Write an essay on one of the following topics
Realism, Instrumentalism and Truth
What are the main arguments for Scientific Realism? How does Laudan criticise Scientific Realism? Which interpretation of Scientific theories do you prefer: the Realist interpretation or the Instrumentalist interpretation? (Many of the papers in Leplin’s Scientific Realism are relevant to this topic).
Grover Maxwell, “The Ontological Status of Theoretical Entities” in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume III, pp.3-27.
Ian Hacking “Experimentation and Scientific Realism” in J. Leplin (ed), Scientific Realism pp.154-172.
Larry Laudan “A Confutation of Convergent Realism” in J. Leplin (ed), Scientific Realism, pp.218-250.
One of the most desirable features in an essay is clarity. Clear writing helps to produce clear thought.
Do not be worried that clear expression might be taken as evidence of simplicity or superficiality of thought. It won’t. So long as the clear expression also correctly describes the views of the thinker you are discussing, clarity will be judged much more favourably than obscurity or opaqueness.
A good essay should be well-structured. It is, unfortunately, not that easy to explain what that means. One paragraph should follow each other in a logical, natural way – to the extent that is possible. An essay that flows logically and naturally will generally be judged more favourably than one that “jumps all over the place”.
It is a good idea for an essay to have an introduction, then the main body of the essay, then conclusions and summary.
One commonly asked question is: “Do I need to have original ideas in my essay?” If by an “original idea” is meant “an idea no one has ever had before”, then the answer “No, you most certainly do not.” (In philosophy this is almost impossible) However, a distinction can be drawn between “original thought” and “independent thought”. Independent thought is simply thinking for yourself. You can be thinking independently even if, somewhere someone has had those same ideas. You are thinking independently if you have thought those ideas yourself, without depending on someone else for them. In your essay this is generally a good thing, although it is not compulsory.
It is generally advisable for most of your essay to be exposition of the ideas of philosophers you have read. Having your own independent ideas is very good, but it generally should only be a fairly small part of your essay. (This is only a general guideline)
Please do not think that the more you read, the better. It is much better to read a limited amount and understand it well, than read a very large amount and only half-understand it.
Any system of referencing is acceptable, provided it is clear and consistent.
– Referencing, etc (quote format, quote page no.s, footnotes, bibliography, TURNITIN): How good is the formatting of the quotes (short quotes in text, long quotes in blocks)? Do ALL citations include page numbers? How relevant are any footnotes? Is there a bibliography, and how well formatted is it? How high is the TURNITIN score, and how indicative is this of poor referencing practices?
– Presentation (length, grammar, spelling, punctuation, expression): What is the paper’s word count, and is within 5% of the word limit? How many errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation are there per page? How good is the essay’s overall expression?
– Structure, etc (introduction; fluency, sectioning, flagging devices; paragraphs): Does the introduction to the essay address the set question, and indicate what the essay will do? How fluent are the transitions between paragraphs? How well does the essay fall into neatly divisible sections? How often does the essay flag to the reader what is happening? How often do paragraphs have topic sentences, and how often does its content focus solely on that topic?
EXPOSITION (of Primary Readings)—NOTE: Exposition of a Primary Reading includes the presentation of a point of view, possibly with examples and justification for that view, and any objections and responses, which that reading itself contains.
– Quantity: How much space is devoted to the Exposition of the Primary Readings?
– Accuracy: How accurately has the student described the contents of those readings?
– Active Understanding: How intellectually active has the student been in re-presenting material from those readings? (NB. Avoid passive description of the readings, by, eg, trying to explain the ideas in your own terms).
DISCUSSION (with Other Readings, or of an Original Nature)—NOTE: Other Discussion of an issue includes critical discussion of any readings which is sourced from some Non-Primary Reading; Original Discussion of an issue includes critical discussion of any readings which the student comes up with for themselves.
– Quantity: How much space is spent critically discussing the issue, based on other Readings, or on the student’s own ideas?
– Relevance: How relevant is the discussion, and how often is a justification for any new claims introduced? Such justifications may include the presentation of new evidence, examples, or arguments.
– Effectiveness: Objectively, how good (effective) are the relevant justifications?