Concision will be a factor in your grade; avoid verbiage. Avoid grandiose introductory
comments. Do not begin with, e.g., Plato’s biographical information and an evaluation of his importance. Get right down to business: “In this essay I will describe Plato’s account of justice presented in The Republic. I will examine his view by considering a concrete case…and I will argue that…” Philosophy essays are about concepts, claims, and arguments; this dictates the order of presentation. Typically, you must take information from different parts of the text and present it in the best order for making the claims and their justifications clear and effective.
Do not present information in the order given in the text, as you might in a book report (unless this order just happens to be effective). Use proper essay form: include a brief introductory paragraph, a brief concluding paragraph, etc. Your introduction should set the scope and goals for the essay, and your conclusion should recapitulate what you have accomplished but introduce nothing new. Make sure all the paragraphs in the body of the essay also have proper form. Make the essay’s structure transparent to the reader, by using transitions, and by giving an indication of what you are about to do at each juncture (in addition to this structure being given in broad terms in your introduction).
Your imaginary reader is not someone who has read the text you are writing about; she does not already understand the theories, claims, or arguments. You must explain the positions and criticisms. You might imagine yourself (before you read the text) as your reader, or a reasonably intelligent friend or family member. Relatedly, in grading your essay, I shouldn’t have to read the essay sympathetically; what you have to offer should be clearly on the page. When you use terms that have a special meaning for an author (e.g. “adaptive” “happiness”), you must give that meaning. For this assignment, do not use quotations. Also, you ought to strive to describe the author’s ideas in your own words; do not rely too much on jargon. Be sure to use very plain language. You ought to strive to breakdown the ideas into the simplest, most straightforward terms possible; this involves thoughtful word-choice and uncomplicated sentence structure (but of course, you don’t want to simplify expression at the expense of accurately representing the details and subtleties of the concepts and arguments).
The midterm paper is about desire theory and the adaptive-preference criticism of it. Your paper should serve as an effective explanation of both for your reader. Come up with an example of a person who has unconscious adaptive preferences. (Better papers will involve unique, concrete examples.) Describing your example should only take up about 1/2 page. Explain why this example suggests the adaptive preference criticism, and explain the force of that criticism against desire theory. Also, consider a desire-theorist reply.