Critical Reconstruction Paper

Critical Reconstruction Paper Instructions

Instructions: In 1000-1200 words or 4-5 pgs, double-spaced, 12pt font (note: there will be penalties for infringing on the stated length requirements) provide a critical reconstruction of ONE of the following readings:

1)Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 5, Of Property
2)Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, “Amour Propre”

Sources: Focus closely on primary text; use explanatory/secondary sources only in consultation with Instructor; lectures/lecture slides. Make sure to cite the primary text following any established academic citation format consistently. You may refer to concepts/ideas outside the assigned passage to effectively reconstruct the argument.

Your task in this assignment is NOT to summarize the passage but to reconstruct the argument.

A critical reconstruction does not merely repeat or reiterate the central claims or positions found in a text. Rather your task is to break the argument down into its component parts and to make explicit (reconstruct) how the author arrives at the conclusions he/she purports to defend. In brief, your task is to: 1) provide an account of the problem/interlocutors that the text is (perhaps implicitly) addressing. Given that you will be addressing short sections within the larger works, your task will be to provide the necessary context to understand the problem at issue in the passage whose argument you are reconstructing; 2) Having identified the problem, reconstruct the chain of argument, and show how it establishes, and the solves the problem it sets for itself.

Keep in mind the following when composing the outline of your argument: Critical interpretation does not merely tell the reader WHAT positions are found in a text, nor does it merely define key terms or offer a ‘birds-eye view’ of the text (reconstruction is not mere ‘synopsis’), but explains WHY a concept/idea is necessary, urgent, or a fitting solution to a particular problem, and HOW the author justifies such a solution over and above alternative solutions/ideas (that have been offered, or that could be offered).

The key to an effective critical interpretation is to identify the individual steps of the author’s
argument and to make explicit the logic connecting the transition from one step/insight or stage in the argument to the next, including addressing obstacles or difficulties to the argument that a skeptical reader might point out.

Critical reconstruction does not necessarily entail criticism of the author’s positions or arguments. You are NOT being asked to take a position on the author’s arguments, although good critical reconstruction should put you in a position to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an argument. Critical here refers to the reflective character of the interpretation, in the sense of reconstructing (becoming self-conscious) of the process one would need to follow in order to understand and (potentially) agree with the position being argued in the work.

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