Reflection Assignment Instructions:
In a written reflection of at least 200 words, engage with TWO short readings: Elizabeth Wallace, “The People Behind the Mop Buckets” and David Graeber, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” (both available as a PDF on Canvas).
Your reflection must employ at least one (1) type of reflection task from three (3) different groups from the list of six groups (A) through (F) below. You are not limited to 3 tasks, but you must do at least 3 different tasks. There is no also minimum length for each individual task, only for the reflection as a whole.
Please use separate paragraphs for each reflection task and label each paragraph with the specific type of reflection task you’re completing within each group, not just the letter for the category. (You won’t get credit if you don’t include this! The purpose of this is to clearly communicate to me what you’re trying to do, and where in your response you’re trying to do it.)
Finally, you should state how long it took you to do the reading itself as well as how long your reflection took. (This is to help you be honest with yourself; you aren’t graded on the amount of time you spent, so there’s no incentive to lie or exaggerate, but you can’t get credit for the assignment if you don’t report this.)
Modes of Engagement:
Group A: Comprehension
Locating the author’s thesis or main idea and putting it in your own words
Be careful not to pick just any old sentence—your task is to zero in on the single most important idea the author is arguing for. The author will sometimes help you find this idea with phrases like ‘I am arguing that…’ or ‘I conclude that…’, but you may have to read between the lines. Once you’ve located the main idea, explain it as clearly as possible in your own words.
Outlining or summarizing the author’s argument in your own words
The most common way that philosophers do this is by setting out a list of formal numbered premises, or supporting claims, clearly explain how each the supporting claims build up to the conclusion.
Note: If the author has already clearly laid out a list of numbered premises, this reading is not a good candidate for outlining the argument, and you won’t get credit for it!
Group B: Queries
Identifying missing background information, doing some research, and then saying what you learned
Note: “Background” information, by definition, is not information contained in the essay itself (though it might be contained in another reading, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, etc.).
Asking a question and then following up on that question
This could be a clarification question about something that you found unclear or in need of further explanation
Once you’ve laid out your question, you should do some reflection(or research) and then make an educated guess as to what you think the most likely interpretation, explanation, etc. would be (even if you aren’t sure)
This could also be a curiosity question about a specific topic that the reading prompted you to want to learn more about
For curiosity questions, you should then do some research and report back what you learned and if your question got answered
Group C: Connections
Making connections between what you’re reading and what you already know
Try to draw clear and direct connections, explaining how this reading relates to another reading, an idea we discussed in class, something you learned in another class, your life experience, a novel, a TV show, etc.—as long as it’s directly relevant to the reading!
Applying concepts or theories to new contexts
Feel free to expand on an author’s idea and apply it to something new, such as coming up with a new thought experiment or analogy that creatively modifies or goes beyond what’s in the reading while showing your understanding of one of the author’s main ideas or concepts
Group D: Criticism
Constructively criticizing the author’s argument
There are two main ways to criticize an argument:
First, you can ask if one or more of the premises false? (In logical terms, Is the argument sound?)
Can you find (or imagine) a counterexample to one of the author’s central claims? This can take the form of either evidence or a thought experiment that shows one of the author’s claims to be false.
Second, you can ask if the premises fail to support the conclusion? (That is, Is the argument valid?) If we assume, for the sake of argument that the premises are all true, does the conclusion follow?
Note: An argument can have false premises and still be valid!
For any criticisms or objections you’ve raised, you should consider how the author might reply:
Could the author modify their view to avoid the objection you’ve raised while still preserving their basic conclusion? Or is the author forced to abandon their conclusion entirely?
Group E: Epiphanies
Describe something that you changed your mind about while reading
Be sure to describe both what it was that changed your mind (e.g., an analogy, a piece of evidence, etc.) and how it changed.
Describe a realization you had while reading the text
What is an idea you encountered that you hadn’t thought of before, but that seemed both surprising and also obvious once you understood it? Be sure to describe both the realization you had and what brought it about.
Group F: Other
Engage with the text in some other creative way not listed above, as long as it is done in a constructive manner that displays engagement with and mastery of the relevant content. Ideas along these lines include:
Creating a meme or or a TikTok or drawing a picture that that illustrates or displays a clear understanding of a key aspect of the argument
Paraphrasing a key passage or main idea in another writing style (e.g., as a tweet or as a sonnet or as parody song lyrics)
Offering your own original argument, with premises and conclusions clearly identified, in a way that directly engages with the reading or the topic being discussed
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