Phil 205 F17: Essay 1 Prompt

General Instructions: Your assignment is to write a 3-4 page paper on the following topic. The paper should be typed, double-spaced in a 12 point legible font. It is due by the beginning of class on Tuesday, September 26. You may submit the paper over email, but I must receive it by the start of class. 

Prompt: In this paper you will write about something that you once believed, but have since come to doubt. You can pick any belief that you once had, whether it was a belief from when you were a child, or something that you believed until last week.

A successful paper will do the following:
  1. An introduction in which you lay out the issue and provide a thesis. It should BRIEFLY introduce the issue at hand.  The thesis statement of your paper should appear here.  Also, your thesis should provide a “map” or outline of the rest of your paper.  For instance, “In this paper, I will first explain Philosopher X’s argument.  Next I will evaluate the argument and articulate its weaknesses.  Finally, I will offer some suggestions as to how the argument could be improved.”  Oftentimes, it is best to leave the writing of your introduction for last.  As you begin to draft your paper, you may not always know exactly where it will end up.  Allowing this process to occur without worrying about being consistent with your introduction will help your ideas flow more readily and consistently.            
  2. A paragraph in which you explain, in as much detail as possible, what you believed and why you believed it. Don't just say, "I used to believe in Santa." Spell out exactly what this belief entails: "That a man lives at the North Pole, that he flies in a sled powered by reindeer, that he delivers toys to all the good children of the world in one night, that he has the ability to determine the behavior of these children and gifts are distributed accordingly, etc." In addition, be sure to explain why you believed what you did. Spell out the basis for holding this belief. Maybe you believed because your parents told you, or you saw something that made you believe. Again, be as detailed as possible.
  3. A paragraph that explains why you no longer believe as you did. Again, you should be as detailed as possible here. Don't say, "I stopped believing because I got older." Instead, explain why you stopped. Perhaps you found your presents in advance, or someone you trusted told you the truth.
  4. A paragraph that explains what you believe now and why. What belief has replaced that old belief? Where did this new belief come from. Why do you feel confident that your new belief is true while your old belief was false?
  5. A concluding paragraph in which you discuss the conclusions about the nature of human knowledge that can be drawn from these experiences. Perhaps you learned never to trust your parents, or you learned to always seek confirmation before believing what your friends tell you.
Grading: This essay will be graded using the attached rubric. Each column in the rubric will count equally towards the essay grade.