Society And The Individual

Writing a philosophy paper is your opportunity to think through and reflect on ideas on your own so that you arrive at greater clarity about your own perspective. The purpose of this essay assignment is to help you to develop a deeper, more nuanced and complex, understanding of philosophical ideas and reading material, and to develop and formulate your own philosophical position.

Your paper should formulate, develop, and support a substantive thesis that addresses the question prompt and gives your essay focus and direction. In other words, your aim is to support a position by engaging in conceptual inquiry and analysis. This task requires reconstructing arguments, synthesizing relevant concepts, recognizing complexity, defining terms, and showing that you understand how related ideas are connected and make sense of each other. A good paper is not simply a summary of lectures or class discussion, and it goes beyond empty generalities. Your paper should reflect your own independent and well-supported insight into the material.

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Your essay should be around 1000 words

Essay Question

How does Mills understand the Racial Contract as “an agreement to misinterpret the world” (18)? Why does Mills claim that “white signatories will live in an invented delusional world, a racial fantasyland” (18)? And how, according to Mills, does an analysis of the non-ideal Racial Contract enable people to better understand, and therefore potentially change, the structure of racial oppression? In answering these questions, consider Mills’s claim that white “evasion” and “self-deception” (19) are integral to the maintenance of power — why might it be tempting for those in power to be ignorant of, or blind to, the workings of that power?

Essay Task

Your task here is not to summarize Mills’s account of the history of the Racial Contract, but rather to work through his arguments and think through specific concepts relevant to the essay question. This task requires a conceptual analysis of key ideas, showing that you understand how various points fit together, and can elucidate his central claim about how and why the non-ideal Racial Contract must be seen and named in order to be changed. Be sure to define the key concepts under consideration in the question.


Whenever you either use a direct quote, or paraphrase a quote or idea, or use someone else’s ideas, you must cite your sources. For this paper, you should only use the assigned text (no outside or secondary sources). You can cite by using parenthetical references: that means you cite the text by placing the author and page number in parentheses after the quote or specific point. (See citation examples in question prompt.)

Writing Guidelines

The practice of writing is also the practice of learning, thinking, and communicating.

Before you begin writing, and as your writing is underway, reread the texts, take lots of notes, and be attentive to passages that help you understand and clarify arguments and ideas. Reading for meaning is one of the most important features of writing well.

Your essay should have a thesis. A thesis is your position on a topic, question, or problem: What argument do you want to support in your paper and what is its significance? This thesis should be the organizational focus of your essay and provide the framework for your elucidation of ideas and arguments. It is important that you present your thesis in a clear and lucid manner early in the essay.

By giving your essay a clear direction, your thesis should enable you to concentrate on the specific points in the texts that are most salient to the ideas you develop, and help you avoid simply trying to say everything or summarize in a general manner. Your thesis should help you to put your ideas in an order that makes sense and has a clear trajectory and organizational plan.

Figure out what your main ideas are and make sure you offer both textual support and clear definitions for key concepts.

A strong essay is one that thoughtfully interprets and explains the ideas being discussed while being careful to anchor those ideas with textual support. Be explicit in stating how you think this evidence upholds your claims. The work of the essay is to support your thesis (and your interpretations of the texts) by way of arguments, examples, concepts, definitions, and textual references. To avoid vagueness in your argument, refer to and cite specific passages and ideas in the readings that support your thesis.

You also want your essay to be clearly organized. What is the right order in which to present, explain, and analyze claims? How do the concepts you are discussing hang together and develop?


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