There are several reasons why students often underperform when it comes to writing philosophy papers. Some assume this to be an exercise in literary self-expression, thereby ending up with vague and lightweight presentations. Others take the opportunity to present their own personal impressions and opinions. The vast majority take a more “research paper” approach to write these assignments and end up presenting a review of other literature. Writing a philosophy essay, however, requires reasoned defense of a position through the rational presentation of arguments and justifications. This means that you have to have a thesis statement and defend it through a variety of argumentative methods. The purpose of a philosophy essay isn’t to agree, disagree or take a definitive stance. It is to think out a question rationally and come to conclusions using sound reasoning and judgment.
Find out Here What Is a Philosophy Essay?
Philosophy as a discipline is often motivated by the big questions, such as “what is the meaning of life/”, or “is there a divine creator?” There is no truth or false, or right or wrong in philosophy, rather, there has to be clarity obtained on the question asked from sound, clearly structured and logical arguments. The purpose and aims of a philosophy essay are different, and you may be asked to:
- Evaluate a thesis as presented by another philosopher and explain it;
- Support or object to that argument;
- Defend the thesis against an objection to it;
- Evaluate the arguments proposed;
- Work backwards to deduce and categorize the type of arguments being used in a debate, for example deductive, abductive or inductive.
Deductive reasoning is the most common form of presentation, whereby if your premises are true then naturally your conclusion must be true. However, finding premises in nature that are entirely true without question is often difficult, therefore before applying deductive reasoning, it is always important to weigh the question carefully. Inductive arguments basically utilize past events to predict the future, where instead of certainty one works with probability. Abductive reasoning is simply eliminating possibilities until you are left with the most rational explanation of a state of events.
How to Start a Philosophy Essay
The basis of any philosophical paper is a sound argument. Arguments have to be valid (e.g. impossible for the premise to be true while the conclusion is false in deduction) and they have to be valid. The truth of premise is irrelevant to the validity of an argument, and these two are not the same thing. It is promising for a premise to be valid but not truthful and vice versa, i.e. validity simply means if all your premises are true then your conclusion can’t be false. The first step is thus to understand the question in its wholeness and generate your thesis statement from it.
While doing your research, it is always important to make notes and reference as this makes your work easier when you are doing your main citations. Summarize each argument in a single sentence backed up by short premises as you write your drafts.
How to Write a Good Philosophy Essay
Most students often try to replicate ideas of other philosophers, especially those who are already well established or are heavily cited. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to be the same as that of any other person. Also keep in mind that your teacher isn’t looking for wrong or right answer, rather wrong or a right approach to making deductions. You should set out your thesis clearly and get to the point quickly without digressing too much so that the reader understands exactly what your paper is setting out to achieve.
Philosophy Essay Outline
Writing a philosophy paper requires that you first organize your thoughts and map out your writing so that your presentation is both logical and concise. Key to writing a great paper is to be fully aware of what you mean and intend before you start to write. For arguments, you might have several which stand out. Ideally, three to five may suffice, depending on the word count allowed, but you may need to compile these from a wider selection, choosing only the strongest. At the point of creating your outline, you should be able to choose what method of the organization serves your purpose best, and what kind of argument would better suit your goals, for example, you may choose to stick to deductive reasoning or go for a more abductive approach. Creating an outline or essay map will take out much of the work in writing a complex philosophy paper and make the writing process seamless.
The Proper Philosophy Essay Structure
The typical structure of a philosophy essay is that of the introduction (which also proposes a thesis and defines key terms), the main body paragraphs with arguments, premises and counterarguments, and a succinct conclusion. Each paragraph should be introduced by topic sentences and captioned by headers.
Philosophy Essay Introduction
Introduce your thesis or arguments and make any definitions of terms that you think might not be clear to your readers. This section is your opportunity to tell your reader why your thesis is important and why they should care about it. Note that you shouldn’t make long introductions to historical narratives or backgrounds to the debate. If you are supporting, evaluating or refuting a thesis statement or a particular stance, get to the point quickly of educating your reader on what this is and how you will go about tackling the question. If you will adopt a particular approach or incorporate key evidence, it might be wise to mention it briefly here so that your reader knows exactly what you’re setting out to achieve.
Philosophy Essay Body
The body paragraphs should present your main arguments usually from the strongest to the weakest. Each of these paragraphs should support your thesis. These should be captioned with subheadings and introduced via topic sentences. Three to five arguments will suffice. After this, you can choose the strongest counterargument to all your arguments and present it as the last body paragraph. Each argument you present should have a conclusion formulated in literal terminology. There should be central premises presented and added premises to support your arguments and counterarguments.
Philosophy Essay Conclusion
Wrap up all your arguments and succinctly restate your thesis statement. Fence sitting is one of the main reasons why students never reach first class grades in these assignments. Don’t wrap up your arguments by saying that the philosophical problem can’t be solved with just a simple debate. Conclude with why your debate is the most rational instead of just being assertive.
Pro Philosophy Essay Tips for Success
It is always likely that one overestimates the validity of their arguments and the truthfulness, mostly because much of the information is in the public domain nowadays. Always assume that your reader can come back with strong counterarguments. It is also important to know and understand what exactly you meant to write, rather than trying to create a false impression that you understand the arguments when you really don’t. This is especially the case if you lean too heavily on someone else’s words or perspectives.
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