The following is a description of what TAs, instructors, and professors are usually looking for in a philosophy essay, as adapted from a document prepared and shared by a recent PhD graduate colleague here at UWO, Ryan Robb. It tries to include all the basic points about writing good essays. Although it is offered as a guide, rather than as an official ‘how to’, it is intended to be generally applicable to every essay you ever have to write in every class that you ever take. There’s nothing mysterious in any of the following – this description is a set of guidelines that you’ve all heard or seen before, though maybe not laid out in exactly this way. That is, what you’re about to read is a guide to success on every ‘argumentative’ essay assignment you ever write (it is hoped). Please don’t hesitate to ask further questions if you are unsure of something.
The following is a description of the parts of an 'argumentative' essay, that is, an essay wherein you are, at the very least, trying to convince your reader that your point of view is the point of view they ought to adopt, using an argument/the power of reason. That is, the goal of your paper is to convince every person that ever reads your paper that your position is the position they should adopt. The means by which you will achieve that goal is by presenting an argument that provides a rational basis for your position. In an ideal universe, you might also be stumbling on to some previously unknown ‘T’ruth about the world. The main goal is to improve upon your written philosophical skills (i.e. ability to make convincing arguments) so for now, don’t be too concerned with the ‘T’ruth.
There are three major parts to every argumentative essay:
1. The thesis/point of view
If you are going to convince your reader of something, you must have something to convince them of, i.e. a point. Because your essays are short, and the goal of these papers is to improve upon your ability to make focused arguments in a way that convinces others to accept your conclusion, you should start by explicitly stating your thesis. For example, an essay from an intro course in philosophy might begin with the claim:
“The coherence theory best equips us with evaluating the statement ‘there is milk in the fridge’ by informing us how such a truth is in fact established.”
Starting an essay this way is generally recognized as good form. This is because argumentative essays are not mystery novels; it's best to begin every essay by telling your reader precisely what it is you'll be trying to convince them of. It's also important that your point is clear, and bluntly stating your conclusion at the beginning of your paper should make it clear.
In the interest of clarity, you can also take the opportunity to outline the steps you’ll be taking to reach your conclusion, i.e. present a more complete introduction. Following the above example, you could say something like:
“According to Russell, the correspondence theory of truth does not ask whether a statement such as the one we are considering is true or false, but rather asks what it means for such a claim to be true or false. I will argue that the correspondence theory is insufficient for evaluating claims about the world when our goal is to determine whether they are true or not, rather than what it means for them to be true. I will then focus more precisely on the issue of how the truth of such statements are established, showing that the correspondence theory is useless to us when it comes to verifying the truth or falsity of a claim. I will argue that the coherence theory, as advanced by Bradley, allows us to understand facts about the world as true or false based on fallible judgements we make about particular claims such as ‘there is milk in the fridge’.”
(Please note that this example isn’t necessarily a ‘good’ one in the sense of being original, engaging, and rigorous, but is rather offered as a ‘good’ example of the basic approach.)
NOTE: The grader does not care what your particular thesis/point of view is, or what strategy you use to support that thesis/point of view; but does care that your thesis/point of view and your strategy are clear and easily identifiable.
Also, having a thesis statement doesn’t actually get you grades; ultimately, your thesis is nothing more than your opinion, and you don’t get grades for having an opinion – you get grades for providing a position that is supported by a set of reasons, i.e. an argument. However, if your opinion is unclear/hidden in your essay, then that’s a serious problem, one that will cost you grades. Why? Because the purpose of your essay is to defend your opinion using an argument. If the grader is unable to determine what your position actually is, you’ll have a really difficult time convincing them of it.
One last thing to consider once you have presented your thesis statement, that is, once you’ve decided on your point/opinion: Since the purpose of everything that follows is to make your opinion convincing to the reader, as you write and when you’re reviewing your work, you should be asking yourself, ‘How does this paragraph/sentence/word contribute to making my thesis more convincing?’ If you can’t answer that question, then there’s a good chance that the paragraph/sentence/word in question does not belong in your essay.
Before you can present your argument, you need to identify what your argument is going to be about. That is, you need to do an exegesis, the second part of every argumentative essay.
2. The exegesis/exposition
The purpose/goal of an exegesis is based on an obvious point, but it is a point that people frequently overlook; before anyone is ever going to be convinced by an argument you present, they need to know exactly what you're argument is going to be about. That is, once you’ve stated you’re position (thesis) with respect to some issue, you need to then describe the issue. 'Exegesis' is just a fancy way of saying that it's a description of the argument/issue you'll be talking about in your essay.
Every exegesis should have at least two distinct parts; the first part will involve a general description, or overview of the paper/position/problem you’re going to be addressing. The second part of your exegesis will be more precise, a detailed account of the specific aspect of the argument you intend to either criticize or support, along with a detailed explanation of any terms that might come up that could be thought to have ambiguous or controversial meanings.
So if, for example, you’re doing an essay on whether Taylor’s materialism can effectively respond to Descartes’ argument for the distinction between mind and body, you’ll start the first part of the exegesis with a general explanation of Descartes’ argument for this distinction, followed by an explanation of Taylor’s materialism. This step tends to take 1 – 2 paragraphs (though it could be more), and is merely an attempt to set a context for your reader. That is, you describe the overall argument as a means of setting the context for your more detailed analysis.
Apart from describing the nature of the issue you’ll be addressing, your exegesis is also the point in which you want to DEFINE YOUR TERMS. That is, you want to take the opportunity to define any ambiguous or unclear terms upon which you’ll be relying in your essay as those terms arise in your exegesis. Since the essays are short, you will want to be concise about this, perhaps by quoting explicit definitions offered by the philosopher you’re considering, or by a brief explanatory sentence.
The second part of your exegesis will focus on the specific aspect(s) of the argument that you’ve chosen to analyze. This is an important point; your exegesis is intended to ‘foreshadow’ or ‘set-up’ the argument you intend to make, so you need a detailed description of the particular feature of the argument you intend to analyze. That is, DO NOT DESCRIBE IN DETAIL EVERYTHING THAT IS SAID IN THE ARTICLE YOU’RE ADDRESSING. YOU DON’T HAVE THE SPACE TO DO SO IN 4 – 5 PAGES AND DOING SO WILL CAUSE YOU TO LOSE FOCUS (AND GRADES). As with the rest of the essay, you should be able to explain how each aspect of your exegesis contributes to the argument you’re going to make in the last section.
So, at the end of my exegesis, I will have provided an overview of the general argument the philosopher(s) I am considering make, along with an explicit account of their relevant claim(s) concerning the position I am arguing for.
QUOTES. The exegesis is the place in the essay where the most quotes are expected. The purpose of a quote is essentially to provide evidence that your presentation of an author’s view is accurate. With that in mind, there are two basic strategies for incorporating quotes into the body of an essay. The first approach involves paraphrasing the view that you’re presenting in your own words, and then including a quote from the author that restates what you’ve just said in the author’s own words. The second strategy for including quotes is a little more stylistically pleasing because it doesn’t require that you paraphrase, but instead involves including the words of the author within your own sentence structure. BE CAREFUL IF YOU ADOPT THIS SECOND APPROACH. It is nice to be able to avoid paraphrasing, but you can only avoid paraphrasing if the meaning of the quote is extremely clear.
THE PRINCIPLE OF CHARITABLE CONSTRUAL. Always provide the most compelling reading of any view you’re presenting, whether you’re trying to criticize or support the view. If you criticize an objection that no one does/would accept, or you support an objection that no one does/would accept, you’re ‘cheating’. That is, you’re committing the fallacy of ‘the Straw-Figure’; you’re setting up a position that no one holds, then claiming either that it is bad, or that you can fix it … Obviously, this isn’t as impressive as undermining or supporting the really hard position, i.e. the position that at least appears right to most people.
Typically, for these sorts of essays, the exegesis/exposition will make up between a third and half of the essay’s length. The purpose for the exegesis/exposition is to get your reader up to speed and clarify your understanding of the material you’ll be discussing. You are not simply required to do an exegesis to prove that you have read the material and understand it. Every person writing an argumentative piece has to do an exegesis, because this is the means by which the context of the argument to be presented is established. That way, you can proceed to the next and most important part, of any argumentative essay.
3. Your argument/reasons in defense of your opinion.
Again, this is the last AND MOST IMPORTANT PART of any essay. It is at this point that you need to respond to the point of view you outlined in your exegesis, with reasons of your own that are intended to convince your reader that your conclusion is the one they ought to accept. We've talked a bit in class about what counts as a GOOD reason, but this is admittedly the most difficult part of a philosophy essay to describe. The reason a description is so hard is because there are so many possible ‘good reasons’; which is why this is the section of your essay where you need to be the most creative. The basic rule of thumb is that the best reason is one that any RATIONAL person would accept (a ‘rational’ person is anyone that can follow the logic/steps of a rational argument, i.e. pretty much anyone except children and the mentally incapacitated). So ‘good reasons’ might be empirical facts that are thought to be beyond dispute, e.g. every time I drop an object on the planet earth, it falls. ‘Good reasons’ might also be intuitions that (nearly) all of us share, e.g. apartheid was wrong, or facts of logic, e.g. any position that generates a logical contradiction provides a good reason for the grader rejecting it. ‘Good reasons’ can either be presented by means of a direct statement, or by means of a hypothetical example. Of course, these are merely a set of examples of possible specific ‘good reasons’.
The second thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that you’ll be directing your good reasons at the argument you’ve chosen to analyze, and you’ll need a strategy for doing so …
There are two (extremely) broad strategic approaches to critically analyzing an argument, which apply regardless of whether you’re negatively criticizing a position or positively supporting it:
The ‘Cardinal Virtues’ of writing in philosophy are: be clear and be concise. That is, you need to make your point in the clearest, most focused manner that you can. Here are some things you should be thinking about as you try to realize these two virtues.
You might be asking yourself at this point how what you’ve just read applies beyond this course. Think of it this way: (almost) every essay you’re asked to write asks you to defend a position, whether in an English class, History class, business class, psychology, etc… That is, (almost) every essay you’ll be asked to write at university is an argumentative essay; you’re simply asked to make arguments with respect to different subject matter. So whether you’re being asked to interpret a novel, or explain a specific historical incident, or defend a particular course of action in a business decision, or support a psychological theory, you’re being asked to make an argument. And every argument requires a thesis/point of view, an explanation of the subject matter you’re addressing (an exegesis), and a set of reasons/evidence that supports the thesis you’re seeking to defend.
So, there ya have it. Hopefully this has clarified what is generally expected. If something has been left out or if this is particularly confusing, feel free to ask me during or after class, over email, in office hours, or by appointment.
Philosophy papers often analyze and comment on the works of famous philosophers. Philosophy professors often have specific guidelines for philosophy essays--including for the introduction. However, if your professor's guidelines were vague or if you were writing an essay for submission to a scholarly journal rather than a school assignment, then there is a format to follow for the introduction of your philosophy essay.
Write the body of your philosophy essay first. Philosophy, as a subject, can often be complicated, and essays can take many different directions. By writing the body of your essay first and then the introduction, you are not confined to your initial ideas. Instead, you can let your philosophical ideas develop naturally and then write an introduction that goes along with those ideas.
Write a clear and concise opening sentence. In philosophy papers, the opening sentence should not be cliché, and it should not be making a general statement about philosophy. The majority of philosophy papers are making an argument, so start your first paragraph with the phrase "In this paper, I will argue that. " This opening sentence is also known as your thesis statement, which is a statement that summarizes your main argument or purpose for writing the paper.
Write a brief description of all your main points you will make in your philosophy essay. Your essay will probably have about three to five main points that are being used to prove your argument. Write about a sentence for each point in your introduction.
Proofread your opening paragraph. This should be done after the essay is completed. Make sure your introduction clearly explains the points you make in your philosophy paper. It's not uncommon for philosophy essays to develop more as you write the paper, so if you incorporated any additional points or ideas into the body of the essay while writing, be sure to incorporate them into your introduction.References
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How to Write the Introduction in a Philosophy Essay. Philosophy papers often analyze and comment on the works of famous philosophers.
How to Write the Introduction in a Philosophy Essay. Philosophy papers often analyze and comment on the works of famous philosophers.
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How to Write the Introduction in a Philosophy Essay. Philosophy papers often analyze and comment on the works of famous philosophers.
While this is most likely true in a philosophy course, ethics can be included in most any discipline. How to Write.
Introduction to Philosophy
Hobbes argues that, in the absence of social condition, every action we perform, no matter how charitable or benevolent, is done for reasons which are ultimately self-serving. For example, when I donate to charity, I am actually taking delight in demonstrating my powers. In its most extreme form, this view of human nature has since been termed psychological egoism. Hobbes believes that any account of human action, including morality, must be consistent with the fact that we are all self-serving. In this chapter. Hobbes speculates how selfish people would behave in a state of nature, prior to the formation of any government He begins noting that humans are essentially equal, both mentally and physically, insofar as even the weakest person has the strength to kill the strongest. Given our equal standing, Hobbes continues noting how we are situations in nature make us naturally prone to quarrel. There are three natural causes of quarrel among people: competition for limited supplies of material possessions, distrust of one another, and glory insofar as people remain hostile to preserve their powerful reputation. Given the natural causes of quarrel, Hobbes concludes that the natural condition of humans is a state of perpetual war of all against all, where no morality exists, and everyone lives in constant fear.
Hobbes continues offering proofs that the state of nature would be as brutal as he describes. We see signs of this in the mistrust we show of others in our daily lives. In countries which have yet to be civilized people treat are barbaric to each other. Finally, in the absence of international law, strong countries prey on the weakness of weak countries. Humans have three motivations for ending this state of war: the fear of death, the desire to have an adequate living, and the hope to attain this through one's labor. Nevertheless, until the state of war ends, each person has a right to everything, in.Related Essays:
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Introduction to philosophy 101
Socrates is one of the eminent philosophers of his time. He was a young boy when the rise to power of Pericles brought on the dawning of the Golden Age of Greece ' As a young man. Socrates saw a fundamental power shift. as Pericles--perhaps history 's first liberal politician--acted on his belief that the masses. and not just property-owning aristocrats. deserved liberty ( Linder 2002
Growing to adulthood in this bastion of liberalism and democracy Socrates somehow developed a set of values and beliefs that would put him
at odds with most of his fellow Athenians. To him. the people should not be self-governing .He denied that citizens had basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society. instead equating virtue with a knowledge unattainable by ordinary people. Striking at the heart of Athenian democracy. he contemptuously criticized the right of every citizen to speak in the Athenian assembly ( Linder 2002
Knowing these. I can say that it is through his ideologies that Athenians felt threatened by him. Socrates--and his icy logic--came to be seen as a dangerous and corrupting influence. a breeder of tyrants and enemy of the common man. History will attest to this as two of his former pupils (Alcibiades and Critias ) led 2 antidemocratic movement against Athenian democracy in two different periods (411-110B .C 404-403B .C ( Linder 2002. This consequently led to his trial where he was charged with impiety and corrupting the youth through his teachings. He was then convicted and was sentenced death
If Socrates was alive today. I think he would be a threat to anyone - at least with his ideologies. His teachings could greatly influence people 's thoughts and somehow post challenge to our present values and traditions. It will just be up to us. as responsible citizens to decipher which of his principles we have to adopt and make it a part of our lives
Linder. Doug. The Trial of Socrates. An Account ' 2002
www .law .umkc .edu /faculty /projects /ftrials /socrates /socratesaccount .html.
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Introduction to PhilosophyExample Evaluations of Test Essay Questions
Abstract: Examples are taken from student tests to illustrate how essays are evaluated.Essays questions—general comments:
“[Answer any two of the following five essay questions in considerable detail.] Be sure to include supporting reasons for your view, and explain clearly the philosophical concepts used. If possible, provide examples illustrating, not just mentioning, those concepts. All answers must be in sentence and paragraph form for full credit. All lists and diagrams must be explained.”
Paley's argument about the watch is pretty good. Such like the stone, when a person walk by a stone an sees it they figure its been there forever but thats not the case. Just like with a watch someone had to make that stone some how. You have a world creator such as God and then you have watch makers. Paley's is just trying to get the point across there has to be someone in the heavens to create this world it didn't just appear.The difference between prescriptive and descriptive is prescriptive has no lawmaker an laws can be broken where as descriptive has no lawmaker but cannot be broken. He was using the two to compare the watch and the existence of a lawmaker. There has to be a lawmaker. The law giver gave the laws of nature such as gravity and many others. It wouldn't be good if we were all floating around.
Paley's Watch Argument was equating the universe to a watch. A watch is instrument with a purpose and function created by a watchmaker. Paley believed that the universe was also created with a purpose and function by in this case God. He doesn't believe that the universe came into being by chance, due to the complexity of the universe.Prescriptive laws are laws made by a law giver. These laws can be broken this would be things like a speed limit or ethical principals. Descriptive laws are natural laws that can't be broken. This would be something like the law of gravity. The existence of “laws of nature” doesn't imply a “law giver” because natural laws are factual claims which are witnessed by the observation of regularities, unlike prescriptive which is a law given by authority with no factual basis.
Paley's watch argument discusses the analogy of a watch and the watchmaker to the universe and the universe-maker. Paley says that one does not question that all watches have watchmakers. The watchmakers put all of the intricate parts together, and no one questions that fact. Why then should anyone question that the universe and all of its intricate parts were put together by the universe-maker? God took and still takes the time to create each and every one of us. He is our creator and our maker.
Prescriptive Laws are the ones that people can choose whether or not they want to obey. These laws include but are not limited to laws involving the consequences for murder, theft, and assault. Deviations from these laws involve legal consequences. Descriptive Laws are ones over which people have no control and no choice to disobey or obey. The laws are laws of science and include but are not limited to the Laws of Motion, the Law of Supply and Demand, and the Ideal Gas Laws. These laws have always existed, regardless of the exact time at which someone discovered them. They exist without question; they simply are part of the world.
God's existence, in the minds of His followers would fall under the same classification as the Descriptive Laws. The existence of God simply is part of the world, and the need does not exist to question His existence. The Bible exists to explain His purpose and place in our lives, just as the scientific documentation exists to explain the Ideal Gas Las and the Law of Supply and Demand.
The Laws of Nature (or Descriptive Laws) do not need a “Law Giver,” because they have always existed. The points in h istory at which individuals took the time to research, study, and document the laws did not mark the beginning of their existence. The laws were always there; however, the people who labeled them simply tagged a name to them. The laws would still exist without the labels, just as God would still exist regardless of his label as the Supreme Being.I enjoyed Paley's argument about the Watch and the Watchmaker. The analogy fits perfectly. The watch has a watchmaker, just as all of the pieces of the universe have a universe-maker: God.
Paley's Watch Argument begins as an attempt to explain how the intricacy of the universe and the intricacy of a watch by way of their design prove that there must have been someone to put all the pieces together perfectly. This further develops into a discussion which focuses on the fact that for the universe to be so sophisticated in its development there must have been someone greater than this world to make it. The argument starts out by saying that if someone were to come upon a rock lying on the ground they could readily assume that the rock had been there forever. However, if that same person came upon a watch lying on the ground they would never automatically assume that the watch had been there forever. We realize this by inspecting the inner parts of the watch. If the tiny parts of the watch had been arranged any differently or sized differently then the watch would either not work at all or would not be able to properly serve the purpose for which it was intended. This fact alone leads us to believe that for this watch to work accurately, there must have been someone, somewhere that knew how to make the watch, understood why they were making the watch, and the purpose that the watch would serve once it was made.
The argument goes on to say that even though we may not know ourselves how to make a watch; have never seen a watch made; or have never known anyone who did know how to make a watch, it would not weaken our belief that someone had known how to make a watch and carried out that procedure to make the one that we found. It also states that we would still believe in the “watch-maker” even if sometimes the watch didn't work perfectly right because the purpose, the design, and the designer are all still evident. We would also never be inclined to believe that the ground itself had some internal configuration which molded itself into the watch that we had found. Nor would we be able to consider the possibility that lesser forms of the watch had existed before and had evolved into the watch that we hold now. Basically, just by the little that we know about the watch, nothing could make us believe that the watch had come from anywhere or anything but the watch-maker.
A prescriptive law is a law that can be broken. This is a law that was created by a lawgiver and includes things like laws against killing, stealing, lying, etc. A descriptive law does not imply a lawgiver and includes laws that cannot be broken including gravity. These principles are important to his argument because of the fact that the watch maker has acted like a lawgiver and imposed laws on the watch including things like how fast it should tick. This would be an example of the prescriptive law within his argument. By pure definition, a prescriptive law is a law that can be broken. Therefore the watch could stop ticking at any time, just by some fault of the mechanics within the watch or a dead battery. On the other hand the descriptive law side of his argument would consider the fact that the concept of time itself would never stop. Time keeps going no matter what anyone in this world does, so it follows the definition of a descriptive law. There was no lawgiver in this instance and time cannot be broken for anything or anyone.
The “laws of nature” in themselves are exactly how they sound. They are the few laws that are here because without them this world would not and could not function as it does today. It is a natural part of the way the world works. The law of gravity, the laws of motion, the laws of physics, and the concept of time are all great examples of natural laws that cannot be broken due to the nature of this world. None of these laws imply that there was or ever has been a lawmaker. These few examples are a great way to tell that no one ever sat down and thought up the concepts for the laws of nature. Scientists may have discovered these laws but these laws are inherent in our world today, just as they always have been. According to the laws of nature, there is no evidence that there was a law-maker that put them into effect.The second objection can be put this way. To make a watch would require many persons including the designer, the manufacturer, the distributor, and the maker. If the analogy were perfect, then this would imply by analogy that the creator of the universe would be also many different agents, none of whom would be infinite.
No quotations are present in the essay.
“Why do we engage in philosophy? Perhaps no better answer exists than that given by Aristotle … We are naturally curious animals. Yet to engage in philosophy is not merely a matter of being curious about things. It requires that our curiosity be expressed through questions and answer in a manner that is both systematic and critical. To this end, however, the methods of philosophy are many. I enumerate some of the most important below.
Philosophy is analytic in that it analyzes the most basic assumptions that we use in an attempt to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Philosophy is normative in that it appeals to relies or precepts that determine correct and incorrect ways of human thinking and behavior.
Philosophy is critical in that it challenges time-honored cannot of belief in an effort to get at truth or further our understanding of some issue.
Philosophy is synthetic in that it aims to synthesize our views of ourselves and the world in a coherent and systematic manner.
Philosophy is rational in that it insists that reasons be given for what we believe and that consistency, simplicity, coherence, and order of thoughts are desirable.
Philosophy is creative in that it invites us to explore and examine new ways of looking at philosophical problem and issues.”
Andrew Holowchak, Critical Reasoning and Philosophy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 4.
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