an argumentative strategy


Write a three-page essay (no less than 800 words, no more than 1200) in response to the following prompt:

In Chapter 3, we learned about Ockham’s Razor, an argumentative strategy developed in the Middle Ages that states: “What can be done with fewer terms is done in vain with more” (Palmer 76). And, we saw it applied several times by the empiricists to argue against the rationalists’ arguments for ‘innate ideas.’ But, is it an effective tool for analyzing the proofs of God we have encountered in Chapter 5? Keep in mind, Ockham was a friar/theologian himself! First, briefly explain the concept of Ockham’s Razor and give an example of one debate from Chapter 3 where it appears to you to be used successfully (there are several instances where it occurs). Second, turn to the three theistic arguments of Anselm and Aquinas, and tell me, in terms of at least two of them, does the Razor ‘work’ here against these arguments, and why or why not? Think of the Ontological Argument (Anselm/Descartes), the Cosmological Argument (Aquinas), and the Teleological Argument (Aquinas), and think of the objections posed to each, as given by Palmer. Consider the two arguments, one at a time, arguing whether an application of the Razor would yield a simpler explanation than the theistic conclusion given. Or, is God actually a simpler explanation in some instances? Third and finally, reflect on Palmer’s claim: “it’s as if the medievals were giving an account to themselves of the rational status of their belief—or their knowledge—of God” (Palmer 157). Why do you think proofs for God’s existence would be taken most seriously at a time when everyone already believed in God? Can you think of an analogy to help make sense of this? In light of this, would ‘proofs’ ultimately be the right way to describe these three arguments?

Note: With these arguments, a lot depends on establishing the steps of the argument in order to argue in support of those steps, or in order to argue that some may be unnecessary. Thus, I am providing you with a pdf of several slides that will help you reckon with these arguments in a consistent and clear way. If you wish to look these arguments up online in order to be clear about them, you will find many versions. These may be helpful to consult, but make sure that you properly cite any outside resources you do consult. Turnitin will tell us if you do not cite them. Ultimately, however, you must use the versions given in Palmer or on my pdf slides, and you must cite which version you use. Cite Palmer like this: (Palmer 158). Cite my versions like this: (Leib slide 2).

Further, you should not reproduce each argument in its entirety; once you cite the version you are using, you can talk about the propositions by number to save time. Lastly, it is very important as you go to be precise about how each argument characterizes the “God” that it proves. So, for instance, it would be an inaccurate and unfair characterization of the Cosmological proof to say that Ockham’s Razor helps us eliminate the need for God because all of His jealousy and anger in the Old Testament/Torah are superfluous to the explanation of motion.

Instructions: Do not include the prompt in your response. Title the essay appropriately. Include a full header, as outlined in “Essay Writing for this Course”, located in the Introductory Module. Do not forget your name, date, and section number at the top. 

Your essay must include a thesis that makes your paper make sense as a whole. A good thesis covers the overall ‘stance’ you take in the essay (thesis means “something put forth” in Greek), and you must put forth a statement that one of your classmates could agree or disagee with. It is not the first sentence of the paper, but it does appear in the first paragraph. If you are worried we might miss your thesis, or misunderstand your point, italicize it. Another good way to make it stand out is to begin the statement: “In this paper, I will argue that…”

In your first paragraph, typically right after your thesis, you must include an organizational statement that tells the reader what’s coming up in your paper. Notice how the prompt is split into three related tasks? So, your organization statement might begin: “I will argue my position first by talking about…second, by turning to consider…and third, by bringing these back to my own experience by arguing….” This should be a short outline of your paper, so you may want to write it last, along with the thesis, once you know what you think and what you will do!

You paper must include at least four meaningful quotations from the readings thus far. When page numbers are available to you, cite in text in the following way: (Palmer 30).  I suggest choosing your quotes first and building your response around them. The highest possible grade for an essay without four meaningful quotes, appropriately cited, will be 75/100. 

See “Essay writing for this Course” for details on how to cite different sources, and how to format your works cited (which is also required).

Word count and page count do not include heading, title, or works cited, though these are required as well.

This essay will be graded out of 100 points, according to the rubric laid out in “Essay Writing for this Course” located in the introductory module, so make sure you understand what it is asking of you