Typed essay, kind of argumentitive


Read the whole prompt carefully. Please submit this essay in MLA format. For a passing grade on this essay, make sure you have proofread carefully at the sentence level, have 2-3 sources minimum in your Works Cited page, and have in-text citations.

Some of the key vocabulary words and ideas you have learned thus far are: thesis, claims-and-supports, Occam’s Razor, premise, deduction, induction, abduction, grayscaling, Aristotle’s three laws of logic, and logical possibility vs. what is actual (true).     

In this essay, Id like you to be fair in your argumentation. I want you to wrestle honestly with your own confirmation biases, trying to be fair on an issue, even as you fall on one side of it over the other. For this essay, I want you to tell me something you think is probably true, good, or beautiful, and explain clearly why you believe that. But I also want you to express your doubts as well and to acknowledge the complexities and competing goods that might surround the issue, making it difficult to decide. In other words, I want you to also discuss in some of your paragraphs at least one alternative to your thesis.

For example, if your thesis is that humans should not eat meat, at least one of your paragraphs should discuss alternatives: why is your thesis that people should be vegan better than, say, the thesis that people should be pescatarian? (A pescatarian eats only plants and fish.) In other words, I want you to not just make a case for your favored thesis, but to engage in abduction, discussing one or more alternatives.

In short, your capacity to deal not just with your claim, but also your doubts and alternatives will play a role in your final grade on this essay. I need to see those paragraphs where you discuss doubts and alternatives to your thesis, not just paragraphs of support for your thesis. The organizational outline of your essay would thus be along these lines:

MLA info on upper left side


Opening anecdote



Doubts and alternatives


Works Cited

To write an essay with this structure, you should pick an issue to which you have some genuine doubts. Don’t pick a topic on which you think you already have the right answer, 100%.

As to a limit on your thesis options: no conspiracy theories, please; no fringe-tinged topics which cannot be reasonably and adequately dealt with in a 1200 word essay. Check with me about your thesis before proceeding. Please recall that your audience is skeptical, college educated people, not necessarily true believers sharing your point of view. If you don’t have confidence you can persuade a skeptical audience of your thesis (your claim) surrounding a particular topic (due to the limits of length on the assignment), don’t pick that topic. 

To be clear: you can formulate your essay’s thesis in positive or negative terms (as “This I believe, sort of” or “This I doubt, sort of”).  

Before starting this essay, you should also read the 18 questions in the Skepticism section 1.11 in your critical thinking mini-course (in files in Canvas). In the course of writing, you may also discover that you have changed or altered your opinion by the end of the essay, and you may discuss that in your concluding paragraph: “I started off this essay affirming x, but as I’ve written my thoughts out, I’m not so sure.”

To turbocharge your essay, consider deploying intellectual vocabulary that you have learned from your book and intellectual tools thus far. Again, have two sources minimum listed in your Works Cited page. Proofread carefully, be interesting, and do everything in MLA format (quotes, format, sourcing, etc.).

For inspiration, I’d like you to think about Daniel Dennett. In his book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (Norton 2013), Dennett shares Anatol Rapoports public debate rules, which are four. Dennett dubs them Rapoports Rules (33). Based on correspondence between himself and Rapoport, Dennett paraphrases the rules this way (33-34):

  1. You should attempt to re-express your targets position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, Thanks, I wish Id thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Dennett, who has a combative streak, admits that Following Rapoports Rules is always, for me at least, something of a struggle (Ibid.).

My topic is This I Believe, Sort of: Police Officers Should Be Held Legally Accountable for Excessive Use of Force

This is what I have so far: 

There are numerous opinions on the topic of police and excessive use of force. Excessive use of force is dangerous and affects many people, not just the police. When a person makes an error, especially one that harms others, they should be held accountable. Why can’t the same be done with the police?

During the pandemic, there was an increase of incidents involving police using excessive use of force. However, there was one incident that shocked the entire world. It brought light to the issue of police and the amount of force they use on the job. 

Due to this, I believe that police officers should be held legally accountable.

One reason I say this is…