Guide to Preparing Your Essay Outline
(N.B. This guide is to be read in conjunction with the ‘Introducing Philosophy’ booklet handed out at the beginning of the course)
An essay outline for this course comprises two components:
• A thesis statement
• A section-by-section summary of the developing argument.
A thesis statement
Your essay should be a good philosophical argument. Such an argument, at minimum, provides good reasons in support of a conclusion. Thus, the first step in writing a good essay is to be clear of the conclusion, i.e. the claim that you are going to be defending. It should be possible to present the claim in no more than a ...view middle of the document...
A section-by-section summary
The remainder of the essay should proceed to defend the thesis articulated in the thesis statement. It should provide some context for the claim that you are defending (i.e. explain why anyone would make such a claim and why it is of interest), explain the claim clearly and precisely in your own terms, provide an argument or arguments in defence of the claim and defend the argument from counterargument(s).
Here’s an example (for the second of the theses noted above):
A. Introduction: 100 words
1. Outline difference between pragmatic and epistemic reasons for believing.
2. State that Pascal provides pragmatic reasons for believing that God exists.
3. Provide thesis statement as above.
B. Outline Pascal’s Wager: 300 words
1. Pascal’s assumes metaphysical ignorance, i.e. suppose we don’t have epistemic reasons for believing or denying that God exists.
2. In such a case, Pascal says we need to choose between believing this or denying this.
3. This choice, claims Pascal is not optional. (‘You must wager’).
4. According to Pascal, the potential benefits of believing are so vast as to make betting on theism rational
C. Recast Wager in terms of decision theory. 300 words
1. According to decision theory, it is rational pursue the outcome that has the maximum expectation.
2. To work out maximum expectation, associate each outcome with a utility and a probability of occurrence. Expectation = probability x utility. Compare maximum expectations or each possible outcome for a given course of action.
3. Recast Pascal’s wager using this terminology.
D. The Evidentialist Objection. 300 words.
1. Clifford claims that it is wrong to believe anything on insufficient evidence.
2. If this is true, it would be wrong to believe anything based on pragmatic reasons.
3. This undermines the conclusion of Pascal’s wager.
E. Clifford’s principle is wrong. 500 words.
1. There are certain kinds of...