All assignments should be typed; should include the numbers of the questions; and should follow directions below, as to use of complete sentences, standard form, sub-argument, etc. wherever I so indicate.
Part I of this assignment is based on the New York Times Magazine article, “Identification, Please” by Helen MacDonald, June 19th, 2015. A link to this article is provided under Part I (Description and Inference).
Part II of this assignment is based on the New York Times article, “Roads to Ruin”, by op-ed contributor, William F. Laurance, April 12th, 2015. A link to this article is provided under Part II (on argument, sub-argument, standard form, & types of evidence).
There is also an optional extra credit question in Part III.
Please leave yourself enough time to do this assignment, because it might take you awhile to do it.
Feel free to consult me during office hours in order to make sure you understand the questions and/or the underlying concepts for the exam.
Part I: Description and inference: (6 points total)
This question is based on the following New York Times Magazine article:
BY HELEN MACDONALD
Learning how to use a field guide can make you feel at home anywhere in the world.
Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/1MRG09c
The above article begins with a “description” by the author of a view of Australia’s Blue Mountains National Park. In the first paragraph of an approximately 1.5 – 2 page essay (double-spaced) you should address whether or not the author also makes any inferences within her description, or if she suggests that, from the description that she has just given, that she must now make some inferences. You need not repeat the entire description, but only have to address the question about inferences. The rest of your approximately 2 page essay, you should address the following questions, after reading the entire above article:
Most of this article includes a discussion of “natural-history field guides” by which people can try to identify various animals, birds, and plants in nature when they come across them during hikes, in their backyards, etc. This raises some interesting questions about description and inference. Do these guides actually provide only “descriptions” of the birds, plants, etc., or do some of the guides already include inferences or interpretations of the animals and plants? Secondly, must the user of “field guides” make inferences from the “descriptions” of birds, animals and plants in the field guides, when they are trying to identify these animals and plants in the field? What types of inferences, and how do they make these inferences in the field? In your essay, you should address these questions, by drawing upon examples and details from the article. You may also include other observations or your own about what the author discusses, especially if your observations also involve your own inferences, or involve comments about what counts as description and what counts as inference. If you have ever used a field guide or some other type of guide to make identifications, you may include your experience in the essay, too.
PART II: Argument, Sub-Argument, Standard Form and Types of Evidence (Total: 14 points: #1: 10 points; #2: 4 points)
This part is based on the following New York Times article:
Roads to Ruin
BY WILLIAM F. LAURANCE
The relentless penetration of the last of our wilderness areas is paving the way to ecological disaster.
Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/1GZb2LQ
After reading the entire above article, answer the following questions:
1) Select a main conclusion for the entire main argument of the article. (There are several possibilities here for a conclusion, and you need not rely on a direct quote from the article.)
Put into standard form the author’s argument with the conclusion you selected and include all the most important main premises. You are also required to include at least two sub-arguments in your standard form, but you should include more than two sub-arguments if it adds to the coherency of the argument. Remember that parts of any long article might not actually be parts of the argument, although you should make sure that you include all important premises of the argument.
Remember that sub-arguments should be integrated into the standard form of the entire main argument. Examples of standard form can be found in the text and an example of sub-argument can be found in the electronic reserves article on Blackboard Learn, “Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critical Reasoning: Standardizing Arguments”, by Jill Leblanc. See also the power point presentation for Week 3.
If you do not know what sub-arguments are, and how to integrate them into your standard form, you should consult me during office hours. If you do not use standard form, you will receive a zero for this answer; and if you do not include sub-arguments (which also need to be incorporated into the standard form for the entire main argument), you will lose points on your answer.
Remember that you can reconstruct the argument in your own words – you need not rely only on direct quotes. In addition, remember that premises have to be statements – they should not be questions. Therefore, rephrase any questions that you think are important to this argument, into statements.
Do not try to simply “retell the entire story” and do not treat this as an outline. The premises you select should support the conclusion you have selected (and they should be the reconstruction of the author’s argument, rather than your own argument). In the sub-arguments that you set up, make sure that the “sub-premises” actually support the premise that you are treating as the sub-conclusion of the sub-argument.
Remember also that, in reconstructing an argument, it is not always necessary to proceed in the order of the article. (10 points)
2) Include in parentheses after each premise (and each sub-premise) in your argument for #1, the types of evidence that the author used (such as fact, factual judgment, reasoned speculation, conjecture, cause and effect, statistics, testimony, anecdotes, circumstantial evidence, conditional claims, analogy, etc.). If necessary, you may discuss (in a paragraph) further types of evidence upon which the author relied (for this particular argument) that may not be indicated by the premises (and sub-premises) you include in #1, or as further explanation of the types of evidence you indicated in parentheses. I am asking about types of evidence, as discussed in chapter 3 (pp. 93 ff of your text, and as also discussed on pp. 45 – 49, and as discussed in class and in the power point presentation from Week 5), and not the content of this evidence. (4 points)
PART III: OPTIONAL EXTRA CREDIT: (up to 4 points possible, but not guaranteed):
Evaluate the author’s argument that appears in the above New York Times article for Part II of this assignment in a short essay of approximately 1 – 1.5 pages double-spaced, which addresses some of the following questions in some detail. Are you convinced by this argument, and why or why not? Does it contradict or support what you already believe, or is the evidence that is provided either convincing or not convincing?
How well do the premises support the conclusion? Do you think that there are any relevant premises or information that has been omitted that might change the conclusion of this argument? Do the types of evidence upon which the author relies provide strong support for this argument? What other information and/or types of evidence could the author use in order to improve the argument – try to be specific, that is, raise specific questions or comments. For example, do not say, “more statistics”, but instead try to specify what types of statistics, addressing what kind of questions, might be helpful. Do not say, “more testimony”, but instead try to specify what kind of testimony, and from whom, and why it would be important. Moreover, are there any hidden (or implicit) assumptions that are controversial and for which the author should provide more evidence, or has the author limited himself to too few options/alternatives in making his case?
If you were to build an argument on this topic, what might be the conclusion of your own argument – you need not provide an entire argument, but you might indicate some of the evidence that you would use to support your own conclusion.