Writing philosophy essays

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What we also can guarantee is that your new paper will pass Turnitin. Think smart and look at things a bit philosophically. History is written by the victors. Home Philosophy.

Writing in Philosophy | Josh May

Philosophy Essay Is Pain. So Here's Your Solution. A Turnitin-proof assignment could be finalized in 5 hours or less! In fact, I encourage you to do this. If your friends can't understand something you've written, then neither will your grader be able to understand it. Read your paper out loud.

Organize Your Ideas into a Logical Structure

This is an excellent way to tell whether it's easy to read and understand. As you read your paper, keep saying to yourself:. If you plan to discuss the views of Philosopher X, begin by isolating his arguments or central assumptions. Then ask yourself: Are the arguments good ones? Are X's assumptions clearly stated? Are they plausible? Are they reasonable starting-points for X's argument, or ought he have provided some independent argument for them? Keep in mind that philosophy demands a high level of precision.

It's not good enough for you merely to get the general idea of somebody else's position or argument. You have to get it exactly right. In this respect, philosophy is more like a science than the other humanities. Hence, when you discuss the views or arguments of Philosopher X, it's important that you establish that X really does say what you think he says. If you don't explain what you take Philosopher X's view to be, your reader cannot judge whether the criticism you offer of X is a good criticism, or whether it is simply based on your misunderstanding or misinterpretation of X's views.

At least half of the work in philosophy is making sure that you've got your opponent's position right. Don't think of this as an annoying preliminary to doing the real philosophy.

Philosophy Essay

This is part of the real philosophical work. When a passage from a text is particularly useful in supporting your interpretation of some philosopher's views, it may be helpful to quote the passage directly. Be sure to specify where the passage can be found. However, direct quotations should be used sparingly. It is seldom necessary to quote more than a few sentences.

Often it will be more appropriate to paraphrase what X says, rather than to quote him directly. When you are paraphrasing what somebody else said, be sure to say so. And here too, cite the pages you're referring to. Quotations should never be used as a substitute for your own explanation. When you do quote an author, always explain what the quotation says in your own words.

Present, Explain, and Evaluate - Writing a Short Philosophy Paper

If the quoted passage contains an argument, reconstruct the argument in more explicit, straightforward terms. If the quoted passage contains a central claim or assumption, give examples to illustrate the author's point, and, if necessary, distinguish the author's claim from other claims with which it might be confused. Philosophers sometimes do say outrageous things, but if the view you're attributing to a philosopher seems to be obviously crazy, then you should think hard about whether he really does say what you think he says.

Philosophy Paper Topics

Use your imagination. Try to figure out what reasonable position the philosopher could have had in mind, and direct your arguments against that. It is pointless to argue against a position so ridiculous that no one ever believed it in the first place, and that can be refuted effortlessly. It is permissible for you to discuss a view you think a philosopher might have held, or should have held, though you can't find any evidence of that view in the text.

When you do this, though, you should explicitly say so.

Say something like, "Philosopher X doesn't explicitly say that P, but it seems to me that he might have believed it, because You don't want to summarize any more of a philosopher's views than is necessary. Don't try to say everything you know about X's views. You have to go on to offer your own philosophical contribution. Only summarize those parts of X's views that are directly relevant to what you're going to go on to do. Don't be afraid to bring up objections to your own thesis. It is better to bring up an objection yourself than to hope your reader won't think of it. Of course, there's no way to deal with all the objections someone might raise; so choose the ones that seem strongest or most pressing, and say how you think they might be answered.

If the strengths and weaknesses of two competing positions seem to you to be roughly equally balanced, you should feel free to say so. It is a rare philosopher indeed who can get things perfectly right on the first attempt, so be prepared to revise and re-develop what you write. Don't be too precious about what you have written, if it appears that it should be sacrificed in the revision process. There is usually a very marked difference between essays which are basically first draft rush-jobs done the night before they are due and those which have been revised and polished.

Give yourself time to revise by starting writing early on. For most philosophy students, the greater part of the work in essay writing is in the writing, not in the preliminary researches and planning stages. So be wary of thinking "I've done all the research. I only need to write up my notes, which I can do the night before the essay's due".


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  • This is likely to lead to a weak, perhaps non-existent, essay and very likely a sleepless night. Stick to the word limit given for your essay. Why are word limits imposed? First, to give the markers a fair basis for comparing student essays. Second, to give you the opportunity to practise the discipline of working creatively under constraints. Skill in this discipline will stand you in very good stead in any sphere where circumstances impose limitations. Again, word limits are not constraints on your intellectual freedom. Outside your essay you are free to write without limit.

    But even there you'll probably find that your creativity is improved by working under a self-imposed discipline. As a general rule, most student essays that fall well short of the word limit are weak or lazy attempts at the task, and most essays that go well over the limit are not much stronger or the result of much harder work - the extra length is often due to unstructured waffle or padding which the writer hasn't thought enough about so as to edit judiciously.