Dan Hausman
5197 H. C. White Hall
263-5178     
dhausman@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
Tuesdays 2:30-3:30
Wednesday 1:30-2:30

Philosophy 524 Syllabus


Introduction:

Economics is the most prestigious of the social sciences. Economists attract high salaries and are interviewed daily on television, radio, and in print. Governments and private businesses employ whole armies of economists. But to what end? It is said that in one of the big military parades that take place annually in Moscow's Red Square a group of economists came by riding on a flatbed truck between the missile launchers and tanks. When someone asked Brezhnev what those paunchy middle-aged men and women were doing in the midst of the parade of soldiers and weaponry, he is said to have answered, "Ah, those are our economists. You'd be amazed at the damage they can do!"

Even if one is not convinced that economists on the whole have actually done us harm, over the past few years it doesn't seem as if they have done us much good. In 2008 the entire financial system almost collapsed, and apart from a few mavericks, the entire economics profession was taken completely by surprise. The huge bubble in housing prices, whose very existence few economists acknowledged, burst. Trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities, which economists at rating agencies had judged to be essentially riskless, were found to be nearly worthless, in many cases owing to systematic fraud. Yet almost the entire economics profession was caught napping. And the performance of the profession since then has been nothing to brag about. A complete financial collapse and a great depression were avoided (or so we hope), but three years into this horrible recession, millions of people are out of work, and the economy is sputtering. Faculty and staff here at UW are making on average 25% less than they were a decade ago (a fact that is near, but not so dear to my heart). The confident claims of economists that the business cycle had been conquered ring very hollow, and leading economists -- including Nobel laureates -- disagree violently about what explains the problems and about what to do. Long run, things don't look very rosy, apart from the princely returns to the captains of industry and to the kings of finance. Incomes to the rest of Americans have been stagnant or declining for decades.

It gives one pause. Is economics really a science, or are economists essentially hired help that economic interests and political parties employ to produce spurious rationales for policies designed to enrich one group or another? How is it possible for practitioners of what is purportedly an empirical science to be so clueless about what is actually going on in the economy? Why are there such violent disagreements, and why aren't they settled like other scientific disputes by experiments or observations?

There are lots of things to be said in answer to these queries. Some of them have nothing to do with philosophy. Sociologists and psychologists and even economists have a good deal to tell us about how the economics profession is structured, about how people's beliefs tend to align with their interests and respond to incentives. But to understand how all this bears on the scientific credentials of economics and what we can expect of it, one needs to ask hard philosophical questions concerning the nature of science and knowledge acquisition in general. That is our task this semester.

In fact, economics is of philosophical interest in two other ways. First, much of economics embodies a theory of rationality, and rationality is of great interest to philosophers both in itself and because of its role in theories of knowledge and ethics.  Second, although they sometimes deny it, most economists are committed to a distinctive theory of human well-being and to a related view of ethics; and ethics is, of course, a part of philosophy. 

I personally am interested in both of these areas in addition to the methodological questions that will concern us this semester. But methodology is a huge subject all by itself, and I shall not say much this semester about rationality, welfare, or justice.

The course will be divided into five sections. We will begin with a discussion of fundamental theory in mainstream economics and rational choice explanation. We will then examine some philosophical work concerning confirmation and the most influential claims economists have made concerning the same questions. The third section of the course will focus on macroeconomics and its contentious relationship to fundamental theory. Only in the fourth section of the course will we turn directly to the "lesser depression" we are currently experiencing and how to understand what economists have and have not been able to do to help out. The last section of the course will consider ways in which economics might be modified and perhaps improved and will say a little about about the view of welfare most economists endorse.


Course Goals:

1.  To provide an introduction (a) to parts of philosophy of science (especially accounts of confirmation, explanation, and reduction), (b) to parts of economics, and (c) to some philosophical work devoted specifically to economic methodology.

2. To offer some answers to questions concerning the peculiarities of economics, its difficulties, and what can be expected of it

3.  To provide an introduction to philosophical argument in general: This course should help you to appreciate how philosophy and economics bear on each other and how knowing philosophy can contribute to doing economics.

4.  To help you to develop your analytical abilities and your ability to present and to criticize arguments both in discussion and, in particular, in writing: Every good essay, regardless of the subject matter, is an extended argument for some thesis or conclusion.  The only thing special about philosophy essays is the extent to which one focuses upon the logic of the argument.  This course should help you to write more sharply organized, focused and effective essays.

The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what I am trying to accomplish.  If you cannot see how any particular lecture or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, please be sure to ask about it.  In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is.  Keep asking "So what?"  Since this course is as concerned with mastering skills as with acquiring information, it demands your active participation.

What this course does not aim to do:

This course does not aim to provide a detailed introduction to economics or to philosophy of science. These subject matters are too intricate to be tackled sensibly, even in a superficial way in just one semester.  Although you should learn something about each of these, you should be aware that these subjects are more complicated than it might appear from the introductory material we will consider.


Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor and/or the TA. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact James Anderson, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.


Texts:

PME Roger Backhouse, The Puzzle of Modern Economics: Science or Ideology (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
PE Daniel Hausman, The Philosophy of Economics: An Anthology (3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, 2007).
CR Course Reader

All three will be on sale at the Underground Textbook Exchange located at 664 State Street and on reserve in the College Library.


Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus and some other materials in the xeroxed collection will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/524/Spring2012/524-Spring2012.htm. Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via Learn@UW.


Students with disabilities:

I hope to make this course as accessible as is feasible to anyone with a disability. Please let me know as early in the course as possible if you need accommodations in the curriculum, instruction, or assessments in this course to enable you to participate fully. I will attempt to maintain confidentiality of any information you share with me.


Course Requirements:

There will be two essays, a midterm, homework, and a final examination. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (60%), midterm (15%), the final (25%), and there will be a homework and attendance bonus or penalty.

LECTURES Attendance is technically optional, because missed classes can be made up by writing a precis of the lecture you missed, but the need to write a precis of missed lectures gives you an incentive to attend regularly. I welcome questions and comments during lecture.

INTRODUCTORY PAPER The introductory essay should be no more than 1000 words in length. It counts for 10% of your semester grade. It is designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at writing a philosophy essay without the anxiety of having much of your grade depend on the result. It counts for only ten percent of your grade. A first ungraded version is due promptly at the beginning of class on Tuesday, February 14, and a revised version is due one week later,Tuesday, February 21. The first version must be completed on time, but your grade will depend on the revised version. I will look at one paragraph of the ungraded version and, if necessary, warn you that the writing is not satisfactory.

TERM PAPER The term paper counts for 50% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 2500 words and it is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, March 20. The term paper is due fairly early in the semester in order to make it possible for you to rewrite it and to submit a revised version. Unlike the introductory paper, the first version you hand in will be graded. Revising the paper is optional. The optional revision is due on Thursday, May 3. If you submit a revised version, your grade will be the average of your grades on the two versions.

MIDTERM It will be held on Thursday, March 8 and will count for 15% of your semester grade.

FINAL EXAMINATION The final examination will be cumulative, though it will emphasize material that comes after the midterm. It will involve both short-answer and essay questions.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS

ATTENDANCE CREDIT OR PENALTY


WARNING!! Philosophy challenges complacency. It’s hard to know what the truth is concerning hard questions like the ones we will be addressing this semester.


Course Outline:

Course Outline:

Tuesday, January 24: An introduction to economics and to the course

PE, Introduction, pp. 1-4, 22-31.
Backhouse PME, Introduction, pp. 1-14.


Thursday, January 26: Economics in practice: rationality and incentives

Backhouse PME, chapters 2 and 3


Tuesday, January 31: Economics in practice: markets and welfare

Backhouse PME, chapters 4 and 5


Thursday, February 2: Fundamental theory: Rationality

Hausman, "An Introductory Account of Microeconomics and General Equilibrium Theory," section 1 CR


Tuesday, February 7: Fundamental theory: Consumer choice

Hausman, "An Introductory Account of Microeconomics and General Equilibrium Theory," section 2 CR


Thursday, February 9: Fundamental theory: Production and general equilibrium

Hausman, "An Introductory Account of Microeconomics and General Equilibrium Theory," section 3 CR


*Tuesday, February 14: Science and the acquisition of knowledge

PE, Introduction, pp. 1-34.

Ungraded first version of introductory paper due.

Read, Edmund Andrews, "My Personal Credit Crisis," (at the end of the course reader) which is an account of one family's bad economic choices, which were typically of many -- though Andrews is much wealthier than most people who borrowed too much. Write an essay expressing your view of what went wrong. To what extent was this a matter of one individual's mistakes? To what extent was this a matter of fraud? To what extent was this a matter of bad economic policy leading to mistaken economic incentives? How (if at all) could better policies have averted the mess Andrews describes? Is this a story that calls for moral condemnation or for better policy (or both)? Would more restrictive policies have been an unjust limitation on Andrews' rights and the rights of the companies that offered him loans? Should economists have been aware of the practices described in the article and have warned of their consequences? What should Andrews do now, both as a matter of prudence and as a matter of morality?

You should not try to answer all the questions stated above, and you should feel free to address other issues raised by this article. The crucial thing is to produce a tightly organized essay with a clear and substantive thesis that you explain and defend.

Be sure to consult the instructions and suggestions concerning writing philosophy papers that you can find near the end of this syllabus.

The first version due on February 14 will not be graded. Instead I will look at one paragraph in your paper and I will email you a warning if there are problems with the writing that, if not improved, will mean that your final version will be returned for correction and marked down. Papers that are sloppy in their grammar, punctuation, spelling, copy-editing, or usage will not be graded until they are corrected. If I don't email you a warning, that means only that the particular paragraph I looked at was satisfactory. It is no guarantee that the writing in the paper is satisfactory or that I will not return the version handed in on the 21st for correction.


Thursday, February 16: Empiricism, confirmation, and induction

David Hume, from An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding CR


*Tuesday, February 21: Popper: Demarcation, induction, and theory choice

Karl Popper, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" CR

Introductory paper due.


Thursday, February 23: Popper and Friedman: Philosophy of science and economic methodology

Karl Popper, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" CR
Milton Friedman, "The Methodology of Positive Economics" PE, pp. 145-78.


Tuesday, February 28: Economic methodology and the realism of assumptions

Milton Friedman, "The Methodology of Positive Economics" PE, pp. 145-78.
Dan Hausman, "Why Look Under the Hood?" PE, pp. 183-87.


Thursday, March 1: Empiricism and the deductive method in economics

J.S. Mill, "On the Definition and Method of Political Economy," PE, pp. 41-58.


Tuesday, March 6: Mainstream economics and the deductive method

Lionel Robbins, "The Nature and Significance of Economic Science," PE, pp. 73-99.


*Thursday, March 8: Midterm examination


Tuesday, March 13: Business cycles and Keynesian macroeconomics

Backhouse PME, Chapters 6 and 7.
Christina Romer, "Business Cycles" CR


Thursday, March 15: Keynesian macroeconomics

Paul Samuelson, Economics, pp. 220-32, 234-47, and 335-53 CR


*Tuesday, March 20: Keynesian macroeconomics, continued

Paul Samuelson, Economics, pp. 220-32, 234-47, and 335-53 CR
Alan Blinder, "Keynesian Economics" CR
Paul Krugman, "IS-LMentary" CR

Term Paper Due


Thursday, March 22:The New-classical critique of Keynesian macroeconomics

Robert Lucas and Thomas Sergent, "After Keynesian Macroeconomics" CR
Kevin Hoover, "New Classical Macroeconomics" CR


Tuesday, March 27: Econometrics and the Lucas Critique

Kevin Hoover, "Econometrics as Observation: The Lucas Critique and the Nature of Econometric Inference" PE, pp. 297-314.


Thursday, March 29: The financial crisis of 2008 and the "Lesser Depression"

Gary Gorton, "Questions and Answers about the Financial Crisis," CR
2010 Economic Report of the President, chapter 2 "Rescuing the Economy from the Great Recession" CR


Tuesday, April 10: Understanding the "Lesser Depression"

Brad deLong, "Understanding the Lesser Depression" CR


Thursday, April 12: Why haven't economists done better?

Paul Krugman, "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" CR


Tuesday, April 17: Ideology?

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, from The German Ideology CR
Backhouse PME, ch. 8
Joseph Schumpeter, "Science and Ideology," PE 207-222


Thursday, April 19: What is to be done? (I) Incorporating insights from psychology

Matthew Rabin, "A Perspective on Psychology and Economics" CR


Tuesday, April 24: What is to be done? (II) Experimentation

Vernon Smith, "Economics in the Laboratory," PE 334-55.


Thursday, April 26: Experimentation, game theory and the importance of institutions

Ernst Fehr and Simon Gächter, "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments" CR


Tuesday, May 1: Alternative approaches: Austrian Economics

James Buchanan and Viktor Vanberg, "The Market as a Creative Process" PE, 378-98


*Thursday, May 3: Welfare economics

Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson, "The Philosophical Foundations of Welfare Economics," PE 226-50.

Optional Term Paper Revision Due


Tuesday, May 8: Welfare economics, continued

Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson, "The Philosophical Foundations of Welfare Economics," PE 226-50.


Thursday, May 10: Review and conclusions

Backhouse, PME, chapter 10.


Homework:

I will usually distribute discussion questions via email and post them on the public web page for the course. I hope you will find the questions useful and that they will help facilitate class discussion. In some cases, I will also ask you to write a brief response to one of the discussion questions and to hand it in as a homework assignment. The homework assignments are not meant to be polished essays and, unlike the introductory and term papers, they will not be graded for style, organization, spelling, and so forth. Provided that your response addresses the assigned question in a non-trivial way, it will pass.

If you complete all the homework assignments and do not exhaust your allowance of late classes, you will receive 2 points of extra credit. For each excess late class, you will lose 1/2 point, and for each missing homework assignment you will lose one point.


"Five-Minute Essays":

I will from time to time distribute during class brief and often provocative questions and give you a few minutes to jot down your thoughts. These will not be graded. They are intended instead to encourage more active and thoughtful discussion.


Making up Missed Classes:

************

MISSED CLASS MAKE-UP FORM:

Name:

Name of student whose notes were used:

Date of the lecture:

Topic of the lecture:

Readings discussed:

Precis of the lecture, including careful presentation of any explicitly formulated arguments and in the case of missing homeworks relations between the lecture and the answer to the discussion question.

***************


Discussions:

I hope there will be active discussion. Please don't hesitate to interrupt me with questions. Don't be surprised if I sometimes call on you even if you haven't raised your hand.


Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesday 2:30-3:30 and Wednesday 1:30-2:30) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.


The Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but it can get out of hand. Feel free to email me at dhausman@wisc.edu with any specific questions you have about substance, assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I may post them anonymously on the course discussion page. If you want to keep the discussion private, please let me know. Otherwise, in emailing me about any aspect of the course, you’ve given me permission to post your question. That way I can serve as many students as possible. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?" Some questions are of course better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.


A Note on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense, for which there is no excuse. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL.  It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. The minimum penalty for plagiarism -- even just copying a phrase without attribution -- is a failing grade on the assignment.

In my experience, plagiarism usually happens because it is 3 a.m. on the morning when a paper is due. Your rough draft is going nowhere. You're exhausted and increasingly desperate. And you've come across an obscure web page that says pretty much what you've been trying to say. And ... well you can fill in the rest, perhaps even what happens when students get caught. This is the time to stop and go to bed. Much better to talk with me and get some help, take the mild penalty for not handing the paper in on time, and write a paper that gives you some satisfaction.


Grading Scheme:

I am planning on employing the on-line gradebook on the Learn@UW web site.

Grade A+ A A- AB B+ B B- BC C+ C C- D F
Percentage (points) 98-100 95-97 92-94 89-91 86-88 83-85 80-82 77-79 74-76 71-73 68-70 60-67 0-59
Points below 60 60-68.9 69-74.9 75-80.9 81-86.9 87-92.9 93 and above
Semester Grade F D C BC B AB A

The Role of Readings in the Course:

I do not usually devote my lectures to the exposition and discussion of the readings (though I am happy to entertain questions about how my lectures relate to the readings). Although I will cite and criticize specific arguments from the readings, the lectures usually present an independent perspective on the issues. Critically engaging with the arguments in the lectures is your most important task, but you may have a hard time understanding my arguments or exactly how they are relevant if you do not study the readings carefully. I selected the readings to represent a variety of different perspectives, and even when the readings are mistaken (as, in one regard or another, they often are), there are valuable lessons to be learned from understanding their mistakes. The examinations will ask not only that you have mastered the material in the lectures but that you be able to relate the arguments in the lectures to the arguments in the readings and to respond intelligently to questions concerning the important arguments in the readings.


Some Hints on Reading Philosophy Papers:

Although you may not be able to understand completely the most difficult philosophical or economic texts, you should aim to master most of the readings, particularly those that address specific issues. Here are some detailed hints about how to do so:

1. Use your highlighter sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. The assignments are usually short, and you should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

a. What is the author's position?

b. What is the general structure of the essay? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?

c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)

d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?

e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?

f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?

g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?

h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments developed in lecture and in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in lecture or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in lecture or in other readings?

During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than asking, as suggested above, questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments


General Directions on Writing the Papers

Style and references:

1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the lectures or reading for the course. But you are expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters merely to demonstrate that you have done the course readings. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.

2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. Your reference style is not important. What matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that Popper says that science relies on induction, it should be clear on what page Popper supposedly says that. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the source and page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.

3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced in a reasonably large font with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders. There is no need for a separate title page.

4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their writing- spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down, and if they are very messy, they will be returned for correction before they are graded and also penalized. Messy and badly written papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are in minimally correct English. If you have writing difficulties, seek help in the writing lab and get someone to proofread your paper before you hand it in.

5. I have abridged and reprinted in the course reader some principles of composition from Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. I urge you to read them before you start to write and then again when you have finished your rough draft.


Hints on essay writing:

1. The paper topics are not recipes for writing your essays. You have to decide what you want to maintain in your essays. Do not regard the paper topic as an essay examination question. Although your papers must be on the assigned topic, the point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion.

2. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your paper is about, but also what your paper maintains or shows. Be sure each of your papers has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.

3. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Hoover argues claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is orderly, and it has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive thesis. A thesis like "Krugman has some good things to say" is not detailed or substantive enough to hold a paper together.

4. Avoid first paragraphs that say things such as, "First I will discuss the views of Lucas and Romer. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.

5. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Lucas is a mistaken principle" are unacceptably careless. (Lucas is a obviously a person, not a principle.) Value your words and use them accurately. Avoid putting section headings in your papers. The papers are not long enough to need them. Provide clear transitions from one paragraph to the next so that the reader knows where you are going without section headings.

6. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:

1. What is your thesis--that is, what is it that you are trying to maintain or show or prove? What is your main argument for your thesis?

2. What is the most important objection to or criticism of your thesis that you need to consider? Formulate that objection or criticism as an argument.

3. What is your argument in response to the objection or criticism mentioned in answer to question 2?

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.


Special considerations in writing philosophical papers:

1. In a political debate, the point is to win, and one consequently tries to make the arguments of one's opponents sound as ridiculous and worthless as possible. In a philosophical debate (or in writing a philosophy essay), in contrast, the objective is to learn the truth. So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to your position that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side". (This is not to say that there are no mistakes and that both sides of every issue are always equally well supported. If the question was, "Should economists be concerned when their predictions are mistaken?" it is worth studying what can be said in the defense of ignoring disconfirmations, even if there is little to be said in its defense.)

2. Although many sociological and economic facts are relevant to the issues you are addressing in your essays, be careful to keep your focus philosophical. If you aren't sure whether your papers are philosophical or not, check with me.


Seeking help:

When working on the final versions of your essays, feel free to come to your teaching assistant or me for help. You do not need to do further research, but you can consult with us if you want references for further reading.

There are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:

www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm This is brief, clear, and helpful.

http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html Excellent, but much lengthier.

www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/philosophy.html For those who are serious about philosophy.

www.cofc.edu/~portmord/tips.htm Contains lots of references for further study.

A terrific general source on writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The first edition is available on the web at http://www.bartleby.com/141/


Paper grading criteria

An "A" paper typically has all of the following virtues, although in exceptional cases papers with five of the six virtues might merit an "A"

  1. It has a well-defined thesis and a logical organization.
  2. It shows good sense, intellectual honesty and struggle. It defends a defensible thesis and takes seriously objections to that thesis.
  3. It is well-informed. If there are passages in the assigned readings for the course that are particularly relevant to the matters under discussion in the essay, these are cited and discussed. The paper shows an awareness of conceptual dis-tinctions and clarifications developed in the course.
  4. It is intelligent, logical, and careful. The argument is carefully articulated and developed. Obvious difficulties are anticipated and answered, and gaps are closed.
  5. It is significant. The issues discussed, although detailed, are of some importance, and the essay makes their importance clear.
  6. The paper is written in a lucid and grammatical style.

A "B" paper has the following virtues:

  1. As before.
  2. As before.
  3. As before.
  4. It is logical and not careless. The argument is well articulated.
  5. It is not trivial. The essay provides some motivation for its topic.
  6. The paper is grammatical.

A "C" paper has at least the following virtues:

  1. It is orderly and has some focus.
  2. It shows some serious concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. It is not uninformed. Where relevant, it shows awareness of the content of the course.
  4. There are some definite and cogent arguments in the essay.
  5. The paper has some point.
  6. The paper is readable and minimally grammatical.

A "D" paper

  1. Has some intelligible organization.
  2. Shows some concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. Shows minimal awareness of the course content.
  4. Makes some relevant and sensible argument
  5. Has some point.
  6. Is comprehensible.