Sonoma State University

Philosophy 200

Philosophical Issues in Global Climate Change

Uncertainty, Caution, Community, Equity, Future

Instructions for close reading of a text

Normally you should read the material at least twice. More difficult material you may have to read more often.

i) During the first reading you should continuously write down your responses in your journal (with page or paragraph numbers so you can retrace the passage to which a particular response refers). These may include

• emotional responses (excitement, boredom, anger, or whatever);

• associations (links you make with other readings you remember, things you have heard of, or that happened to you, etc.);

• agreement with the text

• disagreement with the text

• neutrality with respect to the opinion given in the text

• registering your understanding or non-understanding of the text, writing down the sentences that you found hard, the words you did not know.

• if the reading contains photographs, drawings, or diagrams studying these carefully, and registering your response.

• if there are formulas in the reading making an effort to understand them.

• etc.

So in the first reading you mainly work on the skill: "Tapping into your stock of knowledge and emotional powers" All these notes form part of what I call "The response to the reading". It is the "subjective part" of the response since it is a report of what you (initially) felt and came up with while reading.

Of course even in the first reading often you will have a pretty accurate impression of most of what the text says. But sometimes your responses may get in the way of understanding the text as it wants to be understood! On the other hand, if you immediately focus solely on what the text says your creative associations and emotions may fail to show.

Therefore a second reading is needed to make a good analysis and summary of the main points and arguments of the text. In this second reading you focus solely on what the text says.

ii) First consult a dictionary for all the words that you didn't understand that well; consult an encyclopedia or specialized dictionary for some of the background you feel you may be lacking; use an atlas if necessary. [If you don't have these handy, work in the Library.].

Then make a summary of your text. Identify the most important points. How do these points relate? What reasons are given for these points? List them! How do the illustrations, if there are any, relate to the text? Does the author anticipate objections and how does s/he try to counter these objections? That is, you try to lay bare the argumentative structure of the text, and the imagery the text uses to support its reasoning. All this activity is part of "Critical Thinking".

So, in the second reading you mainly work on the skill: "Understanding what the text is saying " This is what I have called "The summary of the reading". It is the "objective part" of the response since it is (or should be) a faithful account of what the text is saying, without any intrusion of what you think of it.

iii) You are not done yet! A response also has a third part, called "Leading questions". This is the question or comment for your entry ticket. Actually more then just posing questions is involved in this: therefore we better call it "Leading the Discussion". The purpose of the third part is to develop and exercise the third skill:

Extending the discussion, and our common stock of knowledge and concerns, by raising new questions, formulating points of view and reasons for them, formulating objections and defenses of them.

The third part is an "inter-subjective" part, since it relates your subjective responses to the group of students and instructor as a whole (and beyond that to a bigger public discussion within which we can imagine our group to be embedded …). You take, as it were, a step back and look at your subjective responses and ask yourself: how can I reformulate and motivate these responses such that they become of interests to other people in the group. Going through the earlier list again:

• emotional responses: why did I have these responses (why was I bored, angry, excited..?), what values and beliefs do these emotions reveal I must hold?; were these appropriate emotional responses ? [emotional responses are appropriate if the beliefs they express are true, and the values they reflect are defensible]; what courses of action are suggested by these responses? How can I express this so others can understand what I mean?

• associations: which of my associations can I share with others so that it brings out something of general interest? Can I bring to class or suggest other readings that I think are related? Can I formulate another issue that is related to the one discussed in the text? Can I explain how it is related?

• if I agreed with something in the text, why? Do I have further supporting reasons that support the opinion given in the reading?

• if I disagreed with the text, what reasons can I give for disagreement?

• are all the reasons (pro and con) together compelling for all reasonable people, or is it a matter of weighing off and of personal preference?

• neutrality: if I am not convinced one way or another, what further evidence do I need to formulate an opinion about the matter?

• non-understanding of the text: can I formulate a question about a passage to help me better understand the text?

• photographs, drawings, or diagrams: can I bring to class other images that I can relate to the reading? Explain how they relate?

• etc.

So the third part of the preparation contains a blueprint for what you plan to contribute to the group discussion! You work this out as a Position Statement in which you explain what your point of view is about the issues brought up in this reading and end by posing two questions that can be used as opening questions for a discussion of this paper.

Type out this position statement for your entry ticket. It should be at least one page typed.

Last Updated 01/22/03 ZGS