First Year Seminar Spring 2013 February First Essay Machiavelli

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1First Year Seminar

Spring 2013 - February

First Essay - Machiavelli

TYPE:       Inquisitive

LENGTH:    Minimum 1100 words
SOURCES:   Machiavelli’s The Prince and one critique of this work found in  Adams’ “Interpretations”



Wednesday 13th - 300 word abstract, incorporating your sources


Wednesday 20th - hard copy, two pages


Monday 25th - essay due, with abstract, rough draft, and essay checklist attached
Inquisitive Essay

The topic of your essay is a question, of your creation, whose response will be the substance of your essay.

Your essay will consist of four elements: 1. first paragraph; 2. Machiavelli’s response; 3. secondary author’s response; 4. your response.

In your first paragraph you must: 1) explicitly state your question, 2) make clear your secondary author, and 3) indicate the trajectory of your inquiry. Style and grace of expression are goals, but all these points must be satisfied.

In Part 2, you show how Machiavelli answered your question. In Part 3, you examine how one of our secondary authors critiqued Machiavelli’s answer to your question. Finally, in Part 4, you conclude with your own answer to the question.

In Part 2, interpret or reconstruct how Machiavelli answers your question. This includes articulating the arguments Machiavelli advances in support of his conclusion. Guided by the intellectual virtue of charitable interpretation, support your reconstruction of Machiavelli’s argument with textual evidence (citing the text for every claim you ascribe to Machiavelli, whether it be a direct quote or paraphrase). Part 3 should have the same form as Part 2, but instead of reconstructing Machiavelli’s argument, it should be a reconstruction of a position advanced by one of the secondary authors we have read (Wolin, Berlin, Cassier).

Part 4 should be slightly larger in size than the parts 2 and 3. In it, evaluate the cogency of the respective author’s answer to your question and the arguments advanced to support it. Remember: assessing the arguments strength is more important than evaluating the argument’s conclusion. Your critique and evaluation must always advance explicit critical strategies of your own, most often in the form of:

1) Calling into question implicit premises,

2) Counterexamples to Universal Generalizations,

3) Breaking the connection between if-then premises,

4) Drawing attention to further implications of a premise that are doubtful

For more on these strategies see the material on Logic and ‘Critiquing Arguments’ posted on the Course Resources webpage.

Imagine that this essay is the first salvo in a conversation between three intellectuals on an important question. The three participants are you, Machiavelli, and the author of the secondary work. In Parts 2 and 3, you faithfully reconstruct the answers advanced by the other two thinkers to your question. Your response to both fills out the final section of your essay.
Good Luck!

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