sbccPhilosophy-111 Critical Thinking And Writing:

Essay #1 Writing Assignment

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Video Introduction

TOPIC: WHAT DO I THINK AND WHY DO I THINK IT?

It's time to write your first essay in this course. Your goal here is to write a 'cogent' essay on any debatable topic you may choose. I define cogent ( From the Latin cogent-, cogens, present participle of cogere to drive together ) as, reasoning from believable and justified assumptions to a conclusion necessarily driven by those assumptions.

Since this course concerns HOW you reason and not WHAT you reason, then the topic is only important because it involves your interest and passion. This opportunity may be a new experience for some so take advantage of writing on a topic that excites your intellect.

Notice the word 'intellect' as opposed to the word 'feelings'. What you THINK, not what you FEEL is the point of this assignment. Consequently successful essays will avoid use of expressions such as 'I feel', and use expressions such as 'I think'.

With your success in Exam #1 and Exam #2 you now have a good understanding of what 'cogent' reasoning entails. You now know that logical reasoning happens when a conclusion claim is necessarily entailed by premise claims. Now you know that a valid argument is one where a necessary conclusion flows out of the stipulated premises. That is exactly how you are to argue this essay assignment. Stipulate a set of premises that, if factually true, would entail the conclusion by logical necessity. Then do the same for the opposite point of view. That's all there is to it. The sample essay reprinted below was written by a former student in this online course. While not perfect it does satisfy the necessary and sufficient conditions for writing a cogent essay in this assignment.

Here's a YouTube Video of Professor Alan Keyes giving a strong (cogent) argument against homosexual marriage. Whether you agree or disagree with Professor Keys, his argument is free of any informal fallacies of reasoning and is sound if you accept his premises and definitions.

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General Guidelines:

1. State your claim immediately and don't beat around the bush with a long history of the universe since the big-bang. Get to the point you wish to make in the first sentence.

Example: This paper will defend the view that all American citizens with no criminal history be allowed to carry concealed weapons to protect their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

2. State the assumptions you think are believable and justified in formulating your reasoning.

Example: The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides and protects the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms.

3. State the premises that entail your stated conclusion.

4. State the principle argument AGAINST your claim and give reasons for rejecting that opposing view.

5. Make your essay no more than 1100 words double spaced APA format. It can be shorter in length as long as it satisfies the 5 necessary steps below.

6. No essay will be graded that has not been spell/grammar checked.

7. Avoid ALL informal fallacies.

8. Submit your essay, via email no later than the due date announced by class email.

Necessary Steps For Cogent Reasoning


Step 1. Choose any debatable topic of your interest and make a truth claim about that topic.

EXAMPLE: "All nations need to adopt a 'sustainable food' public policy before the year 2010."

Step 2. List the major reasons you think (not FEEL) this truth claim is both VALID and SOUND.

Step 3. Apply the following rule for a VALID and SOUND deductive argument to the truth claim and your reasons:

" A deductive argument is VAILD if, and only if, the PREMISES entail the CONCLUSION by LOGICAL NECESSITY. Moreover, a deductive argument is SOUND if and only if it is first of all VALID and then only if the PREMISES are FACTUALLY TRUE to a high degree of EMPIRICAL PROBABILITY."

Step 4. Now take the OPPOSITE view on the topic and list the major reasons for arriving at the opposite view by VALID and SOUND reasoning.

Step 5. At the end of your essay summarize which side of the debatable issue has the better set of reasons for their conclusion and why.

That's all there is to it! Have fun. Here's a
Sample Essay for you to emulate

Phil-111: Critical Thinking and Writing
Sample Essay # 1 from an online student in 2007
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Gun Control and the Safety of Society


This argumentative essay will defend the conclusion that less strict gun control laws will make society safer. I will reason that more of the arguments set forth by the anti-gun control side hold true to the nature of human behavior and to actual gun usage than those proposed by the supporters of gun control. I reason that the arguments of the pro-gun control side often focus on narrow, sentimental consequences of gun ownership and neglect to address the larger impacts that so-called 'gun control' legislation would have on society.

I started writing this essay with the belief that "Stricter gun control laws will make society safer". Here were my reasons. First of all, let us assume that has a decrease in crime, injury and death will make society safer. Now let us assume that hostile individuals seeking to commit crimes or harm others often use a gun to carry out their destructive objectives. If we postulate that stricter gun control laws would prevent hostile individuals from acquiring guns, and if we assume that these individuals would be less successful in achieving their destructive objectives if they did not have a gun, then stricter gun control laws would make society safer. Now, let us postulate that less strict gun control laws would result in more people carrying guns. Let us also assume that this would result in more criminals carrying guns because they feel that this is a necessary measure in order to adequately defend themselves from vigilante justice. If we postulate that more people and criminals carrying guns would result in more frequent gun-related deaths and injuries, then stricter gun control laws would again result in a safer society.

Now, let guns be defined as powerful devices that give those who possess them the potential to inflict serious harm on others and themselves. Guns can be mishandled by their owners, which may result in the injury or death of the gun owner or an unsuspecting, innocent individual. If we assume that gun control laws will reduce the number of guns and gun owners present in society, then the probability of an accident occurring will decrease, and thus society will be safer. Furthermore, statistics show that there is a correlation between the laxity of a country's gun laws and its suicide rate. If we postulate that individuals would be less successful in committing suicide if they did not have access to a gun, and if we postulate that stricter gun control laws will make guns more difficult for individuals to obtain, then stricter gun control laws would make society safer. So, by the previous logic, stricter gun control laws would result in a safer society.


Others argue less strict gun control laws will make society safer. First of all, let us define a safe society as one that has individuals who are adequately protected from hostile forces. Since we know that law enforcement personnel are not always able to adequately defend society from hostile forces in a timely or methodologically effective manner, we can conclude that a society that has law enforcement as its sole source of defense is not in fact adequately protected. Therefore, other mechanisms of defense must be provided to society's individuals in order for it to be considered safe. Let us assume that gates, alarm systems, watch dogs and other methods of defense may be enough in some circumstances to provide individuals with adequate protection, but not always. Let us define an adequately protected individual as one who possesses a device that is equal or superior in power to the device that a hostile force could possibly possess. If we consider guns to be the most powerful class of devices, and if we assume that hostile individuals have access to guns, then we can conclude that an individual must own a gun in order to be adequately protected. Therefore, a society that has armed individuals will be safer than a society that does not. Now, let us postulate that decreasing crime in a society will make it safer. Many criminals admit that their greatest fear when committing a burglary or robbery is that the resident or individual may own a firearm. If we assume that these criminals are telling the truth, and if we assume that this fear will decrease the number of crimes they commit, then we can conclude that making it legal to own and carry a firearm would lead to less crime. It is sometimes argued that gun control laws would prevent criminals from acquiring guns. However, if we postulate that it is the nature of criminals to disobey the law, and if we postulate that illegal markets for guns will always exist, then gun control legislation would not stop criminals from acquiring and using a firearm to commit crimes. Therefore, we can conclude that the ironic effect of gun control legislation is that it would decrease the number of guns owned by law-abiding citizens, not criminals. If we postulate that this widened disparity in gun ownership would result in more criminal activity, then stricter gun control laws would make society less safe. By the previous logic, we can conclude that less-strict gun control laws will make society safer.


After considering the information and premises presented by both arguments, I have reasoned that less strict gun control laws will make society safer. I have reasoned that more of the arguments set forth by the anti-gun control side hold true to the nature of human behavior and to reality than those proposed by the supporters of gun control. The arguments of the pro-gun control side often focus on narrow, sentimental consequences of gun ownership and neglect to address the larger impacts that the legislation would have on society. Those who support gun control seem to be hoping for an unrealistic utopian world in which guns simply vanish from the face of the earth and people miraculously stop harming each other and engaging in illegal activities. The reality is that guns will always exist, people with hostile intents will always exist, and these people with hostile intents will always be able to access guns, regardless of gun control laws. And as long as people with hostile intents have guns, the individuals of society must also be allowed to own them in order to adequately defend themselves.

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