument directly support the objection in Section 2.
  4. Author's defense. Creatively imagine the likely reply of the philosopher whose position has been criticized. Make the philosopher respond directly to what you had the critic say in Sections 2 and 3.
  5. Critic's reply. Creatively imagine the critic's reply to the author's defense. Make the critic's reply directly responsive to what you had the author say in Section 4.
  6. Number the sections of your paper 1-5 (and/or label them, "Critic's objection" etc.). This will make sure that your reader can find them and that you don't accidentally conflate them.

By default, the original author should be a philosopher we read together in class and the critic should either be a philosopher from our syllabus or one you found in library research. However, if you want to play the critic yourself and elaborate one of your own original objections to one of our historical texts, then let's talk. I may be willing to make the substitution in your case.

Submit two copies. I will grade and return one, and put the other on reserve in the library for the rest of the class to read.

See my generic hand-out for details on paper mechanics, lateness, rewrites, and the option of having me grade your paper on tape.

Ribbon] Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374, U.S.A.
peters@earlham.edu. Copyright © 1998, Peter Suber.