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Tutor profile: Kendall F.

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Kendall F.
A Philosopher Who Can Help You Craft Clear and Compelling Papers
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Questions

Subject: Writing

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Question:

What is the key to writing a good paper?

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Kendall F.
Answer:

Writing a good paper goes far beyond having an understanding of grammar and popular writing conventions. Good papers should be both succinct and clear, but they should also make your reader feel something or reveal something new and interesting to them. Writing starts with developing your ideas, with drafts. You should write drafts. They allow your ideas space to breathe and ensure you don't write a paper with one thesis statement that is saying something completely different.

Subject: Philosophy

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Question:

Explain Descartes' First Meditation in simple terms

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Kendall F.
Answer:

In his First Meditation Descartes sets out to prove that there is a reason to cast doubt on all our beliefs, even those beliefs about where we are and what we see. Descartes begins with the premise that most of the things we think we know are based upon information we gather from our senses. He then sets forward a proposition: if our senses sometimes deceive us then we would be wise to not trust them fully. However, even if we accept this statement we need to do some work to distrust our beliefs about where we are and what we are seeing. The things we are observing that make us think we are in class, for instance, are close and persistent. The feel of the desk and chair, the appearance of our classmates, and so on are not based on momentary perception, and so it seems impossible to mistake. Descartes offers two reasons to doubt. What if we are only dreaming that we are in class? Or else experiencing a hallucination? Sometimes people have very realistic dreams where they do the same things they do when they are awake. And Descartes notes that in his experience there are never any clear signs that he is dreaming or awake, and we might reflect on our own experiences and agree with him. And we’ve all heard of people hallucinating, even if we haven’t experienced it. So, even if we are ninety-five percent sure we are in the classroom, the very possibility that we could be deceiving ourselves, as a madman does, gives us a good reason to doubt our perception.

Subject: English

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Question:

Discuss the way Jane Austen employs references to works of contemporary literature to aid in the characterization of characters in her novels providing an example.

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Kendall F.
Answer:

Jane Austen tells us a lot about what (and how well) her characters read. Skimming through the text one can easily pick out instances where authors or their works are mentioned by name. Unlike Austen's original audience, most modern readers are not steeped in the texts she references, so, one needs to do a lot of intertextual analysis in order to understand the subtleties of Austen’s texts. Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is a particularly interesting character to look at intertextually. We are told she spends most of her time reading, so, already, we know that understanding what she reads will be important to understanding her place in the novel. We ought to ask: what does she quote and what is said in the texts she quotes that we aren’t seeing. The first time we hear Mary speak, she is sermonizing about the difference between pride and vanity. “’Pride,’ observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, ‘is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us’” (Austen 18). This reflection is reminiscent of Fordyce’s eighth sermon On Female Virtue, With Intellectual Accomplishments. He wrote that “pride and vanity are different things” (Fordyce 13). Mary Bennet merely reversed the word order. If one had read Fordyce’s sermons, one would immediately recognize the delicious irony of having Mary Bennet reference Fordyce’s work. In the very same book, Fordyce talks about the “self-conceited woman, [who] wants to dazzle by the supposed superiority of her power” (Fordyce 99). The figure he describes is the very image of Mary Bennet. Mary is humble about her looks but she is very vain about her intelligence. Throughout the novel she attempts to distinguish herself by virtue of her superior intellect and accomplishments, never missing an opportunity to flaunt how well read she is. She goes so far as to console her sister with a quote ripped directly from Fanny Burney’s popular novel, Evelina. The contemporary readers would have quickly discovered that Mary's lines rarely involve any amount of original thought. As the narrator tells us early on, when we first meet Mary, “Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how” (Austen 7). On every subsequent page where Mary appears the audience is being shown further proof of the lack of depth in Mary's education and the foolishness of her vanity. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Signet Classics, 2008 Fordyce, James D.D. Sermons To Young Women: Two Volumes in One. Third American from the Twelfth London Edition, M. Carey, 1809.

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