Prompt 05: Reading for the Conversation

Purpose: Academic texts like the kind you are reading in this class make a lot more sense if you read them as part of an ongoing conversation (because that’s what they are).  Graff and Birkenstein characterize this method in this way:

“. . . imagine the author not as sitting alone in an empty room hunched over a desk or staring at a screen, but as sitting in a crowded coffee shop stalking to others who are making claims that he or she is engaging with” (Graff & Birkenstein 2010, 147).

Part of the process of reading then is deciphering who is talking to who and thinking through that discussion.  In this assignment, you will examine how Singer and Regan collide and discuss how Regan’s critique of Singer succeeds or fails.

Word Count: The best posts will be 600-800 words long.

Before You Write

Graff and Birkenstein point out that sometimes who is being responded to is left unstated in a piece (2010, 149-151).  In his piece, Regan never even mentions Singer.  Yet, I and the introduction to the Regan piece have given the game away, Regan is definitely responding to Singer.

Before you read, look back at your response to prompt 04 and think about what concept or claim you chose to focus on from the Singer reading.  As you read, ask yourself:

  • Does Regan explicitly mention the concept or claim that I summarized from Singer?  If not, is there anything he says that can be applied to Singer’s argument?
  • Either explicitly or implicitly, what is Regan’s argument against a generally utilitarian position?  Can you connect this up to your summary of Singer from yesterday?
  • What is Regan’s solution to the question of animal rights?  Does he think that his solution is compatible with Singer’s?  Do you think Regan is right or wrong in thinking this?

When you have finished reading the text and thought about these questions, choose a paragraph from the text that you think best represents Regan’s response to the aspect of Singer’s argument you focused on in prompt 04 (yesterday).  If you don’t think Regan explicitly responded to the part of Singer’s argument you focused on, consider whether you can apply something Regan says to that aspect of Singer’s argument.

Summarize the paragraph you chose from Regan.  In writing this summary, 1) make it clear what in Singer Regan is responding to and 2) write with your own perspective on Regan and Singer in mind.

Additionally, you may find in reading the text that you are struggling with the language Regan is using to express his views.  If this is the case, take the time to pick apart a paragraph and rephrase it in your own words.  Graff and Birkenstein provide tips for doing this on pages 151-155.


At the top of your post give the paragraph you will be focusing on by citing authorpage #, and paragraph #.  For example (and at random), if I choose the paragraph on page 87 that begins “There are some who resist . . . ,” I would write: (Singer, 87, 1st full paragraph).  If I choose the paragraph on page 86 that begins “But attempts to limit . . . ,” I would write: (Singer, 86, 6th paragraph).  Start the paragraph numbering with the first full paragraph on the page.

  1. If Regan is clearly responding to a claim Singer makes or a concept he uses, summarize Regan’s response briefly (making it clear what he is responding to).
  2. If Regan is not clearly responding to a claim Singer is making, create the discussion between Regan and Singer by explaining how the content in the cited paragraph applies to Singer’s claims.

When you are done summarizing, react to the discussion between Singer and Regan.  Explain your position and your reasons for taking it.  Support your conclusions as strongly as possible.


4 Responses to Prompt 05: Reading for the Conversation

  1. […] off: Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Comments RSS […]

  2. I thought of writing previous to this course as a form of communication. In its most severe sense, communication is meant as a way to get someone to “get” something. During an emergency for example, if I want someone to go get the fire blanket, I am not going to say, “Please make your way over to the collection of fibers and bring it back to me in a brisk manner”. I am going to say, “Get me the blanket now!”. In other words, I am going to be as clear and concise as possible. Why is it then, that if communication is meant as a form of getting a point across, that a writer like Judith Butler for example, would consistently write material that is described as difficult even by the peers in her field? I understand that writing is also catered toward an audience which may benefit from certain common terminology and language concepts friendly to that field, but what benefit do some writers afford their readers that are just difficult in general for no obvious purpose?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Some of it does come from just what you mention: the writers are writing to a particular field and using a language that only people in that field are familiar with. For instance, I specialize in feminist ethics, so I have no problem at all understanding the passage from Butler in the book. But coming to this stuff as “new” (the point of this course), things are going to be much harder to understand.

      On the other hand, there are clear cases where the writer is either just not a good writer (I would suggest that Immanuel Kant, who I’ve mentioned before, belongs in this category) or the complexity serves to mask vagueness (in other words, the complexity is deception). It’s a shame really that people use language to mask the real meaning, but we do it all the time.

  3. […] This is in response to Prompt 5 […]

Leave a Reply