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UNC-Chapel Hill PHIL 154 - Tips for RRs

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How to get a good grade on the Reading Responses Part 1: Explain the argument 1. Identify the conclusion. What is the main claim or idea that the author is defending? If you walked away from the paper with nothing else, what would they want you to be thinking? 2. Identify the premises. Why does the author accept the conclusion you just identified? What support do they give for it? Make sure that these premises do in fact entail the conclusion. (See the “How to argue” slides for examples of argument forms.) 3. State the argument. Your response should begin with a concise statement (preferably in premise-conclusion format) of the argument you just identified. Explain how the premises are supposed to support the conclusion, and why the author thinks the premises are true. Part 2: Evaluate the argument 4. Is the argument valid? Do the premises actually entail the conclusion, or do they just seem to? If the argument is blatantly invalid, or otherwise defective in some obvious way, go back to step 2 and figure out what else this author might have been saying. Make sure that the argument you gave is one that an intelligent and reasonable person might accept (even if they are nevertheless mistaken). 5. Is the argument sound? Do we have good reason to believe the premises? Obviously, it’s impossible to be 100% certain about nearly anything. But, is there good evidence for the premises? Are there plausible alternatives, that weren’t considered? If you find yourself agreeing with the author, then you won’t have objections to raise. But your evaluation of the argument can still involve extending it or applying it in ways that the author didn’t. It might involve a discussion of some interesting implication of the conclusion, or rebutting an imaginary interlocutor with a reasonable (if mistaken) objection to the

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