For the Nozick part of the course, you must either write a paper or take a test on Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. There will be a similar assignment for the Unger part of the course. The analogue of whichever option you don’t pick for this assignment is what you’ll have to do for the next one.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia is rich in contentious claims—some of them directly relevant to Nozick’s overall aims, others confessedly tangential. The paper assignment is to write a paper of not more than 2,000 words focusing on one of Nozick’s significant claims and developing the most effective objection to it that you can. In order to succeed on this assignment, you must understand that you will be graded not only on the effectiveness of your objection, but also on the significance of the claim to which you offer your objection. In choosing a claim to critique, then, you must strike a balance between (1) choosing a claim that is easy to refute, but that is also quite trivial, and (2) choosing a claim that is undeniably significant, but that is also very hard to refute.
In order to fulfill the two main requirements of this assignment, you should structure your paper in the following way.
No paragraph should be involved in more than one of the three tasks listed above, though task 3 and possibly task 2 may require more than one paragraph to execute. Whenever a paragraph break is also the beginning of the execution of one of the tasks on this list, begin the next paragraph with the number of the task you’re beginning, like this. (This will help me know what you’re up to at any point in your paper.)
1. In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick makes many contentious claims. One of these is that . . .
One mistake to avoid is attempting a general criticism of any of the above components of Nozick’s theory. For although such a paper would obviously have no trouble with the “significance” criterion, it would surely falter on the “effectiveness” criterion, since each of the above issues is too broad to be dealt with effectively in a paper of this length. (That is why I say to pick a narrower claim as the object of your critique, and then explain how that narrower claim is an essential, or at least necessary, element in a larger component that is obviously significant.) The opposite sort of mistake, of course, is to offer a criticism of something so minute or peripheral that it lacks significance. The demands of significance and effectiveness tend to oppose each other; so, as I said above, part of your job is to strike a balance between the two.
In writing your paper you are welcome to use resources beyond those used in class, but you do not need to do so. (You are encouraged, though, to have a classmate peer-edit your paper. For additional suggestions about writing philosophy papers generally, see my “Guidelines for Writing a Philosophy Paper.”)
You paper will be due in class on Friday, April 16.
The test will consist of 100 points’ worth of questions, including at least 60 points’ worth of the following questions. The remaining questions may be similar to these, or of a different format.
The test will be given in class on Monday, April 19. Please bring a blank blue book or some blank paper on which to write your answers.