“Letter to and from Philosopher”
Assignment: In this paper, you will practice stepping into another’s perspective. You will
anticipate how that perspective would respond to another point of view. Pretend that you are
one of the philosophers that we’re studying for Chapter Seven (Noonan, Jarvis-Thomson, or
Warren) and then write a 1-1.5 page letter to one of the other philosophers. In this letter, you
will criticize the argument of one philosopher using the reasoning of the other philosopher. For
example, you could pretend to be Noonan and write your letter to Warren. In this case, you
would use Noonan’s reasoning to disagree with Warren’s liberal position. You can be any of
these philosophers writing to either one of the other two philosophers. Use a respectful and
academic tone throughout this assignment and demonstrate an accurate understanding of the
arguments on both sides.
Format of Letter:
• Begin with “Dear _____” (You will disagree with this philosopher’s argument.)
• In your introduction, clearly state the intent of your letter.
• Then summarize the argument that you intend to refute. Be fair, presenting the
strongest version of that argument possible.
• Then use the reasoning of the other philosopher (the one you are pretending to be) in
order to refute this reasoning.
• Be careful not to “add” in your own views unless those are specifically what this
philosopher said. (For example, if I’m pretending to be Noonan arguing against Warren,
I should stick to Noonan’s reasoning. I should not add in things like, “Don’t you know
that there are many couples in want of a child?” because Noonan never said this.
Practice accuracy in this way. You’re representing and exchange between two specific
arguments. Stick to that.)
• Closing: In closing, remember the salutation – including the name of the philosopher
that you’re pretending to be for this assignment (e.g. “Sincerely, J.T. Noonan.”)
* Do you want to see an example? See next page. It’s just a shell of how you could approach
this assignment. You can use any two philosophers you want though in any order!
Dear Ms. Jarvis-Thomson,
I have read your thoughtful essay on abortion. Because this topic is so important, I would like to
share some objections to this line of reasoning.
First, I will summarize my understanding of your argument. You argue that ___________
because, in your view, _________________. (In this paragraph, I just summarize Jarvis-
I do not come to the same conclusions as you though. While you say that __________, I believe
_____________________ (something contrary to her view). I think you need to clarify
___________. I see the issue in terms of _______________. I would reason that
_________________. (In this paragraph, I would present Noonan’s argument and point out how
his reasoning might challenge the specific way she addressed the topic.)
Thank you for considering my critique. It is an important topic to consider in thoughtful, honest
ways and I appreciate your openness to these considerations.
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