Public Philosophy Idea Pitch

23Jan 2022 by

In your Public Philosophy Idea Pitch, you will write a paper proposal (3-4 pages, double-spaced), as if you were to submit a public philosophy paper to a newspaper or magazine. You should address a topic relevant both to the subject matter of the course, and to the interests of the general public (some potential topics are provided below, but you are strongly encouraged to develop your own).

I am not asking you to provide a critical evaluation of one of the assigned readings, or a comparison between two or more of the readings. In other words, I am not asking you to write a typical research term paper (or even a proposal for one).
Instead, I am asking you to carefully think about how some of the philosophical ideas in this class can shed light on issues related to race (broadly construed). You will write in the format of a letter to a newspaper or magazine editor. This is, in other words, a sales pitch. You should divide the letter into three parts where you: (i) clearly identify a specific topic, (ii) introduce the philosophical tools you will use to analyze it, and (iii) justify the tools of your choice.
Clear indications of what tools you will use and references must be provided, and they must come from either the required or recommended readings.
Because you are writing to a non-expert audience, I am not only asking you to provide an accessible exposition of the philosophical concepts or theories to be used; additionally, I am asking you to defend and demonstrate why non-experts should care about the topic and the concepts or theories of your choice. (One way to do this is to make the case, for example, that your tools provide a clear answer or a novel angle to some hotly debated issue.)
Overall, your goal is to have the editor green-light your idea pitch. 

You could, but are not required to, propose conducting a critical analysis of a text, image, film, event that is of interests to the general public by drawing on concepts or theories discussed in class. You could also participate in a debate that’s been going on in the public domain by providing a clearer, more rigorous conceptual framework. Other possibilities are welcome, insofar as they are appropriate and relevant for the general public. 
Evaluative Dimensions

Relevance and originality (how appropriate and original your idea pitch is to a public-oriented publication) 
Clarity (how clearly and fully you spell out and defend your idea pitch)
Knowledge and understanding of course materials (how well you have incorporated relevant course materials in your pitch)
Presentation, literacy, and organization (including spelling, grammar, and punctuation)

Potential Topics (click on links to see examples of existing discussion)

Is “Black Lives Matter” racist? Is “All Lives Matter” racist? What about “Police Lives Matter” (Links to an external site.)? What do those questions presuppose about racism? How do we determine?
What is reverse racism (Links to an external site.)? Is it as wrong as racism traditionally defined? Can there by reverse racism?
Should people be condemned for apparently racist acts or speech done in private (Links to an external site.)? Why or why not?
Do we have an obligation to not only be non-racist, but to actively be anti-racist (Links to an external site.)? Why or why not?
Should recently-discovered past wrongdoings (Links to an external site.) still be condemned today? Why or why not?
Is affirmative action discrimination against White (Links to an external site.) and Asian (Links to an external site.) students? 
Was the killing of George Floyd (primarily) a result of institutional (Links to an external site.) racism or individual (Links to an external site.) racism? 

In this assignment, you don’t write a paper; you write a proposal for onespecifically, one intended for a public-oriented venue (e.g., Washington Post, Time magazine). This means two things.

First, I’m not asking you to conduct original research, whether in the form of a positive theory proposal, or a critique of an existing one; those would be appropriate for a standard “term paper”, or a peer-reviewed journal article like the ones we’ve read. Rather, I’m asking you to think about how one might apply something youve learned in this class to a topic that others (e.g., readers of the Washington Post) should find of some interest, and I’m asking you to make a sales pitch for your project. (See the assignment page for some potential topics.)
Second, the idea of an Idea Pitch also means you are writing for a non-expert audience (e.g., editors at the Washington Post). This is why you need to introduce and explain, without assuming background knowledge, the philosophical tools you will be using. By philosophical tools, I mean theories (e.g. Garcias volitional account of racism), ideas (e.g. treating race as a social construct), distinctions (e.g. discrimination on the basis of vs. discrimination against), etc. that weve covered. I’d recommend using no more than a couple, in order to do a manageable and narrowly-focused project. Additionally, not only do you need to explain the tools to be use, you need to demonstrate how they are helpful tools. Remember your pitch is to convince the magazine editor to green light your project, so make sure to make a compelling case that the paper you propose to write is a worthwhile one. Is the question you’re asking an important one? Is it part of a lively ongoing debate? Is it an overlooked issued? Etc.