essay for philosophy

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essay for philosophy

I’m studying and need help with a Philosophy question to help me learn.

Writing Guide for Philosophy

Part 1:General Advice

Pattern for Each Exam Problem

  • You are comparing at least two philosophers.
  • two philosophers: Anselm The Ontological Argument – Aquinas The Existence of God
  • You will explain a concept or argument from each philosopher.
    • You should dedicate at least one full paragraph to each text.
    • You should have at least one quote to support your discussion of each text.
  • You should conclude each of your essays with an overall judgment.
    • You should dedicate at least one full paragraph to your judgment.
    • Was one of the arguments stronger than the other? Were both weak?
    • Make sure you explain your judgment. It should connect back to the rest of your essay: judge a concept or argument that you have already explained in the main part of your essay.

Your Audience

  • Assume that your reader is familiar with the philosophers you are writing on. Do not provide general biographical details on the philosophers, such as birth date or how awesome they were. Your reader will presume that you are merely wasting space instead of examining an argument.
  • DO NOT ASSUME your reader understands a quoted passage the same way that you do.
  • Also, do not assume that your reader shares your beliefs, aside from the most obvious and boring facts (things like, the earth is the third planet from our sun).

Your exam SHOULD NOT …

  • look like you just typed up your notes;
  • look like you typed it in one sitting;
  • look like you have slapped two summaries from SparkNotes next to each other.

Can I use the word “I” in my writing?

  • Yes. It’s okay to express yourself from a first-personal perspective.
  • But be sure to express your considered/informed judgments rather than merely your opinions.
  • In other words, give reasons to support your beliefs rather than just sharing your beliefs as merely personal preferences.

Re-read what you write!

  • Think of how another person might question what you have written. You are doing philosophy when you add this additional layer of thought/reflection.
  • For example, if you wrote something like: “Some people might disagree with this claim because [… ]. But I think this concern is wrong. Here’s why: […].”
  • Effective use of quotes creates at least two voices within your essay. Effective reflection/questioning of what you have written adds a third voice.

The Big Picture

  • Remember: The overall goal of a philosophy essay is to present a persuasive argument to your audience.
  • As you write your essays, don’t forget:
    • why the topic matters,
    • who you are talking to, and
    • what you’re trying to convince your audience to believe.


Part 2: The Process of Writing

How NOT to begin

  • Do not wait until you know exactly what you want to write and in what order you want to write it.
  • Do not continually delete what you have written because it is not perfect. For example, wait to correct most grammar and punctuation issues until the final editing process. In the beginning of your essay, focus on developing the ideas rather than having everything exactly right.

How to begin

  • It might be helpful if you formulate your overall judgment on the topic. This is helpful when it focuses your attention on specific parts of the readings. Just remember that you are not married to the judgment: you can change your mind in the process of writing your essay.
  • If you are uncertain about your overall judgment of the topic, then start with #1.
  • Writing is a messy process. Having a document of quotes and your explanation of the quotes allows you to re-arrange the ideas as you develop your essay.
  • Find an important passage from each philosopher for each of the listed questions.
  • Re-type those passages into a document.
    • Keep the passages separate from each other. Focus on their individual meaning.
  • Explain each of the passages in your own words.
  • Explain how the passages relate to each other.

Working with quoted passages

  • Main goal: Show that you have some in-depth understanding of the reading. To do this, you don’t have to summarize the entire reading. Pick parts that are the most interesting or problematic to you.
  • Save the explanation of a quote until after you have presented the quote.
  • Make your explanation of the quote at least as long as the quote itself.
    • If you don’t have much to say about a quote, then the quote probably isn’t important. … So find an important quote.
    • Or use ellipses (…) to shorten a long passage.
  • Use the page numbers of our course readings.

Organize your thoughts

  • Use paragraphs!
  • Short paragraph. Write your introduction after you have drafted your essay.
  • The introduction should only give enough detail to prepare the reader for the rest of the essay. Don’t try to summarize every aspect of the essay.
  • Give your reader a sense of your overall judgment/evaluation.
    • Is there a philosopher that you are strongly disagreeing with? Or maybe strongly agreeing with?
    • In the introductory paragraph, do not try to justify your argument—that’s what the rest of the paper is for.

Good Intro

  • Short paragraph. Write your introduction after you have drafted your essay.
  • The introduction should only give enough detail to prepare the reader for the rest of the essay. Don’t try to summarize every aspect of the essay.
  • Give your reader a sense of your overall judgment/evaluation.
    • Is there a philosopher that you are strongly disagreeing with? Or maybe strongly agreeing with?
    • In the introductory paragraph, do not try to justify your argument—that’s what the rest of the paper is for.

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