Guide to Writing Philosophy Paper

4779 Words Apr 7th, 2016 20 Pages

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A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper
The Challenges of Philosophical Writing
The aim of the assignments in your philosophy classes is to get you doing philosophy. But what is philosophy, and how is it to be done? The answer is complicated.
Philosophers are often motivated by one or more of what we might call the “Big Questions,” such as: How should we live? Is there free will? How do we know anything? or, What is truth? While philosophers do not agree among themselves on either the range of proper philosophical questions or the proper methods of answering them, they do agree that merely expressing one’s personal opinions on controversial topics like these is not
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What is a cause? Do I know that I have hands? Is there an external world? While arguing about these questions may appear silly or pointless, the satisfactions of philosophy are often derived from, first, discovering and explicating how they are logically connected to the Big Questions, and second, constructing and defending philosophical arguments to answer them in turn. Good philosophy proceeds with modest, careful and clear steps.

Structuring a Philosophy Paper
Philosophy assignments generally ask you to consider some thesis or argument, often a thesis or argument that has been presented by another philosopher (a thesis is a claim that may be true or false). Given this thesis or argument, you may be asked to do one or more of the following: explain it, offer an argument in support of it, offer an objection to it, defend against an objection to it, evaluate the arguments for and against it, discuss what consequences it might have, determine whether some other thesis or argument commits one to it (i.e., if I accepted the other thesis or argument, would I be rationally required to accept this one because I accept the other one?), or determine whether some other view can be held consistently with it. No matter which of these tasks you are asked to complete, your paper should normally meet the following structural requirements:



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