Steven Pinker “The Moral Instinct.”

Essay #2 Assignment

Evaluation Essay Assignment
You will write a 4-6 page evaluation of an argumentative text in your reader.

The purpose of an evaluation argument is to make a value judgment that is to assign value to the merits of the chosen topic. You can take one of two approaches — either to assign an absolute value [for example, John Donne’s poetry is either effective (or not effective) in its own right], or you may want to discuss a comparative value [for example, Donne achieves more (or less) resonance and poignancy than does Shakespeare in his sonnets].

The hallmark of an evaluation argument is the statement of criteria by which the writer makes a value judgment. Although this sounds complicated, you do this kind of thinking every time you comparison shop, and you read evaluation arguments whenever you read a review or criticism of a movie or book. For example one movie critic likes a movie with a complex, writer screenplay, full of ambiguity and open to interpretation. These are his or her criteria, whether or not they are stated explicitly in each review. Therefore this critic might recommend Brokeback Mountain, No Country for Old Men, or The Hours (one of my favorite movies!!!) This same critic, on the other hand, would probably not regard The Hulk (possibly THE worst movie EVER MADE in my humble opinion) or Die Hard (or any of its 125 sequels!) very highly. However, the last two movies could not probably be held to the same standards since their intent is not to address complicated issues. Therefore, it is the critic’s preferences and the thing to be evaluated which need to be taken into consideration when creating criteria.

As a writer, the critic often assumes that his or her audience shares the same taste and likes the same kind of movie. But this assumption can get you into trouble. Think of a couple of movies that you have seen recently. Whether you liked them or not will depend on whether they meet your “criteria” which you have whether you know it or not. Can you state your criteria or tastes in movies?

Now consider the comparison shopping example. You are looking at a dishwasher. Your criteria may be something like this:

1. Operates quietly
2. Is energy efficient.
3. Costs less that $700.
4. Looks good in my kitchen.

The Maytag meets criteria one, two, and four; unfortunately it costs more than you want to pay. The Weezer brand meets criteria two and three, but it only comes in an avocado green finish, and you can hear it outside. Do you need to continue shopping or do you need to decide which criteria are the most important?

An effective evaluation argument will state the criteria, either explicitly, or by implication. Reread section 13e and 13f “Inductive and Deductive Reasoning” in the Everyday Writer Handbook. Whether or not writers state both premises, they must first know what criteria they are applying. Secondly, writers of evaluation arguments must be aware enough of their audience to know which premises (criteria) they share.

Many evaluation arguments fail because the reader does not share the writer’s unstated premises — remember that these are the “warrants.”

How does all this apply to a piece of literature and a subjective opinion? It is easy to like something or not based on just feeling (remember Pathos?). However, this assignment asks for you to go a step further — to take sides and to present the reasons you like or do not like the piece and whether or not it is effective in its purposes.

You should use your own criteria; just think about and articulate what they are. Then consider whether your audience shares them. You may need to support your assumptions with facts, examples, or historical evidence in order to construct a persuasive argument.
Treat your audience with respect — you should still be polite to readers who may disagree with you. Remember also that you are arguing based on your own criteria but that you are trying to convince your reader that both your criteria and the way you apply them are logical.

Following is an example outline:

I. Introduction with Thesis
II. Summary of text. (This is the ONLY paragraph where you should give a description of the text. Do not be tempted to do so in other paragraphs, or the essay will not be an evaluation but only a book report.)
III. Criteria 1 and how the argument does or does not meet the criteria.
IV. Criteria 2 and how the argument does or does not meet the criteria.
V. ETC. for all the criteria you wish to establish and argue
VI. Conclusion

Remember, this is only a suggested outline. You may choose to set up all your criteria in one paragraph and then apply them in developed paragraphs about the piece itself. You may want to read some movie reviews to see how Evaluations are sometimes organized. Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun Times Reviews can be helpful. You will find them online at http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage.

Finally, you must USE the text to support your claims. The text is your evidence to support your claims, and your commentary on the HOW and WHY the text meets your criteria is how you develop each paragraph/section.

Select a Topic

For this paper, you will choose one of the following argumentative essays found in your reader and evaluate the way the author makes his/her argument. You will be judging whether the piece you choose is “convincing” or “not convincing” based on the criteria you create. In other words, you have to explain/define what the argument is supposed to do (its purpose), how it is supposed to do it, and then argue whether or not each piece accomplishes these purposes. Drawing upon what you learned during Essay 1 about Ethos/Pathos/Logos is one way to get at this topic. Also, you may consider issues of audience expectation, tone, quality of research, and/or style.

 

Bloom, Paul. “Is God an Accident?”

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Pinker, Steven “The Moral Instinct.”

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

 

Sontag, Susan. “Regarding the Pain of Others.”

DO NOT ONLY WRITE A SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT!!!!

 

Every semester, I get essays which basically ignore everything that I have explained and simply give a summary of what the writer has written. That will get you an automatic fail on the essay.

 

 

THE TOPIC I CHOOSE IS Pinker, Steven “The Moral Instinct.” I have a link of his work…PLEASE READ IT GOOD…

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

 

 

 

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