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Prof. Basu



to structure

Reading and Discussion:


1. What is the nature of the argument?

- or more loosely, how is the author trying to make his/her case?

- what is the rhetorical form of the argument? i.e., does it make appeal to authorities, to history, to logic, to the reader's introspection ....?

- is the argument inductive or deductive, does it generalize from the specific, or begin with an over-arching theory and proceed to interpret specifics?

- to whom is the writing addressed? or for whom is it intended?


2. Who/What is the argument against?

- identify the targets, other authors or systems of thought that this author is bent on challenging.


3. What is the argument?

- or more loosely, what is the author trying to do? persuade the reader of?

- does the author clearly state his/her intention? if so, what is it?

- be sure to pay attention to what the author is saying concerning our three focal points:

            i. human nature: what theory is developed, what assumptions are made?

            ii. ethics: how does ethics figure in the argument?  is the author engaging in moral condemnation or moral prescription, if so, on the basis of what sort of ethical theory?

            iii. politics: what is politics according to the author?  what should the purposes of politics be?

-   does the author employ or develop any specific concepts that deserve attention?


3a. What does the author regard as the distinctive problems and possibilities in the Modern Age

- on what are they focusing?


3b. How does the author address liberty, equality, and fraternity?

- how does the author define, conceptualize, and operationalize each concept?

- how does the author prioritize them.


4. what are the strengths of the author's argument?

- does the author succeed in challenging his/her targets?

- any insights, valuable distinctions?

- good use of evidence?

- are you persuaded?


5. what are the weaknesses of the author's argument?

- what, if anything, has the author unduly neglected or missed?

- anything implausible, illogical, unargued?

- does the author fail to challenge significantly his/her targets?

- why are you not persuaded? where did the author lose you?