Phil/Psych 447: ESSAY 1, 2010

Your essay should not have your name on it, just your student number.

Essays (30% of the marks for this course) are due at the beginning of class, Oct. 26.

Essays should not be longer that 10 pages, typed, double spaced, (3,000 words, including references.). You should consult sources other than the textbook: for pointers, see the references in the textbook. The Encylopedia of Cognitive Science and the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (both in reference at Porter Library) are good places to start. Google Scholar is often helpful. Indicate your sources. Include a word count. You can use any reference style you like, but indicate all your sources.

The penalty for late essays is 10% per week late: if you hand it in after Oct. 26, you lose 10%, and another 10% after Nov. 2. The penalty for plagiarism (passing another person's work off as your own) is a course grade of F and referral to the Associate Dean.

See: How to avoid plagiarism.

Essays will be evaluated on the basis of:

1. Relevance: pose and try to answer an important question concerning cognitive explanation of social phenomena.

2. Research: use resources beyond the textbooks.

3. Writing: write intelligibly.

4. Argument: make a compelling case for the answer you prefer, and consider alternative answers. Essays will be graded on the quality of the argument, not on the particular conclusion you reach.

The reference format does not matter, but make sure that you indicate all your sources, including Web sites. This is a research essay so you should use several sources in addition to the textbook. Include at least one reference to the textbook.

Your essay MUST have the following explicit headings:

1. The issue. State the question you are trying to answer.

2. Alternatives. State possible answers to your question.

3. Evidence. Describe whatever psychological, computational, neurological and philosophical evidence is relevant to the different potential answers.

4. Conclusion. On the basis of the evidence for the different alernatives, argue for what you see as the best answer to the question.

Essays not using these headings will be penalized 25!

A good way to ensure that your essay is on track for being appropriate for this class is to prepare a 1-page outline and discuss it with the instructor.

Essay topics (tentative)

Note: you will need to narrow these topics down in order to keep your discussion to 10 pages.

1.Pick an author (e.g. philosopher, psychologist, sociologist) who has written about the self and evaluate his or her view by comparison with the multilevel system view.

2. Pick an alernative to multilevelism (e.g. rational choice, postmodernism, evolutionary psychology, Freud) and do a comparative evaluation with respect to some important social phenomenon.

3. What are the strengths and weakness of neuroeconomics in explaining economic change? Discuss a particular example.

4. To what extent can psychology and neuroscience explain political development? Discuss a particular example.

5. How do psychology and neuroscience affect culture and vice versa? Discuss a particular aspect of culture.

6.What are the relations between sociological and psychological explainations. Discuss a particular example.

7.What is historical explanation and how can it draw on the cognitive sciences? Discuss a particular example.

8. How is literature a social and cognitive phenomenon? Discuss a particular example.


William Safire's rules for good writing:

No sentence fragments. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read. A writer must not shift your point of view. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed. Write all adverbial forms correct. In their writing, everyone should make sure that their pronouns agree with its antecedent. Use the semicolon properly, use it between complete but related thoughts; and not between an independent clause and a mere phrase. Don't use no double negatives. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Avoid commas, that are not necessary. Verbs has to agree with their subjects. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. The passive voice should never be used. Writing carefully, dangling participles should be avoided. Unless you are quoting other people's exclamations, kill all exclamation points!!! Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. Use parallel structure when you write and in speaking. You should just avoid confusing readers with misplaced modifiers. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences-such as those of ten or more words-to their antecedents. Eschew dialect, irregardless. Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors. Don't verb nouns. Always pick on the correct idiom. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks."'" Never use prepositions to end a sentence with. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.


Phil/Psych 447

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Sept. 27, 2010.