Guidelines%20on%20Writing%20a%20Philosophy%20Paper0-1

Guidelines%20on%20Writing%20a%20Philosophy%20Paper0-1 -...

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Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper By Jim Pryor Philosophical writing is different from the writing you'll be asked to do in other courses. Most of the strategies described below will also serve you well when writing for other courses, but don't automatically assume that they all will. Nor should you assume that every writing guideline you've been given by other teachers is important when you're writing a philosophy paper. Some of those guidelines are routinely violated in good philosophical prose (e.g., see the guidelines on grammar , below). Contents What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper? Three Stages of Writing o Early Stages o Write a Draft o Rewrite, and Keep Rewriting Minor Points How You'll Be Graded What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper? 1. A philosophy paper consists of the reasoned defense of some claim Your paper must offer an argument. It can't consist in the mere report of your opinions, nor in a mere report of the opinions of the philosophers we discuss. You have to defend the claims you make. You have to offer reasons to believe them. So you can't just say: My view is that P. You must say something like: My view is that P. I believe this because. .. or: I find that the following considerations. ..provide a convincing argument for P. Similarly, don't just say: Descartes says that Q. Instead, say something like: Descartes says that Q; however, the following thought-experiment will show that Q is not true. .. or: Descartes says that Q. I find this claim plausible, for the following reasons. .. There are a variety of things a philosophy paper can aim to accomplish. It usually begins by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration. Then it goes on to do one or two of the following: o Criticize that argument; or show that certain arguments for the thesis are no good o Defend the argument or thesis against someone else's criticism o Offer reasons to believe the thesis o Offer counter-examples to the thesis o Contrast the strengths and weaknesses of two opposing views about the thesis o Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible o Argue that certain philosophers are committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis o Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true o Revise the thesis, in the light of some objection No matter which of these aims you set for yourself, you have to explicitly present reasons for the claims you make . Students often feel that since it's clear to them that some claim is true, it does not need much argument. But it's very easy to overestimate the strength of your own position. After all, you already accept it. You should assume that your audience does
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This note was uploaded on 12/23/2010 for the course PHIL 198 taught by Professor Emilycarson during the Fall '10 term at McGill.

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Guidelines%20on%20Writing%20a%20Philosophy%20Paper0-1 -...

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