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?