In this essay, you will be critically evaluating arguments. In a critical evaluation of arguments, there are essentially two things you must do. First, you will need to fully explain and discuss the argument that you will critically evaluate. In this part of the essay, you will simply explain, as neutrally and fairly as possible, an argument for a certain conclusion. Then, second, what you must then do is discuss some potential criticisms of the argument—what weaknesses are there in the argument? What problems might someone pose for the argument? Where and how does the reasoning go wrong? We have seen this sort of critical evaluation of arguments in the articles we read for this Module. For example, it is clearly demonstrated in the Callahan article. In the Callahan article, he explains four main arguments in favor of active euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide, and then he goes on to criticize each argument (he goes on to show how and why the arguments have major problems). This is the sort of activity you will be doing in this essay. You will be discussing and then critically evaluating the arguments James Rachels gives for his main conclusion in his article “Active and Passive Euthanasia.”
In a 3-4 page essay, address all of the following:
- In your introductory paragraph, introduce the reader to the general subject matter (and if needed, define any terms), clearly state what Rachels’ main conclusion is, and then state what your plan for the essay is.
- Fully explain and discuss the main arguments Rachels’ gives for his main conclusion.
- Critically evaluate Rachels’ arguments.
Some tips and pointers:
*Chapter 1 contains useful information about arguments and how to evaluate arguments. Review that section of Chapter 1.
*Try to be as organized as possible, and make sure the reader is aware of any transitions you make between merely explaining what the argument is and critically evaluating the argument. There are different ways of organizing your essay. You can discuss/explain one of Rachels’ arguments and then critically evaluate it, and then move on to the next argument and discuss it and critically evaluate it, and so on. Or, you can discuss and explain all of Rachels’ arguments and then in the last part of your essay you can do the critical evaluation. How you organize your essay is up to you, but do make sure the reader is aware of what it is you are doing at each point in the essay. Again, you can look to the Callahan article as a model—he made it clear when he was merely explaining an argument and when he was criticizing the argument.
*You are meant to express your own view and opinion of the arguments and positions. What this means is that your criticism of the arguments will take one of two forms. If you disagree with either Rachels’ conclusion or the way he argues for it, then your critical evaluation will be a straightforward criticism of his arguments. However, if you agree with Rachels’ conclusion, you can still discuss a potential criticism of his argument, but then you will go on to say why you think the criticism is not really a huge problem for Rachels’ arguments, that there is an easy reply to the criticism. Again, I do want to know what your opinion and view is, and what you think about the issue and arguments. This can always be expressed in a “critical evaluation of an argument” type essay.
*You can use, and are encouraged to use, any of the material from this Module. So, for instance, does some of what Callahan says pose problems for Rachels’ argument? Callahan certainly is arguing for a conclusion that is much different from Rachels’ conclusion. Are there things from Lecture or the Chapter that raise issues relevant to evaluating Rachels’ arguments? Of course, there is a lot of material in all the reading we did for this Module. Don’t try and incorporate it all. But some things may have struck you as being particularly relevant, and by all means, make use of those things when you are critically thinking about Rachels’ argument. But, as mentioned, you will want to weave those things into your own thinking, and try to clearly express your own view of the issue and arguments.
*As in the first essay, there is no need for a “concluding” paragraph, where you simply restate all that you have done in the essay. I just read the essay, and know what you have done. Also, as also in the first essay, pretend you are writing for a reasonably intelligent adult who has never read anything about the issue at hand.
*There is a sample student essay for you to look at. It is on a different topic, but is a model of exactly what this type of essay should be. Note the features of the sample essay: it has a good introductory paragraph, it clearly explains the main arguments from the article the student was writing on, and had some good critical discussion of the arguments. Anyone who did not themselves read the article the student was writing on would be able to understand what the main conclusion of the article is, what the arguments the author of the article gave for that main conclusion, and what the problems the student writing the essay saw in the arguments. That is your goal for your essay.