Philosophy Frankfurt


Write a 250-300 word essay about the content and about the philosophically-relevant implications of the arguments that Frankfurt makes in our reading for today (if printed with double-spacing, a 250-300 word essay would fill up roughly one standard sheet of paper). BE CONCISE AND GET STRAIGHT TO THE ARGUMENTS; DO NOT USE UP PRECIOUS SPACE ON INTRODUCTIONS, TRANSITIONS, PERSONAL RUMINATIONS.

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1) IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU WRITE YOUR ESSAY IN TWO STAGES (AT LEAST); BETTER STILL, DO IT IN THREE, FOUR, FIVE STAGES, IF YOU HAE TIME. For example: it is recommended that you first write an overall draft (from beginning to end of your essay) explaining what you take to be the main “moves” and arguments in Frankfurt’s article, without any concerns about conciseness, redundancy, relevancy, word-count, etc. (that is, first get all of your thoughts “out on paper”). Then, at a second stage (at a second remove), become your own “editor” and look over your own draft with a critical perspective (as if you were a second person who is reviewing your writing); then re-work your draft with any eye to fixing problems having to do with clarity, conciseness, gaps in your logic, missing ideas, questionable presuppositions, word-count, etc.

2) KEEP IN MIND THAT OUR CLASS DISCUSSIONS ARE NOT MEANT TO PROVIDE YOU WITH THE UNIQUE “KEY” OR “SOLUTION” TO WRITING AN ESSAY ON THE SELECTED MATERIAL. Rather, our class discussions are meant to provide you with some background, context, argumentation, etc. which is relevant to the material but which would be rather difficult or time-consuming for you to discover or research on your own. Our class discussions are meant to provide not a “key” or “model” for your own work, but rather a “preparation” or “supplement” for your own work.

You should have no need to rely on any outside sources for this essay; make use of what is said in the text that we read from Frankfurt, and make use of the discussion and comments from our class interactions on Friday. HOWEVER, DO NOT WRITE AN ESSAY THAT IS LIMITED TO RE-STATING OR RE-PHRASING THE CONTENT OF OUR CLASS DISCUSSIONS. The purpose of our class discussion is to PREPARE you for your essay-writing by giving you some context, some background information, and some hints about key issues in the text to be discussed. But you should always keep in mind that the text contains far more content than we could possibly discuss in class. Your essay should clearly demonstrate that you have READ AND ENGAGED THE READING MATERIAL ON YOUR OWN, and that you are not simply following the framework presented in class.

In other words: the claims that you make in your essay should GO BEYOND a mere repetition of what claims that can be found in Frankfurt’s text, and should GO BEYOND a mere re-statement of issues that we discussed in class.

When thinking about the CONTENT of Frankfurt’s arguments, you should ask yourself: what is the “from and to” of Frankfurt’s argumentation? FROM what position, and TO what position is Frankfurt trying to lead the reader? Does this FROM-TO movement which makes up the content of Frankfurt’s argument make use of certain beliefs, assumptions, inferences?

When thinking about the PHILOSOPHICALLY-RELEVANT IMPLICATIONS of Frankfurt’s arguments, you should ask yourself: what is implied by Frankfurt’s position? If someone accepts the argument, must he/she also accept further conclusions? Does the argument really work?

In writing your essay, you should be sure to include claims or content which will clearly show that you yourself have read and engaged the text on your own, and have not merely relied upon content taken from our class discussion(s).

NOTE WELL: this essay does not call for mere REPETITION or RESTATEMENT. You are not being asked to mirror what Frankfurt said in his text or what some instructor said in class. You are being asked to ENGAGE IN THE ACTIVITY OF “playing out” or “performing” the argument, somewhat similar to the way in which an actor “plays out” the script of a play. The actor “internalizes” the script, makes it his or her own, tries it on and walks around in it. Without the particularizing “acting out,” the script is not really a play at all but only a dead letter. No two actors “play out” the same play in exactly the same way, so do not be afraid to make your own contribution to bringing the “script” to life. That is, the argument made by Frankfurt should not remain a “dead letter” in your hands but should take on a “living spirit” in your activity of “playing it out.” Of course, you should not merely destroy or supplant Frankfurt’s argument by externally or arbitrarily imposing your one-sided views on it; but equally, you should not merely copy or imitate what you take Frankfurt to be saying.

IMPORTANT: the idea of GOING BEYOND the text and GOING BEYOND our class discussions is NOT the same thing as merely adding your own opinions or ruminations about what the text happens to remind you of, or how the text might be relevant to your own personal opinions. This essay is STILL an essay on the CONTENT of the claims and arguments found in the text from Frankfurt. Similarly, when an actor “plays out” the text of the play, Hamlet, the play is STILL a play about the Prince of Denmark; the actor does not externally add or impose his or her own opinions or ruminations about what the play personally means to him or her. Rather, the actor “inhabits” the text of the play from an internal point of view, showing (by means of interpretation) what the play really means on its own terms. The “acting out” of the play goes beyond the letter of the text in order to show the meaning of the play, but it does not do this by introducing personal opinions in a merely arbitrary or external way.

Stated differently: this assignment calls upon you to do more than merely SAY or RESTATE what has already been said or stated in the text or in class. It calls upon you to INTERPRET the text and to illuminate the text’s MEANING. To INTERPRET a text and to illuminate its MEANING requires that you go beyond what is simply stated in the text. But in going beyond the text, you should NOT simply offer your individualistic opinions about what the text somehow means TO YOU personally. Rather, you should engage the text on its own terms in order to show what the text means (or ideally should mean) TO ANY RATIONAL HUMAN BEING who has wondered about what it means to be a free and responsible agent. Your activity of offering a particular “interpretation” should NOT be the arbitrary activity of “personalizing” and “subjectivizing” the text, but rather an act of “universalizing” which unpacks what the text means (or should mean) for anyone seeking to know what Frankfurt says about freedom, responsibility, and alternate possibilities.

Requirements: MLA | Essay | 1 pages, Double spaced

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